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The Great Pumpkin

The Great Pumpkin is an unseen character in the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz.

The Great Pumpkin is a holiday figure (comparable to Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny) that exists only in the imagination of Linus van Pelt. Every year, Linus sits in a pumpkin patch (apparently the same one every year, but one year he and Snoopy were caught on a privately owned pumpkin patch, and perceived by the owner's daughter as crazy) on Halloween night waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear. Invariably, the Great Pumpkin fails to appear, and a humiliated but undefeated Linus vows to wait for him again the following Halloween.

This premise was reworked by Schulz many times throughout the run of the Peanuts strip, and also forms the basis for the 1966 animated television special It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

Characteristics

According to Linus, on Halloween night, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch he deems the most "sincere". The Great Pumpkin then flies through the air to deliver toys to all the good little children in the world. Apparently, one can cause the Great Pumpkin to pass him or her by merely saying "IF he comes", as opposed to "WHEN he comes". This could mean that the Great Pumpkin is likely to pass by anyone who doubts his existence.

Differences between the Great Pumpkin and Santa Claus

According to Linus, when writing to the Great Pumpkin, you don't ask him to bring you anything specific: you wait for whatever he brings you. In this way, Linus states a difference between the Great Pumpkin and Santa Claus (children writing to Santa include in their letters lists of exactly what they want). Also, Linus states that Santa gives away toys because it's his job and it's expected of him, whereas the Great Pumpkin gives away toys because he feels he is fulfilling a moral obligation.

Non-Linus believers

Throughout the duration of the comic strip, characters other than Linus have been seen believing in the Great Pumpkin (although this almost never lasts too long, often it only lasts one night when he does not show).

  • In one strip, Linus claims that the Great Pumpkin has in fact been seen by people other than himself in pumpkin patches across the country, if not the world, indicating that if the Great Pumpkin is indeed imaginary, his existence is at least believed in by people other than (and even more suggestible than) Linus.
  • Linus's sister Lucy never directly expressed belief in the Great Pumpkin (Indeed, she usually has the most vehement criticism of Linus's belief). The punch line of one strip comes after Linus writes to the Great Pumpkin. After subjecting her brother to a barrage of criticism, Lucy nonetheless asks as he mails the letter "Did you tell him I tried to be good, too?" possibly indicating a secret belief in the Great Pumpkin that she simply hides behind her crabby personality and adeptness at disagreeing with others. Another strip shows Lucy building a pumpkin patch for her and Linus to sit in. But when Linus sees it he rebukes Lucy saying, "This is the most hypocritical pumpkin patch I've ever seen!" The last frame of the strip sees Lucy sighing in a patch of pumpkins — at the local supermarket.
  • Linus tries to pass on his beliefs to his younger brother Rerun in a 1996 strip . Rerun responds with "You're just trying to mess with my mind, aren't you?" But Rerun goes along with Linus as he goes door-to-door telling others about the Great Pumpkin, often trying his best to keep his distance.
  • Charlie Brown's little sister, Sally, is usually the one person who Linus convinces to sit in the pumpkin patch. Sally's number of Halloweens spent in the pumpkin patch, in fact, are surpassed only by Linus's. Sally's belief in the Great Pumpkin is quashed every year she waits in the pumpkin patch, yet the next time, presumably out of love for Linus, she believes in the Great Pumpkin just as strongly. (The animated television special It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown depicts one such Halloween, with Sally joining Linus in the pumpkin patch. Someone does arise from the pumpkin patch that night — Snoopy, in his Roy Brown flying ace outfit from the Great War . Sally then screams outrage over missing tricks-or-treats and the kids' Halloween party. In the newspaper comic version its Charlie Brown who stays with Linus in the pumpkin patch when Snoopy "arises". )
  • Peppermint Patty had been depicted at least once waiting in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin. She says she does so because she is very superstitious, as well as trusting, and, as she admits, a little bit stupid.
  • Marcie had sat with Linus in the Pumpkin patch on at least one occasion, and generally shows belief in the Great Pumpkin, albeit usually calling it the "Great Squash" or the "Great Grape".
  • Snoopy can occasionally be seen sitting in the pumpkin patch with Linus, albeit all the evidence points to his presence there being against his will or he was bribed to go with cookies. There was one occasion, however, where it suggests that Snoopy was there willingly. Lucy had said to Linus "Anyone who sits in a pumpkin patch for five days waiting for the Great Pumpkin is crazy!" She then sees Snoopy sitting in the pumpkin patch, looking rather embarrassed, indicating that he had indeed been sitting there for five days waiting for the Great Pumpkin.
  • Charlie Brown, in one instance, gave evidence that points to the idea that he might believe in the Great Pumpkin. In the strip published on November 1, 1961, Charlie Brown stated that he had heard on the radio that the Great Pumpkin had appeared in a "very sincere" pumpkin patch owned by someone named Freeman in New Jersey.

