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Hobgoblin Hall, William Wordsworth's House, Rydal Mount, 1904.
Hobgoblin is a term typically applied in folktales to describe a friendly but troublesome creature of the Seelie Court. The most commonly known hobgoblin is the character Puck in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Hobgoblins seem to be small, hairy little men who—like their close relative, brownies—are often found within human dwellings, doing odd jobs around the house while the family is lost in sleep. Such chores are typically small deeds, like dusting and ironing. Often, the only compensation necessary in return for these was food. Attempts to give them clothing would often banish them forever, though whether they take offense to such gifts or are simply too proud to work in new clothes differs from teller to teller. It is possible that the "hob" in their name comes from the hob, a part of the hearth meant for holding food or utensils.
While brownies are more peaceful creatures, hobgoblins are more fond of practical jokes. They also seem to be able to shape-shift, as seen in one of Puck's monologues in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Robin Goodfellow is perhaps the most mischievous and most infamous of all his kind, but many are less antagonizing. However, like all of the fae folk, hobgoblins are easily annoyed. When teased or misused excessively, brownies become boggarts—creatures whose sole existence is to play tricks and cause trouble for people. They can be mischievous, frightening, and even dangerous, and they are very difficult to get rid of.
The term "hobgoblin" has grown to mean a superficial object that is a source of (often imagined) fear or trouble. Probably the best-known example of this usage is Ralph Waldo Emerson's line, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," from the essay Self-Reliance.
Hobgoblins in modern fantasy fiction
The Lord of the Rings
In The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, hobgoblins are a menacing, larger and stronger form of goblins. Tolkien later remarked in a letter that through further study of folklore he had subsequently learned that "the statement that hobgoblins were 'a larger kind' [of goblins] is the reverse of the original truth". This mistaken reversal in size on Tolkien's part has generally been followed in other fictional hobgoblins. Tolkien then renamed them as Uruks or Uruk-hai in an attempt to correct his mistake.
The Spiderwick Chronicles
In the English translation of Finn Family Moomintroll, the third book of the Moomin series of children's books by Tove Jansson, The Hobgoblin is a strange magical personage -- even his hat, when found by other creatures, can work strange sorts of magic all by itself. While slightly frightening to those who don't know him, he is in fact a rather lonely and sensitive creature, who can grant the wishes of others but not his own: unless somebody specifically asks him for something which he wants, and then gives him what he himself created.
In the original Swedish, the character is called "Trollkarlen," which normally would just mean "The Wizard." While "troll" *can* be a supernatural being, it also means a spell or charm and it is likely that the term is his title, not his species: Jansson's illustrations depict him as a cloaked and bearded man.
The creature commonly appears in the bestiaries of fantasy role-playing games, where it is portrayed as a larger, stronger, smarter and more menacing cousin of the goblin, but not as high up on the goblinoid hierarchy as bugbears.
In Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage, hobgoblins are large, thorny brutes that infest the desolate mountain passes of Errormon, home of the Mirari folk. Their leader is Kitarak, who must be slain in a certain point of the game.
In Mage: The Ascension, a hobgoblin is a physical manifestation of a hallucination suffered by a Mage's avatar.
In Exalted, hobgoblins are warrior grunts of the fair folk.
In Flintloque, hobgoblins are a race similar to the Welsh who come from the land of Taffsea and fight for the Grand Alliance with the orcs of Albion. They portray various Welsh stereotypes, often being named as the Boyos of Taffsea, and their cavalry ride on war sheep.
In Changeling: the Lost, hobgoblins are strange fae creatures that live within the hedge that divides Arcadia and the mortal world.
Comic books and Manga
In An no Exorcist (blue Exorcist) Behemoth is a hobgoblin. He is the familiar of Amaimon. Whenever Amaimon is not fighting, Behemoth is usually seen with him. He is killed by Shura and Arthur in the anime while in the manga he may have retreated along with his master. When Amaimon attacks the exwires' camp, he orders Behemoth to attack. However, Behemoth, Amaimon, and many other hobgoblins in the area are blown away by Shura's total shield. When Rin attempts to chase after Amaimon, Behemoth gets in his way. Shura fights Behemoth and arrives later, but it is unknown if he either got away or was slain in the manga. In the anime, Behemoth was killed by the joint effort of Arthur Auguste Angel and Shura Kirigakure.
Behemoth accompanies Amaimon when Amaimon attacks the trial. Behemoth is in his giant form and Amaimon rides on top of his head. However, Shura uses her snakefang technique on Behemoth, slaying him.
As Behemoth is Amaimon's familiar, the two seem to be close. Behemoth is usually led around by Amaimon using a leash. Behemoth also carries out Amaimon's orders and will participate in fights if Amaimon orders it. When he is killed, Amaimon quickly became enraged, easily overpowering the Paladin Arthur Auguste Angel and Shura Kirigakure, reflecting the close relationship between Amaimon and Behemoth.
In Wild and Horned Hermit, a manga series that is part of the Touhou Project universe, hobgoblins are introduced to the story's world as foreign youkais who are friendly and helpful with household choirs, despite appearing as horrific creatures and feared by children.
- Huey and The Hobgoblins are an 8-piece band from Drogheda, Ireland.
- The name of Icelandic progressive rock group Þursaflokkurinn translates as "The Hobgoblins" in English.
- The Fall released a song called "City Hobgoblins" in 1980.
- Hobgoblin is also a punk band from Newport, South Wales.
- Hobgoblin is also the name of a strong dark ale produced by the Wychwood Brewery (England).
- Hobgoblin Clothing is a clothing manufacturer in Australia that caters to the adventure sports fraternity.
- The hymn To be a Pilgrim, written by John Bunyan, – which includes a verse in which the first line reads, "Hobgoblin nor foul fiend/Shall daunt his spirit."
- Briggs (1979) p.32 p.100
- "Self-Reliance". Emersoncentral.com. Retrieved 2013-09-09.
- Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #319, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
- "Huey And The Hobgoblins". Thehobgoblins.com. Retrieved 2013-09-09.
- "Hobgoblin Clothing, mens and womens wholesale adrenaline clothing". Hobgoblinclothing.com. Retrieved 2013-09-09.