The Hogfather is also a character in the book, representing something akin to Father Christmas. He grants children's wishes on Hogswatchnight (32nd of December) and brings them presents. He also features in other Discworld novels.
The book is about the nature of belief, in particular that people need to believe in small fantasies, such as Hogfathers and Tooth Fairies, in order to believe in larger ones, such as justice and hope. As Pratchett says elsewhere, fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind; it doesn't take you anywhere, but it tones up muscles that might.
In the novel, the Auditors strike again by deciding to eliminate the Hogfather because he does not fit into their view of the universe. They meet with Lord Downey, head of the Assassin's Guild, and commission the services of Mr. Teatime (pronounced teh-ah-tim-eh), whose particular brand of insane genius makes him an ideal candidate for the assassination of the Hogfather and other anthropomorphic personifications. Death decides to take over for the Hogfather in order to make people continue to believe in him, wearing a long red cloak and a beard, but things start to become complicated because he is taking the children's wishes too literally. Pratchett also references The Little Match Girl, with Death questioning accepted folklore and his own principles and rescuing the girl instead of letting her die. Albert throws snowballs at some affronted angels who had come to take her to heaven; Death points out that they could have come before instead of after she died and Albert agrees that the fable doesn't work so well when he comes to think of it.
Meanwhile, his granddaughter Susan must find out what's happened to the real Hogfather. She visits his Castle of Bones only to find the hung-over Bilious, the "Oh God of Hangovers" (So-called because "when humans experience him, they clutch their heads and say "oh god") whom she rescues before the castle collapses due to the lack of belief. In an attempt to cure Bilious, Susan visits the Unseen University, where it is discovered that several of these small gods and beings are being created. The University's thinking machine, Hex, explains that there is 'spare belief' in the world - due to the absence of the Hogfather - which is being used to create them. Susan and Bilious then travel to the land of the Tooth Fairy where they discover that Jonathan Teatime has 'killed' the Hogfather by collecting millions of children's teeth and using them to control the children, forcing them to stop believing in the Hogfather. Upon throwing the Assassin off the tower and apparently killing him, Susan clears the teeth away and brings back the Hogfather by rescuing him from the Auditors, who have taken the forms of dogs. They cannot return to their original state and so cannot stop themselves falling off a cliff.
Afterwards, Teatime tracks Susan to the Gaiters' nursery, but is killed by Susan using the nursery poker, which passes through Death because "it only kills monsters".
A two-part TV series of Hogfather was screened on the 17 December and 18 December 2006 (8:00 p.m.) on Sky One in the UK, with Ian Richardson as the voice of Death and David Jason playing Death's manservant Albert. Marc Warren played Mr. Teatime. Tony Robinson played the shop keeper Vernon Crumley. Rhodri Meilir played Bilious. Terry Pratchett himself had a brief cameo as the toy-maker.
This book introduced a number of minor characters that were the result of the upset balance of belief, none of which have been used in any other book. However, some of them played a fairly important part in the plot, such as Bilious the oh God of Hangovers, and the Cheerful Fairy.
- Svinvinternatt (Swedish)
- Schweinsgalopp (German)
- Papá Puerco (Spanish)
- Дядо Прас (Bulgarian)
- Санта-Хрякус (Russian)
- Le Père Porcher (French)