Little, Big

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For the album, see LITTLE, big.
Little, Big
Cover of first edition
(Bantam Books, paperback)
Author John Crowley
Country United States
Language English
Genre Fantasy
Publisher Bantam Books
Publication date
August 1981
Media type Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
Pages 538 pp
ISBN 0-553-01266-5
OCLC 7596266
813/.54 19
LC Class PS3553.R597 L5

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.[1][2][3]

Plot synopsis[edit]

Little, Big is the epic story of the Drinkwater family and their relationship with the mostly obscured world of Fairy. It is set in and around their eccentric country house, called Edgewood, somewhere north of "the City" (implied to be New York). 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.


  • Smoky Barnable - The novel's protagonist, whose marriage to the Drinkwater family is prophesied long before it occurs.
  • Daily Alice Drinkwater - Smoky's wife, Sophie's sister and Auberon's mother. She is likewise assured of her destiny from a young age by Nora Cloud.
  • Auberon Barnable - Smoky's son who eventually leaves for the city.
  • Sylvie - A Stateside Puerto Rican worker at George Mouse's farm, who Auberon loves but loses in the City. Her and her brother's stories carry extended references to Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno.
  • Sophie Drinkwater - Alice's sister, whose child is stolen shortly after birth.
  • Violet Bramble - Ancestor of the Drinkwater clan. She is found to be pregnant shortly after her father becomes active in a Theosophical Society.
  • John "Doc" Drinkwater - Alice and Sophie's father.
  • Auberon Drinkwater - Alice's eccentric uncle. His attempts to record the existence of the Fairies is poorly received.
  • Grandfather Trout - A friend of Alice introduced early in the novel, who may have ties with previous generations of the Drinkwater family.
  • George Mouse - Smoky's friend who first introduces Smoky to his cousins, the Drinkwater family.
  • Ariel Hawksquill - A powerful sage who closely follows the rise of Russell Eigenblick. Granddaughter of Violet Bramble's first lover, Oliver Hawksquill.
  • Russell Eigenblick - The despotic ruler of The City late in the history of the family.
  • Aunt Nora Cloud

Literary significance[edit]

Harold Bloom included this work in his book The Western Canon, calling it "A neglected masterpiece. The closest achievement we have to the Alice stories of Lewis Carroll."[4] Bloom also recorded, based on their correspondence, that poet James Merrill "loved the book."[5]

Thomas M. Disch described Little, Big as "the best fantasy novel ever. Period." [6] Ursula le Guin stated that Little, Big as "a book that all by itself calls for a redefinition of fantasy".[7] In Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels, David Pringle has described Little, Big as "a work of architectonic sublimity" and "the author plays with masterly skill on the emotional nerves of awe, rapture, mystery and enchantment".[7] Paul Di Filippo has said of Little, Big "It is hard to imagine a more satisifying work, both on an artistic and an emotional level".[8]

2002 Harper paperback edition cover

Awards and nominations[edit]

Release details[edit]

  • 1981, USA, Bantam Books, ISBN 0-553-01266-5, Pub date Sep 1981, trade paperback (black). Simultaneously published in Canada.
  • 1982, UK, Victor Gollancz, ISBN 0-575-03065-8, Pub date May 1982, hardcover (white dustjacket)
  • 1982, UK, Victor Gollancz, ISBN 0-575-03123-9, Pub date May 1982, trade paperback (white)
  • 1983, UK, Methuen, ISBN 0-413-51350-5, Pub date 1983, mass market paperback.
  • 1983, USA, Bantam Books, ISBN 0-553-23337-8, Pub date Oct 1983, mass market paperback. Yvonne Gilbert (front cover illustrator)
  • 1986, UK, Methuen, ISBN 0-413-51350-5, Pub date Nov 1986, mass market paperback.
  • 1987, USA, Bantam Books, ISBN 0-553-26586-5, Pub date Apr 1987, mass market paperback.
  • 1990, USA, Bantam Books, ISBN 0-553-26586-5, Pub date Nov 1990, mass market paperback. Tom Canty (front cover illustrator)
  • 1994, USA, Bantam, ISBN 0-553-37397-8, Pub date Sep 1994, hardcover. Gary A. Lippincott (illustrator)
  • 1997, USA, Easton Press Masterpieces of Fantasy, hardcover.
  • 1997, USA, Bantam /Science Fiction Book Club, ISBN 1-56865-429-4, Pub date Aug 1997, 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[10]
  • 2002, USA, Harper Perennial, ISBN 0-06-093793-9, Pub date Mar 2002, trade paperback.
  • 2006, USA, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, ISBN 0-06-112005-7, Pub date Oct 2006, trade paperback.
  • 2011, USA, Blackstone Audio, ISBN 978-1-4417-3392-4 (CD) and ISBN 978-1-4417-3395-5 (MP3-CD), Pub date 15 Dec 2011, audiobook. Read by the author, reading from the "Author's Preferred Text" created for the Incunabula edition.

A museum-quality new edition, designed in accordance with the author's idea of how the book should be presented and with a newly edited, corrected, restored, and revised text, is now in production at Incunabula, a small press in Seattle.[11] It is presently slated for printing in 2014[12] publication. This limited edition includes reproductions of the artwork of Peter Milton and an afterword by Harold Bloom.


  1. ^ a b c d e "1982 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 24 September 2009. 
  2. ^ "1982 World Fantasy Awards". The Locus Index to SF Awards. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  3. ^ "1982 World Fantasy Award Winners and Nominees". World Fantasy Convention. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  4. ^ "Their Favorite Obscure Books", Susan Orlean, The Village Voice, December 2, 2008
  5. ^ Bloom, Harold (2003). "Preface to Snake's-Hands". In Turner, Alice K.; Andre-Driussi, Michael. Snake's-Hands: The Fiction of John Crowley. [Canton, OH]: Cosmos Books. p. 10. ISBN 1-58715-509-5. 
  6. ^ Thomas M. Disch, "13 Great Works of Fantasy from the Last 13 Years", in Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, July–August 1983 . TZ Publications, Inc. (p. 61)
  7. ^ a b David Pringle, Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels, An English-Language Selection, 1946-1987, David Pringle. London, Grafton Books, 1988 ISBN 0-246-13214-0 (p. 211-13)
  8. ^ Paul Di Filippo, "Crowley, John (William)" in St. James Guide To Fantasy Writers, ed. David Pringle, London, St. James Press, 1996, ISBN 1-55862-205-5, (pp. 133-5).
  9. ^ "1981 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 24 September 2009. 
  10. ^ Brown, Charles N.; William G. Contento (2 January 2010). "The Locus Index to Science Fiction (2000)". Locus Publications. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  11. ^ "What place it was she was to go to", Ron Drummond, Little Big Anniversary Edition Web Page, January 1, 2013.
  12. ^ "For information still to come" Little Big Anniversary Edition Web Page update, June 12, 2014

External links[edit]