Over the Garden Wall is a deeply moving tale about two half-brothers’ journeys through “The Unknown” of purgatory after suffering a near-death experience. The Cartoon Network miniseries relies heavily on symbolism, mythology, and knowledge of classic fairytales to truly decern your own meaning by analyzing their journey.
- Over the Garden Wall Story Explained
- Over the Garden Wall Episode Analysis
- Why Is Beatrice A Bird?
- Symbolism in Over the Garden Wall Chapters 1 – 4
- Giant Enoch Is The Black Cat
- Mythology in Over the Garden Wall Chapters 1 – 4
- Fairytales and Fables in Over the Garden Wall Chapters 1 – 4
- Symbolism in Over the Garden Wall Chapters 5 – 8
- Mythology in Over the Garden Wall Chapters 5 – 8
- What Do The Black Turtles Mean In Over the Garden Wall?
- Greg’s Halloween Costume Meaning
- Fairytales and Fables in Over the Garden Wall Chapters 5 – 8
- Symbolism in Over the Garden Wall Chapter 9
- What Does Cloud City Represent In Over the Garden Wall?
- Wirt’s Halloween Costume Meaning
- Fairytales and Fables in Over the Garden Wall Chapter 9
- Over the Garden Wall Ending Explained
- Symbolism in Over the Garden Wall Chapter 10
- Does Greg Die?
- What Does the Beast Symbolize In Over the Garden Wall?
- Is The Beast Dead?
- What Are Edelwood Trees?
- Who Dies in Over the Garden Wall?
- The Changing of the Seasons and their Significance
- Over the Garden Fence is Worth Watching
I viewed Over the Garden Wall on All Hallow’s Eve during the witching hours of 12 – 3. I watched the show twice, since I missed the beginning of the first episode.
Over the Garden Wall Story Explained
Over the Garden Wall is a magnificent, animated miniseries detailing two half-brothers’ journey through the great “unknown”. Armed with a singing frog and companions they meet along the way, the two brothers’ journey through a symbolic purgatory to be reborn back into modern-day life.
During my second watch, I caught a lot of the symbolism and foreshadowing hints I had missed during the initial viewing and decided to take notes and analyze all 10 chapters in thorough detail.
(I thought posting this review on “All Saint’s Day”/Hallomas and Day of the Dead would be fitting, since Samhain is believed to be when spirits commence on the earth, All Saint’s Day is when they supposedly return – as Wirt and Greg returned to life.)
Over the Garden Wall Episode Analysis
The unnamed frog Greg later adopts is seen playing the piano, singing about being “led through the mist”.
Beatrice in her human form sits by the river with her dog in the forest, a raven or crow startles something in the bushes nearby. Enoch the Black Cat rides through the barren fields ready for harvest with pumpkins.
The schoolteacher’s husband performs in the circus wearing his gorilla costume.
Toy figures are shown, two look like the butcher and the tavern wench. Endicott holds a candle (or “a torch”) for his “ghost” lady’s painting in a dark home before her shadow “passes by” him.
Adelaide weaves threads in her bed using her (peacock) brass scissors.
Two children – a boy and a girl dressed in sailor outfits play with a toy steamboat in the forest and set it along the stream.
Fiona shines candlelight on 5 skulls of the lost souls she has killed in the catacombs. The Fisherman (or Fisher King) presides over the water surrounded by fog waiting to ‘catch’ something.
Greg steals the painted rock from the garden.
The Woodsman is at home in the forest while his daughter is gathering water from the well, looking at the mysterious fog-laden woods. Echinacea or Coneflowers grow nearby.
♪ How the gentle wind, beckons through the leaves ♪
Images of Wirt and Greg drowning flash on the screen as the narrator speaks about “the unknown” few have seen. Deep in the darkness of the woods, the silhouette of a bird can be made out – possibly Beatrice following the boys soon after they entered the forest.
The boys meet the Woodsman, who warns them that the forest is dangerous for children to wander. Attempting to point them toward people, Woodsman urges the boys to “go North” and find a town.
During their encounter, Beatrice’s dog eats one of the witch’s black turtles and falls ill, becoming possessed like the Forest Monster. In the scuffle, the Old Grist Mill is destroyed, and the Woodsman no longer has a supply of Edelwood trees, causing him to journey away from the safe place to find more.
In the woods, Greg hears Beatrice call for help, as she is “tangled” in the vines of a bush and cannot free herself.
Wirt and Greg arrive upon an “abandoned ghost town” named “Pottsfield” filled with skeletons dressed as pumpkins.
A giant pumpkin named “Enoch” seems to lead the villagers and asks Wirt why they are there. Wirt replies that they are just passing through to which Enoch replies “folks don’t tend to pass through” their little town of Pottsfield.
The residents of the town remark on how “peaceful” it is there.
As punishment for barging into their harvest celebrations unannounced, Wirt is charged with an array of crimes including murder. When he questions the murder charge, Enoch acknowledges that the crime has not technically happened yet.
The two boys are sent out to the fields to do manual labor.
While asked to dig up two unmarked graves in the now-barren field, Beatrice mentions how suspicious the action was and that the boys may be “digging their own graves”. Devising a plan, Beatrice asks Wirt to buy time as she unshackles the trios one leg so that they can escape.
Now unshackled, Greg and Beatrice make a run for it while Wirt believes they left him behind. Beatrice must come back as a ‘messenger’ and ask Wirt “why are you still here?” which may foreshadow Wirt giving up and “lingering” too long in the forest.
The Giant Pumpkin Enoch tells Wirt “they’ll join [him] someday” after Wirt refuses to stay in Pottsfield for the last time.
Beatrice leads the boys in the direction of Adelaide the Witch’s ‘Pasture’ as the Woodman looks on, an autumn leaf hits a wooden fence – symbolizing the change in season.
Wirt keeps trying to stop and tie his one unlaced shoe but will Beatrice refuses to let him stop their journey to Adelaide’s Pasture. Beatrice begins to berate Wirt’s character, calling him a pushover and declaring the world to be “a miserable place”.
