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This article is about the legendary creature. For other uses, see Hobgoblin (disambiguation).
Hobgoblin Hall, William Wordsworth's house, Rydal Mount, 1904
Grouping Fairy
Region Europe

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 is food. Attempts to give them clothing will 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.[1]

In John Bunyan's hymn "To be a Pilgrim", the hobgoblin is coupled with "a foul fiend" as two monstrous beings who try but fail to "daunt the Pilgrim's spirit".

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.[2]

In modern fantasy fiction[edit]

The Spiderwick Chronicles[edit]

Hogsqueal, the anti-hero of the fantasy saga The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, is a hobgoblin. In these stories a hobgoblin is a mischievous, albeit good natured goblin.

Moomin books[edit]

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 do not 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 13½ lives of Captain Bluebear[edit]

In the novel The 13½ lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers, a Hobgoblin is a gassed Will-o'-the-wisp, which is an electrocuted glowworm.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets[edit]

While called a house-elf in the book Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and subsequent titles, the parallels between hobgoblin stories and Dobby seem strong. Dobby was freed from service when given an article of clothing belonging to the Malfoys. Although the fact that he was a slave and happy to be freed, the parallel to the hobgoblin myth seems direct. Dobby's work was always done out of sight, just as hobgoblins do their work while their families sleep. Although Dobby's subsequent efforts to thwart the Malfoys and their allies go beyond the simple mischief a hobgoblin might commit if annoyed, the similarities are strong. J.K. Rowling hasn't said she modelled Dobby or other house-elves after hobgoblins specifically.

Role-playing games[edit]

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.

In the MMORPG RuneScape, hobgoblins are a crossing between orks and goblins. The Runescape hobgoblin is described as "An ugly, smelly creature."

In the FPS Destiny, hobgoblins are a type of alien robotic species known as the Vex.

Comic books and manga[edit]

Spider-Man comics feature a villain named Hobgoblin, an imitation of the Green Goblin, first appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #238 written by Roger Stern.

A hobgoblin appears in Monster in My Pocket #23, a prankster who serves as comic relief among the good monsters and has the ability to project fire from his fingers.

In Ao 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. 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.

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 chores, despite appearing as horrific creatures and feared by children.


A hobgoblin named Randal Moon features in the CBBC sci-fi/fantasy series Wizards vs Aliens.



  • Hobgoblin is also the name of a strong dark ale produced by the Wychwood Brewery (England).
  • Hobgoblin Clothing[4] is a clothing manufacturer in Australia that caters to the adventure sports fraternity.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Briggs (1979) p.32 p.100
  2. ^ "Self-Reliance". Emersoncentral.com. Retrieved 2013-09-09. 
  3. ^ "Huey And The Hobgoblins". Thehobgoblins.com. Retrieved 2013-09-09. 
  4. ^ "Hobgoblin Clothing, mens and womens wholesale adrenaline clothing". Hobgoblinclothing.com. Retrieved 2013-09-09.