Monday, December 21, 2015

Hogfather: The Best Bits

Yesterday, in dire need of a comfort read before heading back to work after an all too brief 5-day vacation, I re-read Terry Pratchett's Hogfather. It remains one of my favourite Discworld novels and with it being the season for jolly men in red suits creeping around at night, I couldn't think of a more appropriate time.

Like all the Discworld novels Hogfather is filled with so much wit and hidden wisdom that each reading offers something new to discover. So here, presented with a complete lack of context, is some of the best bits that had me either laughing like a mad man or contemplating our mortal existence - sometimes both at once.

If you haven't read Hogfather yet I recommend that you remedy that situation as soon as possible. It's bloody brilliant!

‘… and then Jack chopped down the beanstalk, adding murder and ecological vandalism to the theft, enticement and trespass charges already mentioned, but he got away with it and lived happily ever after without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done. Which proves that you can be excused just about anything if you’re a hero, because no one asks inconvenient questions.’

She sighed. Normality was what you made it.

‘Never say die, master. That’s our motto, eh?’ said Albert. I CAN’T SAY IT’S EVER REALLY BEEN MINE.

In Biers, unless you weren’t choosy, it paid to order a drink that was transparent because Igor also had undirected ideas about what you could stick on the end of a cocktail stick. If you saw something spherical and green, you just had to hope that it was an olive.

“Nah, ’s pretty quiet just before Hogswatch,” said the raven, who was trying to fold the red paper between his claws. “You get a lot of gerbils and hamsters and that in a few days, mind. When the kids forget to feed them or try to find out what makes them go.”

"... one of the symptoms of those going completely yo-yo was that they broke out in chronic cats. Usually cats who’d mastered every detail of feline existence except the whereabouts of the dirt box.”

LET’S GET THERE AND SLEIGH THEM. HO. HO. HO.
“Right you are, master.”
THAT WAS A PUNE OR PLAY ON WORDS, ALBERT. I DON’T KNOW IF YOU NOTICED.
“I’m laughing like hell deep down, sir.”
HO. HO. HO.

—and a sword. It was four feet long and glinted along the blade.
The mother took a deep breath.
“You can’t give her that!” she screamed.
“It’s not safe!”
IT’S A SWORD, said the Hogfather. THEY’RE NOT MEANT TO BE SAFE.

Binky was not challenged by the high stairs. It wasn’t that he flew. It was simply that he walked on a ground level of his own devising.

“Clever isn’t the same as sensible,” said Susan, “and they do say that if you wish to walk the path to wisdom then for your first step you must become as a small child.”
“Do you think they’ve heard about the second step?”
Susan sighed. “Probably not, but sometimes they fall over it while they’re running around shouting.”

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head

It really was a crummy room, the sort rented by someone who probably took it never intending to stay long, the sort where walking across the floor in the middle of the night would be accompanied by the crack of cockroaches in a death flamenco. It was amazing how many people spent their whole lives in places where they never intended to stay.

On the simple table by the bed was a small, rather crude portrait of a bulldog in a wig, although on closer inspection it might have been a woman. This tentative hypothesis was borne out by the inscription “To a Good Boy, from his Mother” on the back.

Everyone, it is said, has a book inside them. In this library, everyone was inside a book.

“There are magic wardrobes,” said Violet nervously. “If you go into them, you come out in a magic land.”

“I really should talk to him, sir. He’s had a near-death experience!”
“We all have. It’s called ‘living,’” said the Archchancellor shortly.

IT IS THE THINGS YOU BELIEVE WHICH MAKE YOU HUMAN. GOOD THINGS AND BAD THINGS, IT’S ALL THE SAME.

‘All right,’ said Susan. ‘I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need … fantasies to make life bearable.’
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
‘Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—’
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
‘So we can believe the big ones?’
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
‘They’re not the same at all!’
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET— Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME … SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
‘Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—’
MY POINT EXACTLY.

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