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Literature / Hogfather

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It's the most wonderful time of the year, Hogswatchnight, when the Hogfather himself dons his red suit and climbs in his sleigh pulled by—of course—eight hogs, to shower gifts across Discworld. But when the fat man goes missing, someone has to sit in. It's up to Death to take up the reigns—otherwise the sun won't shine tomorrow... or ever again.

The 20th Discworld novel and the 4th in the Death theme, now becoming more like the Death-Susan theme.

Susan, Death's granddaughter, is trying to 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?


Preceded by Feet of Clay, followed by Jingo. Preceded in the Death series by Soul Music. Sort-of followed by Thief of Time, where Death and Susan do everything relevant that isn't done by Lu Tze or Lobsang. It was also the first book to be adapted by Sky One for a live action TV movie in 2006, starring David Jason as Albert and Michelle Dockery as Susan.

The book contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Death's scythe and sword.
  • Abusive Parents: Catseye's father locked him in a cellar and beat him if he tried to get out, leaving him with a lasting fear of the dark.
  • Adult Fear: The entire reason the Bogeyman, the living embodiment of the "monster under the bed" type scare, became the Tooth Fairy was to protect children from real monsters like Teatime.
  • An Aesop: Several of the traditional sappy Christmas Aesops are mercilessly mocked.
    • Death delivers a straight Aesop near the end.
      Death: You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?
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  • Analogy Backfire: Mr. Teatime's claim to be a security-guard's "worst nightmare" falls flat, because the guard's actual nightmares are a lot more bizarre than Teatime's threats.
    Teatime: I'm the one where this man comes out of nowhere and kills you stone dead.
    Guard (with relief): Oh, that one! But that one's not very -
  • 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.
  • Ambiguous Innocence: A big theme in the book is that children's stories are hardly as sweet as some imagine.
  • 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 but it makes sense if you remember the ending of Mort and how all the Sto city state were supposed to merge together. Queen Keli is the one supposed to take care of it.
  • 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...
    Have you been naughty... or nice?
  • Bad Santa: Death is bad at being Santa. In a good way.
  • Batman Gambit: It would have been against the rules for Death to get a human involved in his scheme, so he forbids Susan from getting involved, then pretends to be surprised when she predictably disobeys him.
  • Bears Are Bad News: One of the bogeymen cooked up by Gawain and Twyla's previous nanny was bears that sneak up and devour naughty children who walk on pavement cracks. They've learned not to pick on kids when Susan is around, however.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Susan starts the book very annoyed by the power set that comes with being related to Death, and is aggressively attempting to be normal. Then she gets to the Tooth Fairy's country, where she is normal because Death doesn't exist there—and Teatime's goons get the drop on her because her powers aren't working.
  • "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?
    • Banjo's mum always told him and his brother "don't hit girls", and after Teatime attacks Susan he finds out the hard way that Banjo doesn't like seeing others hit girls either.
    • Speaking of Banjo and Medium Dave's mum, saying anything bad about her is a very unwise idea if you'd like to leave the discussion in one piece.
    • Subverted as regards the pronunciation of Mr. Teatime's name (see It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY" below) - after he has repeatedly complained about this throughout the book, Susan tries to use it to put him off balance, but it doesn't work as he is merely mildly irritated by it.
  • 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.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Teatime tries to invoke this, reasoning that anyone fighting Death would be seen as the good guy by default. He overestimates the terror of an animate skeleton (especially when it's just sitting in a chair eating a biscuit) and underestimates his own unsettling nature.
  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: Done with a crowbar for extra absurdity.
  • Bluebird of Happiness: Is actually a blue chicken.
  • 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' antipathy to life 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).
    • Another early scene is of Lord Downey of the Assassins' Guild being bargained with by a supernatural entity that, to his dismay, entered his study without him hearing them. In one of the last scenes, the keeper of a toy shop bargains with a different such entity, also without hearing anyone enter.
  • Bowdlerize: Mrs. Huggs, leader of the wassailers, revised traditional Hogswatch songs to eliminate "unwarranted coarseness", even in cases (like "The Red Rosy Hen") when it doesn't actually exist.
  • Brains and Brawn: The Lilywhite brothers; Banjo is the brawn, Medium Dave is the brains.
