Set in feudal times, the story begins in the Kingdom of Didd. A young peasant, Bartholomew Cubbins, lives on the outskirts of the kingdom with his family; he wears a simple red hat with a single white feather that has remained within the family for generations. One day, Bartholomew is sent into the town to sell some berries, when he comes across King Derwin riding through a street. As per law, one is supposed to remove his or her hat when the king passes by, but Bartholomew apparently does not follow the rule, despite having a hat in his hand, and is ordered to remove the hat on his head. Bartholomew does so, but another hat mysteriously appears; when he attempts to remove this one, yet another one appears. For unknown reasons, whenever Bartholomew removes one hat, another one appears on his head. The young boy is taken to the castle, where numerous people attempt to remove the hat from Bartholomew’s head, but all attempts end in failure. The royal hatter runs away in terror, the King’s young nephew fails to shoot the hats off with arrows, a great bowman similarly fails with a longbow, and Wizards attempt to curse the hat away but claim that their spell would only work in “Ten Short Years”. The King, exasperated by all the attempts, sends Bartholomew to be executed, but once again the laws get in the way as a person cannot be executed by the Executioner with his or her hat on. The King’s nephew suggests throwing Bartholomew from the highest tower as a punishment. The King, while mildly upset by the idea, agrees. Bartholomew begins to push his hats off rapidly as they climb the tower. As this continues, the hats begin to grow in extravagance and beauty from the 451st hat onwards. The 451st hat has two feathers, while the 452nd hat has three and the 453rd hat has three feathers and a small gem, and so on. Ultimately the 500th hat is revealed as the greatest, studded with massive gems, plumes of feathers from rare birds and gilding, although Bartholomew seems unaware of the fact. The king is stunned by the beauty of the hat, but the nephew is more incensed than before at the sight of it. He tries to push Bartholomew off the tower against the King’s wishes. But the King saves Bartholomew’s life by spanking the nephew as a punishment. King Derwin grants Bartholomew a reprieve, requesting all 500 hats in exchange for 500 gold coins. Bartholomew agrees and is sent home with his massive reward, while the King keeps all the hats in a massive chest to admire for years to come. The story ends with the narrator admitting that no one knows or ever knew what caused this strange event, but it is more than likely that it will never happen again.
The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins
The plot centers on Bartholomew Cubbins’s mysterious reappearing hats and the attempts of King Derwin’s courts to rid them from his head once and for all, centering on themes of vanity, punishment, and magic.