The Graveyard Book – Literature – Characters

Liza Hempstock
Liza Hempstock is a witch who lives at the Potter’s Field, an area where criminals and poor people are buried.
She is teenage witch whom the protagonist encounters while he is sitting on an apple tree. At the beginning, she looks at his damaged leg in a more pragmatic than caring way. “Ah. Let me see your leg. (…) Not broken. Twisted, yes, sprained perhaps” (108). While Bod talks to her, the reader realizes that she was probably alive at least 100 years ago and might have lived in a rural area by the dialect she is speaking: “Never stole nuffink” (p.109).

It’s obvious to the reader that Liza Hempstock is still resentful and furious about the people who accused her of being a witch and afterwards sentenced her to death. “They shouts, fat and fresh-scrubbed all pink in the morning, like so many pigwiggins scrubbed clean for the market day” (110).

She is confident enough to admit to Bod that she is a witch, although it could harm her reputation. She is also persuasive; it is quite easy for her to convince Bod to get a headstone for her. While Bod is captured in the shop room of Abanazer Bolger, it is difficult to interpret Liza’s character by her actions. “’What you a-doin’ of now?’, she asked, unimpressed” (130). Perhaps she is acting in a no-nonsense manner so Bod won’t become intimidated of the situation.

The relationship between Bod and her resembles a strong friendship. There was no need for her to rescue him at the shop and she might have put herself in danger. After a year during which Bod and Liza haven’t seen each other again, Liza comes over to the graveyard for Bod’s last evening. After a year of absence she still visits him, which shows how important the friendship for her is.

Jack Frost
At the beginning of the story Jack Frost, the antagonist has already murdered the parents of the protagonist, who is a toddler at that time. The toddler rescues himself unintentionally by climbing out of the crib and crawling towards the graveyard.

According to an ancient prophecy, the protagonist must die, otherwise all members of the organization “The Jack of all Trades”, to which Jack Frost belongs, will die. This organization has several wealthy members who dress in black suits. During their meeting they discuss the supposedly noble deeds they have committed besides murdering people.

Since he is unable to finish the job himself, Jack Tar, Jack Ketch, Jack Nimble, and Jack Dandy help him. The reader could ask himself wether Jack Frost kills the family out of necessity or if he enjoys the act.
The man Jack was a professional, or so he told himself, and he would not allow himself to smile until the job was completed” (7).

It is obvious that he is a ruthless killer who doesn’t care that he has killed two people right now. During the meeting of the hundred men in black suits, there is a discussion between Jack Frost and Mr. Dandy that Bod has to be killed. This shows how determined Jack Frost is to kill the protagonist even after ten years.

Jack Frost is also a manipulative person. He tricks Scarlett into his car, offering her a ride while it is raining, and giving her the wrong impression so that she can trust him. “Why don’t you phone your mother – you can use my phone – and tell her my car’s number plate”(p.223)? When the story reaches its climax, it becomes obvious how cold-blooded Jack is, since he is willing to kill Scarlett with a knife, just so he can get to Bod and kill him afterwards. He is willing to take every opportunity in order to finish his job.

Bod – Nobody Owens
Bod grows up in the graveyard with residents around him who are older than him and more mature.

He is a child who is mostly obedient and follows the rules of his elders. He is also curious about the world outside the graveyard. Bod is desperate to find friends who are around the same age as he is and when his encounters Scarlett she becomes a significant part of his life.

Bod is a rather introverted and agreeable person. When he is confronted with his new substitute teacher Miss Lupescu, Bod acts stubbornly, since he doesn’t see any value of his teacher educating him. “I have teachers. (…) I don’t need more lessons” (p.70).

Also he is desperate for adventures, even though the residents tell him not to go to certain places like Ghulheim or the Potter’s Field. After Bod can take care of himself, due to the lessons he has learned from Miss Lupescu, he starts to understand the value of her staying in the graveyard and teaching him. This leaves the impression that Bod is also a thoughtful and reflective person.

After he encounters the witch Liza Hempstock, Bod is willing to get a headstone for her on the first day they meet each other. This could be seen as him having community-oriented and compassionate character traits. Even if Scarlett thinks Bod is a monster for killing Jack Frost with the help of the Sleer, this is not the case. There wasn’t any other way to save Scarlett from Jack Frost.

Mr. & Mrs. Owens
Mr. and Mrs. Owens are a married couple. They live as ghosts in the graveyard.
Mrs. Owens finds the little baby on the hill in the graveyard. After talking to the ghost of the baby’s dead mother, she and her husband decide to adopt, protect and raise him. Mr. and Mrs. Owens name the little toddler “Nobody Owen” because “he looks like nobody but himself” (Gaiman 25).
They never had their own kids, so Nobody makes them parents. If they hadn’t found and adopted Bod, he probably would have been killed by the man Jack. So Mr. and Mrs. Owens save Bod’s life. Mr. and Mrs. Owens are very caring and supportive parents. For example, even when Bod is safe and decides to leave the graveyard, his parents are interested in his plans and future: “Do you know what you’re going to do now?” (Gaiman 133).

