"Every year, the Great Pumpkin rises from the pumpkin patch with his bag of toys..." -- Linus
The Great Pumpkin is an unseen imaginary character in the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz. The existence of the Great Pumpkin is a strongly-held belief by Linus, who has often been described as the most intelligent of the group, and yet, the most gullible. Linus firmly believes that on Halloween night the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch and flies all over the world delivering toys to all good children everywhere.
The Great Pumpkin was first referred to on October 26, 1959, and went on to become an annual feature of the Peanuts comic strip. It provided the basis for an animated television special, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and, to some extent, has entered into the wider popular culture.
Linus' belief is actually the result of a confusion of Santa Claus and the commercialization of Christmas with the Halloween holiday. While the other Peanuts characters go trick-or-treating on the holiday, Linus spends his time in a nearby "sincere" pumpkin patch, hoping for the Great Pumpkin's arrival with presents for Halloween. For decades, even as Linus' intellect grew and became more apparent, his mistaken notion was never to be outgrown. He would spend days on end trooping door-to-door, trying to make believers out of everyone he encountered. He very seldom succeeded... and even when he did (with Sally Brown, Peppermint Patty, and Marcie, who accidentally labeled it as the "Great Grape" or the "Great Squash"), no Great Pumpkin would show (as Sally told him, "You owe me restitution!").
Linus' faith in his guardian would never waver, however, and he would catch himself quickly at the first sign of self-doubt ("I'm doomed! One quick slip like that could cause the Great Pumpkin to pass you by!").
In the strip from October 29, 1961, Linus refers to "the record" of the Great Pumpkin's appearances in the past two years at particular pumpkin patches in Connecticut and Texas, respectively, and a few days later on November 1, Charlie Brown awakes a sleeping Linus in the pumpkin patch to say he heard a Great Pumpkin sighting "by... Freeman in New Jersey" over the radio. However, for the rest of the strip's run, such corroborating references are ultimately ignored and the Great Pumpkin is treated as strictly a figment of Linus' overactive imagination and quasi-religious conviction that defies all arguments against the idea.
In a series of strips from October 1964, Linus fails to get elected as school president because he uses his election speech to talk about the Great Pumpkin. The story arc was later adapted as the television special You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown.
In the strip from October 25, 1969, Linus contemplates the possibility that the Great Pumpkin and the Head Beagle could be one and the same. Snoopy, however, dismisses the idea as, "the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard".
The strip of Sunday, October 30, 1977 has a "thematic" illustration of the Great Pumpkin appearing in the title panel; in this context, it is not part of the actual "story" of the strip.
In some episodes of the French TV series, when the Great Pumpkin is mentioned, sometimes it's accompanied by a picture of the Great Pumpkin flying over a pumpkin patch.
Objects mistaken for the Great Pumpkin
Although Linus never actually sees the Great Pumpkin, over the years, he has mistaken several other objects for the Great Pumpkin but finds out the next day that he was mistaken.
- October 30, 1960: This is the first time Linus mistakes an object for the Great Pumpkin (and the second year Linus waits for the Great Pumpkin). Linus and Charlie Brown spend the evening waiting in the pumpkin patch. When they hear rustling nearby and then see something rising out of the patch, Linus, thinking it was indeed the Great Pumpkin, faints, at which point Charlie Brown notices it is only Snoopy. After coming to, Linus asks Charlie Brown if the Great Pumpkin left any toys, to which Charlie Brown replies, "No toys. Just a used dog". This strip's storyline was the basis for the climax of the main plot in It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, with Charlie Brown replaced by Sally.
- October 31, 1967: This time Snoopy sits with Linus in the patch when they hear rustling. Linus automatically thinks it is the Great Pumpkin while a terrified Snoopy reflects that he should have never left the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm. The next day's strip, however, reveals that it was just a "bird hippie" (Woodstock with a hippie hairstyle).
- October 30, 1982: During an important bowling tournament that has been going on the entire previous week, Charlie Brown accidentally throws his ball out the front door of the bowling alley. Linus and Sally both got knocked over by the ball as it plows through the pumpkin patch. Two strips later, Linus is still convinced that it was the Great Pumpkin. This strip's storyline was the basis for the main plot of the "Great Pumpkin" segment of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show episode titled "Snoopy's Brother Spike".
- October 31, 1983: Spike is traveling cross-country with his cactus to visit his brother Snoopy. By the time Halloween comes around, Spike's story is still being told in parallel with the Halloween-preparations strips. The two stories conclude together when Spike finally arrives in Snoopy's city: he wanders into the pumpkin patch and Linus mistakes his cactus for the Great Pumpkin.
- October 31, 1993: Again, Sally is sitting with Linus out in the pumpkin patch when a Jack O'Lantern rises in the air on the end of a stick. It turns out to be Snoopy playing a prank on Linus.
- October 31, 1996: Linus, this time in the pumpkin patch alone, sees something he does not immediately recognize. When he asks if it's the Great Pumpkin, it turns out to be Rerun with a sheet over his head. He has forgotten to cut the eye holes out of the sheet so he didn't know where he was or where he was going. Rerun spends the night roaming through the yard, and is still wearing the sheet in the next day's strip.
