The Argh Ink Book Club: Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather

Welcome to our discussion of Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather.  We can talk about anything you want, but especially:

Susan: Best protagonist or best protagonist ever?
Teatime: Is a batshit crazy antagonist that compelling?
Belief: Not just the power of belief in this story, the power of belief in all story.
Gift-giving: The complexity of exchanging (or just giving) things of value (or not so much value).
The movie: Good adaptation or bad?

Or whatever else you want to talk about. 


61 thoughts on “The Argh Ink Book Club: Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather

  1. Here’s a comment to file under “whatever else.” I reread Hogfather in early November then reread Reaper Man. In the five years separating Reaper Man (1991) and Hogfather (1996) Terry Pratchett achieved much more with what seemed to me to be a similar plot. In Reaper Man the Auditors give Death his own notice of end-of-job so he spends his remaining days among humans; the parallel plot concerns the 120 year-old Windle Poons who is unable to die because of Death’s absence. As you all know, in Hogfather Death feels called on to step in for the dead Hogfather; Susan Sto Helit is the (more than) human who must fix her grandfather’s mess.

    Structurally, Hogfather has more balance and better comic timing than Reaper Man: the beats between scenes of each plot are spot on, and Susan is as irresistably appealing a protagonist as Death.

    In terms of action, Pratchett lets go with all possible zaniness. Death in the department store and Susan swinging the poker at the monster in the closet are gems. The thing about Pratchett is that his appeal for me comes from his absolute truth. For some reason, the most outlandish moments are the ones that I most connect with.

    Part of my reaction is because I love Pratchett’s characterizations. They may be two-dimensional at times, but they really seldom are. Death’s curiosity about humans and how he assumes that Susan will save the day give me a full sense of someone. Windle Poons is wonderful in Reaper Man as he becomes more alive in caring and understanding after he is dead than he did for 120 years alive. Susan tops that for me because she is so angry and so responsible.

    I guess what I’m saying in part is that Reaper Man is great. It does settle with a sentimental pulling together. Hogfather is fantastic because it ties together many more lines of plot and lines for thought than Reaper Man. It kind of explodes.

  2. Teatime, to me, is the weakest part of the book. Maybe even the weakest antagonist Pratchett ever wrote. It’s like the idea of Susan saving Christmas was too good to let go of, so he said to himself “Who would want to murder Father Christmas? Only a psychopath would do that. Alright, he’s a psychopath!”

    Teatime doesn’t have a motive, he’s just a violent nutcase, and the reader is kept at a careful distance so we don’t analyze that fact to deeply. Every interaction we have with him is from another character’s perspective, and is always some variation on them marveling at what a violent nutcase he is. He’s terrifying on a social level so no one ever tries to have a real conversation with him, he’s “unpredictable” so we don’t look for any narrative consistency from him. The story needed a bad guy, so Pratchett created A Bad Guy.

    The rest of the book is so good the lack of motive for the antagonist is a minor point rather than a deal breaker, but it does make the final confrontation seem sort of tacked on and anticlimactic. The world has been saved, but there’s Teatime in Susan’s parlor, making grandiose threats – with only five pages left in the book. Gee, I wonder how this is going to end.

    I will say I loved Susan as a nanny – Twyla! – so much I was a little bit disappointed she became a teacher in Thief of Time.

      1. I thought Thief of time was the third Susan book? She’s in Soul Music too, when she’s at school. I think that’s when she first remembers about Death.

    1. She was a wonderful teacher in Thief of Time, though. All the stars in the cupboard . . .

      Teatime was more fun in the reactions others had to him, like the head of the Assassins Bureau thinking they may have gone too far with that one. I’m surprised the Auditors weren’t in there; the Hogfather must make them tense.

    2. I’m not crazy about how Teatime works in this story, but he does kind of fit in with the theme of childlike . . . not innocence, but maybe sense. Just like the landscape changed into the simple lines of a children’s drawing, Teatime seems like the type of villain that might come from a childlike mind — pure evil, and that funny quirk of insisting that his name isn’t tea-time, but something more involved.

      The more I dive into British culture, the more I think the tradition of pantomime is just something that flies over my American head. The bad guys have to be bad guys, and their jokes bad jokes.