  • Brick Joke:
    • After accidentally summoning yet another would-be anthropomorphic personification, Ridcully wonders aloud where the glingleglingleglingle noise that accompanies each manifestation is coming from. Near the end of the book, he encounters the Glingle-Glingle-Glingle Fairy.
    • As Albert's trying to convince Death to let the matchstick girl's Died Happily Ever After to play out, he makes an offhand mention of angels appearing to carry her soul off to paradise. After Death defies the trope and saves her life, a pair of extremely miffed angels briefly materialize at the spot she was supposed to die. Albert throws snowballs at them.
    • "Anthill Inside". While it's entirely possible that this grew out of the concept, one certainly couldn't put it past Sir Pterry to have quite deliberately written the evolution of Hex across several novels (starting as the ant counting machine in Soul Music) and dragged it out as long as he dared for the sole purpose of making this truly groan-inducing pun.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Susan finds she can't do any of Death's tricks in the Tooth Fairy's realm. Luckily for her, neither can Death's sword.
  • Call-Back: The Hogfather and the Tooth Fairy were both introduced as concepts in earlier books. Rincewind and Twoflower were seen wondering what the Tooth Fairy did with all those teeth back in The Light Fantastic.
  • Chariot Pulled by Cats: Hogfather goes around bringing gifts to good children in an elegant sleigh drawn by cute little pink pigs. Or at least the sanitized modern version does, when Death covers the Hogfather's shift, he does it with a massive crude sled built out of logs and drawn by equally huge, hairy and non-housebroken boars.
  • 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 clippings and you've got 'em under your control. That's real old magic. Dawn of time stuff.
    • There's also Twyla's "It only kills monsters," near the beginning.
  • Children Are Innocent: Analyzes the dark side of this trope.
  • Christmas Carolers: The Hogswatch Wassailers are a You Mean "Xmas" version of the trope. The Lemony Narrator says that if you could lift the scene up, there'd be an interesting assortment of chocolates or biscuits underneath.
    • And then there's the Canting Crew, who sing — or at least make vaguely festive noises — at people until they give them some money or food to go away.
  • Christmas Episode
  • Christmas Miracle: Numerous, including Death preventing a Little Matchstick Girl in progress.
    Albert: You're not allowed to do that.
    Death: The Hogfather can. The Hogfather gives presents. There's no better present than a future.
  • 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 happened in Reaper Man.
    • Death says his taking care of humanity has something to do with the harvest, a thing he realizes in Reaper Man.
      • The fields of wheat that Death turns part of his garden into to remind himself of this are described briefly.
    • The Glingleglingleglingle Fairy offers to play "The Bells of St. Ungulant's" for Ridcully. Brutha encountered St. Ungulant in Small Gods.
    • The ear trumpet that Windle Poons carried in Moving Pictures turns up, repurposed as a part of Hex.
  • 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.
  • Crappy Homemade Gift: Albert recalls how as a boy he used to stare through the window of a local toy shop at a huge rocking horse on display, dreaming of owning it, although there wasn't a chance of that as his family were dirt-poor. In his stocking on Hogswatch Day, he found a little carved horse that his Dad had personally made for him... and all he could think was that it wasn't the big horse in the window.
    Albert: No. Only grown-ups think like that. You're a selfish little bugger when you're seven. Anyway, Dad got ratted after lunch and trod on it.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Susan worries that Death is going senile and becoming one of these. He's really more of a Kind Hearted Cat Lover, though.
  • Crazy-Prepared: 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
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: This is the only possible outcome when you piss off The Grim Reaper himself. The book does not actually describe what happens, exactly. All we know is that he was up against an army of Auditors... and then abruptly he wasn't, and those Auditors are gone now.
  • Curse Cut Short: The Duck Man clamps a hand over Foul Ole Ron's mouth in time to stop him dropping an F-bomb while wassailing.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Besides the man himself, it turns out the real Tooth Fairy is also the Monster Progenitor of the bogeymen... but took up collecting teeth to protect children from malicious magic.
  • Death's Hourglass: Susan discovers a side wing of her grandfather's house which holds the hourglasses of the Disc's gods and anthropomorphic personifications. There, she discovers the shattered remains of the Hogfather's hourglass. The hourglass later reassembles itself as Death restored belief in the Hogfather.
  • Deconstruction:
    • Of a lot of children's literature; Susan notes the Sociopathic Hero nature of Jack and other fairy tale protagonistsnote , 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.
