The Hounds of God
You’ve heard of ghouls, right? (You know, those creepy undead things that feast on human flesh.) Well, in each and every graveyard there’s a grave that belongs to the ghouls. Bod’s graveyard is no different.
But, we’ll come back to ghouls in a minute. Right now, six-year-old Bod is upset. Why? Because Silas is leaving, and he won’t say where he’s going. All he’ll say is, “There are things I need to uncover that I cannot uncover here” (3.13).
It gets worse. Silas has arranged for woman named Miss Lupescu to bring Bod food and look out for him. She sniffs at him sternly and says he has to see her when he wakes up and before he goes to bed.
She says she is “a historian, researching the history of old graves” (3.21). She’s from somewhere far away.
When Bod says bye to Silas, he wants to hug him, but Silas isn’t exactly huggy, so they shake hands instead. Bod’s parents (Mr. and Mrs. Owens, that is) tell him they’re sure Silas will be back before long.
Miss Lupescu brings Bod some strange food in plastic containers. Silas, it seems, usually brings Bod what sounds like fast food or packaged food. Miss Lupescu, on the other hand, brings him slimy beets and barley stew and vinegary salad. Bod can barely choke it down. It makes him want to puke.
The time of year is “high summer,” which means it’s light until almost midnight. Usually Bod doesn’t have to study during high summer, but Miss Lupescu is making him do lessons anyway. Bah.
He tries hard to get out of it, saying he already has teachers and he knows enough.
She points out that he doesn’t know about ghouls, or the importance of not standing next to a “ghoul gate” (3.56). He also doesn’t know “the different kinds of people” (3.59).
Miss Lupescu teaches him that there are seven kinds of people, “the living and the dead, […] day-folk and night-folk, […], ghouls and mistwalkers, […] high hunters and the Hounds of God, [and] solitary types” (3.60).
She won’t say which of these she is, but she does tell him that Silas is a “solitary type” (3.64).
All week, Miss Lupescu brings Bod icky food and makes him learn. She spends days teaching him how “to call for help in every language of the world” (3.68). She makes him practice over and over again.
When she asks him how to say “help” in the Night-Gaunt (3.73) language, he gets irritated, saying he doesn’t even remember what a night-gaunt is.
She says that night-gaunts “have hairless wings, and they fly low and fast. They do not visit this world, but they fly the red skies above the road to Ghûlheim” (3.75).
He can’t imagine why he needs to know how to call for help in night-gaunt, but Miss Lupescu forces him to learn anyway.
Bod has noticed a grey dog hanging out in the graveyard lately. He wonders if it belongs to Miss Lupescu, but she says it’s not hers.
After his lessons that night, Bod’s parents won’t listen to him complain about Miss Lupescu, and nobody will play with him. Even the grey dog (the one he asked Miss Lupescu about) ignores him.
Eventually, Bod rests his bones near “a grave that looked like he felt” (3.89). It’s underneath a blackened oak tree that had been struck by lightning. The angel on the memorial stone has lost its head. Mad at the world, Bod falls asleep.
Meanwhile, the Duke of Westminster, the Honorable Archibald Fitzhugh, and the Bishop of Bath and Wells are coming up the hill.
These are small, raggedy, shrunken, leathery creatures, who seem to be afraid of dogs.
They jump over the wall into the graveyard and make their way to the ghoul gate – the grave where Bod is sleeping. He wakes up and the creatures introduce themselves to him.
Right away, he starts complaining about Miss Lupescu, her bad food, and his boring life.
The creatures tell Bod they can show him a place where he can have fun and have the best food in the world. Sign us up.
As soon as Bod agrees to go with them, the bishop picks him up, and the duke says some words that Bod’s never heard before. An opening appears in the ghoul gate and the three creatures jump into it, carrying Bod with them.
First he’s falling, and it’s actually quite dark – since he has the Freedom of the Graveyard, it’s been a long time since he’s experienced the dark.
But this doesn’t last long – now there’s a light, a disgusting red light from a small, far-away sun. It’s cold and Bod and the creatures are going down a wall.
Bod realizes the wall is covered with graves. The wall is like the surface of a really big graveyard. As they swing past the graves, Bod wonders if each grave is like a door.
A statue opens up and two more creatures join them. Finally, the stop near a fungus-y statue and Bod meets the two new creatures. One is called the Emperor of China. The other is called the 33rd President of the United States (as in, Harry Truman).
The emperor tells Bod that as soon as he “becomes one of [them]” (3.136) he’ll get to start eating some really good food.
He’ll have “teeth so strong they can crush any bones, and tongue sharp and long enough to lick the marrow from the deepest marrowbone or flay the flesh from a fat man’s face” (3.140).
Bod says he’s not sure he wants to be one of them after all
The duke says that everybody wants to be one of them. For one thing, they have the finest city there is. The President tells him it’s called Ghûlheim.
