|Country||Northwestern Europe, Scandinavia, British Isles, United States|
A goblin is a monstrous creature from European folklore, first attested in stories from the Middle Ages. They are ascribed various and conflicting abilities, temperaments and appearances depending on the story and country of origin. They are almost always small and grotesque, mischievous or outright evil, and greedy, especially for gold and jewelry. They often have magical abilities similar to a fairy or demon. Similar creatures include brownies, dwarves, duendes, gnomes, imps, and kobolds.
Alternative spellings include gobblin, gobeline, gobling, goblyn, and gobbelin.
English goblin is first recorded in the 14th century and is probably from unattested Anglo-Norman *gobelin, 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, 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". Alternatively, it may be a diminutive or other derivative of the French proper name Gobel, more often Gobeau, diminutive forms Gobelet, Goblin, Goblot, but their signification is probably "somebody who sells tumblers or beakers or cups". Moreover, these proper names are not from Normandy, where the word gobelin, gobelinus first appears in the old documents. 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". 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, Gosselin, Étancelin, etc.)
European folklore and collected folk stories
This section is in a list format that may be better presented using prose. (February 2013)
- Goblins along with ogres are said to be the offspring of Cain in Beowulf
- Goblins are usually the Fairy equivalent of human gangs technically speaking in English, Icelandic, Irish, French, and Scottish folklore.
- A redcap is a type of goblin who dyes its hat in human blood in Anglo-Scottish border folklore.
- Hobgoblins are friendly trickster goblins from English, Scottish, and Pilgrim folklore and literature.
- The Benevolent Goblin, from Gesta Romanorum (England)
- The Erlking is a malevolent goblin from German legend.
- "The Goblin Pony", from The Grey Fairy Book (French fairy tale)
- "The Goblins at the Bath House" (Estonia), from A Book of Ghosts and Goblins (1969)
- "The Goblins Turned to Stone" (Dutch fairy tale).
- King Gobb (Moldovan Gypsy folktale)
- Mill goblins appear in Norwegian folklore.
- Goblins are featured in the Danish fairy tales: The Elf Mound, The Goblin and the Grocer, and The Goblin and the Woman.
Goblin-like creatures in other cultures
Many Asian lagyt creatures have been likened to, or translated as, goblins. Some examples for these:
- Chinese Ghouls and Goblins (England 1928)
- The Goblin of Adachigahara (Japanese fairy tale)
- The Goblin Rat, from The Boy Who Drew Cats (Japanese fairy tale)
- Twenty-Two Goblins (Indian fairy tale)
- In South Korea, goblins are known as dokkaebi (도깨비). They are especially important mythical creatures in Korean folklore. They usually appear in children's books.
- In Bangladesh, Santal people believe in gudrobonga which is very similar to goblins.
- 'The Gap of Goeblin', a hole and underground tunnel in Mortain, France.
- Goblin Combe, in north Somerset, UK
- Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, U.S.
- Goblin Crescent, Bryndwr, Christchurch, New Zealand
- Yester Castle (also known as "Goblin Hall") East Lothian, Scotland
- Goblin Bay, Beausoleil Island, Ontario, Canada
- Cowcaddens and Cowlairs, Glasgow, Scotland. 'Cow' is an old Scots word for Goblin, while 'cad' means 'nasty'. 'Dens' and 'lairs' refers to goblin homes.
In popular culture
- The Goblins, a comedy play by Sir John Suckling (1638 England; the title alludes to thieves rather than actual goblins)
- The Goblins Who Stole A Sexton is a short story by Charles Dickens where goblins torment a gravedigger for being cruel on Christmas.
- Goblin Market, a poem by Christina Rossetti (1859 England)
- The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald (1872) depicts the Goblins as grotesque humanoids, vulnerable to sunlight, song, and pressure on their feet.
- Davy and the Goblin by Charles E. Carryl (1884)
- J. R. R. Tolkien generally used the terms goblin and orc synonymously in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. These works, featuring goblins of almost-human stature, generally informed the depiction of goblins in later fiction and games. William Thompson writes, "In The Hobbit – whose title character resembles the traditional hobgoblin, thinly disguised by name and role – Tolkien's goblins, though villains, retain a hint of earlier portrayals as scamps, with their bumbling efforts, punctuated by boisterous and doggerel song, posing little threat to the story's heroes and perhaps reflecting the novel's intended young audience. Yet, in notes for the novel, he acknowledges an indebtedness to MacDonald, and while his goblins may appear burlesque, they are also grotesque, filthy, and wicked, preying upon travelers from underground lairs." Thompson adds that, in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien has "abandoned all pretence at depicting goblins in a comic light, instead casting them as the great evil race of Middle-earth..."
- Goblins are portrayed as roughly half the size of adult humans as non-player characters in the tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons, which influenced most later depictions including the games Akalabeth, Ultima, Tibia, RuneScape and World of Warcraft (they become a playable race in the WoW expansion World of Warcraft: Cataclysm) and the Warhammer Fantasy setting, where they possess green skin and often red eyes. Goblins are also present as the first tier creature in the Orc faction in Heroes of Might and Magic V: Tribes of the East.
- Goblins are recurring minor enemies in the Final Fantasy franchise, where they usually appear near the beginning of each game and pose little to no threat to the player. They often use a technique called Goblin Punch which does increased damage to enemies of the same experience level. The MMORPG entries in the series have reimagined goblins as a nomadic race of bandits and tinkerers with a high affinity for machinery who are never seen without their trademark leather gas masks and speak in their own characteristic dialect.
