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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 story

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 known (the two later realized that the friend actually had a bad case of halitosis after eating a homemade "sundae" of sorts.) 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 but later renamed Something Smells, 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 scriptwriting 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, as well as Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman's Adaptation. for a similar approach as The Film of the Book.

This short story provides examples of:

  • 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.
  • Accidental Murder: Possibly; we don't know if the barnacle's killing of everyone was intentional or not.
  • Acclaimed Flop: Easily one of the most memorable moments from SpongeBob SquarePants, yet Patrick never received any money for his work. This was most likely due to negative reception early on by Spongebob.
  • Action Survivor: Someone must've survived the Ugly Barnacle for this story to be able to circulate.
  • Adaptation Species Change: The German version is called "Der hässliche Blaubarsch" (The Ugly Blue Perch).
  • Affectionate Parody: Subverted. This story isn't even remotely affectionate towards The Ugly Duckling.
  • Alas, Poor Scrappy: Yes, the barnacle is really ugly, but you have to feel sorry for him when you get to his implied death.
  • All-Star Cast: The story was narrated by none other than Patrick Star. No Pun intended, since he is the only narrator.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Is the barnacle a pitiful woobie, or pure evil?
    • Does "Everyone" refer to everybody in the immediate vicinity, everyone in town, everyone in the world, every single living thing that has ever existed, or a single person named Everyone? We never get the answer.
      • According to the Spanish translation, "everyone" is not the name of a single person. note 
      • Does "everyone" include non-sentient creatures, such as protozoa?
  • 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, nor exactly how "everyone" died.
  • 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.
  • Angst? What Angst?: The barnacle doesn't dwell very long on his ugliness, or the horror and guilt from killing everyone, assuming he wasn't a villain or among the casualties. Then again, neither does Patrick Star.
  • 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 or a Villain Protagonist..
  • Anti-Hero: Possibly. If the barnacle was meant to be the good guy, he qualifies, since ugliness isn't usually seen as a hero's trait, much less lethal ugliness.
  • Anti-Villain: The Barnacle is possibly a Tragic Villain, who kills everyone as a response to harassment for his ugliness.
  • Anyone Can Die: And everyone does in the end.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Nobody did anything to prevent getting killed en masse by the barnacle's ugliness.
  • Apocalypse How: Either Species Extinction or Total Extinction, depending on whether "everyone" includes non-sentient life or not.
  • 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 whom you interpret as the villain.
  • Ass Pull: We're given no foreshadowing at all that everyone could die because of the Barnacle's ugliness.
  • Audience-Alienating Ending: Patrick told SpongeBob the story with the intention of cheering him up, due to SpongeBob's own ugliness. This probably explains why SpongeBob was not amused by the Twist Ending.
  • Author Appeal: Patrick lives underwater - that's probably why he chose a barnacle as the ugly character.
  • Awesome Music:
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The ending could be this (since everyone, which may exclude the barnacle, dies), assuming the barnacle is evil.
  • Bad Powers, Bad People: Possibly. One possible way the barnacle could have killed everyone is by using some sort of evil superpower that may be connected to his ugliness.
  • 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, or that there was No Antagonist and the Barnacle killing everyone was an accident. 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 that's exactly what happens.
  • 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 hilariously nihilistic take on children's stories.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The titular barnacle kills everyone but its goals, personality and backstory are so unclear that it can be determined as being a hero, villain or neither.
  • Book Ends: The first three and last three lines are identical.
  • Bowdlerise: In the Italian translation, everyone runs away.
  • Breakthrough Hit: This one helped Patrick Star become a Household Name.
  • Broken Base: It is either a haunting reminder of our own mortality, a needlessly dark children's story, or a great example of Black Comedy.
  • Brown Note: The most common interpretation of how everyone dies is that it was some horrific side effect of seeing the barnacle.
