Skip to Main Content

About The Book

The Drew siblings must face a powerful creature from the ocean depths to reclaim the golden grail in this third installment of Susan Cooper’s epic and award-winning The Dark Is Rising Sequence, now with a brand-new look!

The priceless golden grail that Simon, Jane, and Barney Drew worked so hard to recover has been stolen by forces of evil. Great-Uncle Merry takes the siblings back to Trewissick in Cornwall, where he expects the Dark has hidden the grail. There, they are joined by Will Stanton, a mysterious boy with astounding powers.

But there are more forces at play than they realize, and when the village women create the disturbing ritual creature called the Greenwitch—an ancient image made of leaves and branches and cast into the sea for good luck in fishing—Jane must face the unknown without help. The Greenwitch springs to life with vengeful power and is called forth from the ocean depths by the Dark to set loose the unpredictable Wild Magic of the earth. To prevent this dreadful entity from unleashing devastating damage, Jane must convince Greenwitch to turn toward the Light. But can she ever hope to tip the balance against the Dark?

Reading Group Guide

About the Book

As the third volume in the Dark Is Rising Sequence opens, the priceless golden grail discovered in Over Sea, Under Stone has been stolen by forces of the Dark. To help recover this Thing of Power, Great-Uncle Merry brings Simon, Jane, and Barney Drew back to Trewissick, a charming fishing village in Cornwall. Along with Will Stanton, a boy of eleven but also one of the Old Ones, the group continue the quest to recover the grail, against the backdrop of the annual building of the Greenwitch, a figure built of leaves and branches by the women of Trewissick to bring good luck in fishing. When the Greenwitch is summoned by the forces of the Dark to give up a secret, Jane must convince this ancient creature to defend the Light. But can she face her fears to make the Greenwitch share her guarded secret?

Discussion Questions

1. When Barney first encounters the mysterious painter making a picture of the harbor, he notices the “crude bright colours” and questions the man about a particular shade of green, “a particularly nasty shade, a yellowy, mustard-like green.” (p. 25) He thinks to himself, “‘that colour was all wrong.’” What does Barney mean by “wrong”? How can color elicit emotion? What do you think the color green represents in the artist’s painting?

2. Reread chapter three, in which the women of the village construct the Greenwitch. As she witnesses the Greenwitch taking form, Jane experiences a powerful emotional reaction: “Her horror came not from fear, but from the awareness she suddenly felt from the image of an appalling, endless loneliness. Great power was held only in great isolation. Looking at the Greenwitch, she felt a terrible awe, and a kind of pity as well.” Why do you think Jane pities something that she knows isn’t alive? Later, she wishes for the Greenwitch to be happy, to which a village woman says, “‘A perilous wish! . . . For where one may be made happy by harmless things, another may find happiness only in hurting.’” What do you think the village woman means by this statement?

3. Chapter four opens with Jane worrying about the morning mist, telling Simon doubtfully, “‘I don’t know . . . It looks funny to me, more like a kind of danger signal.’” How is Jane’s sensitive nature important in the story? Jane has a dream of the Greenwitch falling to the bottom of the sea, and in it Jane also enters the sea and converses with the Greenwitch. In this dream, why is the Greenwitch like a petulant child? How does Jane’s interaction with the Greenwitch show Jane’s goodness? Why does the Greenwitch guard her secret with such ferocity?

4. Discuss how secrets, and the keeping and guarding of them, represent a theme of Greenwitch. Why do you think the Greenwitch wants to be left alone?

5. What is intuition? Throughout the story, many characters, including Will, the Drew children, and even Rufus the dog act on intuition. Discuss key moments in the story in which intuition changes the course of the plot. How do these moments of intuition foreshadow danger?

6. Tethys, queen of the sea, as well as the Greenwitch, are part of what Merriman refers to as the Wild Magic. How is the natural world both wild and magical? Provide examples from the story and from your own experience. Merriman reminds Tethys that, “‘The Wild Magic has neither allies nor enemies.’” (p. 87) How is this statement true of the natural world?

7. In trying to cast a spell on the Greenwitch to make her relinquish her secret, the painter reveals his arrogance. What is arrogance? How is arrogance a negative quality of human beings? Discuss the following description found in chapter eleven: “But the command in the voice of the man of the Dark now was like ice; it was the cold absolute arrogance that through centuries past had brought men down to terror and grovelling obedience.”

8. What does it mean to be self-serving? How is the painter self-serving? Why does the Greenwitch feel that human beings are self-serving? How is a caring nature the opposite of a self-serving one? Once the Greenwitch learns that her secret is important to Jane, her anger begins to soften: “‘You made a wish that was for me, not yourself. No-one has ever done that. I give you my secret, in return.’” (p. 133) How do you think the Greenwitch feels at the moment she decides to turn over her secret to Jane? Why do you think she feels this way?

9. Jane wishes for the Greenwitch to be happy, which in turn brings the scroll back to the Light. Discuss the power of wishes. How does Jane’s wish reveal her innate compassion?

Extension Activities

- A Swirl of Green. The painter of the Dark uses colors to conjure his evil spells. His painting and its intense colors produce feelings of uneasiness in Barney. Discuss how color represents and produces emotion. Share examples of art that use color as a way of conveying feelings. ( Give students time to create a work of art that uses a dominant color to express a feeling.

- Nature Sculpture. The Greenwitch is a figural sculpture that the women of Trewissick assemble each year to bring luck to the village fishermen. Like a totem, they create the figure with branches, leaves, and other natural materials. Depending on what season you are in, give students time to collect natural materials around your school grounds or from a nearby park. Work with the art teacher to help students create small sculptures to honor and celebrate the season.

- The Wish Tree. After the Greenwitch is assembled, the women of the village each make a wish to the figure before it is thrown into the sea. Instead of wishing for something for herself, Jane wishes for the Greenwitch to be happy. Create a tree out of construction or butcher paper with a sturdy trunk and a system of branches. Throughout the year, students can add leaves to the branches with written wishes for good things to happen in their community, the country, and the world.

- The White Lady. Tethys, a Greek Goddess of the ocean, is also referred to in Greenwitch as the White Lady. Embark on a unit of ocean study, focusing on major threats to the world’s ocean brought about by climate change, human activity, and pollution ( Place students in small research pods. Each pod will tackle one of the major issues detailed in the Unesco article. Give students time to do an in-depth study. Students can share their findings in a digital slide presentation.

Guide created by Colleen Carroll, literacy educator, content creator, and author of the How Artists See series (Abbeville Kids). Learn more about Colleen at

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes. For more Simon & Schuster guides and classroom materials, please visit or

About The Author

Photograph © Tsar Fedorsky Photography 2013

Susan Cooper is one of our foremost fantasy authors; her classic five-book fantasy sequence The Dark Is Rising has sold millions of copies worldwide. Her books’ accolades include the Newbery Medal, a Newbery Honor, the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, and five shortlists for the Carnegie Medal. She combines fantasy with history in Victory (a Washington Post Top Ten Books for Children pick), King of Shadows, Ghost Hawk, and her magical The Boggart and the Monster, second in a trilogy, which won the Scottish Arts Council’s Children’s Book Award. Susan Cooper lives on a saltmarsh island in Massachusetts, and you can visit her online at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (November 30, 2010)
  • Length: 176 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780689849190
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 800L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

Browse Related Books

Awards and Honors

  • School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
  • ILA/CBC Children's Choices

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: Susan Cooper

More books in this series: The Dark Is Rising Sequence