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 a gang of five household appliances—the Tensor Lamp (a Tensor lamp), the Electric Blanket (an electric blanket), the Alarm Clock/Radio (an alarm clock/antique radio), the Hoover Vacuum Cleaner (a Hoover vacuum cleaner) and the Sunbeam 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 a Disney animated film. The film contains many differences from the book but is essentially the same story, although the ending differs. 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.
- The Sunbeam Toaster
- A gallant Sunbeam toaster. He is not given a name in the film, although his official name is "the (Brave Little) Toaster".
- The Tensor Lamp
- A desktop Tensor lamp that shines a bright light from his light bulb, who is an intelligent member of the team. In the film series, his name is "Lampy (Locksley)" or "the (Bright (Little)) Lamp".
- The Electric Blanket
- A shy electric blanket with a childlike manner. In the film series, his name is "Blank(e)y (Yellow)" or "the (Snuggly) Blanket".
- The Alarm Clock/(A.M.(-only)) Radio
- A vacuum-tube-based alarm clock/an (A.M.(-only)) antique radio. He is not given a name in the film, although his official name is "the (Loud(/Inquisitive)) (Clock/)Radio".
- The Hoover Vacuum Cleaner
- A big, strong upright Hoover vacuum cleaner. In the film series, his name is "(the) Kirby".
- The Daisy
- A daisy who can only speak in verse. She mistakes her reflection in the toaster as her male counterpart and falls in love. The Daisy appears in the film, being named "the Flower", except that she does not 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. Although he was planned to be in the film, being named "Ernie (the Junkman)", he was never animated. A character named "Elmo St. Peters" appears in the film version, taking Ernie's place, but either way fits the book version, taking apart appliances he already has to sell the parts as demanded in his shop, almost doing so to Radio's tubes.
- 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. In the film series, his name is "Rob".
- The Pirate and the Ballerina
- A pirate who sells the appliances to the city dump owner and a ballerina who trades the appliances on a radio show for her kittens. Although they were planned to be in the film, being named "the Pirate" and "the Ballerina", but they were never released.
- 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, not based on a book)
- "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.