  • Didn't Think This Through: A group of Auditors become wolves to try and hunt down and kill the Hogfather. This makes them alive, rather than immortal by virtue of never being alive in the first place, and also violates the rules that would've protected them from Death.
  • 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:
    Death: Let's get there and sleigh them. Ho. Ho. Ho.
    Albert: Right you are, Master.
    Death: That was a pune, or play on words, Albert. I don't know if you noticed.
    Albert: I'm laughing like hell deep down, sir.
  • 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.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: Ridcully finds a bathroom that has been boarded up, had a sign put up warning not to open the room, and the door hidden behind a bookcase. So, because this is the kind of person he is, he opens it up to see why it was closed up.
    • A recurring theme of the book, and indeed every appearance of the wizards, is that if anything appears to be Don't Touch It, You Idiot!, a wizard can be relied upon to be the Idiot Who Touches It. There's also Ridcully's investigation of how the organ is linked to the plumbing.
    • At the end of the book the mysterious bathroom is sealed up again and numerous "Do NOT enter for any reason!!" signs put up. The dwarf doing it leaves the nails slightly loose because he knows wizards, and doesn't want to make it too hard to pull them back out again next time they want to have a look.
  • Double Jump: Teatime, amazingly enough.
  • The Dreaded:
    • Susan's habit of walloping monsters with a poker has given her something of a reputation amongst the childhood terror crowd; she's able to get the Scissor Man to back down with just a few stern words.
    • Teatime, who the rest of the Assassins are afraid of. By the end, the rest of his gang of robbers are just as terrified of him.
  • The Dreaded Thank You Letter: This book reveals that Ridcully was the only one who liked writing thank you letters as a boy and he compares the rest of the staff's cynical remembrances to watching men kick down a dollhouse.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: The Bursar suggests willow bark as a hangover cure. Willow bark contains salicin, from which aspirin was discovered.
    • Banjo is the only one to spot that something is wrong when a waiter brings drinks at a bar/dive where there aren't any waiters. It's Mr Teatime.
  • Dwindling Party: The group of criminals Teatime brings along gets picked off one by one.
  • Dying Candle: A long discourse parodies the last verse of Blue Öyster Cult's Don't Fear The Reaper, in which a window flies open, curtains billow out, and a candle flickers out in a very definitive manner. DEATH does not appear, possibly because his grand-daughter Susan knows what all these signs portend, and is bloody furious about it. If she's afraid of anything, it's that her well-ordered and relatively normal life is about to be turned upside down - again - by Grandfather. She is, therefore, disinclined to run to Him or take His hand.
  • Ear Trumpet: Windle Poons' old trumpet shows up again as a way to give Hex commands.
  • Eating Shoes: The meal of mud and old boots. See Supreme Chef below.
  • Eldritch Location: Tooth Fairy's Castle.
  • Enemies with Death: Teatime is a particularly odd case of Enemies with Death as he's the one who decided to be. Death is only one of the anthropomorphic personifications he plans how to kill, but Death himself doesn't view Teatime (or almost any human) as an enemy and the primary battle is between Teatime and Susan.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Mr. Teatime is introduced having entered head assassin Lord Downey's chamber undetected through the fireplace flues. He plays with Downey's dogs while he waits to be noticed. This shows he's both a badass and has a whimsical, childlike personality. His conversation with Downey shows the other aspect of his personality.
  • 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. For the record, he immediately draws his sword and snarls, "What did you say about our mum?" the instant Teatime implies disrespect towards Ma Lilywhite, and all the while knowing full-well how dangerous Teatime is.
  • 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.
      • One of the reasons why Teatime gives even other assassins the willies is that as a rule, an assassin is supposed to keep collateral damage to an absolute minimum and to cause as little physical damage to their "client" as they can. Teatime, however, prefers creating as much of a bloodbath as possible and leave his victims mutilated and/or dismembered. Guards, servants, not even pets are safe. A good assassin takes pride in a clean kill, but Teatime takes delight in a messy one.
    • 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 grasp 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.
    • As well as sustaining the being itself, Discworld belief allows for things associated with that being that couldn't physically exist to do so. For example, the Castle of Bones where the Hogfather lives is architecturally implausible at best but can exist because of belief in the Hogfather. When belief in the Hogfather drains away, entropy takes over and the Castle eventually collapses under its own weight.
