The Abominable Snow Baby by Terry Pratchett

In this short story from Father Christmas's Fake Beard, a little town awakens to find that it has been covered by heavy snowfall. And there's an abominable snow baby… Don't forget to check out the Channel 4 adaptation of Terry Pratchett's festively funny story on Christmas Day.

Terry Pratchett
An illustration from The Abominable Snow Baby of the small town of Blackbury in the snow
Illustration: Mark Beech | Father Christmas's Fake Beard

Visitors to Blackbury often wondered how the great Victorian town hall there was kept so nice and clean. Well, it was because of Albert Scruggins. Albert Scruggins was the caretaker, who lived in the basement with Frambly, the cat, and made endless cups of tea in between stoking the boilers and looking after everything. His father and grandfather had been caretakers before him, and he was pretty proud of living in the town hall, I don’t mind telling you.

One day, not long after Christmas, Albert awoke and immediately knew something was wrong. There was a cold smell in the air, and the light that came through the tiny basement window was dim and white.

Snow, he thought. And he didn’t think much more about it until he opened the door for the milk.

There was no milk – but a huge wall of snow had started to slide into the town hall. Albert slammed the door and locked it. Then he dashed up to the first floor. The windows were all covered in snow.

Up he climbed to the third floor. Snow. Up he scrambled, up the narrow ladder to the clock tower on the roof of the town hall, and poked his head out.

It was just like pictures he had seen of the South Pole. Blackbury stretched out all white before him. The gasworks were two white lumps.

The public library was completely hidden under a giant drift. The streets could hardly be told apart from the buildings because they were so full of snow.

It was as quiet and white as the inside of a ping-pong ball.*

(*Though Albert Scruggins had never actually been inside a ping-pong ball, so he did not know if, in fact, it may have been full of very tiny creatures having a noisy party!)

An illustration from The Abominable Snow Baby showing a man snowed in his home and looking out of a window
Illustration: Mark Beech | Father Christmas's Fake Beard

Down the stairs ran Albert, with Frambly at his heels. He took his largest spade from the boiler room, opened the door, and started to dig. You see, Albert had remembered his granny, who lived on the other side of Blackbury, and he wanted to make sure that she was all right.

He was making a little white tunnel under the great drifts and was well away from the town hall when the snow in front of him fell away. He had broken into another tunnel and there, holding a gardening trowel in one hand and a coal shovel in the other was his granny! She had tennis rackets tied to each of her boots, wore a large woolly hat on her head, and was singing ‘Jingle Bells’ at the top of her voice.

An illustration from The Abominable Snow Baby showing two of the characters trying to dig their way out of the snow
Illustration: Mark Beech | Father Christmas's Fake Beard

‘Hullo, Albert,’ she said. ‘I was just coming to see how you were. Brimstone and treacle, but I haven’t seen weather like this since I was a girl! I think I shall learn to ski.’

‘But you’re ninety-eight!’ said Albert.

‘Prime of life, prime of life, never felt fitter! The mayor’s tobogganing on his roof, and everyone’s out digging. It’s lovely and warm under the snow. Holds the heat in, keeps the cold winds out. We – the serious explorers and adventurers, I mean – have got a fire going in the High Street. We’re going to hold a meeting about the snow. Just follow me!’

The snow continued to blow in great drifts around the High Street as Albert Scruggins and his granny reached the huge bonfire. Those who had been able to dig themselves out sat around it, warming their hands and toasting bacon. Somewhere wolves were howling. Everyone looked a bit miserable.

‘Great bags of peppermint!’ bellowed Granny, as she burst out of the snow. ‘Why don’t you have a skiing competition! Don’t sit around like that – it’s unhealthy. I think I myself shall learn to play the trombone.’

Everyone looked even more miserable.

‘All the roads are blocked and the telephone lines are down,’ said someone, ‘and I don’t expect anyone will come and dig us out because hardly anyone outside Gritshire knows where Blackbury is.’

‘When I was in Alaska during the Gold Rush we had to eat our boots in the end,’ said Granny cheerfully. ‘Chins up! A good adventure like this might put some backbone into you.’

‘Oh dear,’ said Albert, thinking of his boots. ‘Well, I suppose the first thing we need is an Emergency Squad to dig everyone out of their houses. And then we’d better form an Expedition.’

Just then someone burst out of a snowdrift waving his arms. ‘There’s a monster down at the gasworks!’ he shouted. Then he fell flat on his face in the snow.

After they offered black coffee to bring him round, the newcomer said he was Mr Tanwar from Slate Street. He’d started digging his way out of his house when he’d met a huge white creature, which had been sniffing around his dustbin.

‘It was at least six metres high!’ he said.

‘Great stuff!’ said Granny. ‘We’ve got an Abominable Snowman!’

Of course, no one wanted to go and look, but at last, Granny persuaded Albert, Mr Tanwar, and one or two of the others to set out for Slate Street. They crept along in single file, pushing through the snow, with Granny in the lead clutching her umbrella. When they got to the street, all they found were giant footprints. Each one was nearly a metre across, with three toes.

‘Where could the Snowman have come from?’ asked Mr Tanwar.

Albert pointed out the white shape of Even Moor, the sinister nearby moorland, just north of Blackbury.

‘The footprints go towards it,’ he said, ‘and there are a lot of places on Even Moor that have never been explored. They say there are still wolves and bears there too.’

An illustration from The Abominable Snow Baby showing a group of characters hiking in the snow
Illustration: Mark Beech | Father Christmas's Fake Beard

‘But there are towns and housing estates all around it,’ said Mr Tanwar.

‘That doesn’t make any difference.’

‘If you think I’m going up on Even Moor you’ve got another think to thunk!’ said a different voice.

Then what they all thought was a snowdrift got up on its hind legs. They all stood petrified, staring at what was now, very clearly, an Abominable Snowman.

It was staring down at them.

Then it burst into tears.


Read the rest of the story of The Abominable Snow Baby in Terry Pratchett's Father Christmas's Fake Beard

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