      1. That’s a great point about him fitting the theme – for kids, bad guys are just bad guys. I never thought of him in that context. It makes a ton of sense, actually. The added detail of the kids seeing right through him at the end is great, too.

      2. Oh, that’s interesting. I like that symmetry.

        Although Susan is complex not simple. I still like my protagonist and antagonist of equal strength; if one has to be stronger than the other, I want it to be the antag.

      3. He was wonderfully creepy when I first read the book as a younger person. I think he really has to be simple and two dimensional, because who else would come up with such a bonkers scheme? And he has such wonder for things, even though it’s a creepy twisted wonder.

      4. That’s such a good point about Teatime being a child’s drawing of a villain. It goes along with the fact that the ultimate protector is a child’s babysitter/teacher/governess.

    3. Yeah, but Susan’s relationship with her grandfather is so wonderful. At the end she (once again?) falls for a signal from him that she misinterprets — and she goes on to wipe out Teatime permanently. I wish I had had a grandfather/father who believed in me.

      1. Susan’s relationship with Death is wonderful. They’re both inexplicable to each other and yet always there for each other.

  3. I saw the movie some time ago, and thought it was a good adaptation — it could be appreciated without having read the book — but of course it didn’t … couldn’t … do justice to all the layers and depths of the story.

    As I watched it, I kept thinking, “Oh, but it’s funnier/sadder/better if you know ….. which was in the book.” Which is true of most adaptations, but it seemed particularly true where the book was one that really does benefit from re-reading and that has wordplays that get missed when spoken instead of read. Even the audio version of the book suffers from not being able to see the wordplays, no matter how good the narrator is (and Nigel Planer does fabulous accents, although I’m not wild about his regular voice).

    1. I may have to watch that tonight, although I’ll probably just sleep. I never get sick, so when I do, it’s like the world collapses. “What is this? We don’t do this? Body, pull yourself together!”

      1. Oh, I hear ya. Novovirus here, all I can do to read my favorite blog post.
        Crawling back to bed now.

        Hope you feel better soon.

        1. Oh, poor baby. I got that once when Krissie was visiting and gave it to her. It’s a miracle she ever came back.
          The thing I am just now remembering is that even after you stop throwing up, it takes a couple of days to get your body back. I’m back in bed, trying to catch up, and I just want to sleep. Argh.
          Take care of yourself, please.

  4. I listened to the audio so I have misses all the wordplay. I guess I will have to read the book. I thought Susan was marvelous with her poker. I loved her interactions with children/monsters/others. A force to be reconned with, but also so so practical and funny. I want to be her.

    Parts got long for me. And (I hate to admit this) I think I slept through some of it and didn’t go back and relisten.

    Teatime annoyed me, and I thought there was a lot of death for a Christmas story, but what do I know. I think it was his lack of motivation that annoyed me. He just did things because he could. And he lacked imagination. I don’t remember him ever thinking hmm, I’ve got this human under my thumb, I wonder what else he/she could be used for. Actually weren’t they all he? I don’t remember any foolish shes thinking they were going to get rich or whatever.

    That is one thing that bothered me, not enough female characters. All those male bad guys.

    I did love the end where the children see death and aren’t frightened by him. That charmed me.

    1. He had motivation: he was being paid a lot of money. Also he liked terrifying people and killing them.

      I think the problem is more that he had no connection to the rest of the narrative. I keep going back to Thief of Time where the Auditors have a very good reason for stopping time, and Susan and the good guys have a very good reason for stopping them..
      Teatime’s in it for the killing and the money; he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Hogfather or what the Hogfather means, or what will happen to the world without him. So while he has a motivation, it’s not a strong enough one to balance Susan’s determination to save the Hogfather and the world.

      1. Also he’s in it for the intellectual excercise, which seems to me to be a stronger motivation for him than mere money.

      2. Why did he care about the pronunciation of his name?

        I do like his looks — they’re deceptively childish.

        1. I think it’s an identity thing. The power of names is considerable.
          Crusie is not my real name, it was my grandmother’s maiden name, and yet every time somebody calls me “Jennifer Cruise,” it’s like a fingernail down a blackboard. They actually spelled it that way on my first Rita, that’s how bad it gets. So I get the Tee-ah-tim-eh thing, although I think he also didn’t want a cosy name like “teatime.” He liked scaring people.