  • Evil Matriarch: Ma Lilywhite is dead and Teatime's crew is still more afraid of her than him.
    Mr. Brown: I knew old Ma Lilywhite back in the good old days. You think you're nasty? You think you're mean? Ma Lilywhite'd tear your ears off and spit 'em in your eye, you cocky little devil.
  • Expensive Glass of Crap: In a footnote, it's mentioned that some aristocrats operate under the delusion that labeling the types of expensive alcohol in their bottles backwards will fool servants into not drinking it. It dryly notes that the servants are rarely fooled, and assume with rather more justification that their masters won't notice if the bottles are then topped up with "eniru".
  • False Reassurance: Teatime is fond of comments like "Don't worry, a violent death is the last thing that'll happen to you" and "Of course you will get what's coming to you". Mr Brown, when he decides he's had enough, reveals that he's noticed this tendency and isn't going to fall for it (not that it does him much good in the end).
    • Pops up regarding the rules of The Tooth Fairy's Palace. As it's explained, nobody can die in the Tooth Fairy's Palace. This doesn't mean you can't die, it just means you don't die there.
  • Flatline Plotline: Inadvertently applied to Teatime, who takes a fatal fall in the Tooth Fairy's realm, only to be revived by Ridcully when he reappears on the Disc and lands in the Great Hall of UU.
  • From Dress to Dressing: Susan does this to patch up the Hogfather's wounds after saving him from the Auditors.
  • Full-Boar Action: Rooter, Gouger, Tusker and Snouter. Also the pre-human form of the Hogfather himself.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Various items attached to Hex are Stealth Puns relating to computer acronyms, such as fluffy teddy bear = FTB = FTP.
  • Genius Ditz: Violet. The temp Tooth Fairy quickly takes the measure of Teatime's gang, and tells Susan about them right away — but she needs to shut down all other brain functions to remember the order of the alphabet.
  • Gentle Giant: Banjo, when he's not being ordered around by a charismatic psychopath.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Medium Dave slaps Chickenwire to snap him out of it the first time he starts succumbing to his childhood fears.
  • "Gift of the Magi" Plot: Subverted when the Dean gives the Bursar a box for his dried frog pills. The Bursar, naturally, no longer has any to put in it... because the Dean swiped them from his room, rather than shell out any more money for a full pillbox.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: The existence of anthropomorphic personifications is somewhere between this and Clap Your Hands If You Believe.
  • Haute Cuisine Is Weird: The manager of an expensive Quirmian restaurant discovers the ingredients have all been replaced by mud and old boots, and explains to a bewildered waiter that this doesn't matter.
    Manager: Nobody expects it to be food. If people wanted food they'd stay at home. This is cuisine.
  • Hear Me the Money: The Auditors of Reality leave a rather unusual payment when they commission the Assassin's Guild to off the eponymous holiday figure: blank discs of pure gold. The head of the guild bounces one on his desk, and the sound and bounce of the "coin" confirm its composition for him.
  • Hideous Hangover Cure: Whipped up for Bilious by the wizards, who mix together every single hangover cure they can think of. And since Bilious gets all of the hangovers from Bibulous, the god of wine, Bibulous gets all of the effects of the hangover cure.
  • Hijacking Cthulhu: Teatime's ultimate plan is the use the power of the Tooth Fairy's realm and the teeth of children to take control of their beliefs to kill the Hogfather. He realizes that he could potentially take control of everyone's beliefs the same way.
  • 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 is harmless there, for much the same reason.
  • How Can Santa Deliver All Those Toys?: When questions of this type start cropping up it's a sign that belief in the Hogfather is waning. The answer to how he normally does it is that things such as linear time and being physically larger than a house's flue are rules that are suspended on a temporary basis by the power of belief in order to allow it. The fact that the whole event occurs in a sort of non-time allows Albert to make a return to the world in spite of only having a few seconds left to live.
  • 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.
    • It's a long running concept in all the Discworld books that Death has changed quite a bit from hanging around humanity for all these eons. He keeps trying, with "interesting" results, to understand humans. He started out "just doing his job" but has come to care about humans quite a bit.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Subverted. It's not humans, it's just Teatime. The kids themselves point out that a skeleton isn't really frightening when it's holding a biscuit and a teacup, and Teatime's effort to win them over falls totally flat.
    Death: The world will teach them about monsters soon enough.
    Susan: But... he was a man.
