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Next! What's your name, little reader?




And you are how many years old?


...Not sayin'...


What would you like for Hogswatch?




I expect you'd like an article on 'Hogfather'?




Have you been naughty or nice?




Well, here you are. Happy Hogswatch. Ho. Ho. Ho.


'nk you...


The 20th Discworld novel and the 4th in the Death theme, now becoming more like the Death-Susan theme. Was also the first book to be adapted by Sky One for a live action TV movie.

Susan, Death's granddaughter, is trying distance herself from her supernatural side by being normal (which is abnormal for the Discworld) and taking the position of governess in the Gaiter household, where she tries to instill some rationality into her young charges. Meanwhile, the Auditors' latest plan is to hire the Assassins' Guild to kill the Hogfather, the Discworld's Santa Claus analog. The task is given to Mr. Teatime, a creative but overly zealous young assassin, who has already hypothesized how to kill many anthropomorphic personifications in his spare time.

With the Hogfather out of the way, there seem to be a whole lot more minor gods and goddesses around than there used to be - and perhaps the disappearance of a tooth fairy might shed some light on the whole ordeal?

Tropes used in Discworld/Hogfather include:


Death: You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?

      • Though it also counts as a Fantastic Aesop, considering how things work on Discworld.
        • True for Roundworld as well, though: We have to believe the little lies, like Santa, so we can believe the big ones when we grow up, like Justice (which is just a concept that has no basis apart from a cultural agreement).
  • Ambiguous Innocence: A big theme in the book is that children's stories are hardly as sweet as some imagine.
  • Affably Evil: Mr. Teatime, in a way.
  • All Myths Are True: As is traditional for Discworld, a large number of Christmas myths and stories are all happening at the same time.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Applied in-universe to "Good" King Wenceslas.
  • The Artifact: Susan is the Duchess of Sto Helit, which she inherited from her father Mort, who himself was given the job at the end of Mort. This makes her choice of occupation somewhat... unusual. Given the way her status is very briefly Handwaved it seems clear that this Backstory is pretty inconvenient to Terry and the direction he wanted to take the character of Susan in, which is presumably why it is mostly ignored later.
  • Badass Bookworm: Susan.
  • Badass Santa: Like our Santa, the Hogfather is derived from old pagan gods... just a little more literally. And then Death takes over for him. You'd better watch out...
  • Bad Santa: Death is bad at being Santa. In a good way.
  • Batman Gambit: Death forbidding Susan from getting involved, knowing full well that she would disobey him.
  • Begone Bribe: Foul Ol' Ron and his fellow tramps tell a restaurant owner that they'll sing (badly) for free, since it's Hogswatch. He takes the hint and gives them some food to make them go away.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Death, to the Auditors' hypocritical argument at the end:

One said, You cannot do this, there are rules!
Yes. There are rules. But you broke them. How dare you? how dare you?

  • Beware the Nice Ones: Death. Sure, he's Death and all, but this book shows that he cares a hell of a lot about the world, so don't mess with reality and piss him off. See Berserk Button above.
  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: Done with a crowbar for extra absurdity.
  • Book Ends: One of the earliest scenes is Death on the ocean floor overseeing the death of a deep-sea organism that looks like a brilliant red flower when an apparently random rockfall kills it. Towards the end, he uses it as an example of the Auditors' evil to Susan:

Death: Down in the deepest kingdoms of the sea, where there is no light, there lives a type of creature with no brain and no eyes and no mouth. It does nothing but live and put forth petals of perfect crimson where none are there to see. It is nothing but a tiny yes in the night. And yet... And yet... It has enemies who bear it a vicious, unbending malice, who wish not only for its tiny life to be over but also that it had never existed. Are you with me so far?
Susan: "Well, yes, but-"
Death: Good. Now, imagine what they think of humanity.

    • This is noted by Susan as significant in-universe because of how rarely Death speaks so emphatically (in italics).
  • Brains and Brawn: The Lilywhite brothers; Banjo is the brawn, Medium Dave is the brains.
  • Chekhov's Gun: At the beginning of the book Ridcully makes an off-the-cuff remark:

Ridcully: Get hold of something like someone's nail clipping and you've get 'em under your control. That's real old magic. Dawn of time stuff.

