The whimsical cartoon work of Charles M. Schulz has always had a deeply philosophic side, which is perhaps best displayed tonight in the seasonal rerun "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" at 8:30 p.m. on Channel 11.
The story may involve all the Halloween traditions, but the issue is really the difficult challenge of faith, as practiced by both Charlie and his friend, Linus.
Do you remember? The former manages to retain his hope for treats, although consistently getting a rock, while the latter sticks to his belief in a myth that is given no credence by others.
These are eternal parables, indeed, dating back far longer than this charming special. The show was first broadcast in 1966, and was the second TV collaboration between Schulz, producers Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson and the late pianist Vince Guaraldi. (The first "Peanuts" special was "A Charlie Brown Christmas," in 1965.)
Here is a quick trivia quiz in observance of the annual return of "The Great Pumpkin" to TV, if not to Linus' pumpkin patch. (Source: "The Peanuts Trivia & Reference Book" by Monte Schulz, the cartoonist's son, and Jody Millward; Henry Holt and Company, Inc.)
1. According to Linus, what criteria determine whether The Great Pumpkin will pay a visit?
2. In the show, Linus persuades one other character of the existence of the spirit. Why is this person willing to believe?
3. In the "Peanuts" comic strip over the years, at least two others have bought into The Great Pumpkin myth temporarily. One of them was even "deprogrammed" by her parents. Who were they? (Hint: They often are seen together.)
4. Many of the key characters in "The Great Pumpkin" were actually late arrivals to the comic strip. Who were the original characters?
5. One of the key players in tonight's show was also the first baby born into the comic strip. Do you know who?
THE ANSWERS, PLEASE:
1. Linus steadfastly maintains The Great Pumpkin flies around the world giving toys to children, and every year pays a visit to "the most sincere" pumpkin patch in the world.
2. It is Charlie Brown's sister Sally, smitten with Linus, who chooses to have some short-lived faith in her "sweet baboo."
3. In the strip, Linus at one time also persuaded both Peppermint Patty and her bespectacled friend, Marcie, to believe. As a result, Marcie's parents took her to be "deprogrammed" (in a sequence spoofing cult beliefs).
4. "Peanuts" was a development of an earlier Schulz strip called "L'il Folks." The first "Peanuts" characters (appearing in just seven newspapers in October 1950) were Charlie Brown, Shermy, Patty (not Peppermint Patty) and Snoopy.
5. And the first baby born in the panel was none other than Linus Van Pelt, Lucy's blanket-toting, Great Pumpkin-believing little brother.