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Headscratchers: Hogfather
  • Why was Mustrum Ridcully in Hogfather not played by BRIAN BLESSED (BUUUUURSAAAAAR!!!).
    • Because some things are just too perfect?
    • The universe would implode from sheer awesome.
    • More serious, the dude is old. Probably not in the best shape if he's been carrying around that much for so long, if you know what I mean.
      • Brian Blessed has 3 times the lung capacity of the average human being, a good chunk of his mass is ammo storage for the sonic weapon array he calls a mouth.
    • You have presented to us the mental image of a nude elderly Brian Blessed taking an abnormally high-powered shower (thank you, Bloody Stupid Johnson), with implications of washing certain body parts we do not normally wash. Do not take it personally if we ask that the image be removed immediately.
  • Why does Death save the little match girl? What's so bad in getting to bloody Heaven? She would've gotten there, angels were coming for her. He gives her the present of a future... yeah, a future of poverty and misery.
    • I think it's in keeping with the overall deconstruction of Christmas and in particularly the sentimentality surrounding it and stories. From one viewpoint, The Little Match Girl is kind of horrible — take away the sentimentality and the 'getting into Heaven' bit (and the original, intentionally or not, is a bit ambiguous regarding that as well), and what you're left with is a poor, homeless, orphaned little girl being tormented by hallucinations about the wealth of everyone around her as she freezes to death in the snow. And as Albert unwittingly points out, we're kind of using that little girl's death in the snow to make us feel better about ourselves (yeah, we might not have much — but at least we're not The Little Match Girl!). Yeah, she may live in poverty and misery now — but she's only a little girl, and she deserves to have the chance to grow up and at least look for and maybe even find happiness, not to just be a sentimental cautionary tale. If she's good, she'll still get into Heaven someday, but arguably later's better than sooner in this case.
    • Don't forget that Death drops the kid off with the Watch, and he says he'll be checking in on her in the future. He's not just making her not die, he's putting her in the hands of people who can really help her.
    • Of course, if you take away the "getting into Heaven" bit, the story is horrible. But Hogfather didn't take that away - the angels appear, and Albert throws snowballs at them. If they made it ambiguous, saying that she might be better of dying, I could understand Death's rage over it better. But I really don't think the original is ambiguous over this: "[Her grandmother] took the little girl in her arms, and they both flew upwards in brightness and joy far above the earth, where there was neither cold nor hunger nor pain, for they were with God." Where's ambiguity in that? But I digress.
      • In-universe explanation is that on the Disc the afterlife is pretty crap for anyone that isn't a Feegle. Out-universe Pterry and most of his fans tend not to put much faith in deities. Being one with a god isn't half as good as actually living your life.
      • And as Death points out, it would have helped a lot more if the angels had come before the little girl froze to death, not after. They certainly have more than enough carrying capacity, as he points out, and coming after her death just isn't helpful at all.
      • If you asked the grandmother from the original story if she'd rather someone had come by and saved the girl's life, do you really think she'd have said no?
      • This being Discworld, there are multiple Heavens, and each Heaven is not necessarily as nice as the Real Life Heaven is supposed to be. The specific Heaven she was headed for was one populated entirely by angels who would deliberately refuse to save a little girl from death , not because they weren't powerful enough, but because they thought her death would make a better story. It kinda makes sense that Death - who loves and cares about humanity - would be livid at such blatant sociopathy by supposedly-superior beings.
    • Hogfather is all about life and its significance - Death's story about the little red flower, his speech to Susan about the uncaring universe. The various explanations for the winter festival - sacrifice, hoping winter will end soon (and therefore life will get easier). The irony of Death being the champion of life. The bad guys hate life because they find it messy. The good guys are on the side of life for life's sake. Of course he saves the girl.
      • Who else is better equipped to champion life but the being tasked with taking it away? It's his responsibility to reap the souls of untold millions, if not billions. If someone presented you with a starving, freezing orphan girl and gave you a gun and directions to a shelter for her, what would you do if they told you that killing her is the only option? You may argue that it's a mercy kill but Death does not really have that option, only an obligation.
