Charles de Lint's Newford Wiki

Uncle Dobbins Parrot Fair (Newford) (1991) by Charles de Lint

"Uncle Dobbin's Parrot Fair" (1991) — A short story in various print versions. 

Category (Adult or YA)[]


When she was younger, Ellen had seen them all the time, bouncing in the wind like tumbleweeds. She called them the Balloon Men. Now she wonders if they really exist...

Reece knows he can see things other people can't, and he's running from a nightmare that menaces people with barracuda teeth...

Somewhere between Ellen's doubts and Reece's certainties lies Uncle Dobbin's Parrot Fair. Laced with parables, this Nebula nominated story has much to say about the nature of Magic. ~ Charles de Lint: Uncle Dobbin's Parrot Fair (1991) Description


Charles de Lint - Dreams Underfoot


Belief in magic is needed for it to exist and to keep it—to earn it.



Newford; Seal Beach, California; Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, California


  • The Green Pepper: Mexican restaurant on Main Street in Seal Beach, California
  • Melrose Avenue
  • Bramley Dapple's mansion in Newford

Supernatural / Mythical Elements[]

Balloon Men, Booger, personal magic in form of a crow or other bird, gnome, witches, talking pig; 

  • Balloon Men: Roly-poly shapes propelled by ocean breezes, turning end-over-end behind Ellen Brady's house like errant beach balls granted; when stuck, spindly arms and legs would unfold, push-off, and they'd float off again; Brightly colored primary reds and yellows and blues;
  • Booger: nightmarish creature with rows of serrated teeth that follows Reece around;


Characters What About
Ellen Brady woman struggles with believing in magic but senses it inside her; helps Reece rid his Booger;
Reece, aka Peregrin Laurie young man followed by Booger; Ellen tends him after beating; helps him rid the booger;
Uncle Dobbin shop owner in Christy Riddell's book; talks about believing in magic or losing it
Nori Wert shop worker in Christy Riddell's book; lost her magic in bird form by not believing in it
Professor Bramley Dapple Professor in Christy Riddell's book; talks about believing in magic for it to exist;
Jilly Coppercorn student in Christy Riddell's book
Goon Skookin (goblin/troll) Dapple's manservant; in Christy Riddell's book
Christy Riddell author mentioned only
Greg Longman sixties hippie could see the Balloon Men float in the air
Long gnome, or a gnomish sort of a man lived under the pier at the end of Main Street; Character in Christy Riddell's book

To expand the table, right-press on a row of the table or (Control-press on a Mac)—choose add

Cover Artists[]

  • Donna Gordon

~ Source: Goodreads

Publishing Information[]


  • Paperback, 45 pages, Pub: June 1st 1991 by pulphouse—ISBN: 1561465178


Was included in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Nov 1987 and The Year's Best Fantasy #1 , 1988 and in [Japanese] in Hayakawa's SF Magazine #1, 1990 and Tesseracts 3 , 1991

Published solely here as Uncle Dobbin's Parrot Fair, Pulphouse Short Story Paperback #17

Included in Dreams Underfoot, 1993 which itself was part of Newford Stories. ~ Goodreads

Author's List of Editions[]

  • Pulphouse (Short Story Paperback #17); hardcover & mass market, 1991
  • First appeared in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, November 1987
  • Reprinted in The Year's Best Fantasy, First Annual Collection, St. Martin's Press; hardcover & trade paperback, 1988
  • Reprinted in Hayakawa's SF Magazine #11, 1990
  • Reprinted in Tesseracts 3, Porcepic Books; mass market, 1991
  • Reprinted in Dreams Underfoot, Tor; hardcover, 1993
  • Reprinted in Dreams Underfoot, Tor; mass market, 1994 * Reprinted in The Newford Stories, SF Book Club, hardcover, 1999

First Sentence[]

She would see them in the twilight when the wind was right, roly-poly shapes propelled by oceanbreezes, turning end-over-end along the beach or down the alley behind her house like errant beach ballsgranted a moment’s freedom. ~


Goodreads | Charles de Lint Quotes

“It’s not imagining. It’s knowing that it exists—without one smidgen of doubt.”
“Yes, but someone had to think him up for him to ...” She hesitated as Goon’s scowl deepened. “That is …”
Bramley continued to shake his head. “There is some semblance of order to things,” he admitted, “for if the world was simply everyone’s different conceptual universe mixed up together, we’d have nothing but chaos. It all relies on will, you see—to observe the changes, at any rate. Or the differences. The anomalies. Like Goon—oh, do stop scowling,” he added to the goblin.“The world as we have it,” he went on to Jilly, “is here mostly because of habit. We’ve all agreed that certain things exist—we’re taught as impressionable infants that this is a table and this is what it looks like, that’s a tree out the window there, a dog looks and sounds just so. At the same time we’re informed that Goon and his like don’t exist, so we don’t—or can’t—see them." ~ Professor Bramley Dapple


Nebula nominated


Lists That Contain Uncle Dobbins Parrot Fair ~ GR

Notes / Comments[]

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