        2. I took it as a sort of class thing. There’s a famous British television character called Hycinth Bucket, and she is firmly middle-class, but because she is anxious about her status and wants to be seen as upper-middle class (or maybe she’s rising from lower class to middle-class?), she insists her husband’s last name is pronounced “Bou-quet” instead of “Bucket” (of “There’s a Hole in My” fame).

          There’s probably a lot of deep stuff in the name. Maybe Teatime doesn’t want to be associated with cakes and drinks? Or the timing seems off — he’s not a late-afternoon sort of person (waning of the light?)? And of course, he likes the mystery. Maybe he even likes making everyone be in the wrong, but I’m not sure. It really seems like he doesn’t have a firm belief that other people have thoughts, too. Other people’s thoughts seem to be intellectual exercises for Teatime, not real and surprising things.

          Another layer of unreality.

    2. I’ve never figured out Teatime’s motivation in the middle — why stick around and try to unlock the door? He’s already got control of the teeth and the kids and Hogfather is on the ropes, so why go off on a side adventure? Because it doesn’t seem like he’d care. He doesn’t care about money and he’s only there to make a name for himself by killing the un-killable. It just seemed out of character to me that he’d be curious about what’s behind the locked door. Unless he was contracted to kill it, why would he care?

      1. Hmm. If I remember right . . . Teatime lambasts his thugs when they want to steal the deeds and policies: what they see as better than cash. Teatime tells them that they can’t perceive the real value of the haul which will give him unlimited power and wealth. Yet it’s unclear to me whether the magic marks around the circle of teeth have been activated yet: I don’t see children acting differently. Teatime does not seem to have completed his goal with just the teeth.

        Teatime is either focused on opening the door or focused on eliminating every one of his helpers in the process of opening it. After all, at the end he recognizes the pattern of solutions to unlocking the door before he dispenses with the wizard. The others are in a way digging their own graves in their regression into childhood fears; maybe that says something about Teatime. I wonder what he would have found if he had opened the door?

        1. It’s interesting that the biggest child Banjo lives on to be the attendant of the edifice. I’m not sure what to call the place. If I understand correctly, it looks from the outside like a child’s drawing and is a giant tooth — a web of staircases — on the inside.

          It seems that the Tooth Fairy has been a scam operation for awhile already with underpaid employees who don’t get training and don’t really know what’s going on. What’s with that?

          1. Banjo reminded me of the thug in the The Truth who was violent and murderous and did terrible things but loved art. There’s a simplicity there that’s charming in spite of the horribleness.
            I don’t think of Teatime as simple in that way. He’s twisted and bent.

  5. What I loved about this book (and so much of Pratchett’s work) is the way that he draws on European magic stories, and gives them a very practical tug and makes them fall into a whole new category.

    I read Hogfather for the first time after reading a couple of books on Pagan magic — I wish I could remember the books’ titles! There was SO much “holly and the ivy” in this book.

    But the most brilliant part of all, as far as I’m concerned, is the way he turned very, very old magic into a plot device. There’s a very, very old idea that as long as you have a piece of a person (a fingernail, a hair, a bit of spit), you can control them. So of course the tooth fairy would be able to control the entire world because they have the teeth of everyone who ever grew old enough to lose teeth.

    At the time, mining data wasn’t such a big thing. But . . . now? I dunno; I just have a fuzzy idea that that this would be a great connection — people who control X can control every person who has ever hooked their computer up to the internet.

    Anyway, for me, the best part of the book was how the folklore was woven in, and updated. I’ve read the book three times, and I barely remember the plot between Susan and Teatime, and the things she does. I take away the startling images. Especially the retrogression of the Hogfather into what he once meant to the earliest inhabitants of the Disc. Great book!

    (I still have to re-read this this year. I have the video on the coffee table, but I think the book is very much what I need to read.)

    1. I do love the way there’s so much research/knowledge behind/under/around Pratchett’s stories, but it’s not intrusive as it can be when a writer just throws it all onto the page simply because he/she can. With Pratchett, it’s always integral to the story.

