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I Recommend: “The Garden Wall” - A Retelling of Dante’s “Inferno”

Dragoș Geicu, XI E

Over the Garden Wall, the kid-friendly Cartoon Network series created by Patrick McHale, greets us with a story like nothing else. We are presented with a variety of characters making their way into The Unknown, a place where lost travellers end up. But what if I were to tell you that this kids' show is actually a retelling of one of the best epic poems of the 14th century, “The Inferno” written by Dante Alighieri?

In Dante’s “The Inferno” we are introduced to a man named Dante, wandering the woods, lost in his own thoughts and no obvious road to take. “Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.There he meets Virgil, who serves as his guide while travelling across Hell and Purgatory. The similarities are there, always were, from the characters, the symbolism of all ten episodes and all the way to the gruesome details presented in both stories.

In Over the Garden Wall, one of the protagonists is Wirt, a teenage boy lost in his own thoughts, who also likes poetry, and he represents Dante. Alongside him, Greg, Wirt’s half-brother, a little child, represents Virgilius. Beatrice, a former human transformed into a bluebird that accompanies them both on their journey, represents one of Wirt’s love interests. Then we have The Beast, an incarnation of The Devil. Wirt and Dante are symbols for one another, both are poets, more focused on writing and knowledge rather than physical action, and both are insanely in love with a woman. Dante loves Beatrice and Wirt loves Sarah, and they too are upset when they are not in the presence of these two women.

They both are similarly dressed, with Wirt’s red hat and Dante’s red cap, but most importantly, they both share their journey with a companion. Wirt travels to The Unknown with Greg and Dante travels to Hell with Virgil, whilst they both call it a “pilgrimage”. Greg, like Virgil, never leaves his companion’s side; both are skilled in songs and poetry and they are the lead/continuation for Dante and Wirt in their “pilgrimage”. Beatrice, In “The Inferno” is Dante’s love interest and tasks Virgil with leading Dante through Hell. In Over the Garden Wall, Beatrice tricks Greg into going deeper into The Unknown and is sort of a love interest for Wirt. The Beast is obviously The Devil - both have hairy backs and can travel on all parts and circles of The Unknown and respectively, Hell, as a shadow just to watch. Finally, The Unknown is Hell, both areas are places souls travel after they have died and serve as a personal “Hell” for its characters which reflect our characters' emotions and struggles.


Episode 1, “The Old Grist Mill”, serves as the surface for The Unknown.

Episode 2, “Hard Times at the Huskin’ Bee” is about Limbo, a place neither out nor in Hell. Pottsfield, the town from the episode, is covered by muted colours that could be boring to the eye, also in this episode, nothing is happening, the townsfolks are all skeletons, a symbol of how the souls in Inferno are waiting for a Heaven that never comes.

Episode 3, “Schooltown Follies” represents the circle of Lust, in the Inferno. In this episode, a teacher named Ms. Langtree is driven into depression because her lover Jimmy B. left her, and her body falls ill just when thinking about him. In “The Inferno” souls are blown back and forth by a violent wind representing the power of “Lust” to blow someone endlessly through relationships in life.

Episode 4, “Songs of the Dark Lantern”, represents the circle of Gluttony. In both stories it is raining, the characters find a tavern, guarded at the door by a dog, while the circle of gluttony is guarded by Cerberus, a three-headed dog. In the tavern, Wirt and Greg find a dozen plates stacked on big piles after eating the food on them and other plates with fresh food prepared to be devoured, but they never see them eating- this is a symbol of how people abused food in life and after they died.

Episode 5, “Mad Love”, represents the circle of Greed. In this episode, our characters meet an individual named Quincy Endicott, a very rich man who dedicated his entire life to making money all for himself and not by helping others. Dante and Virgil must pass the river of Styx, like in Greek mythology - by paying the ferryman two coins to cross - just like at the end of the episode. Endicott’s torture is more mental rather than physical, which is loneliness.

Episode 6, “Lullaby in Frogland”, represents the circle of anger, where souls lie helplessly in a sea of mud, Wirt, Greg and Beatrice board up a ferry full of frogs to cross a river and find Adelayde. At the end of the episode, our characters watch as the frogs from the ferry relax in a big puddle of mud.

Episode 7, “The Ringing of the Bell”, represents the circle of Heresy, in which the souls are burning for eternity. Our characters arrive at Auntie Whisper's house, who uses a magic bell to control the demon inside Lorna, her nephew.

Episode 8, “Babes in the Wood”, represents the circle of Violence, in which the souls are forced to stay in the river of their victim’s boiling blood for eternity. Dante and Virgil are to cross this river. In this episode, we start by seeing our characters navigating a river in sort of a boat, until they find a forest; just like Dante and Virgil, they find a forest with humans, respectively souls, turned into trees.

Episode 9, “Into the Unknown”, represents the circle of Fraud. This episode takes place before the actual story and outside of The Unknown. Wirt is trying to be something he is not just to impress his love interest, Sarah. This episode takes place during Halloween; dressing as someone or something else can also be considered fraud.

Episode 10, “The Unknown”, represents the final circle of Hell, Treachery. This episode takes place during a powerful snowstorm, with Wirt, Greg and Beatrice finally defeating The Beast and reaching the end of their stories. Dante and Virgil arrive at the final circle, where people are frozen in ice, right across from Lucifer; another similarity is that Lucifer is constantly eating the souls of the sinners while The Beast is eating the lost traveller’s souls. In the end, both teams manage to escape their Hell and be happy again in the world of the living.

To conclude, “Over the Garden Wall” and “The Inferno” are both very similar when it comes to characters and symbolism, and too many details line up for it to not be intentional; so, what comes after The Inferno?

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