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Villain Overview

Perhaps we'd better make a deal.
~ The Beast tempting Wirt.
No. There is only me. There is only my way. There is only the forest, and there is only surrender.
~ The Beast to the Woodsman.

The Beast is the main antagonist of the Cartoon Network miniseries Over the Garden Wall. He is the enigmatic monster of the place known as the Unknown. His goal is to take the souls of the people who come to his woods—in this case, the brothers Wirt and Greg.

He was voiced by Samuel Ramey.

Appearance

Throughout the series, the Beast is shown to be a shadowy figure with bright eyes whose color changes seemingly depending on what he wants. He also has two large branch-like horns on his head.

When light is shined on him, it is shown that he is made of the spirits he had turned into Edelwood trees, showing as well their terrifying and depressing faces of hopelessness.

Personality

The Beast is depicted as the living embodiment of surrender, despair, and—as confirmed by his song—even suicide as the idea of an escape (which in particular is represented by the light from his eyes); as such, he manipulates events to the extent that the innocent people involved succumb thereto. Ironically, he appears to be motivated solely by his own self-preservation, indifferent to the suffering and death caused by his actions. In addition to his manipulativeness, he naturally possesses the traits of a traditional Satanic archetype as his name implies: deceitfulness, enigmaticality, and a tendency to enter bargains, all to conceal his otherwise conspicuous evil.

He is by no means a physically violent form of evil; he is never seen directly attacking anyone, instead inflicting harm by working through others. To this end, he is a master of deception who is very well-spoken and complaisant; he speaks matter-of-factly, knows exactly what to say to lost souls to keep them under his thumb, and may also feign concern—the traits that he uses to lull his victims into a false sense of security. He typically has an even temperament, but threatening the lantern or defying him for too long may cause him to lose some composure.

The Beast is also shown to have a tendency to operatically sing; as such, he has a song for chopping the Edelwood and another song directed at his intended victims.

Biography

Past

The Beast's past and origin is unknown and uncertain, but it is not unlikely that he simply manifested one day and tormented the inhabitants of the Unknown, having the power to possess everyone there to accomplish his plans; this even included animals as he took control over Beatrice's dog in the debut episode. Of all the strange creatures and beings that dwelled in the Unknown, the Beast was easily the most feared and dangerous. He had most likely manifested from human despair and depression over the course of history, and thus constantly attempts to instill such within those in the Unknown in order to maintain his sentience.

The Beast had bore an old lantern called the Dark Lantern, containing his soul in its flame. It is unknown when the Beast had lost this lantern to the Woodsman, but the former has haunted the man ever since. He had deceived the Woodsman into believing that his daughter's soul was sealed inside the lantern, and that she would keep on living only as long as the flame was lit. It is assumed that the Beast stole the soul of Anna. The lantern is kept lit by the oil from Edelwood, a type of tree that forms when the Beast captures the souls of children led astray. For many years the Woodsman has chopped the wood and collected the oil from it, not knowing of how the trees were grown. In the present, as Wirt and Greg stumble upon the Unknown, the Beast knows that he has found his next targets to turn into Edelwood and maintain the light of his lantern. The Woodsman along with other people from the Unknown seen throughout the episodes warn both Wirt and Greg about the Beast's presence in the forest.

Over the Garden Wall

In "Songs of the Dark Lantern", the Tavern Keeper warns Wirt and Greg that the Woodsman is the true Beast. During her song, she also reveals that the Beast is seeking hopeless children to turn into Edelwood so that they may later be reduced to oil to keep lit his lantern. Then, the Beast makes his first physical appearance when the Woodsman recuperates from being attacked by Wirt and Greg after they'd mistaken him for the former. At this point, it is revealed that the Woodsman and the Beast had fought for the lantern. Immediately upon assuring him that there is no need for violence, the Beast asks the Woodsman for the direction the two brothers have gone; the Woodsman demands that he leave the children be. The Beast simply retreats to the forest laughing and singing maliciously, concluding the episode.

In "The Ringing of the Bell", the Woodsman warns them of the Beast once more but, still assuming him to be the Beast, the two brothers flee from him while the actual Beast appears hidden behind a tree telling the Woodsman that they "need to talk".

At the end of the episode, the Beast is seen again along with the Woodsman. The former continues to masquerade as the latter's ally with his best interests in mind, reprimanding him for his carelessness but then further attempting to manipulate him into giving up the brothers while reminding him of his daughter's soul supposedly being at stake. When the Woodsman expresses his qualms with trading the souls of children, the Beast falsely insists that "[his] way", surrender and death, is the only option.

In "Babes in the Wood", when Greg sees a saccharine, fantastical dream in which he wishes to return to home along with Wirt by the magic of the Queen of the Clouds, she tells him that it is too late to save his brother as he has already fallen victim to the Beast through his despair and apathy. Greg then wishes to relinquish himself to the Beast to save Wirt, which "she" grants; it is then revealed—or at least heavily implied—that the "Queen" was an avatar of the Beast influencing Greg's subconscious in his sleep. Greg then follows the Beast into the woods, upon which a reinvigorated Wirt wakes up and notices his brother's absence while the Beast ominously sings from afar. Upon searching for him, Wirt trips into a frozen lake and loses consciousness.

