"Hogfather" is the twentieth book in Terry Pratchett's hugely popular Discworld series and was first published in 1996. He has gone on to win the Carnegie Medal for "The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents" and was awarded the OBE in 1998.
"Hogfather" is sometimes known as the third book in "The Death Trilogy". Like the trilogy's first two instalments ("Mort" and "Reaper Man") it gives Death - tall guy, somewhat underfed, carries a scythe, big grin - more than just a brief cameo. Like "Reaper Man", it's the Auditors who are causing problems. The Auditors are in charge of the universe : they see that atoms spin, that gravity works and that things move in curves. However, they hate life - especially humans (too many irregularities). In "Reaper Man", they wanted to force Death into retirement. This time, they want the Hogfather - Discworld's version of Father Christmas - `removed' from office (or grotto, perhaps). To this end, they've hired the disturbed (and disturbing) Mister Teatime from the Guild of Assassins to make sure he stays `removed'. Luckily, Death has discovered what's going on : with Hogswatch Night looming, the Grim Reaper dons a false beard, strategically places a cushion and takes control of the sleigh.
Death shares the spotlight, though : his new duties cause some problems for his grand-daughter, Susan Sto-Helit. Susan is working as a governess in Ankh-Morpork and, as part of her job, she regularly beats up the bogeyman with her trusty poker. In her free time, she occasionally drops into Biers for a drink ("Sometimes you want to go...where nobody knows your name"). It's in the pub that She's warned about her grandfather's strange behaviour by the Death of Rats and his eyeball-obsessed sidekick, Quoth the Raven. Initially, she isn't at all pleased to see the pair, but she has no choice but to get involved. The last time Death neglected his Duty, Susan was expected to take over...
Despite his profession, Death is one of the funniest characters the Discworld has to offer, and Hogfather sees Pratchett on top form. Quoth and Death of Rats are a welcome addition - they're a great double act. It may be a slight advantage to have read at least one from "Mort", "Reaper Man" or "Soul Music" before this (all are very funny) - however, even if you haven't you'll still find "Hogfather" hilarious. Highly recommended.
on 8 February 2007
This was definitely one of my favourite Discworld books. I first started to read it at someone else's house - then I was heartbroken when I had to go and hadn't quite finished it.
Why? Firstly because I love any Discworld volume in which Death features as a central character, but also because it features my favourite character, his granddaughter Susan Sto-Helit.
So what happens in it? Well someone, or something, wants to kill the Hogfather (fat bearded man, wears red, says ho ho ho a lot, etc.) For this purpose, the assassin Teatime is employed.
Teatime is a character who appears quite amicable at first - right up until the point where he pulls out a knife and kills you stone dead. And he's also a mastermind - so his plan involves taking control over children to stop them believing in the Hogfather, accompanied by his gang of thugs.
With this plan underway, who is going to stand in for the Hogfather?
HO. HO. HO.
Susan is currently working as a governess, a job which largely involves beating up the under-bed monsters with her trusty poker. Apart from these minor irregularities, she is leading a relatively 'normal' life, until suddenly, to put it in her words, 'the old circus comes to town', and now Susan's got to don a black robe, leave her job and go out to determine exactly what is going on . . .
One of my favourite parts of this book was possibly the idea of personified forces coming into existence as creatures, such as the Hair Loss Fairy, the Eater Of Socks and, of course, the Oh God Of Hangovers ('Well, if there's a god of wine . . .')who accompanies Susan on her quest. I like the Unseen university scenes - which are usually responsible for providing the comedy. I also liked the demonstration of Susan's fearlessness when pitted against a being that can personify itself as your worst nightmare - 'Good grief, you're scraping the bottom of the barrel, aren't you?' and the subtle appropriateness of the villain who's 'in touch with his inner child' confronted by a governess, and the irony of who becomes the Tooth Fairy's replacement. I particularly liked the end (but I don't mean to give the wrong idea, I mean that I liked the whole book but particularly liked the end). And, as usual, the plot gives the implication that Death is Not So Bad After All, and would rather prefer being the Hogfather (with his manservant Albert by way of being the Hogfather's Little Helper, naturally).
Oh yes, and there's a film adaption, which I watched when it was first on. Good, I liked it, all things taken into consideration.
on 3 January 2003
One of the longest Discworld novels Terry has written makes for an incredibly hilarious read, thanks to the inclusion of some brilliant new characters and multiple stories that are read almost simultaneously: The wizards and their discovery of some strange beings that inexplicably come into being ('Sock Eaters', 'The oh God of Hangovers', and possibly the funniest being the 'Verucca Gnome'), Susan and her quest to solve the whole mystery and Death and Albert. The book really makes you think philosophically which is more interesting than it sounds! I don't want to give too much of the fantastic plot away (because I can't be bothered), but it is classic Pratchett.
