For Part 2 click the link Over The Garden Wall Analysis – Part 2
For Part 3 click the link Over The Garden Wall Analysis – Part 3
Over The Garden Wall is a ten episodes miniseries of Cartoon Network, created by Patrick McHale and based on Patrick McHale’s 30 minute animated short Tome of The Unknown. The show has become very popular since it was released in 2014.
The miniseries tells about the story of two lost brothers in the woods called The Unknown and their adventures through their way back home. The big brother Wirt (Elijah Wood) is a high school student interested in poetry, playing clarinet and architecture. His little brother Greg (Collin Dean) is a funny, cheerful and precocious little boy. They had a frog companion (Jack Jones) all along the journey whose name changes every episode, until Wirt found the most appropriate name for him in the last episode. They meet Beatrice the bluebird (Melanie Lynskey), the Woodsman (Christopher Lloyd), and the Beast (Samuel Ramey) who turns lost souls into Edelwood trees in the woods.
There are lots of different theories out there about the show, but one of them is so obvious that majority fans of Over The Garden Wall agree: The story takes place in afterlife and The Unknown is purgatory. In this piece of work I’ll explain my theory with evidences and I’ll conduct a little clue hunt in the Unknown through the episodes. Please watch Over The Garden Wall‘s all episodes before reading this and be aware that the whole work consists of spoilers.
The show begins as Jason Funderberker the frog (also known as Kitty, Wirt, Wirt Jr., George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Doctor Cucumber, Greg Jr., Skipper, Ronald) sings the theme song “Into The Unknown”. There is a prologue as flashbacks of people in the Unknown during the song. Also the show ends with an epilogue while the frog sings the theme song again.
Patrick McHale comments about the song by saying “This is the opening theme that plays in the first episode. Our idea for the intro was to try and set the tone of the world by showing a montage of interesting vignettes while playing nostalgic music behind it… to make it feel like a bunch of memories that we’re recalling. I’m really happy with this song. It’s a good whistling song.”
“Our long bygone burdens, mere echoes of the spring,
But where have we come, and where shall we end?”
In the prologue Beatrice and her dog sit on a riverside, and this river is probably the one next to her house. She looks angry, and when a bluebird fly from the bushes she looks at it with anger. If you remember Beatrice admits in “Mad Love” that she and her whole family turned into bluebirds, because she had thrown a rock at a bluebird. So this bluebird is that bluebird. According to my theory, Beatrice had a fight with her family for a reason and she came to the riverside. When she saw the bluebird it reminded Beatrice to her family and their fight, because there are lots of bluebird figurines in their home. So she could not stand, pick a pebble from the ground and throw it to the bluebird.
Later we see a black cat riding a chariot full of pumpkins. Later in the epilogue in “The Unknown” it is revealed that the black cat is Enoch, the big pumpkin guard of Pottsfield.
There is a circus and in that circus there is a ballerina on a horse, four peg leg musicians and the most importantly a juggling gorilla. This is Jimmy Brown in his gorilla suit. In “Schooltown Follies” Jimmy states that he got a job in a circus in order to buy a wedding ring for Ms. Langtree, but he got stuck in the suit.
These are the toy versions of the Tavern Keeper, the Highwayman, the Butcher, the Baker, the Tavern Keeper’s dog and two of the musicians made by the Toymaker.
Quincy Endicott looks at the portrait of Margueritte Grey and sees his ghost love for the first time.
Adelaide sews another quilt for herself and she snips the thread with her special scissors that can make Beatrice and her family human again.
We see two boy on the riverside. One of them is winding the toy version of the riverboat from “Lullaby in Frogland” and putting it on the river. I think these boys are McLaughlin Brothers, the creators of the riverboat. They are testing their mock-up of the riverboat. It can also be a toy riverboat that McLaughlins will make a real version of it later which the frogs see the toy riverboat and built a copy of it for themselves.
Lorna has just finished sorting the bones of who have been eaten there before.
The fishing Fish, who will later rescue Wirt from the river.
Greg steals the Rock Facts rock from Mrs. Daniel’s garden as he admits in “The Unknown”.
The Woodsman and his daughter in their house yard.
“Somewhere lost in the clouded annals of history, lies a place that few have seen. A mysterious place, called The Unknown.”
The first episode “The Old Grist Mill” is opened with three short and blurry glimpses, when the narrator talks about the Unknown. If you listen carefully you will also hear the sound of water.
Remember that Wirt, Greg and their frog fall into a river while they try to escape from a train. So these are Wirt’s last three glimpses under the water before he blacks out. This is the beginning of Wirt and Greg’s journey to the Unknown. They are underwater, they are dying in the river; so it means that they stick between life and death. Two brothers’ journey starts with their end. They neither can stay in the living world, because they are about to die, nor they can pass to the Heaven, because they haven’t died yet; but they can reach a place in-between.
