Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Tom Thumb

The History of Tom Thumbe, the Little, for his Small Stature Surnamed, King Arthurs [sic] Dwarfe (1621 chap) by Richard Johnson (1573-?1659) was the first Fairytale printed in England, though the story it recounts and modifies had long existed in oral form. In Johnson's version, one of King Arthur's rural councillors is unhappy because he lacks a son, and Merlin causes his wife to give birth to a tiny child. Tom Thumb, named because of his smallness, attracts the protection of the Fairies, but his scampish behaviour gets him into all sorts of hot water. He ends his days as a tame Trickster in the royal court. Subsequent retellings have been numerous – including a rendering, almost certainly from a parallel tradition, by the Grimm Brothers, plus Hans Christian Andersen's "Thumbelina", a female version – and vary the story widely. A real-life midget, Charles Stratton (1837-1883), called himself General Tom Thumb, and became famous. Movies based on the tale include Tom Thumb (1958), The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb (1993) and Thumbelina (1993). [JC]

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.