Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Little Big

John Crowley's fantasy novel, Little, Big (1981), is built around a movement and Perception which is common to fantasy and uncommon anywhere else. We use the term generically to describe both a Reality and the movement which reveals the nature of that reality to figures in the story, and to readers. In fantasy almost anything that can be entered – a body, Book, rabbit hole or other Portal, Garden, Shop, Labyrinth, Underground cavern, Edifice, ocean liner, Forest, Island, Polder or Otherworld – may well be bigger inside than out. Anything from Dr Who's Tardis to the Palace of the Goddess (> Goddess) in Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter (1993 UK), an edifice which is a topological model of all space and which encloses the Universe around it, can reveal itself through a little-big transition from the outside into the opening world of the interior.

The eponymous Magic object in Jorge Luis Borges's "The Aleph" (1945), which contains within it the entire Universe, is an example of the movement, one which demonstrates the plastic potential of the little-big trope to open into metaphysical realms as well as physical. Other examples of this relationship between outer and inner worlds include: the Landscape visible within the mockup of a woman's vagina in Angela Carter's The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972); almost every movement towards the heart of the Story in Crowley's own Little, Big (1981), where it is stated more than once that "The further in you go, the bigger it gets"; the Wizard's house inside the oak in Charles de Lint's Into the Green (1993); Ryhope Wood in Robert Holdstock's sequence; the stable in C S Lewis's The Last Battle (1956); Dr Dolittle's garden in Hugh Lofting's series; the gourds in Piers Anthony's Xanth sequence, which each contain the (same) entire world of Dream; and the Botanical Gardens in Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun (1980-1983). [JC]

see also: Great and Small.

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.