This is the first concrete evidence that Beatrice is aware of where she is, who she is, and why staying in the woods is a bad idea. Beatrice knows that she is in purgatory, lingering “in the forest” to find salvation. She states she “threw a rock at a bluebird” and it ended up cursing her entire family.
Why Is Beatrice A Bird?
Beatrice is a bird because she was cursed after tossing a rock at a bluebird. The curse may have been recent, as she is seen in Chapter 1 sitting alone by a river with her dog in the unknown woods.
Whether or not Beatrice’s entire family turns into “bluebirds” is an allegory for Beatrice accidentally killing her entire family remains a mystery.
Chapter 3 Continued…
While Wirt keeps trying to derail their journey, Beatrice replies “Bluebirds have short life spans, you are literally killing me every minute I spend with you” which is an on-the-nose way of saying Beatrice knows the seasons are changing, and they cannot remain “in the woods” of purgatory for much longer.
(The Witch Adelaide could have given Beatrice a deadline of when to collect souls for her – maybe before the North Wind howls – or wintertime.)
Wirt and Beatrice enter the school, and Beatrice remarks that Ms. Langtree has a lot of “baggage” related to her ‘runaway’ husband Jimmy Brown, which may be why Ms. Langtree was unable to “move on”.
Greg stays outside with the other kids and asks them to play “Two Old Cats”. One Old Cat, Ol’ Cat, or Cat-ball could be a reference to baseball. Depending on the number of players, there could be two batters opposite one another making the game Two Old Cat.
(Today, baseball is played with 9 innings. Greg may have overheard two boys talking about it at the party in Chapter 9.)
The Raccoon boy finds a black turtle and throws it back into the river. The Deer finds one old cat, while Greg finds another. Greg deems the old cat with glasses to be “too old” to play with, and the Racoon boy consoles him with a bowl of milk.
(Could the cat be on his last of 9 lives, and now unable to reincarnate to the living world?)
The children eat “potatoe and molasses” and Greg goes around adding sugar, or “sweetness” to the bland dinner. Potatoes come from the ground and may be a reference to the “soil” in purgatory – I will explain this in more detail in another chapter.
Beatrice reminds Wirt to “tie his shoe” and the trio leaves the school.
The Woodsman is in the dark looking for wood to keep the lantern he believes holds his daughter’s spirit lit. The driver of the carriage Wirt, Greg, and Beatrice are stowed away on is freaked out, believing the Forest Beast is following them.
Greg looks back and sees nothing, as the beast has not been stalking him but rather his brother, Wirt.
The trio decides to enter the creepy tavern at Beatrice’s behest where Wirt sees ‘the highwayman’ watching him menacingly from a window upstairs. A big shaggy dog is preventing Wirt from entering the tavern, and he manages to force the door halfway open to enter the tavern.
A grim reaper scythe is on the wall by the door, and the sign outside the tavern has an upside-down horse. The Tavern Wench tells Beatrice the bluebird to leave her tavern and Beatrice replies “you’ll die someday, and I’ll laugh…laugh!” implying the Tavern Wench is not yet dead, but somewhere in-between like the rest of them.
(A bird flying indoors is considered an omen of death, so I can see where the wench is coming from…)
The midwife coughs up a fish, which may be a reference to Wirt and Greg’s bodies currently “sleeping with the fishes” in the real world. Midwives also bring new life into the world and may be a nod that the two half-brothers will indeed ‘reincarnate’ or be ‘reborn’ back to the material plane.
The Highwayman antagonizes Wirt during his song and dance routine, telling him he “makes ends meet” and if you cross him, you’ll die. Wirt asks the tavern-goers if anybody knows the way home and one man tells him to “follow the compass inside your heart”.
Nobody knows the way home because everyone is in purgatory trying to leave “the woods”!
Wirt is called a lover, deemed ‘simple’ or a ‘dunce’ (like at the school), and then deemed the ‘pilgrim’. Pilgrims historically are travelers “just passing through” to make a sacred pilgrimage or journey to their promised place – Wirt’s promised place is a return to the mortal world.
♪ He lurks out there in the unknown,
Seeking those who are far from home,
Hoping never to let you return.
Ohh-ohh, better be wise and don’t believe his lies ♪
The Woodsman again warns the boys that the “beast is upon” them, as seeing the Beast’s shadow by the Edelwood tree is what knocked Beatrice unconscious.
Wirt does not heed the warning, instead wrestling the lantern from the Woodsman and setting the nearby Edelwood tree on fire.
♪ For once your will begins to spoil,
He’ll turn you to a tree of oil,
And use you in his lantern for to burn ♪
After the children leave, Woodsman fights Beast for the lantern which could symbolize Woodman’s “flame” or soul’s desire to live for his daughter’s sake.
Symbolism in Over the Garden Wall Chapters 1 – 4
Much of the stories contained within Over the Garden wall deal with allegories and symbolism hinting at (an impending) death.
In Episode 1, the two half-brothers arrive at the Old Grist Mill after walking through the forest. There, the woodsman says that he fixed up the long-abandoned home and used it for his edelwood lamp-oil operation.
Windmills are often associated with fertility and harvest, but this mill was bare – except for a lone beast wandering its grounds. A stopped mill can signify sorrow or difficult undertakings.
An Old ‘grist-mill‘ is a place where “grain” is “carried to the mill by the owner for grinding at one time” and can be a reference to the lost souls that formed the edelwood tree being snapped and drained of their life essence to light the Beast’s dark lantern.
There is a dog that eats a black turtle it thought was candy, turns into a beast, and the mill crushing its body “expels” the foreign object – causing it to revert to normal. The dog’s “sorrow was stopped” by the turning of the mill’s wheels.
♪ If dreams can’t come true, Then why not pretend? ♪
In Episode 1, the Woodsman and his daughter are living at their true home in the forest of purgatory. His daughter draws water from a well nearby Coneflowers. Echinacea or Coneflower are plants native to America and symbolize hope or healing from an illness.
In Episode 1, Birds are often seen as messengers from deceased spirits or even angels in some interpretations. Beatrice later mentions that Bluebirds are good luck, symbolizing happiness and a spirit of truth. The woman from the tavern later declares bluebirds to be omens of bad luck.
