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Little Big Man (Little Big Man #1)

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  5,290 Ratings  ·  325 Reviews
'I am a white man and never forget it, but I was brought up by the Cheyenne Indians from the age of ten.' So starts the story of Jack Crabb, the 111-year old narrator of Thomas Berger's masterpiece of American fiction. As a "human being", as the Cheyenne called their own, he won the name Little Big Man. He dressed in skins, feasted on dog, loved four wives and saw his peop ...more
Paperback, 422 pages
Published May 1st 1999 by Harvill Press (first published 1964)
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RachaelSage I would be cautious here. Unless you would be ready to take on conversations about rape and rape culture with the young men and women in your classes,…moreI would be cautious here. Unless you would be ready to take on conversations about rape and rape culture with the young men and women in your classes, reading this book could be traumatizing for some of your students.

In general, I think it's a wonderful read for older high schoolers, but missing opportunities to discuss how our culture has changed and how it hasn't changed would be remiss.

There is a lot of violence in this book and many gruesome descriptions, but I think it offers a uniquely balanced view of two very different cultures– no one escapes criticism.

But what stands out to me most, in this age of information, social media, and the increasingly open conversation around rape culture and violence against women, as well as a growing embrace of feminism by men and women, is how this book handles women.

I would say that given the time period in which this book was written and the time period it was written about, Berger was likely pretty progressive on this topic. But rape, kidnapping, prostitution, buying, selling, trading, and marrying off of women– these are peppered throughout the book with no real acknowledgment of their damaging results.

If a teacher were ready to allow students to talk about these parts of the book in the context of modern culture, that would be amazing. But only you know yourself, your students, your school, and the parents.

I suggest giving it a read to make the decision– it is fantastic! Good Luck! (less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Sep 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Smarter people than I have noted that the Captivity Narrative is America’s first indigenous literary genre. For what it’s worth (not much!) I happen to agree. Stories about white men, women, and children taken by the Indians have been told on these shores since long before the United States came into existence. Increase and Cotton Mather often took time off from spreading their particular form of hyper-violent, sexually repressed Puritanism to package the these kinds of tales into religious trac ...more
So I, Jack Crabb, was a Cheyenne warrior. Had made my kill with bow and arrow. Been scalped and healed with hocus-pocus. Had an ancient savage who couldn't talk English for my Pa, and a fat brown woman for my Ma, and for a brother a fellow whose face I hardly ever saw for clay or paint. Lived in a skin tent and ate puppy dog. God, it was strange!

Most of us are familiar with Jack's tale from the 1970 film.


Incidentally, the bit about the "liar of insane proportion" is the next to last line in the
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Having been captivated by Thomas Berger’s use of language, by his imagination, by his sympathetic treatment of Native Americans, specifically the Cheyenne, I finished his marvelous novel, Little Big Man, a page-turner that kept me riveted from beginning to end. The protagonist is Jack Crabb, age 111, consummate raconteur, the story being told in the first person by this unlikely hero who moves frequently and easily between the worlds of the Cheyenne and the whites, illuminating the history of th ...more
Carol Storm
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
Better than the movie, maybe, but not by much.

Whatever you think about the conflict between the Plains Indians and the white man, it's hard to identify with a "hero" who is really neither red nor white in his loyalty, who consistently takes the low road and whose outlook on life is completely mean-spirited and sleazy.

Now I'm no stranger to anti-heroes. I cheered for Alex in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE as a naive young thing and I thrilled to the murderous violence of Lamar Pye in Stephen Hunter's DIRTY
Oct 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2fiction, western, 1paper
The movie with Dustin Hoffman was very well done & follows the book fairly well, but the book captures the character even better. He's not a perfect man by any stretch of the imagination. He lives a long time & through some very interesting history. Living with the Indians & then scouting for Custer at the Little Big Horn, a fight against the same indians he lived with. There's a gritty, real feel to the entire story.
Laura C.
Jun 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
n this book, narrated by a prissy bachelor of independent means, we meet a wonderful character who, Forrestt Gump-like, takes us through the development of the American west. Jack Crabb's family was ambushed by a tribe of Cheyenne on the way to Utah to meet up with the Mormons. (His father, a preacher of some originality, was intrigued by the liberality of the doctrine,and felt they would be excellent neighbors.) Jack was raised among the Human Beings, as the Cheyenne call themselves, but meande ...more
It took me a long time to read as I slowed down and quit every time I couldn't handle what was going on. I don't have any objectivity on this subject, no space between me and the killing, so I read with dread. I loved the way the ending was written though, there was so much dignity.
Jack Crabb is carried off, sort of, by Indians when he is 7 years old. He is adopted by the Cheyenne Indian Chief of this small band of Cheyenne. He lives an Indian life but never forgets he is white. In the midst of
Brian Bess
May 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Just re-read this for the first time in forty years, when I read it shortly after seeing the movie. I had always rated it among my favorite novels and my estimation has not diminished. It is like a lost Mark Twain novel, in many respects surpassing most of Twain's own novels other than Huck Finn and Puddn'head Wilson. It is a major accomplishment and the forerunner to Zelig and Forrest Gump and any other 'little nobody just happens to be present at many major world events' stories that have come ...more
Douglas Dalrymple
Jul 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Thomas Berger seems to be one of those necessary Americans whose death (when it finally happens; the man is nearing 90) inevitably diminishes our national life. He's cut from the same cloth as Twain and Ambrose Bierce, and bears some stylistic resemblance, perhaps, to Peter De Vries.