  • Brown Note Being: The mere existence of it and its own ugliness could be the reason why everyone died.
  • Butt-Monkey: Presumably, if the Ugly Barnacle's ugliness killing everyone is to be seen as a comedic misfortune.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The beginning of the story seems upbeat and implies the Barnacle will overcome his ugliness but then everyone dies.
  • Character Title: The titular Ugly Barnacle.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Early in the story, it is mentioned that the barnacle is ugly. The barnacle's ugliness kills everyone later on.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: If mere barnacles are enough to make everyone die, imagine what other things in the ocean are able to do... Not a lot, since they're all dead.
  • Crapsack World: In the Barnacleverse, the existence of a single unattractive crustacean is enough to trigger the Apocalypse.
  • Critical Dissonance: Many fans of the story were rather mad when SpongeBob claimed that the story was un-helpful to him.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: An ugly barnacle? Not funny. A barnacle so ugly it causes everyone to die? Hysterical!
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Sure, the Ugly Barnacle may be unattractive but he ends up killing everyone.
  • 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.
  • Darker and Edgier: The second part of the story is much darker than the first part.
  • Dark Parody: It's a parody of The Ugly Duckling, in which everyone dies.
  • 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.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": The Ugly Barnacle's just called, well, "the ugly barnacle".
  • Doing It for the Art: Patrick had no monetary motivation for telling this story. He did it purely to inspire his best friend. It didn't help at all.
  • Doorstopper: Possibly one of the harshest inversions of this trope in the history of fiction.
  • 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 is that they killed themselves because they didn't want to see an ugly barnacle.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: On pretty much everyone at the end, succumbing to the Barnacle's mere ugliness. 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.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: Implied by Patrick's cheery expression at the end is that he's supposed to think it's a happy story. This is despite everyone dying in the story.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The barnacle isn't given a name within the work, being given an adjective and species name.
  • Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory:
    • Some contend that the barnacle's ugliness represents sin, and that it kills everyone shows how sin kills everybody.
    • Another interpretation holds that the Barnacle is The Antichrist, with his ugliness being a metaphor for the wickedness he will bring to the world. "Everyone died," then, is a brutally quick description of the End Times.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's a story about a (maybe the) barnacle that is ugly.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: The ugly barnacle was so ugly that everyone died.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Everyone dies at the second sentence of the story.
  • 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.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: There is said to be a group of fans of the story that refuse to acknowledge that everyone died from the barnacle's ugliness, preferring that nothing bad happened due to the barnacle's ugliness.
  • Finger Poke of Doom: The Barnacle's mere appearance is enough to kill everyone.
  • Flat Character: Though he's still the most developed character in the story, the Ugly Barnacle has no other known characteristics besides being ugly. We don't learn his real name or if it even had a name.
  • Fridge Brilliance:
  • Fridge Horror: There is a story called "The Drain" where everyone involved dies also revealed to be All Just a Dream. It also includes other characteristics similar to The Ugly Barnacle, such as brevity, disproportionately high stakes, and it being told by SpongeBob and Patrick. What if this similar story is merely a corrupted version of The Ugly Barnacle, warped to create An Aesop? What if this Drain is the only barrier between the living world and the world of the ugly barnacle?
    • Further, while it is only one barnacle that is said to exist, this brings the question of how it came to exist. Was it naturally born? If so, was it ugly at birth, or did it become uglier as time progressed? Could there be more of them? Was it created as a Weapon of Mass Destruction? If so, who created it? And did they survive to make more?
      • Also, what was the area of effect? Did it take out everything for miles? Tens of miles? Hundreds of miles? The ecological damage from this single eldritch creature could very well be catastrophic for the biosphere as a whole, regardless of its true nature. To be blunt, this one creature may have killed off the entire planet.
