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The Tale of Lord Barleycorn is a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction written by Rambling Puppet on FiMFiction.

Hollow Shades is a small farming and lumberjacking community, a tiny bubble of Equestria smack in the middle of the Everfree Forest. Things have been hard-going since the lumber mill was closed down by its aristocratic owner, and the town is slowly dying. The fate of the town weighs heavily even on the town's youth, with young filly Corn Crib of the Harvests being intimately aware of the fact things aren't going well for her family and friends. And then, a ray of hope comes into her life when she encounters a most unusual figure on the road nearby; a talking scarecrow, one that claims to be Lord Barleycorn, the King of Autumn, who promises to help her however he can. Can the two of them succeed in breathing life back into Hollow Shades?

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This fanfic provides examples of:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: A variation; the Hollow Shades weather crew have literally rewritten the book on handling "wild" weather due to having to cope with Everfree's weather systems without having enough pegasi to brute-force it to ponykind's wills like in, say, Ponyville.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The ultimate source of Hollow Shades' woes; the lumber mill was originally owned by a lazy and disinterested noble, who then passed it on to his equally bad Spoiled Brat son. The pair regarded the lumbermill as just a turn-key operationnote , but the son became a true Pointy-Haired Boss; he demanded that the lumberjacks wear uniforms — which they had to pay for out of their own pockets — and that any damages to the equipment likewise were paid for and replaced by the workers, or they just went unnoticed. Eventually, this drove the majority of the lumberjacks away, and when word of his incompetence and greed spread, he couldn't lure any new workers to replace them. Ultimately, he locked the place up and abandoned it. The town has been slowly dying ever since.
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  • Big Good: Lord Barleycorn, who stops in Hollow Shades and strives to restore the town simply because he wants to make Corn Crib happy. Even more impressive when you consider the real origins of "Lord Barleycorn". In-Universe, Carrot Top is very impressed that someone who wound up in a whole new world, naked, alone and afraid would forget all about seeking help for themselves to instead help a bunch of strangers.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: In the Harvest/Apple clan feud. The Apples are right that the Harvests can real jerks about it, but the Harvests are also right that the Apples can be kind of smothering and that individuals have a right to be known for their own merits.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Just why does Slim Harvest's old chest of clothes contain so many things sized and shaped perfectly for Lord Barleycorn?
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  • Children Are Innocent: Corn Crib is the best example of this, but all of the children of Hollow Shades have their moments.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: Pinkie Pie is noted as being an incredible good chef, usually, but also overly fond of "experiments".
  • Dr. Jerk: Cherry Nova, a cynical, sarcastic, bad-tempered, dismissive type who openly looks down on his impoverished neighbors and spends most of his days drunk.
  • Eldritch Location: Hollow Shades, functioning more on the Everfree's rules than Equestria's, seems this way to more sheltered ponies, but the locals have grown quite adapted to it.
    • Equestria itself actually comes off as pretty eldritch when you think about it. For starters, the Ponyville-native farmer Carrot Top is dumbfounded, and a little aghast, at the idea of plants being able to grow themselves when Corn Crib explains the hassle of dealing with the local weeds in chapter 11.
  • Evil Cripple: "Evil" is a rather strong word for it, but the cynical local Dr. Jerk, Cherry Nova, has a badly crippled wing that makes flight impossible for him.
  • The Fair Folk: Barleycorn claims to be a king of these. Later, he meets the real deal in a hidden shrine... They don't approve of his God Guise, but nevertheless let it slide because (1) it's still entertaining to watch and (2) he agrees to help restore said shrine to its former glory.
  • Fridge Brilliance: An In-Universe example; Applejack realises that Rainbow Dash's aversion to "wild weather" makes sense after thinking about it, eventually deducing that, to a pegasus from Cloudsdale, clouds that move on their own would be kind of like lumber that crawls around under its own power to her; it's just unnatural.
  • Friend to All Children: Lord Barleycorn just dotes on foals, and even names "Protector of Foals" as one of his many, many titles.
  • Genius Bonus: An In-Universe example; when Lord Barleycorn starts singing the song "John Barleycorn" to the town, most of the ponies find it off-putting at first, until the town brewers realize it's actually an allegory for harvesting barley and turning it into beer, which they cheerfully explain.
  • Ghost Town: Hollow Shades lost its lifeblood when the lumber mill was closed, and is slowly falling apart into physical and financial ruin. Most of the ponies have left, while those who've remained mostly don't have anywhere to go or else can't afford to leave.
  • God Guise: Lord Barleycorn is really a human named Jack, who dressed up as a scarecrow to hide his presumedly horrific appearance from ponies and made up the Lord Barleycorn guise to befriend and calm Corn Crib. Things just sort of snowballed from there.