    2. That’s a great comparison between the teeth and data mining. And I love the ancient underpinings of this, too.

  6. Didn’t the auditors hire the assassins to kill the Hogfather? I am traveling and forgot to pack the book but I think that’s right.

    I am probably 50 pages in and I am struck by how good Pratchett was at making things gross. You smell the smells…

    I wasn’t bothered by Teatime because I think he reflects a young child’s view of bad and good as absolutes, and people being mean just to be mean. A lot of the book is written from a young child’s perspective so it fit right in.

    1. I’m obsessing on Teatime. By the way, an online wikia/fandom thingy says that he’s named after Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul. Does that reveal anything?

      I think Teatime planned to eliminate Hogfather, the Tooth Fairy, and Death all along. He simply uses the opportunity when he’s assigned to kill the Hogfather. After all, he ays he has already pondered how to do it and he tells Downey that Downey wouldn’t approve of his plan to (just) kill the Hogfather.

      I think his personal motivation was to get the tiniest plaque in the Assassin’s Guild which he defined as achieving immortality. We get a brief look into his brain when he sits down at the table in the bar with Medium Dave, Peachy, Banjo, et al.

      He probably uses the wizard’s magic with the children’s teeth to make them lose belief in the Hogfather. That is probably when the Hogfather’s life glass breaks and Death decides to replace the Hogfather. But please tell me if I’m wrong. That doesn’t seem to fit the sequence of scenes in the book.

      Unlocking the door at the top of the tower seems to be the next step he needed to take to eliminate Death. (?) I think that because when Susan shows up, he stops caring about the door.

      In the final showdown scene, Teatime says that killing Death would be a civic duty, imagining his fame for killing the Big One.

      It’s odd for me to work this hard to figure out the plot of a book I like. It’s fun.

      1. The deceptive thing about Pratchett is that he’s fun. And the earlier books are pretty much just fun. By the time he got to these, he had settled into the world and the characters and was writing about things he was passionate about. Sometimes he theme mongers (Monstrous Regiment pretty much hit you over the head with it’s Idea and so does Equal Rites) but many of the others have simple themes until you begin to unpack them. Going Postal is like that, Thief of Time, Feet of Clay. Hogfather reads like a wacky Christmas tale until the blood hits the snow and you start to think about a big ball of gas of in the sky instead of the sun.

  7. There was one part of the book that hit me on a re-read just how much depth there is in this book. Susan is talking to the Tooth Fairy/ The Boogie Man, and he is expound on how he was the Darkness at the beginning, in the forest/caves before mankind grew and evolved, and how he was diminished by the changes that mankind made. His curiosity of children, like Death’s of humankind, made him into a sort of distant protector by caretaking the teeth. And I flashed to Susan’s encounter with a boogie man in the bar, who later showed up under Twyla’s bed. He was a sorry figure that she sent off to another house, sparing him the poker treatment to Twyla’s disappointment. A bit of a parallel to the powerful Solistice sacrifice morphing into the Fat Man who brings toys to children; a great figure reduced to kid’s icon.

    1. Oh, that’s a great insight.
      The more I read a Pratchett novel, the more I see, but you’ve gone deeper. It’s lovely.

  8. I really wish we had gotten to a point of Susan interacting with the witches. Susan and Granny! Susan and Nanny! Susan and Esk! Susan and Tiffany Aching! The Death Of Rats and Quoth with the Nac Mac Feegle! Teacher Susan and Teacher Miss Tick!
    I mean, we already know that the Witches meet with Death quite a bit, so it makes sense they would meet his stand-in a few times.

    Otherwise, Hogfather has the best Discworld quote in the series, which is, of course, the discussion on how ideals are lies necessary to make us human.

  9. Doors feature in the subplots of Hogfather. Ridcully’s bathroom door says Keep Out at the start of the story and boasts a similar sign at the end. Teatime knows he has to open the door (he brings along the locksmith and wizard for the purpose). Susan eventually opens it. Certainly, what is behind closed doors reverberates for children as well as adults remembering their childhoods.

    I’m sure that there’s tons of stuff in this story that I haven’t begun to tap.