    • Guess how ridiculously important that concept is?
    • There's also Twyla's "It only kills monsters," near the beginning.
  • Children Are Innocent: Analyzes the dark side of this trope.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Along with Small Gods, the book in which the concept is most examined.
  • Continuity Nod: Ridcully mentions the time the build up of life force that happened in Reaper Man
  • Crappy Holidays: In one scene, the wizards are briefly sent into a funk where they ruminate on all the things they hate about the holidays.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Susan worries that Death is going senile and becoming one of these. He's really more of a Kindhearted Cat Lover though.
  • Crazy Prepared: Teatime. Oh, gods, Teatime...
    • To the point where when he's given an assignment to kill the Hogfather, he tells Downey that he'd already come up with a plan years ago when he was a kid, as a thought experiment, in addition to beings like the Tooth Fairy, the Soul Cake Duck, and Death himself.
  • Cue the Sun
  • Deconstruction:
    • Of a lot of children's literature; Susan notes the Sociopathic Hero nature of Jack and other fairy tale protagonists,[1] but the book is even harsher towards very saccharine works, which are made to appeal to adults rather than children. Death, meanwhile, does this for various Hogswatch Tropes.
    • The speech Death gives about humans needing fantasy to be human is a deconstruction of the famous "Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus" editorial from the Sun (which was mercilessly mocked in an earlier Susan monologue).
  • Deliberately Cute Child: Susan tells off one of her charges for trying this:

Twyla: I'm afwaid of the monster in the cellar, Thusan. It's going to eat me up.
Susan: What have I told you about trying to sound ingratiatingly cute, Twyla?
Twyla: You said I mustn't. You said that exaggerated lisping is a hanging offence and I only do it to get attention.

  • Didn't See That Coming: Teatime probably would have done just fine if he hadn't underestimated how much Banjo got upset about hitting girls.
  • Disney Villain Death: Subverted twice: first, Susan actually has to kick Teatime before he falls, then he survives the fall and gets Impaled with Extreme Prejudice.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: I don't know if you noticed, Albert, but that was a pune, or play on words.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: There is a debate between Teatime and Susan as to the good taste of the Sto Helit family motto Non Timetus Messor. The "death is not to be feared" theme of this trope is evident in the nature and character of the Discworld Death.
  • Double Jump: Teatime, amazingly enough.
  • Ear Trumpet: Windle Poons' old trumpet shows up again as a way to give Hex commands.
  • Eldritch Location: Tooth Fairy's Castle.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: It's more awe and fear than love, but when Teatime insults the late Ma Lilywhite, that's apparently the last straw for Medium Dave.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • The amoral Lord Downey is creeped out by how Teatime is dangerously unhinged, while nominally following the rules of the Assassin's Guild.

Like many people with no actual morals, Lord Downey did have standards, and Teatime repelled him.

    • Medium Dave and the other lowlifes also have their own twisted code of conduct, and they're unsettled by Teatime's mindless ruthlessness.
  • Everything Fades: People who die in the Tooth Fairy's castle get teleported away. This is because the place is based on the imagination of children, who do not really have the concept of death or what happens after you die. Which is why Death needed Susan to go there for him--the Tooth Fairy's land is A place I cannot go.
  • Evil Eye: Teatime has one eye with a pin-point sized pupil. The other's glass.
  • Exact Words: Teatime's reassuring comment "Don't worry, a violent death is the last thing that'll happen to you".
    • Susan refuses to believe that the sun wouldn't have come up if they had failed to restore the Hogfather. Death insists that it would not have:

Death: A mere ball of glowing gas would have illuminated the world.


Death: The Hogfather can. The Hogfather gives presents. There's no better present than a future.

