Animation / Ontology

The Unknown, Our Greatest Fear

“Somewhere lost in the clouded panels of history lies a place that few have seen, a mysterious place called The Unknown. Where long forgotten stories are revealed to those that travel through the wood.”

Below is a link to the theme song of Over the Garden Wall:

Those are the first few lines of the theme song for Cartoon Network’s artistic masterpiece, Over the Garden Wall. The artwork and name initially brought me to this show, with its grisaille, fairytale style, but it was the amazing story and characters that kept me tuned to this animation.

A revamping of the classical fable, Over the Garden Wall places main characters, Wirt and Greg, in a mysterious forest, in which they must come to understand how to overcome their personal setbacks in order to escape. A slew of mystical characters emerge along the brothers, Wirt and Greg’s, path through the woods; some aiding them, while other’s attempt to challenge their strength. At no point does this story become boring or too predictable, which is something I might have expected with a show on children’s programming.

Without me divulging into a lengthy and dedicated post about how great this show is for children, as a fairytale, or its subtle, but perfect homage to Dante’s Inferno, I want to simply point out the constant theme in Wirt and Greg’s story. Fear of the Unknown. Over the Garden Wall proves its uniqueness with the recurring element of thrill that becomes increasingly effective with every episode. Characters and settings are effectively introduced with shocking details in each episode while maintaining its usual element of surprise, the fear of The Unknown, an enigmatic setting within the show.

Not much after this point will make sense to anyone that has not seen the show, so here’s a heads-up. Throughout this miniseries, many characters Wirt and Greg run into come with more-than-surprising backgrounds. To mention just a few are Aunty Whispers and her niece, Enoch, Beatrice, the Woodsman, and the Beast in the woods. All tend to have an underlying motive that the brothers do not pick up on until later in the situation. Among all of the antagonists on Over the Garden Wall, I believe the final one that the brothers must face is The Unknown, which I find great.

The Unknown is one the vaguest aspects of this series, which makes sense because that’s what fear is derived from. It is constantly referenced as the entire setting Wirt and Greg are at, while seeming to be the darkest parts of the woods. Whatever the Unknown is Wirt continuously attempts to stave it off from him and his brother, though they eventually become wrapped in its presence. It is a great touch of Patrick McHale to show that even the Beast in the woods is afraid of being in complete darkness. It is the absence of knowing what is to come that grips most in terror, such as being in the dark or witnessing the grotesque face and deep voice of Aunty Whispers. These are characteristics we are intrinsically opposed to since they typically preface some form of danger or ill will.

Just as the unknown is to be heeded due to its potential danger, reaching the opposite end of the continuum is just as dangerous. With the optimistic naivety of Greg one could face the unknown without any fear, though one should rightfully be cautious of some things due to actual harm. Over the Garden Wall teaches children to strive for a balance between Greg’s overly enthusiastic demeanor and Wirt’s excessive cautiousness to continue their own adventure.

Since the soundtrack for this series is something to revel over, here is a link to the soundtrack in its entirety:


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