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The release of this book evoked some distress among Terry Pratchett fans. Expecting another City Watch or Rincewind book, this one took most by surprise. Initial reactions were muted praise at best. Over time, more readers came to understand that this book introduced a new aspect of PTerry's thinking and writing. After a string of hilarious fantasies featuring Rincewind or the Wyrd Sisters, he presented here an unexpected dark side.
The story itself is almost simplistic, although classic Pratchett. The Auditors, who elsewhere attempted to give Death the sack, have decided that Hogswatch Night is a source of cosmic disorder. Contracting with the Assassin's Guild to have the Hogfather "brought to an end", they unleash a disturbing series of events. And cause Pratchett to introduce the first truly evil character in the Discworld series.
No-one likes the Patrician. But his job isn't designed for popularity contests. Ipslore cheats death to have revenge on his fellow wizards, but overzealous parents are no novelty. Mister Teatime [pronounced "Teh-ah-tim-eh"], however, is a real departure from Pratchett villains. He is consummately evil, cleverly choosing the most vulnerable segment of society in his attempt to control all the Discworld. This is the first truly repulsive character Pratchett's created. Reading Hogfather makes you wonder: is there a real-life model for this character, or has PTerry created him wholly? If the first, we must find and destroy him/her. If the latter, there's a terribly dark place in Pratchett's psyche and we have to wonder what else is in there.
The irony of Death substituting for the missing Hogfather is pure Pterry. Death's ongoing struggle to understand humans is vividly presented in this novel. He replaces a department store Hogfather in one of the most hilarious scenes in Discworld literature. Pratchett also responds to the rising tide of feminists by raising Susan Sto-Helit from near obscurity. She is destined to become a leading figure in the Discworld series. Her raven associate is almost as cynical as Gaspode the Communicating Canine. Pratchett uses these characters to demolish the more fervently held myths we hold dear. With a finesse other writers must envy, Pratchett uses the Discworld to mirror our own - the motto he's given us often. From a hesitant acceptance of this book as "another Discworld novel", Hogfather has become one of the leading examples of Pratchett's expressive talent. It's worthy of a second read. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada
on 25 July 2002
Terry Pratchett, the genius of writing, has done it again. If you've read Discworld before then you will know exactly what I mean. If you haven't, then why not?
This is one of the best Discworld books, in my humble (Mr. Windling phrase in 'The Truth') opinion, along with most of the Watch books. Nobody can dislike Death, and his well-meaning attempts to make the world a better place. Not much Gaspode (a dog who talks) but never mind. Although Susan is not the best character, a little cardboard, at least the Grim Squeaker and the Raven are back again from another brilliant story, Soul Music.
One of the best things about this story is that, although it is suitable for children and adults, Terry Pratchett makes a big point of helping us to understand that many children are not as stupid as adults credit them for. I, being thirteen, fully agree with this.
Read this book. If you haven't got it, order it now. Christmas will never be the same again...
We may have Christmas but of course things are different on the Discworld where it is Hogswatch and a certain fat man in red brings presents, known as the Hogfather. This which was the twentieth novel in the series does in places touch on things that have been mentioned or have cropped up in some of the previous novels, so if you have read them you may have a slightly stronger grasp on a few subjects.
Here the Auditors, something far worse from outside this world than ever thought up by H P Lovecraft, have a task for the Guild of Assassins – assassinate the Hogfather. Is it even feasible let alone possible? One thing is for sure Mr Teatime is certain he can do it; after all he has spent many a time working out how to kill different people. But if the Hogfather was to be removed, who would carry on this grand old Hogswatch tradition?
Death finds that he will have to be the Hogfather until matters can be sorted out; after all he knows how important such a thing is for humans, mainly children. But will the Discworld ever be the same again? This is definitely a fun tale that does raise certain points such as the commercialism of Christmas, social inequality, the great philosophical and theological question on faith and whether things can become what they are thought to be due to this, and belief itself.
With Susan Sto-Helit, Death’s granddaughter also roped in it is a race against time to save Hogswatch from being altered for all time. This book also raises the difference between fantasy and reality as we see Susan deal with her two charges’ beliefs in monsters.
I haven’t read this for a while so it was great coming back to it, and as I picked this for the local book group hopefully there will be more than enough to discuss about this story. Always a fun read, as with all the other Discworld books this does throw some weight as it addresses and looks at issues that we are all aware of but don’t really ever take time to ponder over.
on 22 April 2000
HO HO HO! This is definitely my favourite book in the series! It's the one that had me laughing out loud on the train and getting funny looks off people sat near me! Basically, the creepy Auditor guys have found someone who can get rid of the Hogfather. Enter one Mr Teatime (pronounced 'Teh-uh Tim-uh' or something like that), an assassin who sees thing diferently (ie, he's a raving lunatic). I won't give away the plot, but it brings back my favourite characters Death, Susan, the Death of Rats and the Raven, as well as the Faculty of Unseen University and several new characters. This is the best so far, bringing together all the best points of the festive season and other anthropomorphic personifications (tooth fairy, bogeyman, etc) Watch out for the bit with the poker at the end, and Death's very literal take on the Hogfather in the Maul! It will also have you wondering why indeed nobody has ever asked THAT question (I'm not telling you what the question is, you will have to read the book to find out!).
on 17 November 2010
I must say that this is a particular favourite of mine, and as with previous books in the Death series, it keeps getting better the more I read it. It is centred around the assasination of the Hogfather (Discworld's version of Father Christmas), and the odd assasin, Mr Teatime, who has the plan to carry it out. In order to prevent a disaster, Death and Albert step in and take over the role in order for belief in the Hogfather to remain.
