CHAPTER FOUR: The Witch’s Headstone


Eight-year-old Bod asks Silas why Miss Owens believes Potter’s Field, the land in the far corner of the graveyard, is dangerous. Silas explains that it is unconsecrated land, a place where witches, criminals, and people who committed suicide are buried. Later, Bod attends his lessons with Mr. Pennyworth where he practices Fading. Following his lesson with Mr. Pennyworth, Bod learns Grammar and Composition with Miss Letitia Borrows, where she also advises Bod against going to the unconsecrated land. After his lesson, a hungry Bod climbs an apple tree that hangs over Potter’s Field. As he reaches for an apple, the branch breaks and Bod falls to the ground. 

When Bod comes to after his fall, one of the occupants of Potter’s Field approaches him. She says she isn’t a thief and didn’t commit suicide, so Bod asserts that she must a witch. The girl proceeds to tell Bod about the villagers who drowned and burned her because they thought she was a witch, and how she cursed them with the plague as she died. She laments never receiving a headstone for her grave and tells Bod her name: Liza Hempstock. Bod tasks himself with finding Liza Hempstock a headstone. With only two pounds and fifty three cents to his name, Bod learns from Miss Borrows that a headstone would cost much more. Bod decides to return to the Indigo Man’s tomb and takes the brooch, one of the three treasures protected by the Sleer. Bod then returns to Liza who tells Bod what she would like on her headstone. 

Before leaving the graveyard, Bod borrows clothes from inside the gardener’s hut so he can blend into the real world. Bod takes the brooch to a shop in Old Town owned by Abanazer Bolger. Abanazer tells Bod he doesn’t do business with children, but changes his mind when Bod shows him the brooch. Bod tells Abanazer he found the brooch in a grave where there are other treasures but does not disclose which grave he found it in. Abanazer locks Bod in a room, telling him that he won’t let him out until Bod tells him everything about where he found the brooch. Abanazer calls a colleague, Tom Hustings, to tell him about the brooch and the amount of money they will be able to make off of it. 

Meanwhile, Bod searches the small storage room looking for something that will help him escape. In a drawer, he finds and takes a small pot of paint and a paintbrush. Liza Hempstock appears in the room with Bod. Bod learns that ghosts in Potter’s Field follow different rules, and they’re able to leave the graveyard during the day. Bod explains to Liza that he has been locked in the room and that he can only fade through doors in the graveyard. Liza eavesdrops on Abanazer and watches him take out a black card with the name “Jack” on it. While deliberating whether to call Jack, Abanazer hears a knock on the door. Abanazer let’s Tom Hustings into the shop and explains that there is a group of people looking for a certain boy, whom Abanazer believes could be Bod. 

Bored with Abanazer and Tom’s conversation, Liza returns to Bod, and finds him trying to Fade. Bod picks up a paperweight and says he could use it as a weapon, but Liza explains that Tom has entered the shop, so it will be harder to fight two men. Liza questions why Bod left the graveyard in the first place, and Bod sheepishly admits he wanted to use the brooch money to buy her a headstone. Feeling touched and responsible for having gotten Bod into the situation, Liza helps Bod Fade and disappear by casting a spell on him. When Abanazer and Tom enter the room, Bod is nowhere to be seen. They assume Bod ran away and leave the room once more, locking it on their way out. Bod and Liza listen from the room as the two men argue and fight over the brooch. Abanazer sneaks something into Tom’s drink, and when Tom finds out, they begin beating one another.

Bod figures out how to escape the room and finds the two men passed out on the ground. Bod takes the brooch and at Liza’s suggestion also takes the black card with the name Jack on it. Bod hurries out of the shop and up the hill toward the graveyard when he is intercepted by an angry Silas, who had sensed Bod was in danger. Bod hands Silas the black card and tells him everything about the day. Bod returns the brooch to the Sleer, but before heading home stops by Potter’s Field first. Using the paperweight and paint he took from Abanazer’s store, Bod draws Liza’s initials followed by “We don’t forget” on the bottom of the weight and places it on a nettle-patch he imagines Liza’s head should be underneath.


This episode from Bod’s eighth year draws together several threads of rising plot action and character development. Bod’s education in the graveyard, his growing interest in the outside world, his relationship to Silas, and his tendency to care for and help others are all catalysts for his visit to Abanazer Bolger’s shop. Bod’s primary character traits are his compassionate nature and his bravery. His concern for Liza’s sadness prompts him to leave the graveyard to provide her with a headstone. However, life in the graveyard has made him mostly ignorant about the outside world, and this ignorance places him in immediate danger. It also leads Jack back onto Bod’s trail, further putting Bod in danger and increasing the main conflict of the novel’s plot. While his ignorance is what causes the conflict in this chapter, his compassionate nature causes the resolution as Liza helps him escape because she is touched that he visited Abanazer Bolger’s shop to help her.

The central theme of the complexity of good and evil is continued through the introduction of Liza Hempstock. As a witch, Liza would traditionally fall into a category of supernatural considered evil, but her actions in life and death prove that the truth is ambiguous. While Liza’s act of cursing the townspeople with the black plague might be considered evil, it was as response to the fact they cruelly had her killed on suspicion of being a witch. The fact that she is unremorseful could also be interpreted as evil, but her bitterness is portrayed as understandable since she was killed and then buried disrespectfully on unconsecrated ground without a headstone. Additionally, Liza and Bod’s friendship, along with the fact that she saves Bod in Abanazer Bolger’s shop, prove that Liza has goodness in her. Through Liza the narrative challenges the idea that good and evil are simple constructs, instead implying that there are layers to a person’s character and motivations.