Little John

A big stalwart fellow, named John Little (or John Nailor), who encountered Robin Hood, and gave him a sound thrashing, after which he was rechristened, and Robin stood godfather. Little John is introduced by Sir Walter Scott in The Talisman.

“`This infant was called John Little,' quoth he; `Which name shall be changed anon, The words we'll transpose, so wherever he goes, His name shall be called Little John.”

Ritson: Robin Hood, xxi.

Little John was executed on Arbor Hill, Dublin.

It will be remembered that Maria in Twelfth Night, represented by Shakespeare as a little woman, is by a similar pleasantry called by Viola, “Oliva's giant;” and Sir Toby says to her, “Good night, Penthesile'a” —i.e. Amazon.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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