    1. There’s the door in Going Postal, too, the one in Vetinari’s office. Moist opens it, looks down, sees a bottomless pit, and closes it again. The bad guy opens it and steps through. I know there are others. Must cogitate on this.

      1. In Reaper Man, Death goes by “Bill Door.” As I recall, it’s written as a grasping-at-straws choice (he looks around the room and suggests he might be called Bill Chair, or Table, or maybe Door, and the person he’s talking to says that Door seems more like a real name). But of course, now I’m realizing that “Door” is also a symbolic choice to rename death. Layers!

        1. And there’s the door into the black desert that the witches sometimes go through, and open for those who can’t find the way.

          1. I thought I remembered some kind of door into the desert that Death used in The Truth, too, but that may be faulty.

    2. There are the doors of the Wardrobe (with a little bit of carving). Plus all of the doors in the Tooth castle. And Susan walking through doors, or not being able to walk through doors. Even the cat door at Death’s home!

  10. I love this book. Well, I love most Pratchett, and this is very excellent Pratchett, so of course I love this book. But for the sake of a book group discussion, I’ll start with the bit that I don’t agree with: the moral of the fable. Or part of it, anyway.

    There are a couple of Discworld books that spell out the moral/message more specifically than others, I think. Like in Carpe Jugulum, where Granny Weatherwax says that evil begins with treating people like things (an insight I’d agree with) — it’s not just incidental philosophizing, it’s an articulation of the whole message of the book. In Hogfather, it’s Death saying that humans need to believe in little lies (like the Hogfather) in order to believe in big lies (like justice). Which I just don’t buy.

    It’s a complicated moral, since it’s a whole conversation, and there are several parts that I do agree with. The idea that justice, mercy, and duty are fantasies works for me, as does, “IT IS THE THINGS YOU BELIEVE IN WHICH MAKE YOU HUMAN. GOOD THINGS AND BAD THINGS, IT’S ALL THE SAME.” As descriptions of being human go, especially when articulated by a seven foot tall skeleton who speaks in all-caps, it’s really pretty good.

    But Death also insists to Susan that believing in “small lies” is essential practice for believing in “big lies,” and that’s where I stumble. I just don’t think that’s true. I think people are capable of believing in abstract concepts like justice without practicing on things like the Tooth Fairy. Susan does, for instance, and she tells awesome non-fantasy stories to the kids to help them learn moral lessons. The rest of it flows, and this part sticks out and makes me trip every time. Maybe it’s just that it seems like such an unnecessary reproach to Susan, or maybe I just don’t like “little lies” enough to go with it. I don’t think that kids need to believe in literal magic to have properly magical childhoods (or become moral adults), and I have complicated feelings about lying to kids (like about Santa existing), so I guess this particular moral just doesn’t work for me.

    Otherwise though, so much awesomeness. I have a particular fondness for Death and Albert’s adventures on Hogswatch Night, especially when they get into the pointed socioeconomic critique. And the raven’s obsession with eyeballs. And the poker.

    1. Oooh, those are interesting thoughts, Lynn.

      It certainly does feel like “little lies are practice for the big lies” is the moral of the story, but I’m not sure how important the “moral” is to the whole story. It feels more like a “just-so” story to me — an explanation for why we believe in crazy stuff like the tooth fairy.

      I don’t know how this fits in, but the lies start really big, and over history, are diluted down until the god dies. Some poor sap has to be executed in order for the sun to rise the next morning — can’t get much bigger than that, unless you increase the number of poor saps getting killed of an evening.

      But over time, the idea gets smaller and shifts, and people stop believing, and the idea gets even smaller and smaller until the god is gone.

      It strikes me that a lot of our ideals start out that way — big, and broad, and generally for the best of the most. Then exceptions get introduced — important and good exceptions as well as ridiculous and useless exceptions. Whittle-whittle-whittle, until you’ve got a law that takes up 300 pages, and it may still be very useful, but the average layperson can’t see that because . . . well, 300 pages of dense and tortured writing.

