Timothy Cratchit, called "Tiny Tim", is a fictional character from the 1843 novella A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens in the Victorian era. He is a minor character, the youngest son of Bob Cratchit, and is seen only briefly, but serves as an important symbol of the consequences of the protagonist's choices.
When Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present he is shown just how ill the boy really is (the family cannot afford to properly treat him on the salary Scrooge pays Cratchit). When visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Scrooge sees that Tiny Tim has died. This, and several other visions, lead Scrooge to reform his ways. At the end of the story, Dickens makes it explicit that Tiny Tim doesn't die, and Scrooge becomes a "second father" to him.
In the story, Tiny Tim is known for the statement, "God bless us, every one!" which he offers as a blessing at Christmas dinner. Dickens repeats the phrase at the end of the story; this is symbolic of Scrooge's change of heart.
Dickens often used his characters to demonstrate the disparity between social classes that existed in England during Victorian era, namely the hardships suffered by the poor. These representative characters are typically children, presumably because children are most dependent upon others for survival, especially when they come from lower social classes. Tiny Tim is among these characters, and is the most notable example in A Christmas Carol.
When the audience first meet Tiny Tim, he rests upon his father's shoulder, suggesting that while the Cratchits love their boy dearly, his situation is nonetheless a burden on the family. Further representative of this burden is Tiny Tim's crippled condition. That he is crippled evokes the financial issues that many poor families faced in 19th-century England. Although his spirit is robust, Tiny Tim's life expectancy is questionable. His crutch and iron frame support his frail body, but more support is needed for Tim if he is to survive, as pointed out by the Ghost of Christmas Present in stave III: "I see a vacant seat in the poor chimney corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the future, the child will die." These are a microcosm of the impoverished population: without support or charity, their family will be reduced.
The relationship between Scrooge and Tiny Tim is a condensed depiction of the relationship between two social classes: the wealthy and the impoverished. Tiny Tim plays a large part in Scrooge's change. Tiny Tim's fate is linked very closely to Scrooge's fate, which tightens the connection that Dickens establishes between the two social classes. If Scrooge does not change his miserly ways, Tiny Tim is sure to die. Likewise, if the wealthy do not do their part to support the impoverished, the impoverished are sure to struggle. That Dickens framed this relationship with Christmas seems to suggest the immense need for decreasing the distance between English social strata. The proximity of the Christmas spirit to the issue of social strata lends a sense of community to Dickens’ message, urging the well-to-do upper class to consider the dependent poor, especially during the holiday, but year-round as well.
It has been claimed that the character is based on the son of a friend of Dickens who owned a cotton mill in Ardwick, Manchester. However, Dickens had two younger brothers both with "Fred" in the name; one called Frederick and another named Alfred. Alfred died young. Dickens tried other names such as "Tiny Mick" after "Little Fred" but eventually decided upon "Tiny Tim".
Also, Dickens had a sister named Fanny who had a disabled son named Henry Burnett Jr. Tiny Tim did not take his name from Fanny's child, but the actual aspects of Tiny Tim's character are taken from Henry Burnett Jr. Also, Fan (Ebenezer Scrooge's deceased sister and Fred's mother) may be named after Dickens' sister Fanny.
Later, after dropping the name "Little Fred" Dickens instead named Scrooge's nephew "Fred".
Dickens did not explicitly say what Tiny Tim's illness was. However, renal tubular acidosis (type 1), which is a type of kidney failure causing the blood to become acidic, has been proposed as one possibility, another being rickets (caused by a lack of Vitamin D). Either illness was treatable during Dickens' lifetime, but fatal if not treated, thus following in line with the comment of the Ghost of Christmas Present that Tiny Tim would die "only if the present remain unchanged".
The former child actor Dennis Holmes played the role of Tiny Tim on Ronald Reagan's General Electric Theater in the 1957 episode "The Trail to Christmas". Kevin Hagen portrayed the ghost and John McIntire played Scrooge in the western-themed episode.
The role of Tiny Tim has been performed (live action, voiced or animated) by, among others:Terry Kilburn in the 1938 film A Christmas Carol
Glyn Dearman in the 1951 film Scrooge
Richard Beaumont in the 1970 film Scrooge
Philip Ten Bosch in the 1979 Dutch musical De wonderbaarlijke genezing van (The Miraculous Recovery of) Ebenezer Scrooge
Dick Billingsly (as Morty Fieldmouse) in the 1983 animated film Mickey's Christmas Carol
Anthony Walters in the 1984 film A Christmas Carol
Jerry Nelson (as Robin the Frog) in the 1992 movie The Muppet Christmas Carol
Ben Tibber in the 1999 movie A Christmas Carol
Jacob Moriarty in the 2004 TV movie A Christmas Carol: The Musical
Ryan Ochoa in the 2009 film A Christmas Carol, with Jim Carrey