  • Fridge Logic: If the Ugly Barnacle was so ugly that everyone died, does that mean its own ugliness caused itself to die?
  • Funny Moments:
    • The analysis, reviews, everything that is longer than the work itself.
    • The work also has that black humour to it... which did not help at all!
    • This very sentence is longer than the whole of the story, and that did help at all.
    • There was a time when The Ugly Barnacle was listed on the epic page. It had to be removed, but still.
    • Everyone died! Ha, that's funny! Right? Right?note 
    • The story itself. One of the funniest jokes in SpongeBob to date. It was really cool to see such a one-off joke gain such a following.
    • In the Spanish version of the story, the way Patrick says Fin (The End) and El Percebe Feo (The Ugly Barnacle) is really funny.
  • 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.
  • Genius Bonus: A barnacle is a type of marine-dwelling arthropod that actually exists in real life. Not only are they considered a nuisance by sailors, but they are, in fact, not pleasant to look at.
  • Genre Shift: The viewer was promised an uplifting tale of someone overcoming their appearance issues. They get it...for one sentence.
  • Gonk:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gut Punch: The second line completely changes the tone of the story.
  • Happily Ever After: Subverted. Patrick wrote the story to cheer SpongeBob up, so it seems as though it will have a happy ending, but everyone dies instead.
  • Heartwarming Moments:
    • When everyone died, everyone was united in death!
    • Patrick really came through as a friend for SpongeBob in this episode. He's able to discern what the problem is and relate to SpongeBob with this tale. It may not be the happy-go-lucky story that SpongeBob wanted to hear, but it's the story he needs to hear. And in that way, it did help at all.
    • After the events of the tale, there were still living people, so the Barnacle obviously did something to bring everyone back to life - perhaps altered his appearance so that his presence brought everything full of life?
  • 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.
  • Heroic BSoD: SpongeBob is in a deep depression over believing that he's ugly.
  • Hope Spot:
    • At first, it seems the barnacle will be able to overcome its ugliness. Then he turns out to be so ugly, that he kills everyone, possibly crushing the barnacle's hope.
    • When SpongeBob first heard the opening lines, he was expecting a story that would cheer him up. Sadly, the story went in the opposite direction.
  • Ho Yay: It may not look like it, given the nature of the story, but you can definitely see something going on with the barnacle and the rest of the world. It is highly unlikely that the entire world's population banished because of its ugliness because, you know, you can't affect something with your appearance if you can't see it. Therefore, and somehow, everyone lived with the barnacle surrounding him, making it one of the biggest examples of subtext in a story, since both characters have lived at each other's side and have died while looking at their physical appearance and because of it. This also makes it a rather crude example of No Yay, though.
  • 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.
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: The most likely reason Patrick told SpongeBob the story to comfort him over his ugliness, since he obviously didn't anticipate his friend being upset about the ugly protagonist killing everyone with his ugliness.
  • It's Short, So It Sucks!: If the amount of attention it has on TV Tropes is anything to go by, this is a strong inversion.
  • It Was His Sled: Good luck finding someone who knows about the "Something Smells" episode without knowing the story first.
  • Jerkass Woobie: One interpretation of the titular barnacle states that he killed everyone as a result of harassment.
  • The Juggernaut: Nobody was capable of stopping the barnacle, thus, everyone died.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Patrick has never told the story again after SpongeBob's negative reception. The one time he said it in "Something Smells" is the only evidence left of Patrick telling the story.
  • Killed Off for Real: Everyone at the end dies, and there is no mention of them coming back.
  • Killer Rabbit: The barnacle. Were you really expecting it to kill everyone in the story's second sentence?
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: Absolutely no non-essential details are given about the cast.
  • Memetic Badass: He could kill everyone just by being ugly. His name is probably only "The Ugly Barnacle" because no mortal can ever know his true name and survive.
  • 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: Only thirteen words are in this story.
  • Moment of Awesome:
    • It's heavily implied that just looking at the barnacle has the power to instantly kill everyone. Admit it. That's a badass power.