That’s my impression anyway. My experience of Berger’s work is so far limited to his 1971 novel Vital Parts, his hilarious personal letters to Zulfikar Ghose, and now Little Big Man.

The book is clearly Berger’s att
Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes a book is a good friend. Not "like" a good friend. An actual friend. You open your eyes in the morning and you remember that it is there, your friend, and you know you'll get through. This book was a good friend. Maybe it was Jack Crabb's (the narrator) unique, funny, irreverent, wise, one-hundred and eleven-year-old voice that sparked the friendship and kept it going. For a few days there, I sat next to Jack, by A fireside, listening to stories about his life growing up with the Cheye ...more
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
This is not "the very best novel every about American west" as the NYT claimed (years after they first panned it), but it did pave the way for some contenders like True Grit by Charles Portis, Lonesome Dove by McMurtry or take your pick from Cormac McCarthy's work (I'm partial to Blood Meridian, The Crossing and No Country for Old Men). It was meant to puncture the myth of the west, and it does that to an certain extent, though as McMurtry says in his intro to the 50th anniversary edition, myths ...more
Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever been reading a book and as the end approached you were sad that the end was coming? You know eventually you are going to have to put it down. It is like the last day of a really great vacation and you know tomorrow you are back to work. It is genuinely one of the ways I know how much I liked or even loved a book. This would describe how I felt near the end of reading, “Little Big Man”. For me, a remarkable read.

I had seen the movie before and had thoroughly enjoyed it. The title po
Lisa (Harmonybites)
I loved this book from beginning to end, there was never a time where I felt slowed down, stuck in any dull part. This is framed as the first hand account of Jack Crabb, who claims to be 111-years old and the only White survivor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. The first line of his narrative starts: I am a white man and never forgot it, but I was brought up by the Cheyenne Indians from age ten. That first line telegraphs the rest of the story. Jack, whose Cheyenne name translates to Little ...more
Jul 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: humor, history
I approached Little Big Man from a novel direction (forgive the pun): I'd seen the movie before reading the book. In fact, I owned the DVD before reading the book. The movie is one of my favorites, you see.

I imagine that had to influence how I read the book. But not too much, I think; in fact, I found myself thinking of Mark Twain far more often than the movie. Berger's style in Little Big Man is very reminiscent of Twain's (somewhat modernized of course). That's appropriate, since the book purp
Jan 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Little Big Man is the story of Jack Crabb, a white man captured (sort of) and raised by the Cheyenne into his teen years. It also includes Jack's recounting of many other events in his life, including his being present at the Battle of Little Bighorn and having friends like Bat Masterson and Wild Bill Hickok.

Jack's stories are wonderfully funny, even of the laugh-out-loud variety at times. (No writer other than Berger could find the comedy in a rape scene). Jack's story, ostensibly told in his l
Jun 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
"I am a white man and never forgot it, but I was brought up by the Cheyenne Indians from the age of ten."

And so begins the story of Jack Crabb raised by Cheyenne Indians (also known as 'Human Beings') named 'Little Big Man' by his adopted father, Old Lodge Skins and involved in significant moments of American history but his name never appears on any documents.

'Little Big Man' is the story of Jack's many adventures and they are a joy to read, I have read 'Little Big Man' before and every time
Aug 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I believe this is my favorite book of all time. Berger must have been possessed when he wrote it. He never duplicated the feat though Arthur Rex is fun. I read it three or four times. I like Dustin Hoffmann, but the movie doesn't cut it. For Native Americans in the movies, I'll take 'Black Robe."

How many people will admit that a novel changed his or her life? I switched from an English major to an Anthropology major. The book convinced me that the we are an absurd species, but no subject of stu
May 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I am torn between a 4 and 5, but I think it merits a 5. I will read this book again, for many reasons: 1) it is quintessentially western American, in an honest and heartrending and funny way, 2) I kind of love Jack Crabb/Little Big Man for being so honest, funny, and scarily insightful, 3) I was blown away by how both white and Indian cultures were portrayed so honestly, with the difficulties inherent to both, and 4) it was an amazingly good, powerful, fun story of a pivotal time in history. I c ...more
Dec 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Had thought this one could be quite heavy going which is why I had never read it before - thought that it was just about a boy brought up by the Cheyenne but actually the lead character switches between living with the Cheyenne tribe and living as a cowboy/frontiersman and comes across all sorts of famous people from the era. So the book becomes a very readable novelisation of the history of the American West and fascinating in its detail of the Cheyenne way of life - parts of it are also very a ...more
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Always good to read a "Great American Novel" that actually is great.

