The Brave Little Toaster
The Brave Little Toaster is a 1980 novel by Thomas M. Disch intended for children or as put by Disch, A Bedtime Story for Small Appliances. The story centers on five household appliances—Lamp, (a tensor lamp), Blanket, (an electric blanket), Radio, (an alarm clock radio), Hoover, (a Hoover vacuum cleaner), and Toaster, (a Sunbeam toaster)—on their quest to find their owner, referred to as "The Master."
The story first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (August 1980). Although appearing in a general circulation magazine, the story was written in the style of a children's fable. It was one of the most popular science fiction and fantasy stories of the early 1980s, and was nominated for both a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award for Best Novella. It also won a Locus Award, Seiun Award and British SF Association Award. It was later published as a book. The Brave Little Toaster was well received by critics. Anna Quindlen, writing for the New York Times, called it "a wonderful book for a certain sort of eccentric adult. You know who you are. Buy it for your children; read it yourself," and also suggested that the book lacked a clearly defined audience.
Disch said that he was unable to publish the story as a children's book at first, because publishers thought the concept of talking appliances was too “far-fetched”, even after Disch had sold it to Disney as a film; Doubleday finally published it as part of a five-book contract.
In 1987 the novel was adapted by Disch as an animated film. The film contains many differences from the book but is essentially the same story, although the ending differs quite a bit. In the novel, the appliances trade themselves away to an old ballerina who needs them, while in the movie they are reunited with their former master (named Rob in the movie).
Disch later wrote a sequel, The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars, in which the Brave Little Toaster and his companions travel to Mars to stop an invasion from hostile appliances who have a colony there. This too was made into a film. There was also a third film in the series, The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue, which takes place between the two books, but which was not based directly on a book.
- A Sunbeam Toaster. He acts as leader to the others and never gives up hope in the face of danger.
- A tensor lamp that shines a bright light, but is not very "bright" in intelligence. In the movie, he is called "Lampy".
- A shy electric blanket who always needs reassuring. In the movie, he is usually called "Blanky".
- An alarm clock radio that constantly talks about anything of which it can think. He annoys the others by trying to seem intelligent. It is not given a name in the film, although his official name is "Rocko "the Radio" Ratuno".
- A big, strong Hoover vacuum cleaner. He is said to be grumpy and bossy, but is still a valuable part of the team. In the movie, he is renamed "Kirby".
- A daisy who can only speak in verse. He mistakes his reflection in the toaster as another flower and falls in love. A similar moment happens in the movie with a Narcissus flower, except that the flower cannot speak.
- Harold and Marjorie
- A pair of squirrels whom the appliances meet in the forest. They help the blanket out of a tree after being blown away in a storm. They are unable to comprehend the idea of appliances or the fact that they have no gender, although they are fascinated by the blanket's warmth and the toaster's ability to roast acorns.
- The City Dump Owner
- A man who finds the appliances (just as they are about to use his boat to cross a river). He takes them back to the city dump, throwing all of the appliances except the radio into the heap. The toaster plans an escape for them all by having the four of them pretend to be a ghost and scare the man away.
- The Master
- The former owner of the five appliances, whom they all revere. The appliances eventually learn that he has a mistress, and that they spend their holidays out at sea instead of the cottage because of the woman's hay fever. They also learn that the cottage will be sold and they will each be auctioned off soon. Coming to terms with having fulfilled their duty for the master, they look for a new home where they will be needed and can stay together.
- The Ballerina
- An old, impoverished ballerina who trades the appliances on a radio show for her kittens.
- The Brave Little Toaster: A Bedtime Story for Small Appliances, 1980 (magazine publication), 1986 (ISBN 0-246-13080-6 UPC 780246 130808 Grafton Books London) (USA Doubleday & Co.) (book publication) (also later film version)
- The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars, 1998 (also later film version)
- The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue, 1999 (film only, no book version)
- "Obituary: Thomas M. Disch". sffworld.com. 2008-07-10. Retrieved 2009-01-14.
- "Obituary: Thomas M. Disch". Locus Publications. 2008-07-06. Retrieved 2009-01-14.
- "Tom Disch (Thomas M. Disch ) (1940 - 2008)". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 2009-01-14.
- Quindlen, Anna (1986-04-20). "CHILDREN'S BOOKS". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-14.
- Horwich, David (2001-07-30). "Interview: Thomas M. Disch". Strange Horizons. Retrieved 2009-01-14.