Literature / The Ugly Barnacle

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The most unforgettable scene from The Film of the Book.

"Once, there was an ugly barnacle. He was so ugly that everyone died. The end."
The first and last lines, and Arc Words for the story as a whole

The Ugly Barnacle is a classic Short Story in the Pacific Literary Canon, the authorship of which is generally attributed to one Peter F. Patrick (then using the pen name 'Patrick Star'). According to legend, 'Star' improvised "The Ugly Barnacle" in an attempt to cheer up a friend who believed himself to be suffering from a case of The Ugly or The French Disease as it was then knownnote . Unfortunately, the tale failed to console him in any manner whatsoever.

Despite the fact that Barnacle failed to accomplish its initial and indeed primary goal, it eventually found its way to the intellectual community of the Département Bikini des Basses Terres. There many came to hail the story for its harsh realism, innovative use of minimalism, and detailed characterization. Slowly but surely, the story came to spread from its cradle within the nurturing environment of the Bikini des Basses Terres (where it was subject to some refinement, the story as most know it in fact being the Third Edition) to grace the entire world with its compelling narrative and execution.

An animated film adaptation of the tale, also titled The Ugly Barnacle, was produced in 2000. Unusually, the movie is both a Film Of The Book and a Biopic, as it focuses on both the legendary story and the events surrounding its creation. The film managed to avoid many problems commonly faced by page-to-screen adaptations, a fact which many critics attributed to P.F. Patrick's extensive personal engagement with the film-making process, and the script-writing and casting+design in particular. Experience this work of art here, albeit dubbed over in English,and now in Venezuelan Castilian. Unfortunately the original French is not available, as the Département Bikini des Basses Terres Ministère de la Défaite claims exclusive French-language broadcast rights and has a very well-funded anti-piracy sub-office.

Compare to Hemingway's Six Word Story, another tale famous for its ultra-minimalist prose.

UPDATE: The story was found in various languages, including the original French version. Here it is.