A sweeping story of the birth of one nation and the death of another. Completely convincing in its depiction of American Indians, both on the surface and how their way of looking at the world differed so greatly from our own.

But on top of that, highly readable, no literary flourishes to describe the landscape, a very authentic dialect created without phonetic spellings (thank God) and also quite funny in places with a cast of m
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't always want to crawl inside the book I am reading but Thomas Berger has created a character I would truly like to meet in Old Lodge Skins.
Thomas Berger is a serious storyteller. His novel, "Little Big Man," was both an excellent novel and movie starring Dustin Hoffman.

In the story, we read the reminiscences of Jack Crabb, plainsman who dictated the story when he was age one hundred and eleven.

Jack Crabb was captured by Cheyenne Indians and raised by them after they massacre the members of Jack's family's wagon train. In a humorous manner, he describes being raised by the Indians and meeting many famous people that populated the we
Aug 28, 2014 rated it liked it
In his old age, Jack Crabb tells his story of the old West. At age ten, his family’s wagon train is attacked by Cheyenne Indians and Jack is captured and raised through his early teens as a Cheyenne. The story continues through his young adulthood, staying in the wild West and with Jack’s having time with both the Cheyenne and white people. The book’s strengths included depictions of Indian life, the attitudes and actions prevalent for both Indians and whites during the second half of the ninete ...more
Jon Cardwell
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novel
If ever there was a "Great American Novel" I'd almost have to say, this is it; or at least running neck and neck with Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Interestingly, the authors of both respective works, Thomas Berger for Little Big Man, and Nelle Harper Lee for To Kill a Mockingbird, only wrote and published one book each. Yet, the respective works of each define a generation, of which I am a part.

Although the movie, starring Dustin Hoffman as the main character, Jack Crabb, was very well do
Rick Skwiot
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An American epic novel—a monumental creation deserving, I believe, to sit alongside Moby Dick and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the American literary canon—Little Big Man brings to life the often times brutal intersection of American Indian tribes with pioneers and settlers invading the West. Told engagingly from the points of view of both via 110-year-old narrator Jack Crabb, who had been abducted by Cheyenne as a youth and moved back and forth between the tribal and settler cultures, it st ...more
Melissa McCauley
Oct 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
I first read this novel about 30 years ago, shortly after seeing the movie with Dustin Hoffman, and it is still wonderful. Jack Crabb, the 111-year old narrator, spins one tall tale after another about his life in the Wild West, both as a white man, and a member of the Cheyennes. Re-reading this I was impressed by how much historically accurate information the author was able to include in this romp through the Wild Wild West. (Some of which the “white establishment” anthropologists and scientis ...more
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-ya
4.5 stars
I can't believe I waited so long to read this book. I've had a copy of it sitting around for years. I saw the movie back in 1972 or so when I was barely a teenager. Loved the movie, but (as usual) the book was so much better, with so much more background information, subplots, actual history, and character development.

While reading this I kept thinking how Jack Crabb is simply the old west's version of Forrest Gump (Serious question: did the idea of Forrest Gump originate from within the pages
Alan   Mauldin
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that as soon as I had eagerly devoured the last words wanted to turn right back to the first page and jump right back in at the beginning. Because first of all it was just a sweeping narrative of a page-turner, and

Ostensibly it's the tale of 34 years of the 111-year-old Jack Crabb who was raised for several years by a band of Cheyennes, who called themselves "the Human Beings." He becomes a young warrior before being separated from his new Cheyeene father Old Lodge Sk
Feb 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I don’t know where all the Westerns have gone, but I miss them even more after reading this book. I miss that last great American frontier and all the freedom and foreigness it held. I miss it all the more so now that we Americans have seemingly abandoned that “last frontier” of outer space in the face of intractable partisan bickering and the banal reality of our broken economic system. It is a sad day indeed when the last great spokesman for the once-mighty U.S. Space Program is Newt Gingrich. ...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: # 28 - Little Big Man 1 3 Jul 24, 2016 03:17PM  
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Thomas Louis Berger is an American novelist. Probably best known for his picaresque novel Little Big Man and the subsequent film by Arthur Penn, Berger has explored and manipulated many genres of fiction throughout his career, including the crime novel, the hard-boiled detective story, science fiction, the utopian novel, plus re-workings of classical mythology, Arthurian legend, and the survival a ...more
More about Thomas Berger...

Other Books in the Series

Little Big Man (2 books)
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“If you want to really relax sometime, just fall to rock bottom and you'll be a happy man. Most all troubles come from having standards.” 19 likes
“You got to knock a man down and put your knife at his throat before he'll hear you, like I did to that trooper. The truth seems hateful to most everybody.” 8 likes
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