- October 31, 1999: In the final original Halloween strips before Schulz's passing in early 2000, Linus once again convinces Sally to join him in the pumpkin patch. Although they do see something creep up on them in the pumpkin patch, Sally is again outraged when it turns out to be Snoopy driving a Zamboni.
Other characters' opinions about the Great Pumpkin
Characters that Linus told about the great pumpkin are Charlie Brown, Lucy, Sally, Snoopy, Woodstock, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, Franklin, Schroeder, "Pig-Pen", Shermy, Patty, Violet, Roy and 5. However, all of them believe that Linus is crazy, and mock him because of it. They also mock him in It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
Although Charlie Brown does not believe in the Great Pumpkin, on at least three occasions he has accompanied Linus in his pumpkin patch vigils as an observer. In the strip series from early November 1959, the first year the Great Pumpkin was mentioned, Charlie Brown (with Lucy watching) uncharacteristically pokes fun at Linus for believing in the Great Pumpkin.
Lucy will often mock Linus for his belief in the Great Pumpkin. She refuses to admit the Great Pumpkin exists. However, she does seem to secretly believe in it also. One Sunday strip, from October 24, 1965, shows Linus writing another letter to The Great Pumpkin with Lucy right by his side the whole time criticizing him. But in the final panel, after Linus mails the letter and walks off, Lucy asks "Did you tell him I've tried to be good, too?"
Sally has been seen in the pumpkin patch more times than any
other character besides Linus. It is most likely due to her love for Linus. 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. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown depicts the first time she joins Linus instead of going out for trick-or-treat with the others. Yet the 1981 Halloween strip series gives the premise an ironic role reversal: it is Sally, not Linus, who tells another character, her friend Eudora, about the Great Pumpkin and brings her to the pumpkin patch. When the Great Pumpkin again fails to appear, Eudora berates Sally for wasting her time in the same manner that Sally usually turns on Linus.
Peppermint Patty, on at least two occasions, has been depicted waiting in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin, doing so because by her own admission she is very superstitious, trusting and, she also concedes, a little stupid. In the strip from October 28, 1966, she buys a dozen pumpkins from a supermarket and sets up her own "patch", but is informed by Roy that Linus would view this as insincere. When, in the following day's strip, she telephones Linus for advice, he is left struggling for an answer to her "theological problem". In the series of Halloween strips from 1975, Peppermint Patty informs Linus that she wrote and asked the Great Pumpkin for a baseball glove. Outraged, Linus informs her that children should not send requests to the Great Pumpkin, as if he were Santa Claus, but instead should happily accept whatever gift he brings them. The boy banishes Peppermint Patty from the pumpkin patch for "doing the worst thing a person could do: offending the Great Pumpkin".
Linus tries to pass on his belief to his younger brother Rerun in an October 28, 1996 strip. Rerun responds with "You're just trying to mess with my mind, aren't you?" However, 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.
Marcie sat with Linus in the Pumpkin patch on at least one occasion, and generally shows some belief in the Great Pumpkin by sometimes walking door-to-door with Linus giving out Pumpkin tracts. Marcie repeatedly calls it the "Great Squash" or the "Great Grape", much to Linus' annoyance and quick correction.
After Linus and Sally, Snoopy is the seen the most in the pumpkin patch. However, his presence might have been through manipulation by Linus, either being taken against his will or coerced through bribery. In one strip when he was having his picture taken with Charlie Brown and Lucy to help interest "non-believers", Snoopy was thinking, "From this moment on, I'm known as Rex". 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.
Violet also believes that the Great Pumpkin is a fake. In the strip from October 25, 1961, Violet berates Linus for believing in the Great Pumpkin. She calls him "just plain stupid crazy," says he is talking "like someone who had just fallen out of a tree" and also calls him "stark raving stupid!"
Appearances outside of the Peanuts canon
- In the song by The Royal Guardsmen, "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron" (recorded without permission from Charles M. Schulz and United Features Syndicate), Snoopy, the World War I Flying Ace, is said to have "asked the Great Pumpkin for a new battle plan".
- The Great Pumpkin is depicted as a man in black with a pumpkin for a head in the violent 1986 Peanuts parody Bring Me The Head of Charlie Brown by Jim Reardon, who was later a director and storyboard consultant for The Simpsons and co-writer of the Pixar film WALL-E.
- The character is parodied in The Simpsons’ "Treehouse of Horror XIX" episode as the Grand Pumpkin. The character returns in the Simpsons: Tapped Out game during the 2014 Treehouse of Horror update.
- The Great Pumpkin appears in the episode of Robot Chicken called "Vegetable Funfest", in which he is depicted as a Stephen King-esque monster that eats the majority of the Peanuts cast before being eaten by the Kite-Eating Tree.
- In the Foxtrot comic strip, Jason Fox is seen wearing a Great Pumpkin costume for Halloween. He wears a jack-o-lantern over his head. In the lantern's teeth are bits of security blanket for "irony".
- In the October 30, 2015 The Wizard of Id comic strip, the Wiz conjures up the Great Pumpkin, hoping to "make a dream come true for a special little boy" (that is to say, Linus). The Great Pumpkin that he conjures up, however, is a monstrous creature that chases the boy.
- The Great Pumpkin features prominently in several "Halloween carols", in which new Halloween related words are placed to pre-existing music, the lyrics of which are readily available on the Internet.