    2. I’m not sure that it’s “lies” as much as it is “belief.”
      That is, archeology and historical research tell us that most of the Jesus bio is inaccurate, calibrated by men who wrote decades after his death to formalize a new religion. So Jesus wasn’t born on Christmas Day, but Christians still celebrate his birth that day. It’s a little lie/mistake that grounds a big belief that there was a savior born that day. I’m not a practicing Christian any more, a childhood with a hellfire Lutheran preacher cured me of that, but I believe in the power of belief, which I think is what the book is really about. When Death says that if the Hogfather dies, the sun won’t rise, but a big ball of burning gas will, he’s saying that if the Hogfather dies, our belief in this reality dies, that every we know to be true will be lost because we’ll have lost belief. I think that’s why crises of faith are so devastating, especially if those faiths are rock solid. You take one brick out of the foundation of a solid edifice of faith,and the whole thing slowly collapses.

      So I think the theme here (NOT THE MORAL, NO MORALS) is about belief. If you believe the God of Hangovers exists, if you say his name, there he is. If you believe in the tooth fairy, you leave a tooth out, a part of yourself paid into the belief system which is cobbled together from myth, legend, religion (redundant) and lies your parents told you as a child. If you believe it, it becomes real. So the sun isn’t a ball of burning gas, it’s Our Sun, the thing Our Planet revolves around, it belongs to us as part of our belief in the way the universe works in connection to us. (I’m still bitter about Pluto.)

      1. I think we’re all a little bitter about Pluto, still. Why does size have to matter? (LOL, kidding/not kidding.)

        I just finished watching the Hogsfather DVD last night after all these discussions, and I think if we replace Pratchett’s “lies” with “fantasies”, I can agree much more readily with the statements Death makes. We need to make up these fantasies — it’s about our powers of creativity, which the Auditors hate. We make up these fantasies to make life grind along a little more smoothly — and it often works! Both the little fantasies and the big fantasies. (And sometimes it goes completely off the rails and belief is too strong and headed in a way which makes life so much tougher, which is another theme for another story.)

        Doylistically speaking, though, from the writer’s viewpoint, the word “lie” has a lot more power. It jerks our collars and makes us sit up. Lie has such a negative connotation — how dare he use it in conjunction with things like justice? It makes us check our assumptions and think in a way that “fantasy” wouldn’t.

        It all boils down to a favorite Pratchett theme: there’s no justice. There’s just us. We are the ones who treat each other fairly and kindly, and we are the ones who boil each other in oil. It’s down to us to decide which way we want to act.

  11. I GOT READING GLASSES! On Thursday, and please don’t read that in the voice of Death, because it’s supposed to be excitement, LOL. But anyway, I’ve been reading Hogfather, and my gosh. Even after so many reads, it still makes me chuckle out loud.

    There was the almost-Tom-Swifty: “I happen to like fern patterns,” said Jack Frost, coldly. (And later, he says something icily, because of course he would.)

    And the lovely exchange where Ponder Stibbons says, “Sound, you see, comes in waves –”

    He stopped. Wizardly pemonitions rose in his mind. He just KNEW Ridcully was going to assume he was talking about the sea . . . . “It’s all done by magic, Archchancellor,” he said, giving up.

    . . . .”Just magic. Sufficiently ADVANCED magic.”

    — Nice use of Clarke’s Third Law.

    I’m halfway through the book. I think there might be a little more reading in my future, thanks to the new glasses! I wish I hadn’t dithered so long about getting them.

    1. Reading glasses are saving my life after the eye surgery. I have pairs stashed all over the house. I didn’t need them before the cataracts (thank you, years of asthma steroids) but now I’ve got one 20/30 eye and one 20/200 and boy howdy, do I need them to read. Lifesavers.

      1. I wish I’d known! I guess I’m just stubborn. I don’t know how much of my resistance to reading glasses came from vanity . . . .

        And that idea of having several pairs stashed around the house is brilliant. My FIL does it, but he’s got normal old-people vision, so can just buy them off the shelf. I could buy a pair every six months for about two years, though, and have all the pairs I could possibly need . . . .

        (-: I’m about halfway through Venetia now. Gosh, I feel like I’ve been given back a precious gift!