“Though I am lost,
my wounded heart resides back home,
in pieces, strewn about the
graveyard of my lost love,
Wirt, Greg and their frog find themselves in the woods of the Unknown. The transition progress is so smooth that they never understand anything. It’s just like sleeping and starting to see a dream. There is no beginning point of the events. After a while Wirt realizes that he didn’t know the place around them.
Wirt: Wait. Wait a second. Uh, Greg where are we?
Greg: In the woods.
Wirt: I mean what are we doing out here?
Greg: We’re walking home.
Wirt: Greg, I think we’re lost.
Of course, Wirt does not think that they are in the Purgatory as they are dying right now. Who thinks that s/he is dying anyway? So Wirt concludes that they’re just lost in the woods. Greg takes for granted with the simplicity of the childhood that they’re walking their home back in the woods.
In “Hard Times at the Huskin Bee” one of the pumpkin folks asks Wirt.
Pumpkin girl: Aren’t you a little too… early?
Wirt: What do you mean?
Pumpkin girl: I mean it doesn’t seem like you’re ready to join us just yet.
She implies that Wirt (and thus Greg) is too young for dying, and he has not died yet. He is struggling between life and death.
Also when Wirt wants to leave Pottsfield Enoch respond him by saying:
“Well. You’ll join us someday.”
Enoch knows that when they die someday, they will again end up the Unknown. This sentence also means that Enoch is aware of the place he has been unlike the others.
Maybe the most important evidence is the tombstone of Quincy Endicott. When Wirt and Greg are spying Sara and Jason Funderberker in the Eternal Garden Graveyard Greg hides our mad lover unkie Endicott’s tombstone in the episode “Into the Unknown”.
“♪ La la la la… Chop the wood to light the fire! ♪”
The Woodsman wanders in the woods of the Unknown and searches special kind of tree called “Edelwood tree” to grind and produce oil for his lantern, which we learn later that the lantern is the Beast’s, not the Woodsman’s. The Beast deceives the Woodsman by telling the Woodsman’s daughter’s spirit is in the lantern, and in order to not lose her he must keep the lantern lit, and the only way to keep it lit is to use the edelwood oil. Later we learn that the Beast turns lost souls into an edelwood, so every edelwood tree used to be human once.
There is no such thing as an edelwood, but according to Google translate the word “edel” means noble. So maybe edelwood means noble-wood. I also found DuffStuff’s theory on the internet and it makes more sense to me so I agree with DuffStuff.
“Actually, I immediately noticed was that the word “edel” (as in edelwood) is the Korean word for “children,” pronounced exactly the way they say it in the show. Considering where the edelwood trees come from, and considering that this is a fairy tale about children lost in the woods, it would make perfect sense for edelwood to mean “children’s wood.” And if you think it’s a bit of a stretch that they would include a Korean language reference, just remember that there’s a character in Adventure Time (also a Patrick McHale show) who, for no real reason, speaks nothing but Korean.”
♪ Ooh-ooh, better beware! Ooh-ooh, the beast is out there! ♪
The Beast is the villain of Over The Garden Wall. He wanders in the Unknown and searches lost souls for turning them into edelwood trees to keep his lantern lit.
His original story is not revealed in the show, but I found a post in Tumblr and I love it. So I will accept it as the story of the Beast. Those of you interested here is the link:
In the final episode named “The Unknown” the Dark Lantern lightens the Beast for a second, and this is how he looks like in the light.
The Beast have the power of possession like in the case of Beatrice’s dog, or he can haunt people just like the Woodsman or Adelaide. Remember that Adelaide says “I do as he commands… the voice of the night, the beast of eternal darkness.”
To be continued…
If you have commends or theories please let me know.
Into The Unknown (Theme Song) | Songs of the Series | Over The Garden Wall | Cartoon Network. You Tube. You Tube, 21 Oct 2014. Web. 4 Apr 2015.
Over The Garden Wall Image. Bloody Disgusting. Bloody Disgusting LLC, 2014. Web. 4 Apr 2015.
“The Old Grist Mill.” By Patrick McHale. Over The Garden Wall. Cartoon Network. 3 Nov 2014. Television.
“Into the Unknown.” By Patrick McHale. Over The Garden Wall. Cartoon Network. 7 Nov 2014. Television.
“The Unknown.” By Patrick McHale. Over The Garden Wall. Cartoon Network. 7 Nov 2014. Television.
Wang, Zelda. Tumblr. Tumblr. 31 Jan 2015. Web. 4 Apr 2015.