Little, Big

Little, Big

Infobox Book |
name = Little, Big
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = Cover of first edition
(Bantam Books, paperback)
author = John Crowley
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
subject =
genre = Fantasy
publisher = Bantam Books
release_date = August 1981
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
pages = 538 pp
isbn = ISBN 0-553-01266-5
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Little, Big: or, The Fairies' Parliament" is a modern fantasy novel by John Crowley, published in 1981. It won the World Fantasy Award in 1982.

Plot introduction

"Little, Big" (subtitled "The Fairies' Parliament") is the epic story of the Drinkwater family and their relationship with the mostly obscured world of Faery. It is set in and around their eccentric country house, called Edgewood, in New England somewhere north of "the City" (clearly a version of New York City). The story is dreamlike, quiet, and meandering, spanning a hundred years of the intertwined family trees of the Drinkwaters and their relations - from the turn of the twentieth century to a sparsely-described dystopian future America ruled by a sinister despot. The magical elements are subtle rather than overt, with only occasional glimpses of the fairies themselves, although their presence is felt throughout.

Characters in "Little, Big"

*Smoky Barnable
*Daily Alice Drinkwater
*Auberon Barnable
*Sophie Drinkwater
*Violet Bramble
*Aunt Cloud
*John Drinkwater
*Auberon Drinkwater
*Grandfather Trout (August Drinkwater)
*George Mouse
*Ariel Hawksquill
*Russell Eigenblick (Frederick Barbarossa)

Major themes

One of the recurring motifs in the work is the sense of the disparity between the insides and the outsides of things; that is, how large insides somehow fit into small outsides. The Edgewood house is certainly the most obvious of these. The memory palaces of Ariel Hawksquill also point to the inside-outside, little-big motif.

Crowley has mentioned some of the main elements that came together to form this work. One of these is the image of Smoky tying up the ends of his life to go to his uncertain future at the Drinkwater house. Another is the idea of a huge multi-generational family and their intimate ties with faerie.

One other recurring theme is the idea of generation, in this case, human procreation. This theme is illustrated by both the sheer size of the Drinkwater clan and the constant emphasis on family life. A thread of incest also becomes apparent when George Mouse sleeps with his second cousin Sophie Drinkwater. Though never stated flatly, there is heavy implication that George Mouse is Sylvie's father, in addition to being her one-time lover.

Seasons affect the mood of the book throughout. Auberon tries to relive, and forget, his life with Sylvie by remembering the seasons. The whole book has the feel of going through the seasons. It starts in the Spring, then moves onto Summer where everyone is happy and has few worries. There is a story about a mouse that doesn't know what winter is, and, metaphorically, the characters are not prepared for Winter, either. Then the feel gets slowly darker as Auberon loses himself to alcohol in the story's Winter. In the end, Spring is swept back in.

Literary significance and criticism

Harold Bloom included this work in his book "The Western Canon".

References and allusions

The writing has its roots in poetry and American idiom and blossoms into hints and wordplay. Those who like the book praise its style, while others find it overdecorated. Indeed it is a highly decorated book, broken into short sections that each have a title, full of catchphrases and of allusions to such things as
* Louis Comfort Tiffany
* Farid al-Din Attar
* Frances Yates' studies of Renaissance neoplatonism
* Lewis Carroll
* William Shakepeare
* tarot divination
* Illustrations of Arthur Rackham
* Harlem
* Thornton Burgess's children's stories
* Frederick Barbarossa, the King in the mountain
* Cottingley Fairies

Editions of the book usually have some ornamentation in the printing.

Awards and nominations

* Winner of the World Fantasy Award, 1982.
* Nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel, 1981.
* Nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel, 1982.

Release details

*1981, USA, Bantam Books ISBN 0-553-01266-5, Pub date 1981, trade paperback (black). Simultaneously published in Canada.
*1982, UK, Victor Gollancz ISBN 0-575-03065-8, Pub date 1982, hardcover (white dustjacket)
*1982, UK, Victor Gollancz ISBN 0-575-03123-9, Pub date 1982, trade paperback (white)
*1983, USA, Bantam Books, ISBN 0-553-23337-8, Pub date 1983, mass market paperback. Yvonne Gilbert (front cover illustrator)
*1990, USA, Bantam Books, ISBN 0-553-26586-5, Pub date 1990, mass market paperback. Tom Canty (front cover illustrator)
*1994, USA, Bantam Fantasy Book Club ISBN 1-56865-429-4, Pub date 1994, hardcover. Gary A. Lippincott (illustrator)
*2000, UK, Orion Books ISBN 1-85798-711-X, Pub date May 2000, trade paperback, volume 5 of the Fantasy Masterworks series [cite web
last = Brown
first = Charles N.
authorlink = Charles N. Brown
coauthors = William G. Contento
title = The Locus Index to Science Fiction (2000)
work =
publisher =
date =
url =
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2008-02-11
*2006, USA, Harper Perennial Modern Classics ISBN 0061120057, Pub date 2006, paperback.

A 25th anniversary edition, designed in accordance with the author's idea of how the book should be presented, is now in production at Incunabula, a small press in Seattle, and is scheduled for publication in Summer 2008. This limited edition will include reproductions of the artwork of Peter Milton, and an afterword by the author Harold Bloom. []


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