    Death: I think they know quite well what he was.
  • Ineffectual Death Threats: A literal version when Susan tries to scare off Teatime with the threat of her grandfather coming after him. Teatime points out that everyone encounters Death eventually.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Susan spends most of the book thinking this way.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Teatime, with a poker. It only kills monsters. Hence, it ignores Death (who was standing in the way).
  • Implausible Deniability: Doreen's mother insists she doesn't want the toy soldiers and model castle she just asked the Hogfather for (and received), because "She's a girl!"
  • I'm Your Worst Nightmare: Parodied.
  • Ironic Echo: "You were sure I was going to survive that, weren't you?" "I was ... reasonably confident."
  • 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).
  • Kick the Dog: Most assassins prevent guard dogs from giving the alarm by drugging them if they can't just avoid them; Teatime nails them to the ceiling.
  • Kids Are Cruel: A major theme of the book.
  • Knife Nut: Teatime.
  • 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. Albert deals with the pies and sherry (particularly enthusiastically when it comes to the sherry) and one turnip (because it was apparently pork pie shaped, or at least could be mistaken for a pork pie after all that sherry). For form's sake, the Death of Rats nibbles on a pork pie and pantomimes piddling on one of the turnips.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Death technically can't get a human involved in his scheme, and Susan desires to be normal. However, nothing in the rules says he can't tell her just enough to make her want to get involved then forbid her from doing so, knowing Susan would get involved of her own accord.
    • How Death saves the Little Match Girl: Death would normally not be able to save a life that's about to die, but because he's subbing for the Hogfather, who is allowed to give gifts, he can by giving her 'the gift of a future.'
    • Albert justifies not giving people everything they wanted with Life Isn't Fair. Death points out he's not life.
    • Under normal circumstances Death wouldn't be allowed to kill the Auditors. However, the group in front of him broke the rules by becoming wolves and directly trying to kill the Hogfather, thus he he has no obligation to follow the rules in regards to them.
  • Magical Nanny: Susan's occupation during the novel. This being Susan, she's much more badass than the average Magical Nanny.
  • Magitek and Magical Computer: Hex.
  • Mall Santa: Death's rather... special stint as one is one of his tricks to restore faith in the Hogfather.
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: The Tooth Fairy.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Auditors are the... uh... entities behind Teatime's Hogfather-assassination contract.
  • Master of Unlocking: Mr Brown is one. By his own admission, he can unlock all human-made locks and most dwarf-made locks. However, he fails to open the final door in the Tooth-Fairy's castle.
  • Meaningful Name: In Scots, to banjo someone means to knock them down or assault them.
  • "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name:
    Death: If I had a first name, 'Duty' would be my middle name.
  • Metaphorically True: 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.
    • He then goes on to explain why this is, in fact, an important distinction.
  • Mismatched Eyes: Teatime has one glass eye and one really creepy non-glass eye. In the book it's nearly white; in the movie it's pale blue.
  • Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher: The Cheerful Fairy resembles one.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: The Tooth Fairy/Bogey Man.
  • Mobile Menace: The Scissor Man is briefly glimpsed on the far staircase, then moments later it's standing directly behind Susan.
  • Monster Progenitor: The Bogeyman, who was born from the primitive man's fear of the darkness and what hid within it. After humans mastered fire, other Bogeymen were born, lurking in the shadows cast by fire, but never knowing the primordial darkness that spawned their ancestor.
  • 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 Metaphorically True mixed with a very careful use of Exact Words.
  • Mythology Gag: The Sock Eater may qualify as one, as this little elephant-like creature bears a close resemblance to one of the weird animals that a young Terry Pratchett illustrated for his very first novel, The Carpet People.
  • Neck Lift: It's mentioned that one of the reasons Banjo's considered a valuable team member despite his intellectual shortcomings is his ability to neck-lift up to four men at a time (two per hand).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • The Tooth Fairy's intention in gathering all the teeth was to protect them from use in Sympathetic Magic. Instead, it makes it all the easier for Teatime and his gang to get their hands on an incredible number of them all at once.
    • Susan manages to knock Teatime off a balcony and he lands hard enough that he vanishes out of the Tooth Fairy's realm, suggesting that she's actually killed the Big Bad outright ... but a well-meaning Ridcully resuscitates him, even knowing the man was armed and dressed like an Assassin on his university's property.
