E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
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 well 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, Olivias giant; and Sir Toby says to her, Good night, Penthesileai.e. Amazon.