  • Idiot Ball: Despite Carrot Top's warnings earlier, Lord Barleycorn drops claims to Applejack about being an old friend of Princess Celestia. Naturally, Twilight immediately contacts the Princess based on this claim when she hears it from Applejack.
  • I Have Many Names: Lord Barleycorn has a vast litany of titles, constantly dropping new ones. He confesses that even he can't keep track of all of them.
  • Irony: Daisy and Lily deeply want to meet a real forest spirit – but, when they meet Lord Barleycorn, they adamantly insist he's "just" a puppet being remote-controlled by a talented and charming unicorn who won't show himself. Carrot Top is dumbstruck by this. As for Lord Barleycorn, well...
    Lord Barleycorn (thinking): "Seriously? The kid thinks I'm the god of autumn, her mom thinks I'm her farm's spiritual guardian, and these two choose to believe I'm just a puppet?"
  • It's All About Me: A variant of this is why the Harvests, and to a lesser extent Carrot Top, are alienated from the Apples. The Apple clan takes great pride in its reputation, but only as a whole. When individual members of the family chafe at being thought of as "just another Apple" and want to be known for themselves, the Apples can get quite hostile about this "arrogance".
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: Both Invoked and Subverted in the course of the story.
    • Invoked: Jack takes up the Lord Barleycorn guise because the first pony to see his naked face flees in terror. Even those ponies who don't believe Lord Barleycorn is an actual spirit still often think of him as creepy from what they can see of his unusual (read: bipedal) anatomy... especially the fact he has the canines of a predatory species.
    • Subverted: When Carrot Top finally sees Jack's real face, her reaction can be summed up as "...that's it?" She admits he's unusual to her, but she hardly thinks he's got any reason to be classified as terrifying. No horns, no pustules, no tusks, nor any other sorts of protrusions or deformities she can think up. It's subtly implied in other chapter that the shoemaking pony who fled Jack is the town's resident coward.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Despite their fleeing their homes in Hollow Shades out of fear of Lord Barleycorn killing them for food, the bunnies lose any sympathy from the reader by virtue of the fact that, really, they're rotten little thieves who are stealing food from the mouths of destitute pony farmers and expecting to get away with it scot free. Even In-Universe, Applejack disdains the little monsters and thinks they're just making up lies to "justify" why they went from terrorizing the farmers of Hollow Shades to doing the same thing in Ponyville.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Lord Barleycorn is actually a human, a failed actor named Jack, teleported into Equestria by some unknown Wild Magic surge. This is actually revealed in the very second chapter, which is the first time he appears.
  • Lethal Chef: Zigzagged with Harvest Moon. Her family hates her cooking... but that's only because they're so poor that they have to live off of wild food that she scrounges up during exercusions into the forest, like dandelions, cattails and mushrooms. She's actually a pretty good cook, it's just that the ingredients she has are very uninspiring, and there's only so much she can do when they don't taste very nice to begin with.
  • Meaningful Name: Hollow Shades has a lot of meanings to it that cross into Genius Bonus.
  • Moral Myopia: The bunnies of Hollow Shades consider it unthinkable that they should be punished for constantly raiding the farms of the destitute ponies living there, despite having an entire forest full of wild vegetation they could be eating instead.
    • Applejack privately thinks that Fluttershy has a case of this, given she tends to be more concerned about the distress of varmints like rabbits than the crimes they're willing to commit against farmers. She keeps this to herself because she accepts that Fluttershy doesn't really mean anything by it, it's just she cares about critters so much that other ponies tend to get lost on the wayside.
  • Muggles Do It Better: Zigzagged. Part of why Hollow Shades isn't doing so well is that the natural energies of the Everfree Forest resist the comparatively meager Earth Pony Magic of the settlers, and though the farmers would be very productive elsewhere, their farming practices and traditions have been established on virtue of that magic, so they're not doing very well. Equestria literally has no need for pesticides, weedkillers or even crop rotation because the natural magic has been tamed and subordinated by earth ponies over generation.
  • Mundane Fantastic: As in the original show, ponies from outside of Hollow Shades treat things like not having to worry about self-spreading weeds and controllable weather as natural and are freaked out by the fact Hollow Shades, as part of the Everfree Forest, doesn't work that way as well, instead working more like Earth.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Carrot Top (fan-created name) and Golden Harvest (official toyline name) are both used for the same pony, and even worked into the story. Carrot Top's real name is Golden Harvest, but she keeps to her alias because she doesn't want Applejack to realise she's a distant relative; she does like Applejack, but she wants to be known as "Carrot Top, Ponyville's premier carrot farmer" rather than as "that weird Apple pony who prefers growing carrots to apples".
    • Applejack obliquely refers to the events of Bats when she considers how this isn't the first time that Fluttershy has sided with varmints over hard-working farmers.
    • Apparently, the events of the first episode aren't the only time Twilight's been tricked by Pinkie into eating hot-sauce cupcakes.
