Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Great and Small

Alterations of scale are a stock device of Folklore and Mythology, where giants and "little people" are commonplace; Fairies are conventionally miniaturized in art and fiction. The adventures in Lilliput and Brobdingnag remain the most enduring images of Gulliver's Travels (1726) by Jonathan Swift, while the stories of Tom Thumb, Jack the Giant-Killer and Jack and the Beanstalk are traditional tales. The relative ease with which changes of scale can be simulated by spfx has led to their frequent use in Cinema and tv. Giants and little people are also standard motifs of Fantasy Art, the latter being of particular importance; idiosyncratically conceived little people have been a principal theme of several artists, including Richard Dadd and Richard Doyle.

Notable fantasies about giants include Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-1564) by François Rabelais, "The Last of the Giants" (1828) by John Sterling, A Spell for Old Bones (1949) by Eric Linklater, All or Nothing (1960) by John Cowper Powys, The BFG (1982) by Roald Dahl, "Caves" (1984) by Jane Gaskell, The Little People (1985) by MacDonald Harris and Towing Jehovah (1994) by James Morrow. Notable fantasies about little people include Phantasmion (1837) by Sara Coleridge, "The Diamond Lens" (1858) by Fitz-James O'Brien (1828-1862), The Water-Babies (1863) by Charles Kingsley, Mistress Masham's Repose (1946) by T H White, The Borrowers (1952) and its sequels by Mary Norton, and Truckers (1989) and its sequels by Terry Pratchett; a notable theme anthology is Little People! (anth 1991) ed Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois.

The idea that the microcosm and the macrocosm mirror one another in some way is a significant element of occult lore (see As Above, So Below; Microcosm/Macrocosm). Occult lore also produced the notion of the Homunculus. A fascinating reinterpretation of the complicity of the macrocosm and the microcosm, deftly fused with various Fairytale motifs, can be found in John Crowley's Little, Big (1981). Another metaphysical fantasy involving changes of scale is James P Blaylock's Land of Dreams (1987). [BS]


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.