Goblin

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Goblin
An illustration of a small, hairy mischievious-looking humanoid creature with large, bat-like ears wearing a hooded cloak.
Goblin illustration by John D. Batten from "English Fairy Tales" (19th century)
GroupingDiminutive spirit
Similar entitiesFairies, demons, brownies, dwarfs, duendes, gnomes, imps, and kobolds.

A goblin is a small, grotesque, monstrous creature that appears in the folklore of multiple European cultures. First attested in stories from the Middle Ages, they are ascribed conflicting abilities, temperaments and appearances depending on the story and country of origin, varying from mischievous household spirits to malicious, bestial thieves.[1][2] They often have magical abilities similar to a fairy or demon, such as the ability to shapeshift.[2]

Similar creatures include brownies, dwarfs, duendes, gnomes, imps, leprechauns, and kobolds, but it is also commonly used as a blanket term for all small, fay creatures.[2] The term is sometimes expanded to include goblin-like creatures of other cultures, such as the pukwudgie, dokkaebi or ifrit.[2]

Etymology[edit]

Alternative spellings include gobblin, gobeline, gobling, goblyn, goblino, and gobbelin. The term goblette has been used to refer to female goblins.[3][4]

English goblin is first recorded in the 14th century and is probably from unattested Anglo-Norman *gobelin,[5] similar to Old French gobelin, already attested around 1195 in Ambroise of Normandy's Guerre sainte, and to Medieval Latin gobelinus in Orderic Vitalis before 1141,[6][7] which was the name of a devil or daemon haunting the country around Évreux, Normandy. It may be related both to German kobold and to Medieval Latin cabalus - or *gobalus, itself from Greek κόβαλος (kobalos), "rogue", "knave", "imp", "goblin".[6] German Kobold contains the Germanic root kov- (Middle German Kobe "refuge, cavity", "hollow in a rock", Dial. English cove "hollow in a rock", English "sheltered recess on a coast", Old Norse kofi "hut, shed" ) which means originally a "hollow in the earth".[8][9] The word is probably related to Dial. Norman gobe "hollow in a cliff", with simple suffix -lin or double suffixation -el-in (cf. Norman surnames Beuzelin,[10] Gosselin,[11] Étancelin,[12] etc.)[13]

Alternatively, it may be a diminutive or other derivative of the French proper name Gobel, more often Gobeau,[14][15] diminutive forms Gobelet, Goblin, Goblot, but their signification is probably "somebody who sells tumblers or beakers or cups".[16] Moreover, these proper names are not from Normandy, where the word gobelin, gobelinus first appears in the old documents.

The Welsh coblyn, a type of knocker, derives from the Old French gobelin via the English goblin.[17][18]

Goblins in folklore[edit]

An illustration of a group of goblins surrounding a small child.
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith, 1920

European folklore[edit]

Goblin-like creatures in other cultures[edit]

Many Asian lagyt creatures have been likened to, or translated as, goblins. Some examples for these:

  • The Goblin of Adachigahara (Japanese fairy tale)[19]
  • The Goblin Rat, from The Boy Who Drew Cats (Japanese fairy tale).
  • Twenty-Two Goblins (Indian fairy tale)[20]
  • In South Korea, goblins, known as dokkaebi (도깨비), are important creatures in folklore, where they reward good people and punish the evil, playing tricks on them.[2]
  • In Bangladesh, Santal people believe in gudrobonga which is very similar to goblins.

Other Goblins had been identified with creatures from another culture:

Goblins in fiction[edit]

Collected folk stories[edit]

Modern fiction[edit]

An illustration of a goblin wearing armour made of leather and skulls, wielding a cutlass.
Representation of a goblin as it appears in the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons

Goblinoids are a category of humanoid legendary creatures related to the goblin. The term was popularized in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game,[24] in which goblins and related creatures are a staple of random encounters. Goblinoids are typically barbaric foes of the various human and "demi-human" races. Even though goblinoids in modern fantasy fiction are derived from J.R.R. Tolkien's orcs, in his Middle-earth "orc" and "goblin" were names for the same race of creatures. The main types of goblinoids in Dungeons & Dragons are goblins, bugbears and hobgoblins; these creatures are also figures of mythology, next to ordinary goblins.