    • Patrick's smile at the end has to count as one. Not only that, but just the mere fact that Patrick can recount the tale of an Apocalypse with a cheery voice and smile!
    • The fact that a one-off joke from SpongeBob warranted all these TV Tropes pages is pretty epic.
    • If the barnacle was so ugly that everyone died, then who told the story? Somebody almost as badass as a barnacle capable of killing (almost) everyone, that's who!
      • Guess who is this guy who told the story, who knew it because he was there? It's Patrick Star.
  • Mood Whiplash: At first, it sounds like a charming fairy tale. At first.
  • Moral Event Horizon: One interpretation of the death of everyone is that the barnacle deliberately killed them.
  • More Popular Spin-Off: This story's page on This Very Wiki has been given more attention than the page for the episode it was in.
  • Nausea Fuel: The Barnacle, probably. His very appearance is said to be deadly.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Assuming he's meant to be The Hero, the barnacle breaks it and kills everyone.
  • 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.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Patrick apparently enjoys how the story has the barnacle kill everyone.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Yes, you too could be so disgustingly ugly that your loved ones all die. Not just your loved ones - everyone.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: Patrick can be a bit unnerving, what with how cheerfully oblivious he seems to be toward the story's dark ending.
  • No Dead Body Poops: There is no mention of anyone soiling themselves when everyone dies.
  • 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.
  • No Name Given: The main character is simply known as "the barnacle" or "the ugly barnacle".
  • 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.
  • Surprisingly Creepy Moment: You probably thought this was a more traditional tale in the vein 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.
  • Tear Jerker:
    • Everyone died. Everyone. You. Your friends. Your family. Every. Single. One.
      • It gets worse than that! The story doesn't specifically say it was everyone from a specific frame in time. Just "everyone". Which means anyone who ever existed on any plane of time or space is dead because of this barnacle.
      • It's also possible that the world died slowly. After all, it didn't say how fast or how peacefully everyone died...
    • The fact that the story didn't help at all.
    • It ended. It's all over.
    • The barnacle was so ugly that it never had any friends. How can you not weep over his plight? Combined with him Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, he's quite the Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds. How the mighty can fall...
    • Once, there was an ugly barnacle. Once, and never again...
    • There was an ugly barnacle. But not anymore...
  • Too Bleak, Stopped Caring: Whether everyone deserved it or not, they're all dead, and possibly the barnacle too, whether it deserved it or not. Even the Framing Device is momentarily subject to this, as it didn't help SpongeBob at all.
  • 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 Everyone Dies Downer Ending.
  • Troperiffic: At the time it was moved to JFF, the story (despite being only 13 words long, 15 if you count The End) had 144 tropes, plus another 41 under YMMV, 36 character tropes, and 9 on the Trivia page, approximating to 17 tropes per word. There were more subpages of The Ugly Barnacle than there are words in the story.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: Inverted. The story explains exactly what gives the reason why everybody died.
  • Twist Ending: Be honest: Were you expecting the barnacle to kill everyone?
  • Ugly Cute: Fan Art depicting the barnacle as The Woobie will often depict it as having a slightly cute aesthetic despite his ugliness.
  • Ultimate Life Form: Arguably, the barnacle, as it was able to kill everyone.
  • Unpopular Popular Character: The barnacle is considered so ugly that everyone dies in-universe, but he's pretty well-liked by fans.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: One interpretation of the story is that the deaths the barnacle caused were all an accident.
  • You Need a Breath Mint: SpongeBob's real problem is that he had halitosis from eating a "sundae" made of ketchup, onions, and a potted plant.

"That didn't help at all..."
Oh, and by the way, you just read 140 tropes on a 20-second joke from SpongeBob SquarePants. Good job wasting about 15 minutes or more.


Video Example(s):


The Ugly Barnacle

Patrick tries to cheer up SpongeBob over his supposed ugliness with a story about an ugly barnacle. To say it didn't make SpongeBob feel any better would be a gross understatement.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (21 votes)

Example of:

Main / AssuranceBackfire

Media sources: