CHAPTER THREE: The Hounds of God


The narrator explains that in every graveyard, there is a grave called the ghoul-gate, which is usually cold, abandoned, and more unkempt than the other graves. Back in the story, six-year-old Bod is upset when Silas says that he will be leaving the graveyard for an investigation. Silas leaves Bod in the care of Miss Lupescu, which upsets Bod further. Miss Lupescu gives Bod strange food that he has difficulty eating and instructs him on the different kinds of beings: day-folk and night-folk, ghouls and mist-walkers, high hunters and the Hounds of Gods, and solitary types such as Silas. For a week Miss Lupescu gives Bod tedious and esoteric lectures. When Bod complains to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Owens, they dismiss him. Feeling ignored and underappreciated, Bod walks around the graveyard hoping to find someone to talk to. Bod stops at a decrepit grave and lays down to fall asleep. 

Bod is woken up by three ghouls: the Duke of Westminster, the Honorable Archibald Fitzhugh, and the Bishop of Bath and Wells. They ask Bod what his story is, and Bod explains how he feels abandoned and his distaste for Miss Lupescu’s food. The ghouls invite Bod to join them on an adventure to a place where Bod can have fun and eat the most amazing food. Bod agrees and the gate below them is revealed to be a ghoul-gate. They proceed through a hole in the grave, traveling through darkness before ending up in a world with an angry red sky and littered with upended graves.

Two new ghouls join the group, and Bod soon learns they are the 33rd President of the United States and the Emperor of China. Bod also learns that the name of the ghouls’ city is Ghûlheim, and Bod thinks it’s a dreadful and nightmarish place. On their journey to Ghûlheim, Bod notices creatures flying above them called night-gaunts. Remembering Miss Lupescu’s lessons about the sounds night-gaunts make, Bod tries to call out to them for help, only to be silenced by the Honorable Archibald Fitzhugh. After the sun sets, the group takes a break and the ghoul introduced as the writer Victor Hugo pulls out a bag of wood and lights a fire. That evening, the ghouls rave about how great it is to be a ghoul and try to convince Bod to become one even though Bod says he just wants to go home. The ghouls claim they aren’t scared of anything, but they appear startled when a distant howl sounds from the desert.

Later that night, Bod is woken up by the Bishop of Bath and Wells yelling at the Emperor of China because some of the group has disappeared. The ghouls hastily pack up camp and proceed on their journey to Ghûlheim. Bod notices the ghouls are acting less enthusiastic, especially after hearing a distant howling, when they are suddenly attacked by the night-gaunts. Bod is thrown into Victor Hugo’s bag as they swiftly escape the night-gaunts. Bod pokes a hole in the bag to peer outside and make an escape plan. A creature that looks like a dog, but fanged and larger, rips the bag open. Bod falls out and down a set of steps, and the ghouls leave Bod behind. Bod watches as the beast approaches him, before falling off the side of the steps. 

Bod falls into a void until he hears the voice of Miss Lupescu. To Bod’s surprise, he is saved by a night-gaunt, who is actually Miss Lupescu. She informs Bod that this is the third time he has unknowingly been saved by night-gaunts. Miss Lupescu notices that Bod has hurt his ankle, tells him to get on her back, and explains to Bod that as a Hound of God she can move easily in and out of Hell. Miss Lupescu transforms back into a woman and returns Bod to the Owenses, explaining that his left ankle is hurt. By the time Silas returns at the end of the month, Bod has warmed up to Miss Lupescu, and agrees that he’d like for her to come back next summer for more lessons.


Bod’s encounter with the ghouls explores the theme of good and evil by challenging conventional notions about supernatural creatures. The ghouls represent the traditional interpretation of the undead as malevolent as they intend to devour Bod. In contrast, Silas and Miss Lupescu also belong to the undead as a vampire and a werewolf, yet their motives are more complex. They clearly have Bod’s welfare at heart and go to considerable effort to protect and care for him, showing that goodness is a choice. Each of them has power and strength that can be frightening, as seen in the first chapter when Silas manipulates and intimidates Jack to keep him from finding Bod. Similarly, Miss Lupescu utilizes her frightening nature to scare off the ghouls in order to protect Bod. Their protective roles demonstrate that belonging to the category of the undead does not make someone evil.

Bod’s dangerous adventure with the ghouls provides an important lesson in Bod’s coming-of-age journey. The narrative foreshadows that Bod will be exposed to some kind of danger from the ghouls by beginning the chapter with a description of the ghoul-gate followed by Bod’ sulkiness at Silas’s going away and his resistance to learning from Miss Lupescu. Bod’s resentment of his guardians in this section is meant to represent attitudes typical of children who long for independence before they are ready for it. His time in Ghûlheim helps Bod understand that Miss Lupescu’s boring lessons had real value and were in fact necessary to his survival. Like any young child, Bod is saved from the consequences of his mistake by caring adults. His attitude toward Miss Lupescu undergoes a reversal when he discovers how far she is willing to go to protect him. The episode helps him understand the importance of trusting his guardians and to not allow fleeting emotions to control his behavior.

Miss Lupescu’s lessons provide crucial clues about the setting of the novel. The world of Bod’s childhood is full of contradictions and opposites, and violations of expectations. It is a place full of serious dangers and eerie figures, but also of homey comforts and love. The list Miss Lupescu recites for Bod of different types of people who exist reveals that supernatural beings live in all parts of the world. The many ways she teaches Bod to call for help reveal her belief that the world is a dangerous place, and the encounter with the ghouls shows that her belief is correct. Revealing her werewolf nature shows that the world contains secrets and surprises. This setting contains magical beings and ordinary human beings, side by side. Some of its events are dire and deadly, while others are fun and exciting. In this, the setting reflects our real world, where children can face both danger and surprises, and encounter much they do not understand.

Wordplay is an important feature of the novel’s style. The author uses plays on words in two main ways. First, he connects the story to other works of literature. For example, Bod’s given name “Nobody” alludes to the Odyssey, where the hero successfully escapes by pretending Nobody is his name. Second, the author hints at meanings hidden in the language itself. Miss Lupescu’s name, meaning “wolfish” or “of the wolf people,” is an example. Her name tells who she is, but only to those familiar with its Latin root word or the English word lupine, which means wolflike. The Jack of All Trades also have significant names. Each of the Jacks has the name of a folk figure or a common phrase: Jack Ketch represents the hangman’s scaffold, Jack Tar represents a sailor, Jack-Be-Nimble comes from a nursery rhyme, and so on. The phrase “the man Jack” used to refer to the killer of Bod’s birth family comes from the idiom “every man Jack of them,” that is, every one of a group. These language features provide important clues and background information that add hidden layers of meaning to the story.