Finally, Bod asks them what they are, and learns that they’re ghouls! (Ghouls with the names of famous men, no less.)
The wall of graves has ended now and tons of ghouls swarm the lonely road that leads to Ghûlheim, which Bod can see in the distance.
It’s a ugly nightmare city surrounded by desert and rocks, and Bod can tell the place hasn’t been built right.
Ghouls, it seems, didn’t build it because they don’t build anything. What kind of creatures built the ugly city and then left it for the ghouls to take over? We have no idea.
Bod feels sick when he looks at it.
Suddenly, Bod notices that some winged creatures are circling overhead. Miss Lupescu’s lessons start to kick in and he realizes these are night-gaunts. He calls out to them the way Miss Lupescu taught him.
The gaunts swoop down, but a ghoul covers his mouth and the gaunts fly on. Bod feels totally hopeless.
The ghouls carry Bod toward their rocky city. It’s night and there are two moons out. One almost covers the sky, but it gets smaller as it rises. The other moon is cheesy looking and the ghouls get all excited when it rises.
A ghoul called “the famous writer Victor Hugo” (3.164) takes wood out of his bag and the ghouls build a fire.
Over the fire, they continue trying to convince Bod that being a ghoul is fantastic.
When he says he doesn’t want to be a ghoul, they tell him he’ll either be a ghoul, or be eaten by a ghoul. This sounds pretty lose-lose to us.
A howling sound comes from far away in the desert, but the ghouls aren’t too worried by it. A very sad Bod falls asleep to the ghouls’ stories of body parts getting eaten.
When he wakes up, the ghouls are upset because some of them are missing. The ghouls are a little worried, but continue toward Ghûlheim.
Around noon, the air fills with night-gaunts up ahead. Some of the ghouls think night-gaunts might have eaten their friends, and are after them now. Others aren’t all that concerned.
As the night-gaunts come closer to the ghouls, Bod calls for help in Night-Gaunt again.
The ghouls throw rocks at the night-gaunts, and throw Bod in Victor Hugo’s bag. He hears a ghoul say that the night-gaunts have backed-off.
In the sack, Bod finds a metal screw and tries to make a hole in the bag. He hears the howling again.
The hole gets bigger and Bod can see out. Now the ghouls are walking on huge steps.
He hears a snarling growl and sees a huge grey dog. He’s not sure which he’s afraid of more – the dog or the ghouls.
All of a sudden, the dog runs up and tears the bag with its teeth. Bod falls out. The dog is standing over him.
The ghouls freak out when they see the dog and they run away. Bod tries to escape too, sure he’s about to be dog-lunch.
In trying to run, Bod accidentally falls off a cliff. This really couldn’t get worse.
As he falls, he hears Miss Lupescu talking to him, and he realizes that the big dog is actually her.
He’s sure he’s going to hit the rock floor and die, when something swoops down and catches him.
That something is a night-gaunt, of course. Miss Lupescu (as a big grey dog) joins them. She explains – sternly – to Bod that the night-gaunts saved him from being eaten by ghouls three times tonight, as well as saving him from falling to his death. That’s one big thank-you note.
When Bod says her name, she starts acting friendly and licks him with her big doggie tongue and asks him about his ankle. He hurt it and can’t walk.
She offers him a ride, which he gladly accepts. She tells him the word that means both thank you and good-bye in Night-Gaunt. He says it as best he can and the night-gaunt seems happy.
Luckily, they don’t have to go back through the wall of graves, or through a ghoul gate.
Miss Lupescu tells Bod, “Those are for ghouls. I am a Hound of God. I travel my own road, into Hell and out of it” (3.249).
The two moons rise, like last night, but another moon, this one ruby-red, is also shining now.
When the moons are gone, they reach the border between Hell and Earth. From here, Bod gets the best view of the night sky he’s ever had.
Miss Lupescu offers to teach him the names of the stars and constellations (stars grouped together), and he likes that idea.
Back in the graveyard, Miss Lupescu (as a woman) carries Bod, bad ankle and all, to a relieved Mrs. Owens.
After his leg is bandaged, Bod finds a piece of paper from Miss Lupescu. The paper says that the creatures that men call werewolves are actually Hounds of God.
It says that being able to change from person to beast is a gift from God. To try to pay God back, the Hounds of God chase “evildoers” – even all the way to Hell.
When Silas returns, he gives Bod a mini-Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. (File that info away for later!)
He says he hears that Bod and Miss Lupescu had an adventure that even he wouldn’t have been able to join them on.
Bod tells him, “It’s okay. Miss Lupescu looked after me. I was never in any danger” (3.276).
She looks at Bod with pride and joy and says she might just come back next summer.
Bod says he hopes she does.