The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins The Whole Book Summary
In the beginning, our main man Bartholomew Cubbins had just one hat. It belonged to "his father and father's father before him," and Bartholomew liked it very much (1).
The Kingdom of Didd—BC's home turf—was ruled by King Derwin. King Derwin believes himself mightily important as he has a balcony and everything.
On the other hand, Bartholomew lives in cranberry bog. He feels mightily unimportant thanks to his lack of balcony.
One day, Bartholomew is off to sell cranberries at market. In town, the King's carriage passes, and the Captain of the King's Own Guards yells, "'Hats off to the King'" (12).
Then the whole procession stops and reverses until the King's carriage is parked right before Bartholomew.
King Derwin wonders why the boy hasn't removed his hat in the King's presence. Bartholomew is flabbergasted and shows the King the hat in his hand. But it's the hat on Cubbins's head the King takes issue with.
Bartholomew checks and, sure enough, there's a hat on his head. He removes it—only to find another.
The King's out of patience now. He has the Captain of the King's Own Guard arrest the impudent boy for some lesson-learning at the throne room.
As Bartholomew and the Captain of the King's Own Guard ride on, hats flip, flop, and fly off the boy's head.
Bartholomew is one frightened boy, but he figures the King won't do anything too bad. After all, it's not his fault his hat just up and decided to become magical.
The King grants him one more chance to take off the hat, but when Bartholomew snatches the hat from his head, another one appears.
Sir Alaric, Keeper of the King's Records, begins tallying up the multiplying millinery.
The King invites an expert, Sir Snipps, the hatmaker for lords. When Sir Snipps sees another hat appear on Bartholomew's head, it upsets his sartorial senses, and he beats feet from the throne room.
Next up is the wise man, Nadd. When Nadd becomes stumped, the King calls in the Father of Nadd, who is wiser. When he comes up clueless, the King sends for the Father of the Father of Nadd, who is wiser still. Still nothing.
Enter Grand Duke Wilfred, nephew of the King. Wilfred says he'll shoot the hat off his head with an arrow. Bartholomew says how tiny Wilfred's bow is, and that really irks the wee-Duke.
In a serious "don't try this at home" move, Wilfred shoots a bag full of arrows worth of hats off.
But if at first you don't succeed, go bigger.
The King summons Yeoman the Bowman and his big-honkin' bow. After a similar result, Yeoman the Bowman cries out that it's black magic.
The King requests the magicians who perform a lyrical miracle. After they chant their charm, the magicians proudly proclaim that Bartholomew is cured. It'll only take ten years for the charm to work.
But the King doesn't have ten years. He needs r-e-s-p-e-c-t now, so Wilfred suggests they just cut his head off. The King finds the thought dreadful, but, hey, what are you going to do?
In a desperate attempt to keep his noggin, Bartholomew starts ripping hats off his head while Sir Alaric counts.
No good. He's sent to the dungeon for some drastic height-reduction surgery.
In the dungeon, the executioner—the friendliest gallows fiend you'll ever meet—explains to Bartholomew that he can't be beheaded. The executioner can't kill anyone unless their hat has been removed. It's the rules.
The King and Wilfred are surprised to see Bartholomew return. When they are informed about the situation, Wilfred volunteers to throw Bartholomew from the highest turret.
While Bartholomew, Wilfred, and the King climb the turret's staircase, Sir Alaric follows, counting the hats. Then, he suddenly notices that the hats after #450 begin to change, becoming ever more elaborate and fancier.
The King and Wilfred wait for Bartholomew to finish climbing the stairs. When Bartholomew comes up, he wears a grand bit of headgear with a "ruby larger than any the King himself had ever owned" and "ostrich plumes, and cockatoo plumes, and mockingbird plumes, and paradise plumes" (134).
Wilfred goes to push Cubbins, but the King stops him. He buys the hat for 500 gold pieces since it's the 500th hat. When Bartholomew takes it off, he has no more hats on his head.
Cubbins returns home with a sack-o-gold, and the King has a crystal case made to house all 500 hats. As for why this strange even happened in the first place, well, the people say, "it just 'happened to happen' and was not very likely to happen again" (149).