In Episode 2, the two half-brothers arrive in “Pottsfield”, a deserted ‘ghost town’ save for a single turkey “playing dead” by itself at home. It could be considered a “city of the dead”, or a burial ground – as a potter’s field or pauper’s grave was a common graveyard for the burial of unknown or poor people.
(The Number 2 symbolizes duality – male and female, yes and no, living and dead, left and right, truth and lies, yin and yang, darkness and light, and so on.)
Giant Enoch Is The Black Cat
The Black Cat Enoch can be seen in Episode 1 bringing pumpkins into town by way of (2) turkey carriage along a barren field. The pumpkins are later worn by unknown (naked) skeletons in the unmarked graves.
In Episode 2, Wirt and Greg are tasked with digging up two skeletons from unmarked graves. One of the onlookers dressed as a pumpkin greets the newly animated skeletons, noting that now the “party has arrived”.
In the harvest barn, the (skeleton) spirits now wear pumpkins and gather around the May Day Pole – often found at European folk festivals and taken to represent the signifier of midsummer (Spring), the four directions, and where the earth and the sky meet. Also associated with fertility.
The Black Cat Enoch arrived at the fields while they were still barren, but when Wirt and Greg arrive, they stepped over pumpkins.
Greg got a small pumpkin caught on his left foot, signifying that he had “one foot in the grave”. Wirt also steps on a pumpkin, but quickly shakes it off and it smashes.
The pumpkins peel apples and shuck corn – corn being a symbol of abundance, harvest, and eternal life. Pumpkins themselves signify the “fall harvest” and are associated with Halloween – which is when our story takes place.
Pumpkins are also thought to be “charms” to avert the influences of evil – which is what Greg, our character who averted the Forest Beast – partially wore.
In certain legends, a husk of corn is meant to be left and hung from the barn rafters for the “corn spirit” to physically embody. Cats are often identified with the “corn spirit” in legend, and the last portion of grain reaped from a harvest is often referred to as the “cat’s tail”.
Beatrice the Blue Bird Messanger
In Episode 2, Beatrice is freed by Greg from the “tangled vine” of a bush. This could be a reference to Beatrice being in the ‘web’ or ‘string of fate’ controlled by the witch Adelaide.
By ‘bluebird honor’, Beatrice says she is bound to at least help Greg once more, and towards the end of the series, Beatrice helps Wirt save Greg from being claimed by the Forest Beast.
In Episode 2, Beatrice unshackles Wirt and Greg but only Greg and Beatrice escape. Beatrice must come back and “remind” Wirt as a messenger to leave the barren field and continue his pilgrimage through purgatory.
In Episode 3, Wirt’s untied shoelace mirrors Greg having “one foot in the grave” or in Greg’s case, a literal pumpkin. Beatrice also refuses to let Wirt stop on their journey, which in the end saves his soul from being claimed by the Forest Monster.
In Episode 3, Langtree means “tall tree”. It could signify that Ms. Langtree has waited for Jimmy Brown for so long that she has become a “tall tree” in the Forest.
In Episode 4, the Highwayman continually talks about “making ends meet”. In certain religions and spiritual sects, meeting at the “crossroads” is required to make pacts with demons or complete spells with a devil.
The Unknown Time Warp
In Episode 4, the Tavern Wench may have an 1800s Georgian or Victorian-era choker brocade necklace around her neck. This would fit the theme of Beatrice and Quincy Endicott both possibly being from the Georgian era of time.
The unknown doesn’t seem to take care to differently perceived timelines merging into one era on a single plane in time.
Mythology in Over the Garden Wall Chapters 1 – 4
North is Hell
In Episode 1, the boys are sent “North” by Woodsman to find people and towns that will help them get home. The etymology of North is sometimes attributed to “left” or “below” which could symbolize the 9 levels Wirt and Greg need to travel through purgatory to cleanse their spirits and return home.
Interestingly enough, the sanskrit narakah for north means “hell” which traditionally is associated with being below the ground, or below the earth.
Enoch and The Watchers
In Episode 2, we are introduced to a giant pumpkin in ‘Pottsfield’ named “Enoch”.
In the bible, The Book of Enoch told the annals of the days “when giants walked the earth”.
Enoch was tasked with “watching” the ‘watchers’ or angels sent to guard humanity, but later succumbed to their own lust by breaking heavenly laws.
The fallen watchers, or “fallen angels” were stripped of their bodies, some imprisoned – others forever cursed with wandering the mortal lands without bodies to feel pleasure or sustenance for their spirits.
At the end of his mortal life, the biblical Patriarch Enoch “walked with god” never truly dying.
Maybe the symbolism of Enoch the “giant pumpkin” really being a Black Cat associated with death and having 9 lives is meant to portray Enoch’s ability to freely traverse the 9 heavenly realms to continue serving the true living god.
Fairytales and Fables in Over the Garden Wall Chapters 1 – 4
Hansel and Gretel
Hansel and Gretel, known also as “the little stepbrother and little stepsister” is a German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm that I’m sure all are familiar with. A pair of siblings are abandoned “in the woods”, where they fall prey to a witch who lures them with candy.
After Wirt freaks out over the pair being “lost in the woods” Greg offers to leave a trail of Halloween candy so that they can find their way home. The two siblings are later lured, captured, and almost eaten by the ‘evil’ witch Adelaide while at her cottage.
Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood is a folktale by the Brothers Grimm where a young girl going to visit her grandmother is warned (and sometimes saved) by a friendly woodcutter or Woodsman from the trickster old wolf.
Wirt is a young man wearing a blue hood who is frequently warned about (and later saved) from the sly old beast in the woods by the Woodsman.
A Christmas Carol
In Episode 3, Mr. Langtree bears a striking physical resemblance to the titular character Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Known for his selfishness, the wealthy Scrooge was a notoriously stingy man who dampened others’ spirits around the holidays. When Mr. Langtree is first introduced, he laments the money ‘wasted’ teaching animals at his daughter’s primer school and takes the instruments away from the kids as ‘punishment’.
Only in the forest alone does Mr. Langtree let his guard down, taking off his imposing “cloak” and silently laments not being able to take care of his daughter after his son-in-law Jimmy Brown ran off and left her alone.
Behold a Pale Horse
In Episode 4, the tavern sign is an upside-down white horse.
In the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, death’s mount is pale and it is accompanied by Hades…
Cerberus the Hell Hound
In Episode 4, Wirt tries to open the tavern door, but it is blocked by a shaggy dog.
In Greek Mythology, Cerberus is referred to as the “Hound of Hades” that guards the Gates of Hell. Of course, this dog doesn’t have three heads, but there is a scythe and horse harness on the tavern walls by the doorway.
In the title card, “death” was riding a horse and had a scythe.
Can we consider this now the “tavern of death”?
Highwayman Dick Turpin?
In Episode 4, Wirt catches the attention of a rugged highwayman who boasts about “stealing the shoes” from travelers’ feet. (Good thing Wirt tied his shoes last chapter, huh?)
Highwaymen typically robbed late-night tavern-goers and travelers of their belongings, all the way down to the shoes on their feet. There is tale of a legendary highwayman named Dick Turpin who lived during the Georgian period.
An episode later Wirt describes Quincy Endicott’s home as having a “Georgian” theme.
(Along with the frog being named “George Washington” on the steamboat, maybe this is a nod to the creator’s apparent love for historical “Georges” as claimed on the OtGW wiki.)
The children enter Mr. Quincy Endicott’s mansion.
Endicott likens his mansion to a labyrinth.
Labyrinth are usually a maze of grandiose designs that one can find themselves trapped in for all eternity. It can also be “a representation of hell and redemption” when taken into a spiritual perspective.
Beatrice says they need 2 cents to board the ferry to visit Adelaide’s Pasture. At her suggestion, Fred the horse, Wirt, and Greg are all implored to steal from Endicott and the immense wealth that makes him unhappy.
In Endicott’s home, a white peacock continually taps on the glass windows, eventually bursting in to make Endicott remember he forgot to feed them.
Endicott claims people are saying he is “going mad” and Fred speculates that Endicott murdered the love of his life for money. Endicott looks at his “filthy hands” and is angered by Fred’s (probable) deduction.
When Fred and Greg accompany Endicott to the parlor, there is a creepy painting behind him featuring a man and a dog in the picture. By Chapter 10, this painting will change to Endicott and Fred together.
While stuck in the cabinet, Beatrice tells Wirt to check if coins were sewn into the lining of garments, which was a tradition from her (possible) Georgian Era of 1715 – 1830s.
After the two enter the camellia tea greenhouse joining the two mansions, Wirt remarks that the ghost woman Margueritte Grey had a French Rococo style to Endicott’s “Georgian sensibilities”.
Just before leaving, Greg receives the 2 cents needed to board the ferry.
Greg proceeds to throw it in a fountain where it is immediately eaten by a fish. A pan-down of the camera shows the bottom of the fountain filled with other visitors who all did the same thing, rejecting the “acceptance of death” by paying for the ferryman’s journey to the afterlife.
The frogs on the McLaughlin Bros. steamboat are all dressed well, having money to pay for the steamboat to “the other side”.
Greg deems his frog “George Washington” as an “outcast” because he is cold and naked, unlike the other frogs. Wirt believes frogs are cold anyway and ignores the subtlety that the frog (and most likely their own human bodies) are growing ‘cold’ underwater in the waking reality.
When confronted with sneaking on the ferry, Wirt shouts “take him, not me” in reference to the frog police taking Greg instead of him.
♪ Over the treetops and mountains,
Over the blackened ravines,
Then softly it falls by a horse near a stream,
And over the garden wall
To Thee ♪
The ferry disembarks and the frogs bury themselves in mud, Beatrice believes for “hibernation” or “reincarnation” to a new life in the spring. Greg brings his frog and lays in the mud, only burying himself halfway – another nod at being between worlds.
Greg’s frog refuses to “sign his name” on the dotted line and give up his soul when presented with a singing contract and a pair of socks. He later rejoins Greg and Wirt on their journey.
Adelaide decides she wants to fill Wirt and Greg’s heads with wool so they will be like “sheep” on her “pasture” who can do nothing else but obey. The witch also casually mentions she directly serves the Forest Beast “of eternal darkness” who has been after Wirt since Chapter 1.
The betrayal by Beatrice causes both Beatrice and Wirt to be enveloped in “fog” that clouds their judgment in the woods.
♪ For once your will begins to spoil,
He’ll turn you to a tree of oil,
And use you in his lantern for to burn ♪
Remember: The Woodsman warned Wirt about getting emotional in the woods, and the Tavern Wench warned against it as well through song.
Woodsman traps Wirt in the woods to again warn of the Forest Beast looming in the distance.
“Keep hearty in both body and spirit, and you shall be safe from him.”Woodsman to Wirt
Wirt decides to slap the lantern out of Woodman’s hands for the 2nd time and leaves to enter a dilapidated shack. The half-brothers meet Lorna, a troubled young woman who appears to be held against her will by Auntie Whispers.
When questioned, Lorna says that Auntie keeps her busy and away from outsiders so that she is not “lead to wickedness” by their presence.
A wicker basket by the door is filled with the black turtles that have been encountered by many travelers through the forest. Lorna tells “her turtles” to hide in the basket as Auntie Whispers questions her.
Lorna says “nay not a soul” has come to their home, and Auntie Whispers eats some black turtles as a snack.
Lorna tells her “Turtles” to come out of hiding and lures them into the catacomb closet she was in when the boys entered the home. Auntie Whispers tells the half-bros through the door that they “entered the house of doom” and that it would be “your doom” if Lorna had her way.
Greg’s frog ate the bell that can command Lorna’s spirit and Wirt makes the wish that the spirit leave Lorna’s body for good. Lorna exits the river and wakes up “healed” in a field of white flowers.
Auntie Whispers bids her farewell, but Lorna decides to stay in the purgatory cottage with her for eternity.
The boys set off again, and Auntie Whispers nonchalantly warns them to stay away from her “evil” sister Adelaide. Lorna tells Wirt she hopes to see him again someday, and Wirt replies “smell you later”.
While hiding in the barrel, Greg told Wirt he “stinks” – which could be another reference to their earthly bodies decaying in the river.
It is revealed that the Woodsman was “selling children” as “tokens” just as Beatrice had planned to do to appease the Forest Beast and Adelaide the Witch.
The fog is closing in as Wirt, Greg, and the frog float down the river in an outhouse using an instrument as a paddle. Wirt gives up once they reach dry land, marching “deeper and deeper” into his figurative clouded judgement.
♪ So hitch a ride into the sky,
And join our band ♪
Wirt decides to “go to sleep” and Greg decides to as well, making a wish on a star before closing his eyes. Greg’s prayer is answered, and his soul is taken up to “Cloud City” in a bed pulled by a donkey escorted by 8 cherubs.
There, Greg is greeted by three trios of angels from the welcome committee. Down on the ground, Beatrice tries to find the boys but is scared off by an owl.
After his battle with The North Wind, The Queen of the Clouds offers to grant one wish as reward for saving her kingdom. Greg wishes to go home, and the Queen explains that she can send only him home, as Wirt’s soul has already been claimed by the Beast.
So, Greg wishes to switch places with Wirt and allow the Beast to take his soul instead.
(Do you remember in Episode 6 when Wirt wanted the frog police to “take” Greg instead?)
As Greg leaves with the singing Beast, Wirt awakens from his slumber, and Beatrice returns. Wirt runs through the snowy woods and falls, and while trying to cross a frozen lake falls in and is pulled out in a net by The Fisher.
Symbolism in Over the Garden Wall Chapters 5 – 8
The Definition of Labyrinth
In Episode 5, Mr. Endicott says his wealth and mansion are like a prison for him, or Labyrinth.
Labyrinth is usually a maze of grandiose designs that one can find trapped in for all eternity. It can also be “a representation of hell and redemption” when taken from a spiritual perspective.
Endicott (like Langtree) is another surname coming to us from Devon, England. Endicott means “dweller at the end cottages” and is a combination of the English words “ende” and “cot”.
Remember, Mr. Quincy Endicott lived, or ‘dwelled’ at the end of the “Grey Ghost” woman’s mansion.
Peacock Symbolizing Immortality
“Peacock in his pride” is a peacock with its feathers displayed in arrogance. The bird is often associated with immortality and eternal life.
Hedges and Paintings
The Beast of the Woods was sculpted in Endicott’s hedges outside his mansion when the boys were leaving.
Beast was also painted in a portrait on Quincy’s wall, along with the woman inside the Tavern Wench from last chapter’s brocade.
Maybe Quincy (meaning 5) Endicott from Chapter 5 may be stuck on the 5th level of Hell.
(Also, he totally murdered his lover Ms. Gray, who wears a heart necklace around her neck. Mayhaps I’ll explain that theory soon….)
In Episode 6, the children and frog reach Adelaide’s Cottage.
The name Adelaide can mean one of “noble birth”, or nobility, or to denote a princess in old German and French languages.
The euphemism ‘onto greener pastures’ can mean “a better or more promising situation” while being “put out to pasture” is a reference to workhorses being able to retire and graze in fields of green before death.
Another definition could be to “bring animals to a large area of land…and put sheep out to pasture…”. Adelaide refers to viewing Wirt and Greg as ‘sheep’ she can fill with wool and ‘put out to pasture’ to do her bidding.
In Episode 6, the children wearing sailor suits and playing with a steamboat could have been portrayed as frogs as an indication of their eventual rebirth.
Frogs are tadpoles who later grow in water and become adults – maybe this metamorphosis could be an allegory for the 4 stages of rebirth the frogs undergo while waiting in the mud for spring.
The woman frog with the tadpoles could have been a mother who died in childbirth, and with her husband wanted to take a picture to remember their life before starting over again. When passing the frogs on the ferry deck, Greg refers to the tadpoles as “her children” and the cops chasing them almost step on a tadpole and ‘kill’ it.
In Episode 7, Lorna is continually given busy work by Auntie Whispers to keep her out of trouble.
“Idle hands are the devil’s playthings” is an idiom used to describe those with nothing to do being more likely to cause trouble. Lorna is given ‘tasks’ and ‘chores’ by Auntie Whispers around the clock to prevent her from murdering innocent lost souls wandering the woods.
Mythology in Over the Garden Wall Chapters 5 – 8
Charon The Ferryman
In Episode 6, the kids board the steamboat without ‘paying the toll’ to be ferried.
In Greek Mythology, Charon is the ‘ferryman of Hades’ who guides souls ready to cross over into the afterlife.
A coin or two was needed as payment for the soul to be ferried along the River Styx safely to the other side. Those who do not pay were doomed to be stuck on the “restless plane” of purgatory. Thankfully, Greg’s frog helps the trio provide entertainment as ‘payment’ for their ride.
(The ‘two’ coins were needed despite there being 4 passengers because Beatrice never intended to go back to ‘the other side’ and the frog may have never been in danger of dying. In Chapter 2, the frog was never shackled by Enoch, only Beatrice and the boys were. Wirt and Greg were the only living mortals during the steamboat ferry affair.)
The Fates of Mythology
In Episode 6, Beatrice, Greg, and Wirt meet the witch Adelaide.
In Greek Mythology, the Fates (or the Moirai) were three old crones who “spun the fates” of men with spools of yarn. Behind Adelaide on her cottage wall is a mural of three sisters nearby a large flower historically used to symbolize the “tree of life”.
In Norse Mythology, the roots of the world tree were tended by three wise crones known as the “Norns” whom even the gods left alone out of fear for their terrible power.
Greg the World Builder
In Episode 8, Greg is standing atop an elephant with a silver tea kettle on his head in Cloud City.
In various creation myths, a turtle is believed to be the basis of the world’s foundation. An old name for America is even “turtle island”.
In Hindu mythology, the earth is supported by four elephants standing in a circle on the back of the cosmic turtle, world turtle, or world tortoise.
What Do The Black Turtles Mean In Over the Garden Wall?
Creator Patrick McHale is described as saying the Black Turtles are “…an intentionally unexplained mystery but, like some kind of allegory of inner darkness, they are seen where edelwood grows and warp the mind and body of whoever eats them” but is there more to the story?
Turtles can be seen as a ‘creator god’ or messenger.
We know from Woodsman and Beatrice’s bargains with darkness that the lost souls (of children) are used as ‘tokens’ to move on or move past their current life.
When Gregory finds the bucket full of Black Turtles in Auntie Whisper’s home, he says they are rich.
When Beatrice’s dog eats the black turtle its “mind is warped” and it has glowing eyes like the Beast. Which would mean the Beast was originally just another lost soul whose mind was ‘warped’ by the Black Turtle’s magic.
Maybe the Black Turtles are currency in the unknown made of lost souls who have already been purified.
Not totally related, but it is interesting to note that ‘turtle doves’ were used as “burnt offerings” for sin or purification in ancient Hebrew culture to the living god.
Maybe the Black Turtles only found on the Galapagos Islands are a nod to this practice?
On a related note, Greg had a trumpet in the wintertime.
Trumpets are considered “instruments of angels” or in this case cherubs, used to signify the sacrifice of burnt peace offerings and can herald in a new age, or signify a funeral.
Since Greg later pretends to ‘sacrifice himself’ to the ‘eternal darkness’ Beast, could this also be a nod to the black turtle thing? The Yang or Darkness of the creator? Under the half yin – half yang full moon?
Greg’s Halloween Costume Meaning
In Irish mythology, a kettle or cauldron can symbolize fertility.
In Celtic mythology, cauldrons were in locations surrounded by sea, and people spent their time feasting, playing music, and singing while waiting to access them.
Greg wears a ‘cauldron’ on his head and in the tavern enjoys a feast, singing, and playing games until it is time to continue his journey with Wirt.
Winds of Winter from the North
In Episode 8, Greg battles against the North Wind in the Cloud City realm.
The Old North Wind is a symbol of winter, and in turn – eternal darkness and death where a “dream of spring” is far off.
Casting the realm into night, the North Wind can manifest frost and is considered a storm deity. The North Wind is historically associated with being blown from a “land of cold and darkness” in Algonquin tradition.
The North Pole is approximately engulfed in darkness for 6/12 months – or half of the calendar year.
Fairytales and Fables in Over the Garden Wall Chapters 5 – 8
In Episode 7, Lorna may have been based on “Fiona” from Irish Mythology.
Fionnuala was cursed to wander the lakes by her stepmother with her brothers for all eternity before being freed by the indirect help of a marriage. I mentioned this legend because of Wirt and Lorna’s little “crush” cleaning sequence.
Lorna (Lornah) can also be derived from Lovern, a druid healer associated with “foxes” in Celtic mythology. Foxes are known to be ‘tricksters’ that achieve their selfish means in a sly way.
Babes in Toyland
The art style when Greg goes to “Cloud Land” and the title of Episode 8 may be in reference to the musical film Babes in Toyland.
Cloud City Cherubs
In Episode 8, Greg ascends to a higher plane.
On old maps, cherubs were depicted as the 8 directional winds that blew ships on or off course. Nowadays, we only recognize the four cardinal directions which have been flipped in their orientation.
In Numerology, the Number 8 symbolizes immortality as when turned on its side it becomes the infinity symbol. The number 8 is also associated with inner wisdom and love.
The Fisher King
In Episode 8, Wirt falls into a frozen lake and is fished out by a fisherman.
In Jeremiah 16:16, the lord sends out fishers to find those lost souls that hide, and then hunters to capture those running from judgement. When Wirt fell into the lake, he was being engulfed in the ‘eternal darkness’.
Fishers can be interpreted as preserving and originating life in a spiritual sense – just as the midwife does.
Fish caught in a net can be symbolic of “souls” being caught ready for salvation.
Over the Garden Wall actually takes place in modern day, Wirt and Greg are just wearing Halloween costumes! Who knew?
♪ You’re sinking like a stone,
Before the tide ♪
Wirt is depressed, listening to sad music in his room that tells him “the fight is over” and repeats lines referencing cold water.
Wirt seems to be a “real loser” in modern day as Beatrice said, but only because of his own distorted perception of reality.
Despite feeling like a loser and being intimidated by Jason Funderburker, Wirt appears to be well-liked by his high school peers.
The girl he has a crush on, Sara, may be interested in Wirt romantically as well. Greg and his stepdad encouraged Wirt to join band to get closer to Sara, most likely realizing that Wirt never noticed her (reciprocated) feelings for him.
Wirt declares “into the unknown” before leaving the house and running into Greg, who had been doing chores at Mrs. Daniel’s house for candy. Wirt reminds him that candy is free on Halloween, and Greg retorts that nothing is free in their world.
Greg wants to go look for frogs, a hunt that Wirt has seemingly put off to avoid spending time with his half-brother.
Wirt goes to school to give Sara the mixtape, and a trio of girls ask Greg what he’s dressed as for Halloween. Greg says he’s an elephant, symbolic of him never forgetting the Woodsman’s words to keep an even temperament while lost in the woods.
(The trio of girls are dressed as a rabbit, a cowboy, and an egg.)
Wirt wants to retrieve the tape from Sara and goes to a party but is hesitant to enter as he “wasn’t invited”. Greg enters, and Wirt is welcomed warmly by his classmates.
Some of Wirt’s classmates are dressed like the animals in Greg’s Cloud City welcome committee.
Sara invites Wirt to the “Eternal Garden” cemetery to hang out and the brothers eventually make it there.
The high schoolers have a philosophical conversation about things beyond “human understanding” and Jason Funderburker tells a story about a “guy with an axe” showing up which could be a reference to the Woodsman.
Greg offers to “pretend to be a dead elephant” to distract Wirt’s friends and while in the unknown Cloud City Greg becomes a ‘dead elephant’ by having his ‘trunk’ removed and reassembled by the cherubs.
A cop who had been trolling kids the entire night shows up to break up the illegal ‘witch gathering’ at the cemetery and Wirt takes it a little too seriously and jumps over the garden cemetery wall.
A black train almost strikes the two boys, and they fall into water while unconscious. (Wirt has a model of a black train back in his room at home.)
♪ The river runs co-o-ld ♪
Water is known as a symbol of purification, and a gateway to other realms. Samhain is a Gaelic holiday where the realms between worlds are viewed as weaker, allowing spiritual crossover that otherwise would not be…. common.