This short story provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody: Subverted. This story isn't even remotely affectionate towards The Ugly Duckling.
  • All Just a Dream: Sort of. In the end, it turns out to to be a story Patrick was telling to SpongeBob himself.
  • The Aloner: If the barnacle didn't die in the end, he probably became one of these.
  • Ambiguous Ending: We don't know exactly what happens to anyone in the story: the barnacle's victim(s) could have easily just come back to life. Plus, the story doesn't tell us anything about what happens to the barnacle at the end.
  • Ambiguous Situation: A number of tantalizing details are left out. We aren't told, for instance, how or why everyone dies, nor whether or not that includes the barnacle itself. Similarly, the barnacle's relationships with the rest of the cast are quite vague.
  • And Man Grew Proud: One interpretation of the barnacle, of how it became ugly enough to kill everyone and of how, and why, we still tell its harrowing tale.
  • Animalistic Abomination: The titular barnacle. He's apparently so ugly that he can kill everyone just by being ugly!
  • Antagonist Title: If you interpret the Barnacle as a villain.
  • Anti-Hero/Anti-Villain: Possibly.
  • Anyone Can Die: And everyone does in the end.
  • Apathetic Citizens: For all we know, they did nothing to prevent getting killed en masse by the barnacle's ugliness.
  • Apocalypse How: Could be Species Extinction, could also be Total Extinction, the latter depending on whether you interpret everyone dying as including things like plant life and bacteria.
    • It does specifically say everyone and not 'everything'', which heavily implies that non-sentient life survived
  • Apocalypse Wow: See above.
  • Artifact of Doom: Another interpretation of the barnacle.
  • Artistic License Biology: The barnacle is referred to as male, yet most actual barnacles are hermaphrodites.
  • Asshole Victim: Either everyone else or the barnacle can be this, depending on who you interpret as the villain.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The ending could be this, assuming the barnacle is evil.
  • Bad Powers, Bad People: Possibly.
  • Barnacle of Mass Destruction
  • Beautiful Void
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: And conversely, ugliness equals evil.
    • Possibly inverted if one considers the Barnacle to be the hero of the story and everyone else to be irredeemable bullies.
    • Alternately, it could be an exaggeration by showing the aforementioned counterpart to the trope.
  • Beige Prose: The barnacle's plight is narrated in the most blunt manner possible.
  • Beyond the Impossible: It shouldn't be possible for someone to be so ugly that everyone dies, yet the ugly barnacle does it.
  • Big Bad: The barnacle's ugliness. Possibly, the Barnacle himself.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Another interpretation of the ending. Everyone died but at least they don't live in a world with an ugly barnacle.
  • Black Comedy: To some, the story is a hilarious nihilistic take on children's stories.
  • Book Ends: The first three and last three lines are identical.
  • Bowdlerise: In the Italian translation, everyone runs away.
  • Brown Note: The most common interpretation of how everyone dies.
  • Cerberus Syndrome: The beginning of the story seems upbeat and implies the Barnacle will overcome his ugliness but then everyone dies.
  • Character Death: Everyone dies at the second sentence of the story.
  • Character Title: The titular Ugly Barnacle.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Early in the story, Patrick mentions that the barnacle is ugly. The barnacle's ugliness kills everyone later on.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: If mere barnacles are enough to Kill 'em All, imagine what other things in the ocean are able to do... Not a lot, since they're all dead.
  • Crapsack World and/or Crapsaccharine World: In the Barnacleverse, the existence of a single unattractive crustacean is enough to trigger the Apocalypse. Despite this, Patrick narrates the tale like a bedtime story, and originally told it as an attempt to cheer up Spongebob.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Without giving too much away, the ending is pretty merciless.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Nobody had any chance of stopping the Barnacle from killing everyone.
    • Technically unspecified.
  • Darker and Edgier: The second part of the story is much darker than the first part.
  • Doorstopper: Possibly one of the harshest inversions of this trope in the history of fiction.
  • Deconstruction: Of the traditional fairy tale where the hero can overcome his or her challenges through believing in him or herself. Instead, everyone died.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The first part of the story implies that the barnacle will overcome its ugliness by the end. Unfortunately, the ugliness proves to be so lethal that it kills everyone.
  • Downer Beginning: "Once there was an ugly barnacle..."
  • Downer Ending: "He was so ugly that everyone died. The end."
  • Driven to Suicide: One of the many interpretations of how everyone died.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: On pretty much everyone at the end, succumbing to the Barnacle's mere ugliness.
  • Dull Surprise: Patrick maintains the same incredulous facial expression and tone of voice throughout the entire story, even while delivering the Wham Line.
    • And, depending on your definition of "everyone", this may include the barnacle itself.
  • Eldritch Abomination: How else to describe a being that can apparently kill everyone by its mere appearance and/or presence?