  • 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. He did everything by the book, including using a mirror to check the whether the inhumed was breathing. That the victim's head was, at this time, several feet away from his body apparently did not enter into Teatime's mind as relevant. Or excessive.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The exact side-effects of the hangover cure. Sadly, that scene did not make it into the movie.
    • The incident which prompted Ridcully to close down the forbidden bathroom at the end of the book. It appears to have involved the 'afterburner' on the organ. Precisely why the organ needed an afterburner, given that this is normally the component of a jet engine, is a noodle incident in itself - though the fact that said organ was designed by Bloody Stupid Johnson probably had something to do with it.
    • The full extent of the gory details of Teatime's assassination of Sir George are not revealed, but given that we do learn that Sir George himself was decapitated and that the family dog was nailed to the ceiling, that's probably for the best.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Mr Teatime's fall from the top of the tower. He even disappeared afterward, like the other corpses. Because he was dead, and foolishly resuscitated by the wizards.
  • Not So Different: Death explains to Susan that believing in fairytales and legends is more similar to believing in ideals than anyone can see or probably admit, and that belief can provide strength to people to keep going.
  • Not His Sled: Death achieves this In-Universe with the Disc's version of "The Little Match Girl". He becomes absolutely furious when he is told that the Match Girl's death would somehow be an inspirational story for the holidays, and instead, in his capacity as the Hogfather, he sees that she gets some shelter and a warm meal.
  • 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 'an obnoxious prayer for some god to come and take their souls away if they die before they wake up' 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 becomes one by the end.
    • The Hogfather himself could qualify. He started out as a pagan blood sacrifice, and is now tasked with delivering presents to children. "Industrial retraining", as Quoth puts it.
  • Old Magic: Sympathetic Magic is considered "so old it hardly counts as magic anymore", and every witch and wizard knows well the importance of destroying hair and nail clippings so that they can't be misused. Likewise, the Tooth Fairy collects the teeth of children specifically so that they can't be used for such magic. Unfortunately, this only makes the Tooth Fairy's castle a major target for someone wishing to control all the world's children at once.
  • One Bad Mother: Ma Lilywhite, and then some.
  • Only Sane Man: Medium Dave is inexplicably the only one of the thieves who doesn't become childlike under the Tooth Fairy's influence (Banjo also didn't become childlike, but unlike Medium Dave that has the explanation that Banjo already was a child at heart before they entered the place). Until the phantom of his mother appears.
  • Peeve Goblins: The beings brought to life from popular belief after the Hogfather vanishes including several created from unformalized belief in the presence of small, mischievous entities responsible for everyday annoyances. These include the Verruca Gnome, who goes around handing people unsightly foot warts; the Hair Loss Fairy; the Eater of Socks, an elephant-like being who consumes socks and leaves their twins unpaired in the wash; the birdlike Stealer of Pencils; and the God of Indigestion.
  • Pig Man: The Hogfather himself has elements of this.
  • Poorly Lit Pareidolia: Chickenwire's childhood fear was a wardrobe that, in the dark, looked as if it had a face.
  • Post-Climax Confrontation: Two. One against the Auditors and one against a Not Quite Dead Teatime.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Now there remains one final question. Have you been naughty... or nice? Ho. Ho. Ho.
    • Susan gets one too: "Hi, inner child. I'm the inner babysitter."
  • Psycho for Hire: Teatime. He enjoys killing people, often in extremely messy, brutal ways, and was already contemplating killing Death, the Hogfather, and other Anthropomorphic Personifications long before being tasked with killing one.
  • 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.
  • Relieving the Reaper: Inverted — the Hogfather, the Disc's Santa-equivalent, goes missing, and Death ends up holding down his job until he can be found.
  • 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'?" It doesn't work because a) wishful thinking is a far cry from belief and b) people lose socks all the time, but aren't generally given random bags of money.
  • 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 harmlessly because he felt it was 'appropriate'.
  • Saving Christmas: The book sees the Hogfather (the Discworld equivalent of Santa Claus) assassinated (for want of a better word, since the Hogfather is a sort of immortal quasi-deity), and Death forced to stand in for him. Meanwhile, Death's granddaughter Susan (it's a long story) tries to find out what happened to the Hogfather and fix things. This being Discworld, it gives a philosophical reason why the celebration needs to be saved, goes over some of the origin myths behind it, and visits several other classic Christmas tales in a very tongue-in-cheek way.