  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Teatime. Part of the brilliance of his plan was that Death could do nothing directly to stop him because Death cannot go to the Tooth Fairy's country—because it is based on the imagination of children, who have no fully formed concept of death. Later when Susan confronts him there, he takes Death's sword from her and attempts to slay her with it, only to find the blade cannot exist there either, as there is no death.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: While more fully explored in Thief of Time it's glimpsed at here when the Auditors become addicted to living when they take on the form of wolves to pursue the Hogfather.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Teatime, with a poker. It only kills monsters.
  • I'm Your Worst Nightmare: Parodied.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Teatime is insistent that his name is pronounced "Teh-ah-tim-eh" (or "Teh-ah-tar-mee" in the TV adaptation).
  • Nail The Dog To The Ceiling: Teatime, of course.
  • Kids Are Cruel: A major theme of the book.
  • Knife Nut: Teatime again (Go figure!).
  • Leaving Food for Santa: On the Discworld, children leave out a pork pie and a glass of sherry for the Hogfather, and a turnip for the hogs that pull his sleigh. Death can't eat or drink, so Albert deals with the pies and sherry for him (particularly enthusiastically when it comes to the sherry).
  • Magical Nanny: Susan's occupation during the novel. Of course, this being Susan, she's much more Badass than the average Magical Nanny.
  • Magitek and Magical Computer: Hex.
  • Mall Hogfather: Death's rather...special stint as one is one of his tricks to regain faith in the Hogfather.
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: The Tooth Fairy.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: The Tooth Fairy/ Bogey Man.
  • Motivational Lie: Teatime tries to get Banjo to attack Susan by telling him that Susan hurt the Tooth Fairy.
    • Death telling Susan that the sun won't come up if the Hogfather dies can be seen as this or a Half Truth mixed with a very careful use of Exact Words.
  • Noble Demon: The Tooth Fairy/ Bogey Man.
  • No Kill Like Overkill: Teatime's Ax Crazy nature is revealed from the description of him doing this in the course of an assassination.
  • Noodle Incident: The exact side-effects of the hangover cure. Sadly, that scene did not make it into the movie.
  • No One Could Survive That: Mr Teatime's fall from the top of the tower. He even disappeared afterward, like the other corpses.
  • Not What I Signed on For: One henchman's response when he finds out Teatime plans to kill the Hogfather.
  • Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: Susan mentions this as one of the reasons she hates the previous nanny of the kids she looks after.
  • Odd Job Gods: Bilious, the Oh God of Hangovers.
  • Pig Man: The Hogfather himself has elements of this.
  • Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: Now there remains one final question. Have you been naughty... or nice? Ho... Ho... Ho!
  • Psycho for Hire: Teatime, of course.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Banjo and, in a different way, Teatime. Teatime is mostly psychopath, while Banjo is mostly man-child.
  • Real Dreams Are Weirder: The Tooth Fairy's guards take Teatime's declaration of "I'm your worst nightmare!" entirely too literally.
  • Religious Robot: Hex is told to believe in the Hogfather. He does so.
  • Reset Button: Near the beginning, Ponder successfully cures the Bursar of his insanity by having him talk with Hex (though at the cost of temporarily driving Hex mad in turn). At the end, the Bursar goes mad again after Mr Teatime materialises on top of the dinner table and a wild swipe of Death's sword slices through the fork in the Bursar's hand.
    • This is also a form of Book Ends, as the Bursar originally went mad because of a different 'unfortunate incident at dinner', Windle Poons shambling into the Great Hall as a zombie in Reaper Man.
  • Retroactive Wish: When the wizards work out that the various minor fairies are spontaneously forming when people mention their function, the Dean quickly jumps in with "What, like the 'Give the Dean a Huge Bag of Money Goblin'?"
  • Reverse Psychology: It would be against the rules for Death to involve a human in the matter. This is why he specifically told her not to get involved.
  • Rule of Cool: Death comments that he added the sparks and the glow when the poker goes through him harmless because he felt it was 'appropriate'.
  • Saving Hogswatch
  • Scholarship Student: Teatime is one of several mentioned in the series who are these for the Assassin's Guild
  • Self-Made Orphan: Teatime provides the page quote.