    • Because leaving her to die would have been a dick's move. Besides, Death had just spent hours giving the kids what they wanted, even though he wasn't meant to, he wasn't about to say 'Yes, I'll let you die even though I could do differently'. And besides, after Albert explained why he should let her die, he was full of pissed-off, righteous indignation.
    • Sorry, friends, but the only real explanation is this: In fiction and real life, it has always been the tradition to believe both that people who die go to heaven and that it's a tragedy when people die. It's illogical, but that's how it always works. You might as well ask why it's considered a success when somebody's life is saved, considering that they'll die eventually anyway.
      • Wow. You are actually smug enough, to dismiss all other opinions without even bothering to explain why. Words can't describe, how much you can go fuck yourself.
      • The troper didn't dismiss "all other options", he or she merely stated the literary tradition, spanning from ancient Egypt to probably the late 1800's in the absolute sense, and remaining the default view until the 1960's at the earliest. If you want to get angry, get angry at someone who wouldn't help a destitute child, or anyone for that matter, freezing to death, rather than someone who is merely speaking the truth. Or better yet, change the society whose literary reflection so angers you. Also, your suggestion is generally anatomically impossible.
      • I am certain other people than Feegles can get a good afterlife on the Disc, such as Teach, Doctor Undershaft, Mrs. Flitworth and a few others. But, putting that aside:
    • The story of the matchgirl is, unsurprisingly, going to be viewed differently by atheists than religious people. But one thing about it is indisputable - the story promotes a passive acceptance of suffering, which is a pretty horrible thing. Both the girl and the reader are supposed to acquiesce to the fact that the girl is dying, for no fault of her own, not from sickness, or an accident, or old age, but just poverty, which is and should be a remediable condition. Not only is the message - for the girl and the reader - 'death is the best you can get', but also there is a message for everyone else (because nobody comes to help the girl, even though she looks into other people's houses, so there are other more fortunate people) - 'you do not need to help others, you can let them die and that's a good deed, because they go to heaven'. If that isn't horrible, I don't know what is. In Hogfather, Death on the other hand gives the lesson in active, constructive kindness, as he gets her what she needs - care, protection by honest people, a warm meal - as well as the feeling of security ('I may well be checking up later.') He puts the real, tangible and vivacious happiness of life above the indefinite, vague and static afterlife.
      • I'm sorry, you're trying to tell me that Hans Christian Andersen was against charity, kindness, and social welfare? The man was very depressed and troubled. He wrote a story about a pathetic little girl who is helpless to change her fate, to whom the world is cruel, because that's what he perceived of life. He tried to console himself, his readers, and the girl by giving her a happy afterlife with her grandmother.
      • Maybe a better way to put it is that Terry isn't against Hans Christian Andersen, but against the way that most people (who don't think about its implications very hard) interpret the story that he wrote as some kind of heartwarming tale without any darker implications.
    • It's not the first time Death has cared for those he serves. What can the harvest hope for, if not the care of the ReaperMan?
      • It's simple, you only have to ask yourself this question: Is it in the spirit of Hogwatch to let little girl freeze to death on the street?
    • Of course getting to Heaven is a good thing. You know what else is good, though? Getting the chance to live a full, happy life. As mentioned before, Death brings the little match girl to the Watch, who we know have a significant allowance for the care of Watch widows and orphans. It's entirely plausible that when the Grim Reaper handed over a nearly-frozen orphan girl, left instructions to take care of her, and suggested he would be back to make sure those instructions were followed, it was decided to add the match girl to the list of children supported by that allowance. Also, remember that Death was caught up in the spirit of Christmas and goodwill and all that. Saving a small child's life and giving them a chance at a better one is a pretty unambiguously "good" act, and Death wanted to be good. For Hogswatch, anyway.
      • She could live a full, happy life in Heaven. This is part of the larger problem of writing a story about the anthropomorphic personification of something that does not exist in the setting. People do not die on the Discworld, they go somewhere else. The only difference with the Tooth Fairy's castle is the corpses.
