Discworld: Bilious, the Oh God of Hangovers

OK, here's what happened. I wanted to do a Christmas-themed post, but I'd already done The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina and I haven't read Lindsey Davies' Saturnalia yet, so I thought I'd do something on the Discworld gods, relating it to Bilious and Hogfather. And I was going to do it last week. But then Life and Christmas intervened and this morning I picked up The Last Hero and realised that there was loads more to say about the Discworld gods and The Last Hero in particular than I had time to look into right now. So that post will follow at a later date and for now, a (sort of) Christmas-themed taster: Bilious, the Oh God of Hangovers.

Bilious appears in the Discworld novel Hogfather, in which assassins are hired to inhume the Hogfather, the Discworld version of Father Christmas. On the Discworld, belief creates gods and other mythical beings (a philosophically fascinating idea that I haven't time to go into right now!) and without the Hogfather, the extra belief sloshing around starts to create several minor deities and folkloric beings, such as the Eater of Socks and the Jinglejingle Fairy. Among the beings created is Bilious.

Bilious is the natural opposite to Bibulous, the God of Wine. Bibulous is, of course, loosely modelled on Dionysus, what with his crown of vine leaves and constant partying, though he is also fat, which isn't especially Dionysian, and has its roots in modern imagery of excess. Bilious explains that the reason that Bibulous is so happy is that he never gets a hangover - they all come to Bilious, who is the Oh God of Hangovers - because when people witness him they clutch their head and say 'oh God...'

Bilious also wears a long white robe and crown of vine leaves - ensuring that he looks vaguely Greco-Roman, though the idea that Classical gods should wear long white robes probably has more to do with modern perceptions and children using sheets as togas than any actual knowledge of ancient costume. However, since I don't actually know much about ancient clothing either, I shouldn't pass judgement.

Bilious, as played by Rhodri Meilir in the Sky One adaptation of 'Hogfather'

Poor Bilious gets his revenge eventually - he takes a hangover cure put together by the wizards of Unseen University, and while it works to cure his hangover, the less pleasant side effects of the cure get transferred to Bibulous, who is interrupted mid-cocktail (he is enjoying some rather more modern luxury at the time, involving a cocktail with a slice of lemon in it and a rumba, and the timeless luxury of two gorgeous girls snuggling up to him). Bilious watches in fascination as all his misery is finally visited on the cause of it. It's very satisfying!

That's all I've really got time for now, but more thoughts on Discworld gods to follow at a later date. Also, I got the complete box-set of the BBC/HBO series Rome for Christmas, so once I've finished going through I, Claudius, I'll go backwards in time and start on Rome. Happy Christmas everyone!


  1. When I first read Hogfather, I found Bilious amusing, but I really came to appreciate it him in the TV film. Something about making him Welsh just really worked to round him out perfectly. (That's probably horribly un-PC and violates a number of British and EU regulations, but what the heck.)

    Side note: technically it's the Glingleglingle fairy, not jinglejingle.

  2. Yeah I know, but I think Jinglejingle sounds nicer and more Christmassy.

  3. I've watched Rome all the way through six or seven times, and I love it.

    Looking forward to those posts! :-).

    Merry Christmas! (Happy New Year, too).

  4. Re. clothing of the gods, the Greek ones tend to be depicted wearing not a lot, though this varies depending on the god in question, e.g. Hera and Artemis are often well-clothed, young gods like Dionysus and Apollo can be scantily clad and older gods like Zeus and Poseidon tend to be half-naked to show off their physique but preserve their ageing modesty.


  5. OK, now I have a really baaaad mental image involving Zeus and Poseidon's ageing bits...;)

  6. Great blog. Found some great pages about Terry Pratchett and the discworld novels check them out.



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