"Over the Garden Wall" was a mini-series that had aired on Cartoon Network in 2014. It has won a Reuben Award and an Emmy for Outstanding Animated program. It is one of my favorite cartoons because of how well the story is told and the dark subject that is the center of the story.
The show is about two brothers, Wirt and Greg, who wander through the woods as the try to find their way home. The woods they travel through, known as The Unknown, end up being nothing more than a dream that the two had as they almost drown in a pond unconscious. After watching it a second time, I began to draw more and more evidence that supports the idea that The Unknown is a metaphor for the concept of Limbo, when someone is in between life and death.
One of the first major pieces of evidence is the second episode that takes place in a town called Pottsfield. The town is occupied by skeletons that are dug up and wear pumpkins and crops as clothing. Before the boys leave the leader asks if they are going to stay, when Wirt says no, he says, “Oh well, you'll join us someday.” Pottsfield is supposed to be the end result of everyone’s life where the dead finally rest based off of how it is full of skeletons and that the leader hints at the fact that they will one day join.
Another major part to look at is an episode where they have to take a ferry to travel down river where they can meet a witch who can supposedly take them home. To take the ferry it is required that they pay the toll which is two cents. At first I didn’t think anything of the price, but after I thought of it more, it reminded me of the river of styx in Greek mythology. In the underworld in Greek mythology, there is a river that you must cross. In order to cross the river you must pay the ferryman two coins, the same price that the ferry charged. The ferry is supposed to be another step for the two boys as they travel further into the unknown.
A major point I wanted to look at was the Edelwood trees that make up the forest. One of the characters, the woodsman, travels through the unknown looking for these trees so to chop down he may grind their wood into oil to fuel his lantern. He has to keep the lantern lit or else the flame that is his daughter’s soul will go out. The Edelwood trees are actually the people who have lost hope trying to navigate their way out of the unknown. After all their hope is lost, the main antagonist, the Beast, claims them and turns them into trees. He claims that the unknown is his forest and that he has grown all of these trees. The forest is supposed to be both the end result and the doom of the two brothers if they lose all hope.
The last part I wanted to talk about is the character the Beast himself.
He appears in the cartoon as an ominous silhouette with two bright glowing eyes. He reminds me of a kind of grim reaper character the way that he is always looming over characters in the background. In the show we never see him interact with any of the characters or physical objects but in one scene where a shadow that appears to be his hand reaches out to grab the lantern. It is interesting because the hand stretches upon the ground like a castes shadow, suggesting that he does not have an actual physical body.
The most notable fact about the Beast is when we see him at the end of the show. The Woodsmen swings his lantern, and its light shines across the beast for a mere second. If you actually pause the frame over the beast you can see that his body is made up of Edelwood. Edelwood is supposed to be people who have lost hope and died in the unknown, so it would mean that the Beast is actually comprised of all those who have died. He is supposed to symbolize a Grim Reaper kind of character who hunts the boys as they travel through limbo.
Over the Garden Wall is a wonderful show that has so much deep meaning. I could watch it over and over again and always find some new detail or piece of evidence that I didn’t see before. I can tell that it’s creator, Patrick McHale put a lot of time and effort into this show. In the end I am left in awe at how brilliantly the story is told and all the hidden detail in between.