  • No Antagonist: There's no Big Bad here, just the unpleasant situation and ponies trying to sort it out. Even Cherry Nova is just a cynical Jerkass at worst rather than actively evil.
  • Odd Job Gods: The Season Lords, the four spirits who reign over the four seasons and make sure that the year spins over in the proper order. They also double as Small Gods, because there's really only a need for them in places outside of Equestria, as the ponies do all the work
  • Refuge in Audacity: Lord Barleycorn's plan to revive Hollow Shades; personally launch a Halloween festival and use that to draw tourists from outside of the town to come and stay, providing an economic booster shot that the town can then parlay into fixing up the immediate problems before they can start rebuilding.
    • Really, Lord Barleycorn's existence counts as this.
  • Scary Scarecrows: Completely averted. The local varmints are completely indifferent to the scarecrows that the farmers put up to try and vainly chase them away. And Lord Barleycorn himself, despite being a walking, talking scarecrow, is an affable, friendly, aristocratic figure who easily makes friends with ponies despite his somewhat intimidating size.
  • Secret Keeper:
    • Corn Crib and Harvest Moon are initially the secret keepers to Lord Barleycorn's existence, though that ends when he makes himself publicly known.
    • Likewise, intially, only Corn Crib and Leadfoot know about Lord Barleycorn secretly hiding in their barn, with Carrot Top later being let in on the secret.
    • The entire Harvest family agrees to keep Carrot Top's real name and thusly her relationship to Applejack a secret.
    • Only Leadfoot and Carrot Top are aware that Lord Barleycorn isn't really a spirit at all, just some stranger who dresses up like a scarecrow. And of the two, only Carrot Top is aware of Barleycorn's real name and species.
  • Shout-Out: Lord Barleycorn makes use of a ton of music and stories with an "autumnal" theme throughout the story.
    • He sings a little of "John Barleycorn" in chapter 4, and then sings the whole thing (with violin accompaniment) when he makes his grand display to the town in chapter 24.
    • He sings "It Takes A Fool To Remain Sane" by The Ark in chapter 9 to cheer up Corn Crib.
    • He plays "Binks Sake" on the violin to convince Daisy and Lily to stay in Hollow Shades in chapter 16.
    • Chapter 20 is where he first starts to really display his musical skills; he plays Man of Constant Sorrow, Meditation and Kiss the Rain, and sings Binks Sake to the foals at the local school
    • In chapter 24, he plays "Emmanuel" and plays to and sings ponified versions of "This is Halloween" from The Nightmare Before Christmas and the refrain from Blue Öyster Cult's "Harvest Moon", all whilst making his grand display to the denizens of Hollow Shades.
    • He plays "Roundtable Rival" in chapter 29.
    • He performs both the classical music piece "Scherezade" and "Grim Grinning Ghosts", a Disney Halloween Special song, in chapter 31.
    • He spins a tale about the Easter Bunny to Wind Row in chapter 12, claiming that it's the being who paints all the eggs of all the birds and that he used tales of its skill to send all the bunnies away from the area.
    • In chapter 24, he refers to "Trick or Treat", a 1957 Disney Donald Duck cartoon featuring Donald, the Triplets and Witch Hazel. A few chapters later, he reveals he plans to have the foals put on a play version of that very story as part of the Halloween celebration.
    • At one point, he gives one of his titles as "He Who Walks Between The Rows", which sounds awfully similar to "He Who Walks Behind The Rows".
    • He tells Corn Crib and Leadfoot a kid-friendly version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail as a story in chapter 14, and admits to having also told her the story of Aladdin and Robin Hood in chapter 15.
    • In chapter 25, he tells a ponified version of the story of "Jack of the Lantern".
  • Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!: Cherry Nova's cynicism receives some In-Universe puncturing, with several ponies asking just what Lord Barleycorn has to gain from the "con game" Cherry insists he's playing. We the readers know he's completely Wrong Genre Savvy about what's going on, of course.
  • Spoiled Brat: The Queen of Winter, Lord Barleycorn's sister, is a rather vain and vapid soul. He even confides she calls herself "Queen" in the hopes that this will make her sound more important than Celestia and Luna, who are "mere" Princesses.
  • Walking Spoiler: Why, Lord Barleycorn himself, of course.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Several of the Ponyville ponies find "wild" (self-controlled) weather to be unnatural and terrifying. Rainbow Dash ultimately confesses to having a genuine aversion the stuff, although she sees her trip to Hollow Shades as a chance to help her get over it.
  • Wild Magic: The Everfree Forest is officially classified as a "wild magic zone", which is why it doesn't work under the same laws as the rest of Equestria does. Theoretically, with enough time, effort and ponies, it could slowly be tamed and made part of Equestria, but that's a work of generations, by the sound of it.
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