In the Harry Potter book series and the shared universe in which its film adaptations are set, goblins are depicted as strange, but civilised, humanoids, who often serve as bankers or craftsmen. These depictions of goblins have been likened by critics to antisemitic caricatures.[25]

The Green Goblin is a well-known supervillain, one of the archenemies of Spider-Man, who has various abilities including enhanced stamina, durability, agility, reflexes and superhuman strength due to ingesting a substance known as the "Goblin Formula". He has appeared in various Spider-Man related media, such as comics, television series, video games, and films, including Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) as Norman Osborn, and Spider-Man 3 (2007) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) as Harry Osborn.

In early English translations, The Smurfs were called goblins.[26]

Goblin-related place names[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Edwards, Gillian (1974). Hobgoblin and Sweet Puck: Fairy names and natures. London: Geoffrey Bles. ISBN 9780713807103.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Shaijan, Annliya (2019-03-27). "Goblin Mythology: A Brief Study of the Archetype, Tracing the Explications in English Literature". Global Journal of Human-Social Science Research. 19 (4). ISSN 2249-460X.
  3. ^ Anthony, Piers (1992). The Color of Her Panties. You can't move me out, you skirted goblette.
  4. ^ Porter, Jesse (28 September 2015). "Goblin". The Adventures of Puss in Boots. Episode 12. My dear, dear goblette, there is really nothing to it.
  5. ^ T. F. Hoad, English Etymology, Oxford University Press, p. 196b.
  6. ^ a b CNRTL etymology of gobelin (online French)
  7. ^ Du Cange et al, Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis ...(online French and Latin) [1]
  8. ^ Duden, Herkunftswörterbuch : Etymologie der deutschen Sprache, Band 7, Dudenverlag, p. 359 : Kobel, koben, Kobold.
  9. ^ HOAD, p. 101b.
  10. ^ Géopatronyme : surname Beuzelin in France (online French)
  11. ^ Géopatronyme : surname Gosselin in France (online French) Gosselin
  12. ^ Géopatronyme : surname Étancelin in France (online French)
  13. ^ κόβαλος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  14. ^ Harper, Douglas. "Goblin". The Online Etymological Dictionary. Retrieved 2011-12-20.
  15. ^ HOAD, p. 196b.
  16. ^ Albert Dauzat, Noms et prénoms de France, Librairie Larousse 1980, édition revue et commentée par Marie-Thérèse Morlet. p. 295b Gobel.
  17. ^ Franklin, Anna (2002). "Goblin", The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Fairies. London: Paper Tiger. ISBN 1-84340-240-8. p. 108
  18. ^ The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English
  19. ^ "Rick Walton - folktale". Archived from the original on 2007-08-25. Retrieved 2007-06-15.
  20. ^ Sacred texts
  21. ^ Sally M. Promey Sensational Religion: Sensory Cultures in Material Practice Yale University Press, 2014 ISBN 9780300187359 pp. 99–100
  22. ^ Apples4theTeacher - short stories
  23. ^ Dutch Fairy Tales for Young Folks, 1918, compiled by William Elliot Griffis
  24. ^ Weinstock, Jeffrey (2014). The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 9781409425625.
  25. ^ The Problem With Goblins: J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter, & Jews | The Problem With Jon Stewart Podcast, retrieved 2022-02-01
  26. ^ "9780854081530 - Dilly Duckling and the Goblins by Peyo; Matagne". www.biblio.com. Retrieved 2019-12-22.
  27. ^ Ghosts, Goblins, and Haunted Castles, Aventinum Publishers, 1990 in English, page 51
  28. ^ Glasgow Street Names, Carol Foreman, Birlinn, 2007, page 58.

Further reading[edit]