In the sinister recesses of her kitchen, Mother Rigby, the witch, fashions a scarecrow and then, christening him Lord Feathertop, she sends the scarecrow off to the house of Judge Gookin, a rich and haughty man who has repeatedly claimed that no young suitor in the town is good enough for his daughter. Lord Feathertop impresses Gookin as a person of refinement and importance, and he quickly invites the town's leading citizens to meet this most eligible of young men. His daughter, Polly, who is already in love with another, is not equally taken with the mysterious stranger, but her father, sensing that Feathertop's supposed connections with the powerful lords of England will be of benefit to him, flatters and cajoles his guest and even offers to betray his rivals in the Colony. Having little in his head to begin with, Feathertop has even less to say in response to all this, which convinces everyone that he is indeed a wise and weighty man. Then Polly catches a glimpse of him in a mirror, and what she sees is not the glittering Lord whom the others have deluded themselves into accepting but the scarecrow that he really is. Polly faints at the sight of him, and Feathertop, struck with the sham of his existence, forces the others to look too, and then goes back to Mother Rigby in sad dismay. He no longer wants to live knowing what he is and what others are like beneath their veneer, and casting his pipe aside, he becomes once more the straw-filled scarecrow—albeit one with a real tear of human emotion trickling down his painted cheek.
Set in colonial New England, this delightful fantasy pokes fun at the pretenses and shortcomings which, even in those early days, often made men less than they should be.