Lord Downey: "We took pity on him because he lost both parents at an early age. I think, on reflection, we should have wondered a bit more about that."

  • Shout-Out:
  • Skip of Innocence: Twyla does this as part of her Deliberately Cute Child persona. Susan isn't fooled, saying "real children don't go hoppity-skippity unless they're on drugs".
  • Stable Time Loop: The toy horse Albert wanted when he was a child that was bought by someone else was Death going back in time and buying it for him. D'awwww.
  • Subbing for Santa: Death is a very creepy stand-in for the Hogfather. He does a pretty good job, though.
  • Supreme Chef: The manager of the restaurant in Ankh-Morpork, a former chef, is able to make meals out of mud and old boots (after Death steals his food stocks to feed the beggars) by a combination of skill and 'headology' (people will eat anything in a fancy restaurant if the menu is in French... Er, Quirmian). In Nanny Ogg's Cookbook it's noted that mud and old boots-based cuisine eventually caught on across the city's posh restaurants.
  • Take That: Has a very vicious one towards Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Match Girl".
    • Also thoroughly deconstructs the story of Good King Wenceslas. Admittedly, the King was more of jerkass than actually evil, but the point still stands; spontaneous charity on one day does not make up for neglect in the rest of the year.
      • Actually, that is more about forcing (inappropiate) charity on people who don't want it just to make yourself feel better.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • At the very beginning, Ridcully is opening a door with a sign that says, "Do not, under any circumstances, open this door." Why? "To see why they wanted it shut, of course." A footnote lets us know that this tells us just about all we need to know about human civilization. At least, the parts of it that are either underwater, fenced off, or still smoking.
    • At the end, when Ridcully shuts the room up again, the caretaker doesn't hammer the nails in too hard, so they'll come out easy next time.
    • Wizards being wizards, when someone realizes that magical beings are popping into existence when people think of them, the Faculty start saying that "Just because you think of {insert critter here} doesn't make it appear!" Cue appearance of the Eater of Socks.
  • Tongue on the Flagpole: While not using the tongue, this trope is mentioned. Albert reminisces about a toy horse he wanted as a kid. "I must have spent hours staring at it with my nose pressed against the glass, until someone heard my cries and unfroze me."
  • Too Dumb to Live: A quite literal application of the trope: The Auditors. They pushed Death's Berserk Button. While they were in mortal form.
  • True Meaning Of Hogswatch: Parodied, of course. Death resolves to teach people the real meaning of Hogswatch. Albert then list the more unpleasant aspects of pagan winter festivals until Death decides to teach people the unreal meaning of Hogswatch.
  • Urban Legends: The source of some of the sprites coming into existence from the Hogfather's belief.
  • Villainous Demotivator: Teatime's not very good at making friends.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Early on, Susan goes to Death's house and finds the room in which the lifetimers of the gods and anthropomorphic personifications are stored, finding the Hogfather's smashed on the floor: her line "Grandfather, what have you done?" seems to suggest she mistakenly thinks the Hogfather is dead due to an accident by Death. Why the lifetimer is smashed, and Susan's mistaken impression, are never revisited.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Susan notes Gawain and Twyla as this.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Banjo Lilywhite.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Everyone Teatime ever meets. It is curiously binary; if you are not helping him anymore, you are effectively dead. The only thing you can do is run out the clock. Mr. Brown is Genre Savvy enough to defy this, but Banjo kills him anyway. Teatime lets Sidney go, even after realizing he could do it himself, for some reason, but he still doesn't get out of the Tooth Fairy World alive.
  • You Mean "Xmas": Hogswatchnight.
  • Your Worst Nightmare:
    • The Tooth Fairy's last line of defense. Doesn't really work on Susan; she likes snakes. Teatime also overcame it, although he didn't care to explain how beyond "I am in touch with my inner child."
      • The live-action adaptation had his soul literally be that of a young version of him. He was in touch with his inner child because he's basically the same person as he was when he was a child. It's the same reason why Banjo wasn't targeted by the Tooth Fairy's defenses, but his brother was: he was, at heart, a child, and the Tooth Fairy had built his castle explicitly so he could protect children.
    • The worst nightmares of the one guard that Teatime killed were rather strange, involving some sort of giant cabbage with something resembling combine blades mounted on it. But then, when did a person's worst nightmare have to make sense to anyone other than them?

