Themes

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 407

Hogfather is, first and foremost, an examination of Christmas and childhood. It lampoons most stereotypes of the holiday, along with many images from children's literature. Pratchett is particularly interested in the relations among altruism, power, and consumerism. Death, in his Hogfather role, is almost arrested because he distributes presents for...

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Hogfather is, first and foremost, an examination of Christmas and childhood. It lampoons most stereotypes of the holiday, along with many images from children's literature. Pratchett is particularly interested in the relations among altruism, power, and consumerism. Death, in his Hogfather role, is almost arrested because he distributes presents for free during a shopping mall appearance—to the shopkeepers, the entire function of the Hogfather is subverted if none of the parents have to buy anything (compounding his crime, he gives the children what they want instead of what their parents want them to want). Other familiar elements include the "Good King Wenceslas" myth—a king tries to give a pauper mounds of largesse that the pauper does not want and cannot possible stomach so that the king can feel both magnanimous (for one night) and paternal—and the "little matchgirl" story. Pratchett has particular fun with the latter, deftly pointing out the Victorian hypocrisy of piously bemoaning the poor girl's fate while never actually doing anything about it. In Hogfather, rather than being released from her life of misery by death, she is taken by Death to shelter and given a hot meal, leaving behind a couple of rather indignant angels.

Pratchett's more serious enterprise within the novel is the examination of the Hogfather as a mythic figure and his relations to concepts of childhood. While Death tries to fulfill the role of Hogfather as adults picture him (thus destroying those images), his assistant persists in describing the Hogfather as the shrouded remnant of a prehistoric "renewal at the depths of winter" figure which, like all such figures, is tied to concepts of nature—represented by his hog connections—blood, and sacrifice. The progress of the book is, in a sense, a reversal of the Hogfather's development; as more layers of pretension are stripped away, he becomes closer to this primeval figure. It is in this form that the actual Hogfather appears at the end of the book, before metamorphosizing into the jolly figure beloved of children and sales staffs. Pratchett connects the Hogfather with childhood by appealing to the notion of the primitive— like children, primitive man lived trapped between joy and terror. The sacrifice of the Hogfather at the depths of winter symbolizes passage through terror into the promise of another summer, just as the Santa-like figure of the Hogfather stands, for children, as the opposite of their nighttime terrors, epitomized by the Bogeyman.

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