In the eleventh part of Hogfather, Susan tracks down a clue, and Death tries to figure out what the spirit of Hogswatch is. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of poverty
OH, I HAVE THINGS TO SAY, and I love when Discworld gets me like this.
Susan’s little detective story is a lot of fun, especially since it’s taking us to so many cool places, some which we haven’t seen before. The YMBA is neat, and it made me want to know so much more about Banjo Lilywhite. How long had he been living there? Was he teaching himself to read? What about his friends and family? Where were they? I WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT HIM.
I was also real excited about the time spent in Death’s library, especially since we got to see inside of someone’s book. In this case, Susan uses the library to track down where Violet might be. She gets an answer, but Pratchett doesn’t reveal it to the audience; it’s still a mystery for us. But we did get confirmation that Teatime’s henchmen kidnapped her after collecting one of Banjo’s teeth. Actually… there’s no real confirmation that she did get one of his teeth. What if it was a trap? It has to be, given his age. (That’s not a big surprise, obviously; Susan had suspected that in the last section since she recognized that Banjo was out of place on her list.) So, they kidnap her, bring her to a tower located… somewhere? The details here confused me, because how can there be goldfish on top of the water? Why do the colors seem so vibrant? How can there be no sky on the horizon?
Susan knows where she is, but I don’t. ARGH.
Death and the Meaning of Hogswatch
If I think back hard enough, I can remember only a couple Christmas mornings that were good once I moved to California back in 1992. They were those first two holiday seasons, and they were picturesque. We had a giant tree that was impossibly wide at the bottom. My mother always went all-out to decorate it, and she’d let us put tinsel on it that would sparkle against the lights that were programmed to twinkle on and off all night. I’d already known that Santa wasn’t real; I had caught my parents putting presents out when I was six because they were arguing while doing it. Yet I was the kind of kid who couldn’t sleep the night before a big, exciting trip. The anxiety was always overwhelming, and I’d ultimately be up until exhaustion pulled me to sleep.
I remember that first year in California and how I rushed out into the living room once I heard my mom making coffee. There were so many presents that they spilled out on the carpet, right up to the couch and the coffee table that sat in front of it. It took us hours to open them all, and I made a little pile next to me on the floor of everything I got from my parents, from other relatives, and from my parents’ work friends.
And then, it was gone. There is a reason to criticize the materialism that surrounds Christmas. I’ve not found much wrong with the idea of getting people gifts to show you care, but when the money dried up in our household, when my mother’s behavior drove away most of our relatives away and they were banned from giving us gifts, when I looked upon Christmas with dread and terror, I came to understand it differently. There were many years – practically all of them – where the collection under the tree was sparse. Most years, my sister got more presents than my brother and I combined, in part because she was younger and in part because she was the favorite child.
But there was one thing I dreaded more than anything: returning to school in January after the winter break. Everyone would be wearing their new clothes or playing with their new gadgets or reading the liner notes to the CDs and cassettes that they got. Kids and teenagers are often capable of wielding the cruelest of insults and hatred, especially since they’re learning what is and isn’t acceptable to say. So everyone noticed that my jeans were too small and too tight, and everyone noticed my shirts had holes in them. I developed a bitter hatred of the holiday, one that I still struggle with. I know this isn’t the first time I’ve written about Christmas, but Albert’s words got me thinking about what this holiday means to other people. Part of me felt that Pratchett was poking fun at the materialism surrounding the holiday, but there was also a stark realism to Albert’s own cynicism.
So I don’t think this was just a chance to show us that Death doesn’t quite understand humanity. It was a moment to show us that humanity sometimes doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. We value things that are meaningless and cruel, and occasionally, we develop entire belief systems in order to accommodate the pain we went through because of them. Albert certainly has; he grew up poor and now supports the very system that’ll guarantee that others turn out just like him.
IT IS… UNFAIR.
“That’s life, master.”
BUT I’M NOT.
“I mean, this is how it’s supposed to go, master,” said Albert.
NO. YOU MEAN THIS IS HOW IT GOES.
It’s a damning statement, and it’s also the truth.
Mark Links Stuff
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