The TV adaptation contains examples of

  • Actor Allusion/Shout-Out: I couldn't possibly comment.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Nobby Nobbs. Mind you, making him look anything like described in the books would require heavy-duty CGI, enough makeup to cover the actor, a full-body suit, or hiring a chimpanzee and dubbing in his lines.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The adaptation shows all the events as they happen chronologically, even those that Susan (and through her, the readers) does not learn about until almost the very end of the book (most notable are the relation between the Tooth Fairy's realm and children's drawings, how death is treated in the Tooth Fairy's realm, the outright spelling-out of Teatime's plan for the teeth starting with punching Banjo, and the no-longer-behind-the-scenes nature of Death's decision to impersonate the Hogfather).
  • Behind the Black: Teatime takes Offscreen Teleportation to the max, with one cut having characters looking right at him and then the next having him coming completely out of nowhere to push Medium Dave against a wall. In the final scene too. How the hell did he get behind Death?
  • Billing Displacement: David Jason.
  • Coconut Superpowers: The Scissor Man never appearing on screen is a big one, as are the quick cuts away while magic is being performed.
  • Continuity Nod: The back of the Dean's robe reads "Born to Rune". Must have gotten his wardrobe mixed up with the Lecturer in Recent Runes'.
  • Creator Cameo: Terry Pratchett appears as the toymaker at the very end.
  • Doing It for the Art: Spent three hours on a movie just so it was almost word-for-word like the book. And the casting director has definitely earned their paycheck.
  • Driving a Desk: Binky's flying scenes, good lord.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Of deaths inside the castle, Mr. Brown is thrown down a large number of stairs, Middle Dave simply fades from existence after being hit by a light projection of his mother, and a third dies apparently of fright after being pulled into a wardrobe that scared him as a child. But Sidney? The Woobie wizard of the group with a penchant for sucking his thumb when frightened? The last we see of him is him sobbing in fear as the silhouette of the Scissor Man is cutting closer and closer to his head. And he had been lucky enough before to 'outlive his usefulness' minutes earlier and Teatime actually let him leave without trying to kill him.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The sound of the Scissor Man.
  • Mismatched Eyes: Not intentionally, but Death has one eye somewhat lighter than the other, seen clearest in the Hex 'belief' scene. And of course Teatime, whose eyes were deliberate.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We never actually see the Scissor Man, but we do get treated to a shadow moments before it killed Sidney in a nightmarishly Family-Unfriendly Death.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Uttered by the kid's father when the kids catch him pretending to be the Hogfather.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Mr. Teatime does this all the time.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: All scenes with The Librarian are absent from the film, presumably because it's a lot easier to write about orangutans playing pipe organs than it is trying to film it. The same probably applies to the fact that the Tooth Fairy's castle was supposed to have no shadows.
  • Psycho Strings: Used as a Leitmotif for Teatime.
  • Running Gag: Albert never getting to smoke a cigarette.
  • Shout-Out: The noble music which plays when Bilious is being sobered up is of course Men of Harlech, but is also known to some university students, current and former, as The Alcoholics' Anthem.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The sweet music playing as Teatime threatens Susan with the sword at the very end.
  • Take Our Word for It: The Scissor Man doesn't appear on screen.
  • A Worldwide Punomenon: Hex has a lot of computer puns, stealth and otherwise—sheep skulls (RAM), small religious pictures (icons), an 'Anthill Inside' sticker (Intel Inside), a mouse and so on. It is said that he's basically building himself off the ideas of computers from Earth.

Now there remains one final question. Have you been naughty... or nice? Ho... Ho... Ho!

Back to Discworld
  1. a recurring element in the series