Confused About the Gobblers in His Dark Materials? Here's All You Need to Know

Warning: Spoilers for His Dark Materials ahead.

In the first episode of the BBC and HBO adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, we’re introduced to the “gobblers,” a group of mysterious adults who are said to be taking children in and around Oxford. We see the creepy-looking daemon of one of the gobblers in a couple of scenes, approaching unwitting children before abducting them. Billy Costa, a young Gyptian, is the first to go missing, though the Gyptian leader John Faa is later heard to say that a number of Gyptian children have disappeared. Toward the end of episode one, Lyra’s friend Roger is taken the day before he’s meant to travel with Lyra and Mrs Coulter to London. Her desire to rescue Roger becomes the catalyst for Lyra’s own journey.

But if it’s been a while since you’ve read the books — or you never got round to it at all — you may be confused as to what exactly the gobblers are. In the book The Golden Compass, we get a much more in-depth explanation of these so-called child catchers. To Lyra and Roger, they begin as a myth, a story shared amongst the children of Oxford after news comes to the city that children are going missing around the country. They become a kind of folklore tale, a way of scaring each other, and the children even play games of gobblers with each other. But then, as children they know begin to disappear in and around Oxford, the whole thing becomes more real.

Though the name “gobblers” conjures up visions of creatures who steal children to possibly eat them, the truth is a little more simple (though no less scary). The name has evolved from the organization for which these people work: the General Oblation Board (GOB), a part of the Magisterium that is run by none other than Mrs Coulter. This is why Mrs Coulter’s eyes widen when Lyra mentions the gobblers to her. You’d be wise to stop reading here if you haven’t read the books!

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