Its a wonderfully festive book, and I love how the elements of Christmas are captured, yet it is somewhat darker than the other books in this series, and provokes some interesting inside into the beliefs which humans have. Absolutely marvellous, and I particularly love the conversations between Death and Albert about traditions at Christmas!
on 16 April 2016
I love Sir Terry’s Discworld series, but for whatever reason, I wasn’t too taken with Hogfather – it’s a good enough story, but it just didn’t resonate with me. I think it’s probably because I don’t like Christmas, and so a book that takes a look at the religious celebration through Pratchett’s unique perspective, whilst a good thing for other people, just doesn’t really work for me.
One of the strange things here, in fact, is that I preferred the TV movie adaptation of the book, and I also preferred the graphic novel version that I happen to have lying around. I think it’s just that a Discworld book is typically pretty long, and in this instance, I just don’t think I cared enough about the story line to really enjoy reading it.
All of that said, some of Pratchett’s most-loved characters are here, and so in many ways, you need to read it just for that, if you’re a fan of them. Death makes an appearance, as he is wont to do, and so does his daughter, Susan. In fact, Death is forced to take on the role of the Hogfather, after the bearded old man goes missing. I’m saying no more than that about the plot, though – I don’t want to ruin it for you, if you decide to go ahead and read it.
Of course, you’re aware that if Death is knocking around, then the Death of Rats probably isn’t far behind, and neither is his servant, Albert. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like they’re at their strongest here, perhaps because it’s the Hogfather himself who takes the centre of attention, rather than any of the characters.
Still, there’s also some great stuff in terms of the way in which narrative causality works – yeah, I went there, this review just got deep. In the Discworld, if enough people believe something, it’ll become real – expect to see guest appearances from the gods of missing socks, and various other bizarre creatures that appeared in Pratchett’s mind.
Overall, I’d still say that the Hogfather is worth reading, but not straight away – maybe read some of the other Discworld books, and then save the Hogfather for Christmas. In fact, I’d strongly recommend reading Mort before this, because that’s when you’ll be introduced to a lot of the characters that you’re seeing here, and I’d argue that Death himself was at his finest in Mort. Besides, you’ll want a bit of background, and that’s the perfect book to provide it, but try to save watching the movie version of the book until after you’ve read it.
I have been a fan of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series for over 15 years now but I have to admit I've fallen a little behind with the more recent books. I've actually been promising myself for a few years now that I'll reread the series again from the beginning and catch up but for some unknown reason I never quite seem to get around to it. I decided it's time to bite the bullet but rather than read the books in order I used Christmas as an excuse to read Hogfather. This book is a perfect festive read, Death has always been one of my favourite characters in the series and seeing him dress up as the Hogfather (the Discworld equivalent of Father Christmas) is absolutely hilarious.
The Auditors are causing trouble again, they may be in charge of keeping the universe running smoothly but they think it would be much better if there were no humans around messing things up. This time they've decided to target the Hogfather and they've hired the assassin Mister Teatime (make sure you pronounce that correctly unless you want to upset him - it's Teh-ah-tim-eh NOT Tea-time!) to take him out of the equation. How exactly do you go about killing someone who can't die though? Teatime has a plan and Death is the only person who has noticed what is going on and is trying to put a stop to it. He's going to need help though and the best person for the job is obviously his granddaughter Susan who is used to dealing with all kinds of monsters using her trusty poker.
Hogfather is a hilarious read, obviously Death is the star of the show (he always is to me!) but we also get to visit with the wizards at the Unseen University, catch up with Susan, and spend time with the Death of Rats. With the Hogfather out of the equation (although Death is doing his best to fill in for him) the excess belief is causing all sorts of new creatures to pop up including the Verruca Gnome and the Oh God of Hangovers which makes for a lot of amusing moments. Death has always struggled to understand humans but this leads to some fantastic moments of insight. As with all of Terry Pratchett's stories we get an insightful look into the human psyche and you have to laugh at our way of thinking sometimes. Terry Pratchett obviously sees the world through a very interesting lens and I'd love to be able to take a trip inside his mind. This reread has left me more determined than ever to complete my Discworld catch up, so hopefully 2015 will be the year I finally make some serious headway.