  12. Susan is bitter about how her parents tried to protect her from Death (they visited when she was very little, then stopped) and from the little beliefs like the Tooth Fairy. Later on, Susan has to realize that she’s very different from anyone else and that she has supernatural abilities that she thinks are curses. Susan hasn’t reconciled all this by the end of Hogfather, has she?

    In other words, do you think Susan’s parents did the best they could given what they knew about the legacy they were leaving Susan? Or, were they tricking themselves and leaving her unprepared?

    1. Well, Susan’s parents had their own problems. Mort wasn’t really raised to be Death’s apprentice even though he ended up there, and then Death’s daughter Ysabell had a very weird childhood. Then they became the Duke and Duchess of Sto Helit, which they really weren’t prepared for, either. Trying to protect a daughter with all of that swirling around you would be tough, let alone taking a little kid to see Grandpa Death, who is, after all, a skeleton in black robes. There’s no way to protect Susan from what she is. Which is good. I’m not even sure they knew what she was, and they died when she was pretty young, so they may just have been waiting until she was old enough to deal with things.

      I would have loved more Susan books. She’s so marvelous.

    2. I think every generation reacts against the parenting of the previous generation, and because it’s not humanly possible to get it a 100 percent right, there’s a constant back and forth. Susan’s parents had had it up to their ears with all this belief. “Let’s give her a solid background in reality and facts, and she can choose later.” Only, when it came time to choose, she felt she wasn’t prepared enough in the beliefs area, maybe.

      Her parents also died when she was in school, IIRC. So, maybe they felt they could introduce Grandfather back into her life in her teen years — but they never got the chance.

      It’s easy enough to blame one’s parents, but nothing really productive comes out of it. It’s what one does with one’s upbringing that shows what kind of person one is. Susan is a bit of a complainer, but she takes up the sword and does what needs to be done.

      1. She doesn’t tend to complain out loud. She bitches to herself, but aside from getting shirty with the Death of Rats, she’s generally a down-to-business kind of woman.

        1. Yes! This is one of the difficulties of an author/omniscient narrator revealing a character’s thoughts.

          Because the reader hears what a character would NEVER say aloud, the character sounds more fraught than she appears to other characters or within the story. It’s not a weakness if no one around her is aware of it.

          1. Weelll . . . I mean, of course, everyone has a lot of complaints inside their own heads. But some people have more complaints, louder complaints, rather more unreasonable complaints . . . . And I’m not saying that Susan is a bad complainer in the privacy of her own head — a lot of her complaints are reasonable doubts that should be worked through (as a person, and for the story).

            After all, Hogswatch Night/Christmas is kind of a big gripe of Pratchett’s, although he expresses it far more elegantly and engagingly than most of us can complain about the holiday hubbub. I see this book as him not being happy with the holiday, and working his feelings and thoughts out on the page.

            But I also get a feeling that this kind of low-grade grousing is a weakness, whether it’s in one head or not.

            I do want to point out that we LIKE complainers in our entertainment. A good kvetch is usually a lot more fun than describing our holiday that was complete with magical reindeer and sacks of toys. So when I say Susan is a complainer, it’s not completely negative.

            LOL, I think I need to write a book to figure out my feelings toward this.

            I do get a little annoyed with her when she’s too judgemental. Is Twyla REALLY drawing little mousies on her letters in order to get a better haul from the Hogsfather, or is Twyla really fond of mice on stationery? In general, I think Susan is a reliable narrator, but sometimes I wonder. She was tricked by Death after all.

            I’m not sure where the complaints about children fake-acting as children fit in. Is Pratchett saying it’s wrong for us to use our creativity to manipulate others into giving us more presents/power?

            I will say, she doesn’t go over the line into whiner. And Twyla is still allowed to put little mice in dresses on her letter to Hogsfather. She’s also very harsh on the former governess’ belief system, so it doesn’t seem like Susan is swinging the pendulum too far into the realm of belief.

          2. Twyla fesses up when she stops lisping without any problem. It isn’t the mice Susan objects to, it’s the manipulation. I saw that as Susan saying, “Don’t play those dumb games people make little girls and women play. You’re strong, you’re smart, own it.”

      2. Yes! She’s also angry. I felt that a lot about my mother. I know perfectly well that within my mom’s ability and understanding she did her best. But I remain angry partly because of the above.


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