In the sixteenth part ofÂ Hogfather, Susan fights Teatime and discovers whatâ€™s in the room at the top of the tower. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to readÂ Hogfather.Â
Trigger Warning: For talk of abuse (specifically child abuse)
I honestly was not ready for this section. Iâ€™m reminded of the endings for bothÂ Moving PicturesÂ andÂ Feet of ClayÂ here, as those books had a more somber message about identity and morality attached to them. But in her confrontation with Teatime, Susan exposes his central flaw: he is too confident. Too arrogant. Too certain that everyone and everything is below him, worthless, disposable.
I could not help but feel sad for most of this section, though. Even the victory over Teatime and the Auditors is bittersweet, especially since so many of Teatimeâ€™s henchmen are killed by this place. I didnâ€™t feel great about Sideneyâ€™s death, especially since he died at the monstrous personification of his childhood bully. (Now I understand why Pratchett brought him up earlier in the book.) And then, as Teatime toyed with Susan and Banjo and Medium Dave, I just wanted himÂ gone. In this character, Pratchett has a creation that is made up of cruelty and spite. Heâ€™s terrifying, not because heâ€™s the bogeyman hiding under our beds, but because heâ€™s soÂ real. Donâ€™t we all know someone who has a bit too much of Teatime in him? Someone who uses their cleverness to cause suffering in others? Someone who views themselves as so superior to the world that they can destroy everything they touch out of some misplaced morality?
Thereâ€™s no part of this that is more indicative of his cruelty than his treatment of Banjo. Now, multiple characters in this book mistreat Banjo; they view his childish nature as a flaw and evidence of his inferiority. Teatime, on the other hand, feelsÂ entitledÂ to Banjo because heâ€™s not as immediately clever as Teatime. And thatâ€™s really what spooks me so deeply when it comes to Teatime. That expectation that heÂ deservesÂ subservience from someone like Banjo is simply horrifying. So yeah, it was satisfying as hell to watch Susan tear Teatime down, to see her openly insult him because he was a weird kid. Well, weird is an understatement, of course, but you get the idea. She tears him down, distracting him, and he starts lashing out at the Lilywhites, all while trying to defend himself from Susanâ€™s accusations, and then the nightmare becomes real.
Ma Lilywhite arrives.
Now, thereâ€™s a difference between a strict, overbearing parent and what we see here. Remember, this place twists a childâ€™s worst fear into a nightmare that terrifies them. In no universe should a childâ€™s parent represent that nightmare. Yet I related to this on a sadly personal level, given that the only recurring nightmares I have anymore are all about my mother. Thus, I was heartbroken by Medium Daveâ€™s death. He died from the fright of his mother, and thatâ€™s seriously, seriously awful.
But then the fight shifts, and I was SO PLEASED that this became the fight between the Eternal Child (Teatime) and the Eternal Babysitter (Susan.) ITâ€™S SO SATISFYING. And Iâ€™m sitting here, thinking about how genius it was to make Susan a governess so that this dynamic could play out over the book, and I AM NOT OKAY. Susanâ€™s role has a symbolic importance on top of her being the main character. In this story, she represents someone who never really had a normal childhood, despite that she quietly wishes she had one. Thus, sheâ€™s the polar opposite of Teatime, since heÂ isÂ perpetually a child. (You could also argue that Teatime and Susan both want normalcy, but canâ€™t get it. WHEW, THERE ARE SO MANY POSSIBLE LAYERS HERE.) Their fight is visceral, literal, and metaphorical, and I LOVE IT.
And then thereâ€™sÂ TheÂ Bogeyman. I didnâ€™t really come into this final sequence with the hope that the tower (or this world) would ever be explained. It seemed obvious enough that childrenâ€™s minds created a place like this, but now Iâ€™m quite happy to find out thatÂ TheÂ Bogeyman â€“ the very first one ever â€“ was responsible for this realm as the world outside it changed and the primal fears that man held long ago didnâ€™t exist anymore. Itâ€™s a great twist because thereâ€™s such a fascinating study of fear and childhood belief at the heart ofÂ Hogfather, and this subplot plays a part in contributing to it. In this case, The Bogeyman stopped scaring children and began toÂ protectÂ them, especially since children represented the purest form of that primal fear that The Bogeyman used to represent itself.
So when The Bogeyman dies â€“ really, truly dies â€“ Pratchett does an amazing thing: he gives Susan the responsibility of figuring out how to preserve this world and this way of believing. In turn, he makesÂ BanjoÂ the protector of all children. It is absolutely one of the most emotionally satisfying moments of this book and theÂ DiscworldÂ series as a whole. If Teatime is Pratchett at his most cruel, then Banjo is Pratchett at his most pure. Hereâ€™s a character who may have a simpler understanding of the world than everyone else, but they care.Â IntenselyÂ so. He just wants to do whatâ€™s right, to make his mam proud, to be purposeful, even if he doesnâ€™t express himself in that way.
And it works so well, yâ€™all.
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