Silas is Bod’s guardian. He is very responsible. Silas can leave the graveyard, because he is something in-between living and dead. Therefore, he is the one who brings Bod anything a living child needs.
Furthermore he helps Bod with his knowledge. He teaches him things in an interesting way, answers his questions and gives him helpful advice. For example, Silas brings alphabet books and paper to the graveyard to teach Bod the alphabet.
Afterwards he walks Bod around the graveyard to find all twenty-six letters on the headstones (Gaiman 39). Every now and then Silas has to leave the graveyard for a longer period of time. But even during his absence he makes sure that Miss Lupescu takes care of Nobody.
Silas is the one who claims how important the community of the graveyard is to raise Nobody: “’It is going to take more than a couple of good-hearted souls to raise this child. It will,’ said Silas, ‘take a graveyard.’” (Gaiman 23).
Silas is a member of the Honour Guard (to learn more about the Honour Guard have a look at “Characterisation: Honour Guard”).

However, there are also some hints that might lead to the conclusion that Silas is a vampire. According to popular mythology, vampires produce no reflection: “The surface of the tabletop was almost mirrored, and, had anyone cared to look, they might have observed that the tall man had no reflection” (Gaiman 291).
In another passage, a reference is made to a bat, which is also often associated with vampires: “Something huge was flying through the air, above the car to one side, something darker and bigger than the biggest bird. Something man-size that flickered and fluttered as it moved, like the strobing flight of a bat” (Gaiman 201). So although he is never called a vampire by the author, we might assume that he is one.

Honour Guard
The Honour Guard consists of four members:

Silas (probably a vampire), Miss Lupescu (a Hound of God), Haroun who is an ifrit (an arabic spirit-being), and Kandar (a mummy). It is their commitment to “protect the border of things” (Gaiman 303).

The border of things is the border between the world of the living and the world of the dead. The Honour Guard also fights the Jacks.

The Jacks are a mysterious group of men, probably without any supernatural skills, who killed Bod’s family. They also try to kill Bod, because many years ago one of the Jacks foresaw that “’there would be a child born who would walk the borderland between the living and the death.
That if this child grew to adulthood it would mean the end of our [the Jacks] order and all we stand for
’” (Gaiman 133). But in the end it is Bod who finishes them off (Gaiman 284).

Lady on the Grey
She is a very mysterious character that appears for the first time when the residents of the graveyard argue over whether they want to keep Bod or not.

She doesn’t seem to be an ordinary dead person like the others in the graveyard because they are in awe of her and follow her orders. She might be some kind of Grim Reaper (symbol of death) because she says that everybody will eventually get to ride her horse which could mean that she carries people that have died to a different place or world.

Miss Lupescu
Miss Lupescu first appears when Silas has to leave the graveyard for some time. During his absence she becomes Bod’s guard and his teacher.

At first Bod doesn’t like her that much because she is much stricter than Silas and forces him to eat healthy. He also doesn’t really enjoy her lessons that much until he realizes that they are actually useful and could save his life.

Later on Bod finds out that she is a Hound of God when she rescues him from the ghouls. After that she explains to him that a Hound of God is basically a werewolf. Her name also hints at her being a werewolf because “lupus” is translated to “wolf” in Latin.

After that incident she and Bod seem to become friends. Miss Lupescu is also part of the Honor Guard. She dies fighting the Jacks.

Scarlett Amber Perkins
Scarlett is an ordinary human girl that is a little bit older than Bod, around the same height as him and dark skinned: “Scarlett’s bright clothes were covered in grime and cobwebs, and her dark face and hands were pale with dust.” (p.57).

She is also able to see him despite the Freedom of the Graveyard, a magical spell that should keep him hidden. Because of the power she seems to have, she becomes Bod’s first friend that is not dead or some kind of supernatural being. The first time they meet in the graveyard, she and Bod are around 4-5 years old.

Scarlett is an adventurous girl because it’s very unusual for a girl of her age to play in a graveyard. Because her parents can’t see Bod, they tell her that he is just an imaginary friend and they don’t want Scarlett to spend so much time in the graveyard. Scarlett doesn’t have many friends so she spends as much time as possible with Bod: “She was a bright, lonely child” (p.43). She tells Bod a lot of stuff about the world outside of the graveyard, like planes for example, and he tells her things about the inhabitants of the graveyard. That makes her a kind of link to the world outside and to the living for Bod in his life.

She is also a rather stubborn child because she gets angry at Bod when he explains her that she can’t go in the stone houses Bod can go in because of the Freedom of the Graveyard: “Scarlett put her hands into the pocket of her anorak and walked down the hill without saying good-bye, convinced that Bod was holding out on her, and at the same time suspecting that she was being unfair, which made her angrier” (p.45).

Later on Scarlett and her parents move to Scotland and the friends don’t see each other for some years. Nevertheless she keeps Bod in her memory and in her opinion he is a very brave person: “You are the bravest person I know, and you are my friend” (p.60). When Scarlett returns she is fifteen years old and has almost forgotten about Bod and the graveyard until she has some weird dream of Bod and starts to remember it all again.

Jack Frost finds out about Scarlett and Bod and wants to use her to get Bod. During the fight between Bod and the Jacks she witnesses some terrible things. People are killed, she is threatened with a knife and Bod feeds Jack Frost to the Sleer. After that she thinks Bod is a monster as well because it seemed like he enjoyed what he did to the Jacks. Later on Silas erases Scarlett’s memory so she can’t remember anything that has happened.