(This may explain why Wirt was thrown into a Gregorian era for part of his journey through the unknown.)
Symbolism in Over the Garden Wall Chapter 9
The Number 9 signifies a journey completed. It is the end of a cycle, an achieved perfection. A cube is made up of 3 x 3 sides, which equates to 9.
What Does Cloud City Represent In Over the Garden Wall?
Cloud City represents the celestial realm or heaven in Over the Garden Wall.
Greg was met with 3 trios of Angels (3 x 3 = 9) when ascending to Heaven (“the Celestial City”), or the “Cloud Land”.
Many world religions and spiritual systems recognize there being 9 realms of heaven and 9 layers of hell (think Dante’s Inferno). Hell is sometimes described as having “3 gates of brass, 3 gates of iron, 3 rocks of adamite” to denote its presence. (3+3+3 = 9)
(Adamite is a stone known to help one remain joyful, patient, and attain a ‘childlike’ state wisdom. Remember the Woodsman advice to Wirt and Greg for navigating the forest?)
Greg’s “baggage” brought to the afterlife is a single rock stolen from the garden of his elderly neighbor. Greg returns this rock to the garden during the 10th chapter in his life.
The soul must journey through purgatory between 9 realms to achieve a pure – or reincarnated – soul.
Wirt’s Halloween Costume Meaning
Wirt’s Halloween costume may be a civil war cloak with a Christmas hat that had cotton ripped off to resemble a Phrygian cap (like the Smurfs wear).
The red cap is typically associated with wisdom, or evildoers who deal in black magic.
Fairytales and Fables in Over the Garden Wall Chapter 9
The girls at Wirt’s school who give Sara the mixtape are dressed as a bunny, a cowboy, and an egg.
Kathleen dressed as a bunny could symbolize the “white rabbit” from Alice in Wonderland.
The girl in the middle dressed as a cowboy could symbolize the ‘wild west’ of the boys’ incoming journey through the woods.
And of course, Rhondi’s egg costume could symbolize Humpty Dumpty.
As Wilt and Greg sit on a wall in the “Eternal Garden” cemetery, have a “great fall” and almost crack their skulls before partially drowning and being sent into the unknown.
Over the Garden Wall Ending Explained
Symbolism in Over the Garden Wall Chapter 10
In Episode 1, The Old Grist Mill which was barren and rundown is revealed to belong to Beatrice’s family, who had “flown the coop” when turned into birds by a curse. The family is large – “fertile” and “abundant” in the home.
The family enjoys a meal of “mashed potatoes” that Beatrice’s mother calls “soil” – signifying Beatrice and her family are indeed dead, and she was somehow the cause of it. Beatrice’s guilt led her to becoming cursed, and her 10-chapter journey ends with “returning home” for a second life with her family.
In Episode 1, Greg offers 10 different alternative names for his frog. These ten names could be reference to the 10 chapters the boys have to journey through, and their metamorphosis while attempting to venture home.
Gregory’s name means to be ‘watchful’, watchman, alert or vigilant.
Wirt’s name is based on the expression “worry wort” to denote his nervous behavior. In concept art, the wiki claims his real name was Walter – meaning “commander of the army”.
In Episode 10, The frog is wearing a top hat and socks in the hospital room after leaving the unknown with the boys.
In Episode 9, The boys leaving the water symbolize them leaving the suspended stasis of purgatory.
In Episode 10, the 2 boys bear witness to Woodsman defeating the Beast. In the bible’s Book of Revelations, there are 2 witnesses to the destruction of “The Beast”.
There is a girl in a witch costume in Wirt and Greg’s hospital room, and one in a penguin costume. One of Greg’s proposed names for the frog was ‘penguin’.
The Song of Roland
The use of song in Over the Garden Wall is reminiscent of olde-timey fairytales and fables, where prophecy and important news were always hidden within the song’s lyrics. This show is no different, where key information is given to our protagonists Wirt and Greg, which was continually written off by the former as nonsense.
The Song of Roland (Childe Rowland) is an old ballad written in prose and details a knight’s adventure of going to the underworld and with the help of a wizard, rescuing his little sister and returning to life.
Symbolically, The Song of Roland is now used to refer to those who visited the underworld (“the unknown”) and returned safely to the living and mortal worlds.
Chapter 10 Review– A Cycle Completed
Back in the unknown, Greg is given a handful of impossible tasks by the Beast meant to break his spirit.
Greg is asked to find a golden comb and a spool of silver thread for the Beast. He instead brings a golden honeycomb, a “spider web on a stick”, and uses an optical illusion to complete the final request of capturing the sun in a China cup.
Greg seems to be buying time until Wirt comes to rescue him.
Back with Beatrice’s family, Wirt eats 2 spoonfuls of soil in the nest, only swallowing one of them. Beatrice’s mother later jokes about “eating soil” in the epilogue when offering her family a plate of mashed potatoes.
Since our bodies are believed to be may of clay according to the bible, and we all “return to the soil” in death I have a personal theory that the soil is what the deceased eat.
Those in purgatory are offered bland mashed potatoes – potatoes being grown in the ground and often caked in dirt when retrieved.
Wirt is offered a spoonful of dirt twice and proceeds to eat it – signifying his symbolic death and rebirth after leaving the unknown for the mortal plane. Likewise, Greg only sinks halfway in the mud with the frogs during the steamboat ferry ride but returns to the campfire covered in mud and burns an autumn leaf.
Both half-brothers are offered the option to “return to soil” and refuse it.
Does Greg Die?
According to the lore Over the Garden Wall has set up, a lost soul is not truly dead until they completely turn into an edelwood tree. Both Greg and Wirt were rescued before they could completely transform and be claimed by the Forest Beast.
When Wirt and Beatrice finally retrieve Greg, he says he “beat the beast” by eating leaves and “playing dead” in front of him – a callback to Greg offering to “pretend” to be a “dead elephant” to help Wirt back at the cemetery.
What Does the Beast Symbolize In Over the Garden Wall?
The Beast of the Woods symbolizes Old Scratch, the devil, the grim reaper, a scary monster, or even a fallen angel named Lucifer who preys on you the moment you lose hope.
