Still following the Woodsman’s directions, Wirt and Greg come across the Beatrice the talking bluebird again. She’s trapped in a thornbush and offers to do the boys a good turn after Greg frees her. She tells them that she can take them to Adelaide the Magical Woman of the Woods, who could send them home, but Wirt really isn’t up for a magical Wizard of Oz esque quest and they continue looking for a town with a reluctant Beatrice in tow.
They come to a town called Pottsfield where the locals are celebrating the harvest in pumpkin costumes and dancing to music that’s ever so cheery and it’s not creepy at all…
Beatrice, to her credit, is all “go, go, go, go” but Wirt has never seen The Wicker Man and tries to ask one of the Pumpkin people for directions. When the townsfolk learn that Wirt and Greg ain’t from around heyah (and that Greg stepped on one of their pumpkins), they lock the doors and bring the boys before their leader, Enoch.
In silky, menacing tones, Enoch tells them that he must punish them for their transgressions and sentences them to…a few hours community service.
Thinking that they’ve got off lightly, the boys spend a pleasant afternoon doing farm labour until they’re given their last task; digging two holes in an abandoned field. Beatrice is all “…seriously?” but Wirt refuses to believe there’s anything amiss until Greg uncovers a skeleton.
The pumpkin folk arrive and Wirt thinks that they’re goners but then the skeleton walks out of the hole, puts on some pumpkins and then joins the other townsfolk who are, of course, all skeletons. As Pottsfield celebrates another successful harvest, Wirt, Greg and Beatrice continue on their way having learned a valuable lesson about prejudice.
Sometimes the creepy skeleton people just don’t want you to step on their pumpkins.
How was it?: Hard Times at the Huskin’ Bee is really the episode where I feel Over the Garden Wall becomes what it’s supposed to be. If I had to pick a word to describe this series it would be “Autumnal” or, if you’re American: “Fally”, and Huskin’ Bee is by far the most Fally episode of the bunch. Everything from the pumpkins, to the massive turkeys that the Pottsfielders use as transportation to the harvest setting. This episode also sees a major jump in animation quality (and Episode 1 was no slouch to begin with). Couple this with the beautiful backgrounds…
And you have something truly special.
Huskin’ Bee also sees the central trio of Beatrice, Wirt and Greg finally come together and the interplay between the three is great. It’s also prime Over the Garden Wall in that it’s beautiful, funny and at times, really, really creepy.
Holy Crap, that sounds like…: No superstar voices here but I will still namecheck Melanie Lynskey as Beatrice. Beatrice’s adorable design and Lynskey’s sweet, Disney Princess-esque voice contrasts hilariously with Beatrice’s cynicism and sarcastic barbs.
Can I see some references?: Huskin’ Bee doesn’t draw too obviously from any one literary source, but more the general genre of creepy small rural townships. Think The Wicker Man, Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery and a good chunk of HP Lovecraft’s oeuvre. For animation references, I dunno. Maybe a reference to the 1929 Disney cartoon The Skeleton Dance? Or they could just be skeletons.
This frog’s name is: Wirt Junior.
Yeah, this is the one that really made me fall in love with the series. It’s gorgeous and the weird village of creepy but non-hostile skeleton/pumpkin people you just sort of encounter on your quest really does feel like something out of an Oz book.
OK, wow, so, there is one big moment here, but it’s kinda vaguely spoilery, so, if you want to avoid ANY spoilers, there’s a paragraph break, don’t read this further.
Ok, so, historically speaking, a POTTER’s field is a burial place for people too poor to afford a proper burial and unclaimed bodies. Now, it’s vaguely implied that, true to name, Pottsfield is the afterlife of the Unknown, inhabited by skeletons, and, when Enoch asks Writ at the end of the episode if he wants to stay, he just says “you’ll join us someday”, implying Pottsfield is the afterlife, which not only casts his line about “good harvest this year” in a different light, but means that his asking Writ to STAY is actually asking him to, well…And they mention at the start that Wirt and Greg are “a bit early”, which takes on new context due to…Certain events of the final episode I cannot get into.
Also, the whole skeletons, pumpkins, ETC creates an overall Halloween motif, which is significant for…Other reasons.
I really wish there’d been a real husking bee in the episode.
This episode sits squarely in my wheelhouse of children’s horror… creepy, intelligent, and makes you think again… but without leaving me with nightmares. That’s yet to come (shudder), but for now, I’m good.
I think you tapped the nail on the head with describing the show as “autumnal”. Iconography is kinda key for horror shows (like stranger things and fairy lights) and this episode sums up the aesthetic of the show so well.