  • The End: The words that conclude the story.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: Admit it, you thought it was going to involve the barnacle overcoming its ugliness, didn't you?
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Seeing as how everyone was killed by the barnacle's ugliness, this may very well be the case for the rest of the world as a whole.
  • Enemy to All Living Things: The barnacle. So very, very much.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The barnacle.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's a story about a (maybe the) barnacle that is ugly.
  • Eyeless Face: Real Life Barnacles do not have eyes, or even any kind of identifiable facial features, so the reader can assume that the same applies to The Ugly Barnacle, and may be part of what makes it ugly enough to kill everyone.
  • Finger Poke of Doom: The Barnacle's mere appearance is enough to kill everyone.
  • Flash Fiction: It's an extremely short story, probably one of the shortest ever written.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale
  • Framing Device: The rest of the episode of Spongebob Squarepants.
  • Furry Confusion: The barnacle in the story is presumably anthropomorphic, yet ordinary barnacles exist in the universe this story is set in.
  • Gainax Ending: The story starts off so happy, and then everyone dies.
  • Gambit Roulette: Assuming that the barnacle's actions were deliberate, there was really no way to guarantee that it would be potent enough to kill everyone.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: The barnacle himself counts if he is indeed a villain, on account that his end result of killing everyone pretty much spells an Apocalypse How scenario for the world.
  • Genre Shift: The viewer was promised an uplifting tale of someone overcoming their appearance issues. They get it...for one sentence.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Possibly the fate of everyone before dying, since the barnacle was ugly enough to kill people by its mere ugliness.
  • Gonk: Deconstructed.
  • Gut Punch: The second line completely changes the tone of the story.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: We're never told whether the Barnacle was good or evil, nor are we told the allegiance of Everybody. This means that depending on how you look at it, it could be a great victory, a great tragedy, or neither that Everybody died.
  • The Grotesque: The barnacle.
  • Happily Ever After: Subverted.
  • The Hero Dies: Assuming he was a hero. Patrick did say that everyone died, so shouldn't that include the barnacle itself?
    • It's not specified who the hero is, but assuming one existed, we can safely assume he/she died.
  • Hero Killer: Assuming he's not meant to be The Hero, the barnacle is this.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Assuming "everyone" includes the barnacle, his ugliness was enough to do himself in.
    • Averted if Everyone is a single person.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Averted. Everyone dies.
  • Informed Deformity: We're told that the protagonist is ugly, and we're told of the ramifications of his ugliness, but it is never made clear exactly what features he has that make him so ugly. It's possible that if we were told, we would die.
  • Invincible Hero: It's difficult to do anything with a "hero" who can and did go up against anyone and kill them.
  • Invincible Villain: If the barnacle was in fact a Villain Protagonist, then any hero would not be able to stand against it, for he would just kill them along with everybody else.
  • Kill 'em All: The ugly barnacle was so ugly that everyone died.
  • Killed Off for Real: Everyone at the end.
  • The Juggernaut: Nobody was capable of stopping the barnacle, thus, everyone died.
  • Killer Rabbit: The barnacle. Were you really expecting it to kill everyone in the story's second sentence?
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: Patrick doesn't include many non-essential details about the cast.
  • Machinima: In Super Scribblenauts, one can type in 'Nuclear Ugly Barnacle', which creates an ugly barnacle, and then everybody dies.
  • Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: There's never any evidence that the barnacle intends to kill everyone.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Everyone dies.
  • Mind Screw: After the ending, we're left with a great big pile of unanswered questions. Just how did the Barnacle's ugliness kill everyone? Did the Barnacle himself die? Literally nothing is ever explained.
  • Minimalism
  • Mood Whiplash: At first, it sounds like a charming fairy tale. At first.
  • Never Say "Die": Averted. In fact, it's used at least once every fifteen words.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Considering that you can't even go near the barnacle without dying...
    • Inverted: Everyone(single person named Everyone 'or' just every single person) is pretty weak if he/she/they can get killed by a creature's ugliness
  • Nobody Poops: Either played straight or averted, depending on whether you count the emptying of bowels after death.
  • No Dialogue Episode: At no point in the story does a character speak.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: The story features no romance at all, and instead focuses on the tragedy of everyone dying.
  • Nominal Importance: The story's protagonist, the ugly barnacle, is the only character to get a name.
  • Nonstandard Character Design: Most people in the universe of The Ugly Barnacle are so nondescript that they are glazed over in one word ("everyone"). The titular barnacle, by contrast, is described as being so ugly that everyone died.