Objects Linus mistakes for the Great Pumpkin

Over the years, Linus would continue to mistake obscure objects for the Great Pumpkin. Once, Linus had Snoopy sit with him, and they heard rustling, which Linus and perhaps even Snoopy thought to be the Great Pumpkin. The next day's strip, however, revealed that it was just a "bird hippie". In another year, Spike was traveling across the country with his pet cactus to visit his brother Snoopy. By the time Halloween came around, Spike's story was still being told in parallel with the Halloween-preparations strips. The two stories concluded together when Spike finally arrived in Snoopy's city: he wandered into the pumpkin patch and Linus mistook his cactus to be the Great Pumpkin. Also, in 1999 — which was Schulz's final Halloween before his passing in the following year — Linus convinced Sally to join him in the pumpkin patch once more. Although they did see something creep up on them in the pumpkin patch, Sally was again outraged when it turned out to be Snoopy driving a Zamboni.

Informing the public

Linus takes his mission to inform the public of the Great Pumpkin's existence very seriously, and once jeopardized his campaign for student body president by mentioning him in a campaign speech (a storyline adapted as the animated special You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown). He regularly goes from door to door to spread the word of the Great Pumpkin, having a very embarrassed Charlie Brown help him on one occasion.

Religious metaphors

Linus's seemingly unshakable belief in the Great Pumpkin, and his desire to foster the same belief in others, has been interpreted as a parody of Christian evangelism by some critics. Others have seen Linus's belief in the Great Pumpkin as symbolic of the struggles faced by anyone with beliefs or practices that are not shared by the majority. Still others view Linus's lonely vigils, in the service of a being who may or may not exist and who never makes his presence known in any case, as a metaphor for man's basic existential dilemmas. Charles Schulz himself, however, claimed no motivation beyond the humor of having one of his young characters confuse Halloween with Christmas. In the 1959 sequence of strips in which the Great Pumpkin is first mentioned, Schulz also has Linus suggest that he and the other kids "go out and sing pumpkin carols".

Appearances outside Peanuts

In the 1986 film Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown, directed by Jim Reardon, the Great Pumpkin appears as a man in a black robe with a pumpkin for a head, and puts a bounty on Charlie Brown.

In a segment of Robot Chicken (Episode 6 of season 1 - Vegetable Funfest), features a segment in which Linus summons the Great Pumpkin (voiced by Abraham Benrubi) through the use of black magic (he is seen lighting a chicken on fire inside a pentacle). The Great Pumpkin then proceeds to kill off all of the children except for Charlie Brown, who is saved when the Great Pumpkin is eaten by the Kite-Eating Tree.

The World/Inferno Friendship Society, a Brooklyn based punk orchestra, celebrates the rising of the Great Pumpkin every year on Halloween, playing their song "Pumpkin Time" only at their annual HALLOWMAS show.

The Great Pumpkin is mentioned in the Royal Guardsmen song "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron". The Great Pumpkin and Linus are mentioned in the Helloween song "Halloween".

In Bill Amend's comic strip FoxTrot, Jason dresses up as the Great Pumpkin, with pieces of a security blanket in his teeth (to provide, he says, "a bit of irony").

The Great Pumpkin is mentioned by George in the first episode of Dead Like Me.

Oregon State University Football coach from 1965 to 1975, Dee Andros was given the identifying nickname "The Great Pumpkin" by Spokane sportswriter Harry Misseldine for his portly physique and habit of leading his team onto the field in a bright Orange windbreaker.

The concept of the Great Pumpkin features in a story by John Aegard that was featured as Episode 25 on Escape Pod, the scifi podcast.

In the episode "I Won't Die with a Little Help from My Friends (part 2)" of the series My Name is Earl, Earl states that the only trace of religiousness in his brother Randy is believing in the Great Pumpkin.

Notes

See also

The Pumpkin King


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