Archive for the ‘Hogfather’ Category

Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.

Terry Pratchett raises eloquent questions about our world through his books of the Discworld. I am a recent convert to his style of writing, this being only the second of his books that I have read, and without even trying I find monumental statements from which a million ideas and arguments spring.

In Hogfather the residual commentary on human nature seemed less translucent. In dealing with childish (or children’s) beliefs immediately the adult reader feels removed from Pratchett’s focus. It is only towards the end of the novel when Death begins to reveals his concerns about why belief in the Hogfather is so important that the message of the story becomes clear. Death claims “You have to start out learning to believe the little lies” in order to ‘believe’ in more complex ideals such as “justice”, “mercy”, and “duty”.

Pratchett suggests that human society is based on a set of untruths (in as much as they are not tangible enough to scientifically prove) and we are taught to take such ideas on faith as children are taught to believe in magic and various folkloric creatures.

Could we, as sentient beings, live in full knowledge that the world we have created for ourselves is false: altruism, love, loyalty – none of these things actually exist except inside our own heads where we perceive the world. Or would we descend into absolute chaos? Would we return these ideals knowing that it does not exist inside of anybody else? It is an interesting, if pessimistic, view to take on the world.

The quote I have taken from Hogfather above encapsulates this argument in a single sentence. The “falling angel” being the ideal perception of what it is to be human and the “rising ape” being the reality of what it is anthropologically to be human. Can our inherent genes be tamed by our created minds?

(Reading Challenge: Book 9 of 20)

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