      • That's not correct at all. People do, in fact, die on the Discworld. This book is about, you know, Death. It's never, at all, ever said that people just "go somewhere else" on the Discworld. They explicitly die.
      • The idea that seems to come up most often when discussing Death in these books is that once you're dead, you're done. You can still be *happy*, but your life is over — you have no more possibilities, and can't accomplish anything, grow, change, or do any of the things that constitute a real life. Death is stasis — which means that even if the girl just goes to Heaven, she's still being robbed of having a real life (which is arguably the most important thing that anyone can have). Just being *happy* isn't the same thing as "living."
      • That doesn't seem to be true. Mr. Tulip (who is, admittedly, a very unusual case) can feel "really -ing sorry" after his death, and at least partially redeems himself. Brutha continues to help people. Vorbis is being helped on the way through the desert. Ms. Lejean is ready for new experiences. Some people are reincarnated (e.g., "Bjorn again"). And so on and so forth. Discworld death definitely isn't always a stasis.
    • The Disc seems to have three main outcomes of being dead: reincarnation, Hell, or walking the desert. We never, to the best of this troper's recollection, see or get told what's on the other side of the desert. Even Death doesn't seem to have much of an idea what's over there.
    • Heaven is open forever, but you only have one life. If you do not value your life, then you shoul kill yourself right now. If you are afraid of divine punishment for suicide, you can gift all your belongings to others and die on the street like the little match girl did. Of course, I do not mean that seriously. Neither does Pratchett. Pratchett often calls bullsh*t and mercilessly parodies these stories that beg for your admiration but in fact include a nasty lesson at the core. In fact, watch Albert's interpretation of the story in the same book: "Little match girls dying in the snow is part of what the Hogswatch spirit is all about, master. I mean, people hear about it and say, ‘We may be poorer than a disabled banana and only have mud and old boots to eat, but at least we’re better off than the poor little match girl,’ master. It makes them feel happy and grateful for what they’ve got, see.” That is a rather nasty interpretation of the tale, too. It basically tells you that what many people experience over these tales is in fact schadenfreude - ie. they can feel better about themselves as long as they know that someone is doing worse. Andersen was pretty fond of these deus ex machina endings - compare the original ending of The Little Mermaid - where everything ends in tragedy, but because God will reward suffering in the afterlife is is All Fine. Pratchett does not believe in that sort of defeatism - his characters like Susan particuarly hate it and promote a "help yourself" attitude. If Pratchett would write a book with the Little Match Girl as the protagonist, then the match girl would immediately realize that waiting in the snow was a ticket for death, and expecting her father who's forcing her to sell matches to ever treat her better is pointless. The little match girl would go around banging on people's doors until someone gave her a lowly job, work her way up to become a self-supporting woman, run away from the city, marry, and visit her father's grave some 30 years later only to spit on it. And she would be happy and strong and self-sufficient, all of which wouldn't have happened if she was just waiting around for God's miracle to happen. That's the kind of hero Pratchett would write.
  • One of the main characteristics of the Oh God of Hangovers is that as a newly formed anthropomorphic personification, he doesn't know a lot about the world, and when Susan mentions the Tooth Fairy, he responds that he's never heard of her. But the Verruca Gnome is in the same boat as Billious, being created in the same fashion slightly earlier, yet he instantly knows about the Tooth Fairy. The only reason this might make sense is that the Verruca Gnome, as a fairy-esque creature, has a similar job and would have a knowledge of her, but it still seems like an odd difference.
    • In fairness to Bilious, a massive hangover is not conducive to thinking particularly well, and after the Wizard's Sobriety Potion the sheer euphoria of not having the worlds' worst hangover probably overwhelmed him somewhat.
  • Why is Albert able to go with Death onto the Disc? Didn't he have, like, a few seconds of life or something?
    • Susan asks exactly this in the book—he explains he's allowed to join Death in the role of one of the Hogfather's helpers. Sort of a loophole. It's kind of the same reason Death is allowed to give the little match girl life because he's in the role of the Hogfather.
Guards! Guards!Headscratchers/LiteratureI Shall Wear Midnight

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