  • 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.
  • Shoot the Dangerous Minion: Downey seriously considers having Teatime killed for a) violating Guild standards and b) being good enough to sneak into Downey's own office unnoticed.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The wardrobe from one of the thugs' bad childhood memories swallows them up — Violet and Bilious discuss the fact that wardrobes have been known to transport people to magical lands, but his destination is unlikely to be pleasant.
    • A wizard runs a thaumometer (a glass cube) over a dead body.
    • A double Shout-Out: one footnote discusses a bowdlerization of a folk song "The red rosy hen greets the dawn of the day" (the implication being that it was originally "cock" rather than "hen") and concludes that "Sometimes a chicken is nothing but a bird." This refers both to an apocryphal quotation attributed to Sigmund Freud "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar", and to a jazz song by Emett "Babe" Wallace titled "A Chicken Ain't Nothing but a Bird". Not to be confused with Ivor Biggun's Has Anybody Seen My Cock.
    • Susan swore to beat herself to death with her own umbrella if she caught herself dancing on rooftops with the chimneysweeps.
    • When Teatime falls onto the table in the Unseen University, one of the wizards comments with something along the lines of, "But I didn't even eat any of that salmon mousse."
    • Another Python reference: When Susan drags the unconscious and extremely ill Bilious to Unseen University and explains that "He's not dead, he's just resting."
    • There's this exchange, between Death and Albert: "It is Hogswatch, and people die on the streets. People feast behind lighted windows and other people have no homes. Is this fair?" "Well, of course, that’s the big issue—". The Big Issue is a UK homelessness charity. This may also be a nod to Sydney Carter's Anti-Christmas Song "Standing in the Rain".
    • A group of criminals is trying to break through a door with seven locks in a tower at Christmas/Hogswatch? The leader of the group is killed by falling from a great height? That sounds like a certain greatest Christmas film of all time.
    • Ridcully temporarily fixing Hex by typing in 'LOTSOFDRYEDFRORGPILLS' is probably a reference to early computer viruses and proto-viruses like Cookie Monster, which could be temporarily dismissed by typing in (for example) 'cookie'.
  • Skip of Innocence: Twyla and her brother Gawain do this as part of their Deliberately Cute Child personae. Susan isn't fooled, saying "real children don't go hoppity-skippity unless they're on drugs".
  • Slasher Smile: Mr. Teatime.
  • 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.
  • Stock Object Colors: Discussed when Susan and the Oh God end up in the Tooth Fairy's country, which resembles a child's drawing. Susan realizes what it is because (among other simplifications) the water in the creek is blue, the treetrunks are plain brown, and the apples are bright red... even though creeks are usually transparent, treetrunks have a whole range of colors from brown to grey to green, and only some apples are red. But children draw brown treetrunks, blue water, and red apples, because that's what they "know" they're supposed to be.
  • Stop Worshipping Me: The Oh God of Hangovers doesn't seem too happy that he was created due to prayers from hungover people until his hangover gets sent to the god of wine instead of him.
  • Subbing for Santa: Death is a very creepy stand-in for the Hogfather. He does a pretty good job, though, considering what he had to work with.
    Death (to an undercover Nobby Nobbs): And have you been a good bo... a good dwa... a good gno... a good individual?
  • 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, and also that forcing (inappropriate) charity on people who don't want it just to make yourself feel better is just as bad.
    • He names, explains, and then thoroughly takes apart the Anthropic Principle. Twice. In a single footnote.
  • 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.
  • Tomboy: The first child who Death meets in the Hogfather's Grotto is a little girl. Her mother wants her to get girly things like dolls and dresses, but once she realizes Death might actually give her what she wants, she quickly asks for a large set of army men and a sword. Death gives her both, but turns the sword to wood at the mother's protests.
  • 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 Christmas: Parodied. Death resolves to teach people the real meaning of Hogswatch. Albert then lists the more unpleasant (i.e. sacrificial pigs and loads of blood) aspects of pagan winter festivals until Death decides to teach people the unreal meaning of Hogswatch.
