Every day in December, Nerds are sharing their favorite Christmas movies. This countdown is guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit. Today, I wanted to highlight a movie that is a little different to the traditional cookie-cutter Christmas movies, Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather. This television movie, originally released on Sky One in the UK, is ideal for someone looking for something a little different and is still trying to cling on to a little bit of Halloween.
The story takes place in the city of Ankh-Morpork on Discworld, a place where magic is normal, and begins the night before Hogswatch; a festival that bears a remarkable resemblance to Christmas. The Hogfather, who normally delivers presents to all the children, disappears. The ‘Auditors’ of reality have commissioned the Guild of Assassins to kill the Hogfather as they believe he is the embodiment of human creativity and humans have become much too creative. The commission is given to Mr Teatime (pronounced tee-ah-time-ey) who wants to use children’s teeth that have been collected by the tooth fairies to control their belief. If children no longer believe in the Hogfather, there will not be anymore Hogfather. In order to maintain belief in the Hogfather, Death takes over his job, accompanied by his butler, Albert. Death hopes to buy enough time for his granddaughter, Susan, to solve the mystery of where the Hogfather has gone and to stop Mr Teatime. Meanwhile, the wizards at the Unseen University are left to try and figure out why new mythological creatures, including the ‘verruca gnome’ and the ‘oh god of hangovers’ are suddenly appearing.
One of my favorite parts of this film is Death (voiced by Ian Richardson) taking over the Hogfather’s role. At first, he really does not understand the holiday traditions at all. He leaves gifts for children such as a real sword and the ‘ghastly omnian inquisition torture chamber’ for ages 3-10 (victim figures not included.) His butler Albert (David Jason) tries to coach him, making him wear a false beard and a cushion shoved under his robe. Although, Albert is mainly coming along on the ride for the food and drink left for the Hogfather and drinks 1,800,706 sherries, 68,319 pork pies and one pork pie shaped turnip, as many things tend to look pork pie shaped after that many sherries. However, as the plot unfolds, Death begins to understand the spirit of Hogswatch and makes sure the children get what they want (despite their parents’ wishes) and saves the life of a homeless child sleeping out in the snow. His adorable obliviousness still remains though as he laments the fact that he tries to give Susan a Hogswatch card with snow and a robin on it but the snow melted and the robin clearly didn’t understand Hogswatch spirit and would not stay stuck to the card.
I also love the role of Susan, portrayed by Michelle Dockery, best known for her role as Mary Crawley on Downton Abbey. We are first introduced to the no-nonsense governess as she is reading a bedtime story, Jack and the Beanstalk, to two young children. Her first line gives you a fairly good summary of her character: ‘And then Jack chopped down what was the world’s last beanstalk, adding murder and ecological terrorism to the theft, enticement and trespass charges already mentioned… which proves that you can be excused just about anything if you are a hero because no one asks inconvenient questions.’ However, she must step out of her role of governess and become a heroine herself and save Hogswatch. Her sassiness and dry sense of humour make her an ideal heroine in my eyes.
This television film was originally released in two part’s each lasting one and a half hours. Although this makes for a fairly long movie in total, it allows the movie to delve into the genius that is Terry Pratchett’s writing, with the movie being based on the book, The Hogfather. Pratchett himself also makes a cameo within the movie as a toymaker. The length of the movie also allows a little exploration into other parts of the Discworld, a fully fleshed out world that appears in many of Pratchett’s novels. The Discworld is a large disc that sits atop the back of four enormous elephants, standing on the shell of a giant turtle, the Great A’Tuin, as it swims through space.
Since the release of the movie, both Ian Richardson (the voice of death) and Terry Pratchett have died, may they rest in peace. The humour and intelligence brought to this film by them both is what makes this one of my favorite holiday movies. Although it is not strictly about Christmas, it always gets me thinking about holiday spirit and where our traditions have originally come from. I highly recommend this film as a break from the traditional Christmas movies. Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather is currently available on Amazon Prime, where it has been split into three episodes.