"Barleycorn Brides": It's a quiet day in the Fabletown business office. Little Eddie Underfoot, a Lilliputian, climbs up the high shelves to reach the pot of Barley Seeds placed there. But Bufkin the monkey catches him before he can reach it, and flies him down to Bigby's office. Bigby th

Fables #18 is an issue of the series Fables (Volume 1) with a cover date of December, 2003. It was published on October 8, 2003.

Synopsis for "Barleycorn Brides"

It's a quiet day in the Fabletown business office. Little Eddie Underfoot, a Lilliputian, climbs up the high shelves to reach the pot of Barley Seeds placed there. But Bufkin the monkey catches him before he can reach it, and flies him down to Bigby's office. Bigby then sends Eddie back to Smalltown, on the Farm, warning him that if he's caught again, he'd be officially charged. Flycatcher watches this exchange, and after Eddie is taken away by Bufkin, he asks Bigby why he let the Lilliputian go so easily. Bigby replies that it was a tradition for all citizens of Smalltown, once they came of age, to try and steal a seed of magic barleycorn. Flycatcher is intrigued, so, it being a slow day, Bigby agrees to relate the story.

Way back, in the Homelands, on a small island rested the kingdom of Lilliput, where it's people were no bigger than six inches in height. News about the Adversary's attacks on other kingdoms had reached them, and decided that they wanted to help out in the war effort. An expeditionary force was sent out by ship to the lands beyond.

It was on arrival that they noticed everything to be bigger than them, including the plants and animals. Worse still, their ship had been destroyed by goblins shortly after they landed. Capturing a lone goblin by tethering him to the ground, they learned that the goblins had told the Adversary about the possible existence of a tiny kingdom that a single battalion should find easy to conquer. This created a dilemma for the expedition force, since even if they repaired the ship, they couldn't go home for fear of leading the enemy right to their doorstep. So instead they decided to travel across the lands, looking for a new home. It was after many years when they learned from fellow wanderers about a portal to another world where other Fables have been seeking refuge.

And eventually, they found it. Once there, they established a new town in a remote area of the Farm, christening it Smalltown, and living in peace, for the most part.

There was a new problem they soon discovered, though. The town had no females. No one to love, none to procreate with, as they left the women behind in Lilliput. Appeals to the Fabletown government did no good, as a spell to either shrink some women or make the men grow was deemed far too expensive. It was like this until Thumbelina arrived in town, told to live there because of her small height. All the men wanted to impress her, and she was constantly fought over. However, a Lilliputian by the name of Johnny Bullhorn got an idea when he heard Thumbelina's story of her being born in a flower grown from a magical barleycorn seed owned by an old witch. All he had to do was find the barleycorn she was grown out of, and bring it back to Smalltown so everyone can have their own barleycorn bride. He was joined by Commander Arrow, a hawk and member of the Farm's air patrol squad. Together, they returned to the Homelands, to find the witch's house and find the barleycorn seeds.

It was a harrowing adventure, as Johnny and Arrow dodged dragons, hid from goblins, and fought off Gargoyles. Years had passed by back in the Mundy world, and eventually a memorial service was held in Smalltown for the two heroes thought lost. Actually, by that time, Johnny and Commander Arrow finally found the old witch's house, only to discover that it's been completely ransacked! They meet a cockroach named Mustard-Pot Pete, who tells them that everything magical has been taken to a fortress up in the hills. They invite Pete along, promising all the pots he could ever want in the Mundane world. Flying on Arrow's back, they cautiously make their way to the fortress' tower, sneaking in to the treasure room. Inside they came face-to-face with a brown bear, saying he was placed in charge of guarding the magical loot, before pointing Johnny to the pot of magic barleycorn. The bear, who was really a wizard that just looked like a bear, had only agreed to guard because he was unaware that there were still lands that the Adversary hadn't conquered yet, and up in the tower he was at least left pretty much alone. He then asks to join them, and that he can get them back home to Smalltown much faster. Arrow's wings are magically transferred to the bear's back, and he carries the trio, along with the barleycorn seeds, out of the tower.

Bigby concludes the story, Johnny and Arrow were hailed as heroes when they returned, and Mustard Pot Pete found a nice, new snug pot to live in. The bear lived on the Farm with them for some years before transforming himself into a human and moving to the Woodlands. The barleycorn seeds were planted that spring and a whole host of ladies were born from the tulips that sprouted, with Johnny Bullhorn becoming John Barleycorn, and the folk of Smalltown now included boys and girls as children were born and grew up. The magic seeds having served their purpose, were taken to the Fabletown business office where they still remained. Since then, there had been a coming-of-age ritual that has become tradition in Smalltown, in which a young Lilliputian tries to steal a seed for his very own barleycorn bride, known to be far fairer than any single Lilliput lass.

The story told, Bigby sends Flycatcher back to work.

Appearing in "Barleycorn Brides"

Featured Characters:

Supporting Characters:


Other Characters:



  • Magic Barleycorn


  • None

See Also

Links and References

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