Countdown to Fables #100: The Barleycorn Brides

It is time for another edition of my twice-weekly rundown of every story that has appeared in Fables, counting down to issue #100.  Today’s story is the final one contained in the vol. 3 trade, A Storybook Love, and is titled “The Barelycorn Brides.”  In this story, Bigby Wolf explains to Flycatcher how the residents of Smalltown, on the Farm, settled their town and survived through extraordinary circumstances.  Story (spoilers) after the break.

The Barleycorn Brides

Issue #18
Art by Linda Medley

In the Woodland office in Fabletown, Bufkin the flying monkey, catches a teenager from Smalltown trying to sneak into a jar that is sitting on a shelf.  Bufkin takes the man, Eddie Underfoot, to see Bigby Wolf.  Bigby issues Eddie with a warning, and tells Bufkin to take him away, and make sure he returns to the farm.  After they leave, Flycatcher asks Bigby why he let the guy off so easily, when trying to steal magical artifacts is such a big deal.  Bigby explains the story of how the Lilliputians came to the New World.

In their Homelands, the Lilliputians had heard about the Adversary, and decided to send an army to aid in the war effort.  Upon landing after a voyage across the ocean, they find that they are in a land of giants.  After fighting off some creatures, they come back to their ship to find that a goblin has sunk it.  They trap the sleeping goblin who explains that there are more of them searching for the little people.  The Lilliputians decided that even if they could find a way home, they shouldn’t risk leading the goblins back to their homeland.  After a long time roaming this new land, they find other Fable refugees, and accompany them to the New World.  They establish Smalltown at The Farm, but are faced with the problem that there are not any women among them.  Eventually, Thumbelina arrives in Smalltown, but one woman created more problems than no women.

To solve this problem, it was decided that someone would return to the Homelands, and find the jar of barleycorn seeds that Thumbelina came from when one seed grew into a tulip and created her.  Johnny Bullhorn and the bird Arrow go on the adventure.  After several encounters in the Homelands, they come to the witch’s cottage, but find that everything has been removed.  A cricket named Mustard Pot Pete tells them that everything has been moved to the castle.  The three of them go to the castle, and find the jar being guarded by a bear.  The bear is actually a sorcerer, who agrees to carry the pot out if he can return with them to the New World.  They agree, the bear magically borrows Arrow’s wings, and they return to The Farm.  The barleycorn seeds are planted to create brides for the men of Smalltown, until there are enough women around to keep the population going naturally.

This may seem like a filler issue, but Willingham does use these moments to set up some of the history of the Fables, and also introduce people that will play a bigger role in the future.

Up next, The Last Castle.

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