In the finale "The Unknown", the Beast is first seen with Greg in a gelid snowstorm, wasting his time by assigning him with pointless or impossible tasks (such as having the Sun set into a china cup) with the intention to have him freeze to death. Later, while the Woodsman is desperately yielding the last drops of oil to keep the lantern lit, he faintly hears the Beast singing from within the forest and, with axe in hand, cautiously pursues the source of the sound—only to find that a branch- and leaf-covered Greg is dying at the hands of the Beast, soon to become another offering as an Edelwood tree which the Beast sadistically remarks "will burn nicely".

The Woodsman unsurprisingly refuses to take this offer, to which the Beast argues that the Woodsman has been grinding up lost souls for years. Horrified and devastated by this revelation, the Woodsman cries out that he wasn't aware of their source up until now; the Beast asks if it would have mattered for him and his daughter, then balefully demands that he feed the lantern. Still in shock, the Woodsman will not yield. Once the Beast resorts to suggesting that the Woodsman simply no longer cares for his daughter, the Woodsman refuses to humor the Beast for any longer and attempts to free Greg from the growing wood, during which the Beast makes a grab for the lantern. The Woodsman cuts this attempt short—and as soon as the Beast once more mentions the former's daughter as a crutch, the Woodsman, now enraged, finally engages the Beast and takes several swings at him with his axe; the latter simply backs away, laughing sinisterly at his futile efforts.

By the time a revived Wirt and Beatrice arrive and tend to Greg, the Beast has exhausted the Woodsman, now manipulating Wirt into assuming the role of lantern bearer with the same "promise" that Greg's soul will live on within the lantern. Immediately before acquiescing, Wirt has an epiphany and rejects his offer, casually pointing out the flaw in the Beast's plan: his suspicious overdependence on the lantern, as if his own soul is in fact what is trapped inside. Following this unplanned revelation, the Beast, out of desperation, attempts to intimidate Wirt into submission by encompassing him in pitch-darkness and implicitly threatening him with death; however, once Wirt reciprocates by threatening to blow out the lantern's flame, the Beast withdraws on his intimidation and demands him not to, confirming Wirt's suspicions. Wirt is unimpressed and leaves the lantern to the Woodsman, who has finally caught onto the deception.

Despite his loss, the Beast tries yet again to manipulate the Woodsman into cutting down the boys with his axe from behind their backs for more oil—and the Woodsman refuses once more, opening the lid of the lantern to extinguish the flame. The Beast is reduced to pleading and vainly persisting in his lies that the Woodsman will never see his daughter again if he proceeds—and due to years of conditioning to believe this, the Woodsman tearfully resists the urge to consider said pleas; however, he musters the courage to blow out the flame anyway and ends the Beast for good.

It is later revealed that the Beast had indeed lied about Anna, as she steps out of the Woodsman's old house and finally reunites with him in the conclusion of the series.

Quotes

♪ Tralalala, tralalala
Chop the wood to light the fire ♪
~ The Beast singing.
Yes. Come, Gregory. There is much to be done.
~ The Beast to Greg.
♪ Come, wayward souls, who wander through the darkness
There is a light for the lost and the meek
Sorrow and fear are easily forgotten
When you submit to the soil of the earth ♪
~ The Beast singing to Greg.
You've been grinding up lost souls for years!
~ The Beast revealing the source of the Edelwood trees to the Woodsman in order to convince him to kill Greg.
Give me my lantern.
~ The Beast to Wirt.
Your brother is too weak to go home; he will soon become part of my forest.
~ The Beast to Wirt about Greg.
I can put his spirit in the lantern. As long as the flame stays lit, he will live on inside. Take on the task of lantern bearer... or watch your brother perish. Come here.
~ The Beast's attempt at manipulating Wirt.
I'm trying to help you.
~ The Beast to Wirt.
Are you ready to see true darkness?
~ The Beast to Wirt.
You see, Woodsman? All who perish here will become trees for the lantern. Cut them down with your axe. Go! Now!
~ The Beast commanding the Woodsman.
Stop! You'll never see your daughter again, Woodsman! Are you really ready to go back to that empty house?! No! Woodsman!
~ The Beast's last words.

Trivia

  • Despite being the main antagonist of Over the Garden Wall, the Beast appears in only four of the episodes in the entire miniseries.
  • The Beast references, and may be inspired by, many different deities and entities; some of these entities may be the Shadow People, the Wendigo, the Will-o'-the-Wisps, Stingy Jack, Herne the Hunter, Aylith, the Nøkken, and Der Erlkönig (the Alder King). A case can also be raised for the entity being based on Lucifer, as "the Beast" alludes to the Antichrist, a constituent of the Unholy Trinity alongside the Devil and the False Prophet. To reinforce this correlation:
    • The Beast is the original bearer of the lantern and has brilliant glowing eyes (akin to Lucifer's name meaning "light-bringer").
    • He is a horned silhouette that lurks in the shadows and typically works from behind the scenes.
    • His interactions with others consist entirely of manipulation, deception, bargaining, and/or temptations into despair.
    • His tale ends in the bitter cold, much like Dante's Inferno.
    • His villain song is deliberately of the same cadence as that of "O Holy Night" and is essentially the corrupted form of a Christian song.

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