  • No Name Given: The main character is simply known as "the barnacle" or "the ugly barnacle".
  • Obliviously Evil: How some people view the barnacle.
  • Offstage Villainy: Assuming that the barnacle is evil.
  • Oh, Crap!: Presumably the thoughts of everyone before they died.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: One interpretation of the barnacle itself.
  • Once Upon a Time: Averted. The closest the story comes to using the phrase is "Once there was an ugly barnacle."
  • Overly Long Gag: This entire page itself
  • Patricide: It's implied that the barnacle had a father, and said-father had died from the sight of his son's ugliness.
  • Protagonist Title
  • The Scapegoat: The story does not actually say that the barnacle, or its ugliness, was responsible for everyone dying, so this is another interpretation.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Most barnacles range between being 1-7 centimeters in size, but evidently, this barnacle was large (and ugly) enough to kill everyone.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: Name one other story with a barnacle as a protagonist. Ironically one of the main reason barnacles rarely appear (their ugliness) is a central part of this story.
  • Selfmade Orphan: The barnacle's parents were not sheltered from the slaughter.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: "A Marine Crustacean of the Subclass Cirripedia Which, To Its Own Misfortune, Was Quite Repugnant", the adaptation for Verbose audiences.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog
  • Short Story: Taken to its logical extreme. The story is only 15 words long, and has exactly 59 letters.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The only source we know of concerning the barnacle is one Patrick Star.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The soundtrack would suggest this to be a much more upbeat story than it is.
  • Spinoff: The Verbose Barnacle is a longer, classier version of the original story that manages to stick the source material very well.
  • Spiritual Successor: To the saga of Kevin the Hamster.
  • Starfish Aliens: Perhaps the reason why the barnacle was so ugly was that it was from a different planet? Everyone can be quick to assume that anything not like them is ugly. Also the storyteller is a starfish.
  • Subverted Kids Show: In the bluntest way possible.
  • Surprise Creepy: You probably thought this was an Affectionate Parody of The Ugly Duckling until everyone died from the barnacle's ugliness, right?
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: One of many interpretations on how everyone died from the barnacle's mere ugliness, was, simply being exposed to the mere sight of the barnacle, and then just dying in an instant.
  • Sword of Damocles: The threat of the barnacle is enough to stop anyone from doing anything. Ever.
  • Take Our Word for It: The story doesn't explain how the mere appearance of the Barnacle, who is vaguely described with the subjective term "Ugly", is able to kill everyone, unless the word wasn't meant to be taken literally and was meant to imply something more sinister or dangerous about the barnacle, most likely a physical feature of it.
  • 13 Is Unlucky: The actual story, discounting the "The End" tag, is exactly thirteen words long, and you can't get much unluckier than having everyone die.
  • Trailers Always Lie: It was set up in a way to make it seem as if it is an uplifting tale about someone overcoming the stigma of being ugly. Instead, we get a Kill Them All Downer Ending.
  • Troperiffic: The story is only 13 words long (15 if you count The End), but it has 137 tropes, plus another 41 under YMMV, 37 character tropes, and 9 on the Trivia page, approximating to 16 tropes per word. There are more subpages of The Ugly Barnacle than there are words in the story.
  • True Beauty Is on the Inside: Apparently, not so much.
  • Truth in Television: In Real Life, Barnacles are quite ugly. Not enough to kill everyone, but their repulsive anatomy note  and lack of any identifiable features, including eyes or even a face, were obviously a fitting inspiration for something as exceedingly hideous as The Ugly Barnacle.
  • Twist Ending: Be honest: Were you expecting the barnacle to kill everyone?
  • Ultimate Life Form: Arguably, the barnacle, as it was able to kill everyone.
  • Undead Author: If everyone died, then how did Patrick survive to tell the story? And how did SpongeBob survive to hear it?
  • Unreliable Narrator: The story was initially told by Patrick Star. Of course he would get some details wrong. And it didn't even help the person he was telling it to!
  • Walking Wasteland: Technically averted. Barnacles can't walk.
  • Villain Protagonist: Possibly.
  • Wham Episode: The story starts off calm and unassuming. The second sentence changes everything in a Darker and Edgier fashion with a Kill 'em All conclusion.
  • Wham Line: One near the very end that completely changes the direction the story was heading.
    He was so ugly that everyone died.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Surprisingly averted. Not only is the barnacle portrayed sympathetically, but the story even implies that it's possible for barnacles to be cute.
  • Who Writes This Crap?!: SpongeBob's reaction to hearing the story.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The Barnacle.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Well, you can't do it and survive...

"That didn't help at all!"

You just read 137 tropes on a joke from SpongeBob SquarePants. Good job wasting a good 15 minutes or more.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/TheUglyBarnacle