  • The Upper Crass: Susan works as a governess for a Nouveau Riche couple despite being the Duchess of Sto-Helit (and her father having been awarded the dukedom for personally saving the life of the queen) and therefore ranking higher than maybe one or two people in Anhk-Morpork. The disconnect between a duchess working as a servant causes a severe crisis for the socially-conscious wife who is constantly trying to move to the upper classes by reading books on etiquette. When Mrs. Gaiter had tremulously asked her how one addressed the second cousin of a queen, Susan had responded without thinking 'We called him Jamie, usually,' and Mrs. Gaiter had had to go and have a headache in her room.
  • 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.
    • It's implied elsewhere in the Discworld books that a person's life and their life-timer are literally connected by some sort of symbiosis. Thus, by killing the Hogfather before his time, one also destroys his life-timer.
    • It may have been another last-second attempt to keep him from dying. In Susan's previous adventure Albert stops living but doesn't actually die when his is smashed (he effectively freezes like a crashed computer program); he keeps the seconds they could salvage in a beer bottle now.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Susan notes Gawain and Twyla as this.
  • World of Pun:
    • 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.
    • There's the "Oh God of Hangovers" — not a god, or the god, but Oh, GOD of Hangovers.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Teatime.
    Teatime: Do away with them.
    Chickenwire: One of them's a girl, sir.
    Teatime: Then do away with them politely.
  • 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 because he was distracted, but the poor wizard 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, something about "claws", and an enigmatic reference to everything going blue. But then again, when did a person's worst nightmare have to make sense to anyone else?

The TV adaptation contains examples of:

  • 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. This somewhat ruins the joke in which Death is unable to discern Nobby's species, eventually calling him an "individual", because he's pretty clearly human onscreen.
  • 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).
  • Adapted Out:
    • The Librarian never appears, probably because writing about an orangutan playing an organ is much more feasible than filming it.
    • The Canting Crew subplot is also completely written out, as they don't really add anything to the story other than comic relief.
  • 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?
  • Carpet-Rolled Corpse: Kidnapped Violet is transported this way by Teatime's hired thugs.
  • Coconut Superpowers: The Scissor Man never appearing on screen is a big one, as are the quick cuts away while magic is being performed.
  • Composite Character: The Wizard character was given Peachy the thief's fear for the movie, and Catseye's fear was likewise ascribed to Mr. Brown, albeit without its backstory.note 
  • Continuity Nod: The back of the Dean's robe reads "Born to Rune".
  • Creator Cameo: Terry Pratchett appears as the toymaker at the very end.
  • The Dreaded: Even blind drunk and not a care for the mother of hangovers in the morning, the Hogfather's little elf helper takes one look at Death and runs away screaming.
    • Banjo and Medium Dave's mother. That's all you need to know.
  • Driving a Desk: Binky's flying scenes.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Of deaths inside the castle, Mr. Brown is thrown down a large number of stairs, Medium 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.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • In any scene with Albert, he'll be doing mild slapstick while other characters are talking.
    • During the final confrontation, while Teatime is threatening Susan with Death's sword, Death is awkwardly holding a cookie he'd picked up and hadn't gotten to eat. He even glances down at it a couple times, as if he's wondering if he could get away with eating it when nobody's looking.
  • Informed Attribute: Despite Nobby Nobbs' Adaptational Attractiveness, Death still acts like he can't tell what species he belongs to.
  • Instant Soprano: Ridcully's off-screen encounter with the "Old Faithful" setting in Bloody Stupid Johnson's bathtub has him talking like this.
  • 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 (and, as mentioned above, Nobby's Adaptational Attractiveness).
  • "Psycho" Strings: Used as a leitmotif for Teatime.
  • Running Gag: Albert never getting to smoke a cigarette.note .
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Albert sees Death bring the poor little match girl back to life and carry her off to some decent people.
    Albert: That's it, I've had enough of this pixie lark.
  • Shout-Out: The noble music which plays when Bilious is being sobered up is Men of Harlech, but is also known to some university students, current and former, as The Alcoholics' Anthem. Also doubles as an Actor Allusion, given that Rhodri Meilir is very Welsh.
  • 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.
  • Xylophones for Walking Bones: Susan Sto Helit recalls a visit to her grandfather as a child. She asked for a xylophone: her grandfather took his robe off and gave her two little hammers. It began to dawn on her that there was something odd about your grandfather being an animated skeleton, as Death is usually depicted.

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


Video Example(s):


Terry Pratchett's Death

Death from the Discworld series to revealed to be this. As best exemplified in his speech to Susan at the end of Hogfather.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

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