The Woodsman turns into a Huntsman when confronted with the truth surrounding his daughter’s absence from the Beast’s Dark Lantern. The Huntsman chooses to blow out the Beast’s light after Wirt passes the torch to the Huntsman to “find closure” from his problems.
Is The Beast Dead?
The Beast’s light, or soul trapped inside the dark lantern was blown out by the Woodsman after some encouragement from Wirt.
While it seems like the Beast is dead, he may come back in another form. Just as Beatrice’s dog ate a black turtle and turned into a ‘ferocious beast’ I’m sure someone else in the woods will eat a black turtle and take up the necessary role.
♪ The fight is over,
Still the haunted ruins of night call your name ♪
Wirt and Beatrice say their final goodbyes, and Beatrice resolves to leave the forest and admit to her family she is the reason they all became bluebirds. Wirt wakes up and fishes himself and Greg out of the river as his friends venture over the garden wall to meet them.
The boys are taken to the hospital where they recount their strange tales during time spent in the unknown. Changed by his experiences, Wirt resolves to hang out with Sara and invites her over to listen to his mixtape…since he’s the only one out of the pair who actually has a tape player.
What Are Edelwood Trees?
All lost souls who perish in the woods become edelwood trees used to fuel the Forest Beast’s dark lantern. Through trickery and the exploitation of grief, the Beast used the Woodsman to do his bidding for him.
Through the promise of helping her family, Beatrice was used by Adelaide of the Pasture to do her bidding which in turn, benefitted the ‘eternal darkness’ or Beast.
Who Dies in Over the Garden Wall?
While Greg, Wirt, and the Frog make it out alive, most of the lost souls the trio met never leave the unknown. Beatrice the bluebird, Ms. Langtree, the Woodsman, Adelaide of the Pastures, Mr. Endicott, the people at the tavern, and Fiona are all dead.
The use of the circle lens heavily featured in old-timey silent films that were shown during Greg’s trip to Cloud City may hint toward our remaining characters in the unknown’s fate.
The Fisherman catches a black turtle from either the deceased Adelaide, Auntie Whisper’s cottage, or another source of influence yet discovered that creates the creatures.
Auntie Whispers and Lorna sit and have tea during the wintertime. Lorna reads a book titled “Tome of the Unknown” which was the pilot episode pitched to Cartoon Network by the creators.
The frogs from the steamboat resurface for air, signifying that they have not died and indeed are hibernating in the mud until spring to be reborn again.
Old man Quincy Endicott has a painting of him and Fred the Horse hanging in the parlor which Ms. Grey admires. This is a direct mirror image to Episode 1 where Endicott admired Grey’s painting in a cold, dark room.
The Tavern Toymaker has made figurines of people from the tavern shown in Episode 1, in an update Wirt, Greg, Beatrice, and the Frog have been added to the collection.
Ms. Langtree and her husband Jimmy Brown enjoy the circus with the primer school animal children. A white rabbit and the raccoon child are in the forefront – maybe a last nod at them still being ‘in wonderland’?
(I wonder if Jimmy Brown originally went missing because he died in the gorilla suit, as “everyone was too afraid” to approach him. After his death, he searched the unknown trying to contact his wife, who was initially afraid of him.)
The skeletons are shown again surrounded by the pumpkins and the Black Cat known as “Enoch”.
Beatrice’s dog is left at the mill in Episode 1 and the former bluebird herself stare out the window watching the wintertime snowfall. Beatrice’s mother jokes by saying “honey eat your dirt” twice, just as the mother fed Wirt a spoonful of dirt twice.
The Number 2 here could signify a second life on a different plane of purgatory within the unknown.
The fact that the family only enjoys mashed potatoes is evidence of this to me. The mill also has a second life after being destroyed by the dog turned into a beast from consuming the black turtle.
The family has a second chance at life on the mill.
♪ The loveliest lies of all ♪
The woodcutter sits out on the porch of his home from Episode 1 watching the snowstorm fall around him as the moon fills above him.
His daughter exits the (presumed) empty home holding a candle – symbolizing that the flame of her soul never went out and that maybe her father’s efforts weren’t all in vain.
The Changing of the Seasons and their Significance
The echoes of spring in Episode 1 symbolize new life, while the autumn leaves symbolize the dying of the harvest – or time the lost souls have on that plane. Beatrice’s words before about “having a short lifespan” acknowledge that lost souls have a limited time to wander the forest before the Beast sends his agents to claim them as edelwood trees to sustain his own (lantern’s) life force.
In Episode 2, the May Day celebrations signify that it is the “spring” or represents the “birth” of the 2 half Brothers’ journey as their physical bodies lie in the “spring” of water “over the garden fence” or “over the boundary” between 2 worlds with a half-visible moon on All Hallows Eve – a day where life and death can exist in equal parts.
The “gentle wind of spring” ushers in the blowing of autumn leaves before the harshness of “the north wind” before the 4 season cycle ends.
Not much going on in terms of a ‘true’ summer.
Autumn leaves fall throughout the series, mostly at once while the boys and Beatrice take the ferry to Adelaide’s Pasture. Beatrice (out of guilt and fear) does not want to return to Adelaide’s, telling Wirt they can go “tomorrow”.
Tomorrow brings the end of Autumn and begins the harsh North Wind and antagonization from the Beast at every turn for those left wandering the forest.
A time of rest, revitalization, and for the frogs – hibernation.
Winter is the death of life all around, and no souls are harvested from the field by Enoch. Lost souls wandering the woods are efficiently “reaped” before the North Wind sets in. All the characters left trapped in the unknown rarely venture out of the house during winter, the woods becoming an extra danger during that time.
Over the Garden Fence is Worth Watching
This miniseries is a masterpiece and I suggest you watch it to determine for yourself if Wirt and Greg really did go to purgatory, or if they simply hit their heads and through a dream hallucinated the unknown.
I really should wrap this review up now, since this may be my longest post on the website about any animated series.
But, tell me your thoughts!
Where do you think Wirt and Greg really went?
Were the things they saw and felt in the unknown true?
Why do you think the black turtles kept showing up?
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