Not Alive Nor Dead, But Something In Between

Silas is a minor character in Neil Gaiman’s novel The Graveyard Book. The book’s protagonist, a toddler named Bod, finds his way to the graveyard where Silas dwells. He’s adopted by a ghost couple and Silas is assigned as his guardian, mostly due to the fact that he is “neither living nor dead”, so he isn’t bound to the graveyard like the ghosts are and thus can leave it to get food. I chose Silas for me to look more into because he’s the character that left the biggest impression on me, for whatever reason.

It is hinted, and not too subtly either, that Silas is a vampire. He doesn’t have a reflection, sleeps in a coffin, and only appears at night. He has the ability to manipulate people’s memories and can be very persuasive, as seen in the first chapter. It’s also said several times that he’s neither living nor dead. Silas himself says he’s been “walking this earth at night for a very long time” (and that this is the reason he knows so much) and has done some very bad things in  the past, saying, “I was the monster, then, Bod, and worse than any monster.” Evidently he managed to change his ways and joined a group called the Honour Guard. We’re not told much about this organization aside from the fact that they “protect the borders of things.”

As Bod’s guardian Silas is a quiet and constant presence in the story. When he disappears for the first time the absence is felt deeply by Bod, to whom Silas is not just a mentor, but a father figure. And it’s not just Bod who is affected by this relationship, but Silas too, in his own way. The only time he truly shows an extreme reaction and gets angry is when Bod is in danger. This is when we see a glimpse of the monster he might’ve once been. He also goes to great lengths to protect Bod, either by jumping in front of a car or looking for information and fighting against the organization that murdered Bod’s family. Otherwise he’s cool and quiet. He guides Bod and teaches him many things – and doesn’t reveal much about himself.

“He wanted to embrace his guardian, to hold him and tell him that he would never desert him, but the action was unthinkable. He could no more hug Silas than he could hold a moonbeam, not because his guardian was insubstantial, but because it would be wrong. There were people you could hug, and then there was Silas.”

In the end, when it’s inevitable for Bod to move on, we once again see cracks in Silas’ cool demeanor. There’s something resembling a smile on his lips as they say goodbye, but it’s quickly gone and could’ve just been a trick of the shadows. They shake hands and Silas brushes the hair away from his eyes, a gesture described as uncharacteristic. Maybe some prickling of tears in his eyes (if such a thing as crying is even possible for vampires)? Whatever it was, it’s clear that Silas has changed after the whirlwind that is Bod – and I think it’s for the better.




Gaiman, Neil. 2008. The Graveyard Book. United Kingdom: Bloomsbury
The book cover from amazon

Interesting words

Cobweb = a web spun by a spider to trap it’s prey
Consternation = a sudden, alarming amazement or dread that results in utter confusion
Cordiality = warmth, friendliness, geniality. Sincere, friendly quality or feeling
Dismal = gloomy and bleak, dreadful
Doggerel = comic or burlesque, and usually loose or irregular in measure
Ghoul = an evil demon, originally of Oriental legend, supposed to feed on human beings, rob graves, prey on corpses, etc
Glacier = A large mass of ice formed over many years that does not melt during the summer. Glaciers move slowly over an area of land such as a mountain valley
Initiation = formal admission or acceptance into an organization or club, adult status in one’s community or society, etc
Propitious = presenting favorable conditions; favorable: propitious weather
Unction = an act of applying ointmen, esp. as a medical treatment or religious rite


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