- Goblins are represented in Magic: The Gathering as a species of predominantly Red-aligned creatures generally organized into various tribes, and are usually depicted as fierce and war-mongering, but of comically low intelligence. Most are similar to other depictions of goblins save those of the Akki race, which bear chitinous shells on their backs.
- The 1973 film Don't Be Afraid of the Dark portrays a house infested with goblins; it was remade in 2011. In both versions the Goblins are small, intelligent, nimble and evil creatures with a penchant for preying on children. They feed on human teeth and are afraid of light.
- The Jim Henson Productions film Labyrinth centres around a kingdom of Goblins ruled by Jareth the Goblin King (played by David Bowie). The Goblins in this film come in many diverse forms: they range from a few inches to several feet in height; some have small eyes, some have large eyes, some have protruding eyes, some have horns, some have hair, and some are hairless. It has been implied by Jareth that all the Goblins were once human children.
- Goblins play an important role in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. They guard the wizard bank Gringotts and are portrayed as clever, arrogant, greedy, and churlish. They are skilled in metalwork; goblin-made steel, such as the sword of Gryffindor, absorbs the magic of other substances to make it stronger.
- The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy by Clare B. Dunkle features a creative re-imagining of goblins, elves, and dwarves.
- The Complete Encyclopedia of Elves, Goblins, and Other Little Creatures depicts them as originating in the British Isles, from whence they spread by ship to all of Continental Europe. They have no homes, being wanderers, dwelling temporarily in mossy cracks in rocks and tree roots.
- Goblins are usually the main opponents in Dwarf Fortress. They are described as evil creatures having green skin and glowing red eyes. They often kidnap children of the other races and raise them as goblins.
- The music of the band Nekrogoblikon centers around goblins.
- Goblin is an Italian prog rock band that is famous for composing the score for the horror film Zombi.
- A goblin appears in one of the poems in the book It's Halloween by Jack Prelutsky.
- Goblins appear as units on the orc Faction in the Warlords Battlecry games.
- Goblins appear as enemies in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
- The Marvel Comics superhero Spider-Man has several enemies that dress as goblins such as the Green Goblin and Hobgoblin.
- Goblins and Redcaps appear in the film Faeries.
- Goblins take the place of orknies in the film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
- In The Spiderwick Chronicles, goblins serve the main antagonist, the ogre Mulgarath, and terrorize the Grace children in an attempt to snatch Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide from them. They are frog-like in form with whiskers and pointed ears. Hobgoblins, like Hogsqueal, are depicted as mischievous but more benign.
- In Supercell's Clash of Clans, goblins perform two roles: they are the principal enemy in the single-player campaign, but players can also have their own goblins which serve as units primarily adapted to stealing resources.
- In Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, a popular 2016 Korean drama, 939-year-old immortal goblin Kim Shin (played by Gong Yoo) is the protector of souls who looks for his bride (the only one who can remove the sword he was killed with) to end his immortality and rest in peace.
- In the television fantasy game show Knightmare, goblins were regular antagonists. They were child-sized humanoid creatures, with ugly, hairless features and brown, leathery skin, and usually armed with a club and sometimes a shield. Their arrival was always heralded by the distinctive sound of a goblin horn. They were always aggressive, pursuing and attempting to kill the 'dungeoneer' (competitor). On rare occasions hobgoblins appeared, which were identical but far larger (taller than an average adult human).
- The 2017 paranormal romance novel The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle centers around the mischief caused by a tribe of goblins living in a forest in Washington state.
- Goblin (disambiguation)
- Goblins in modern fiction
- Terry Pratchett (novelist)
- The Goblin Mirror (novel)
- The Water Goblin ( by Antonin Dvořák)
- T. F. Hoad, English Etymology, Oxford University Press, p. 196b.
- CNRTL etymology of gobelin (online French)
- Du Cange et al, Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis ...(online French and Latin) 
- κόβαλος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- Harper, Douglas. "Goblin". The Online Etymological Dictionary. Retrieved 2011-12-20.
- HOAD, p. 196b.
- Albert Dauzat, Noms et prénoms de France, Librairie Larousse 1980, édition revue et commentée par Marie-Thérèse Morlet. p. 295b Gobel.
- Duden, Herkunftswörterbuch : Etymologie der deutschen Sprache, Band 7, Dudenverlag, p. 359 : Kobel, koben, Kobold.
- HOAD, p. 101b.
- Géopatronyme : surname Beuzelin in France (online French)
- Géopatronyme : surname Gosselin in France (online French) Gosselin
- Géopatronyme : surname Étancelin in France (online French)
- Franklin, Anna (2002). "Goblin", The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Fairies. London: Paper Tiger. ISBN 1-84340-240-8. p. 108
- The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English
- Apples4theTeacher - short stories
- Dutch Fairy Tales for Young Folks, 1918, compiled by William Elliot Griffis
- Rick Walton - folktale
- Sacred texts
- Ghosts, Goblins, and Haunted Castles, Aventinum Publishers, 1990 in English, page 51
- Glasgow Street Names, Carol Foreman, Birlinn, 2007, page 58.
- SF Site
- Thompson, William (2005). "Goblins". In Gary Westfahl. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders. 1. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 348. ISBN 0-313-32951-6.
- F, S (2008). "Stronghold Creatures". Age Of Heroes. Retrieved 2011-02-24.
- The Complete Encyclopedia of Elves, Goblins, and Other Little Creatures by Pierre Dubois, in English 2005
- Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were by Michael Page & Robert Ingpen, 1987
- Interactive Knightmare Lexicon, http://interactive.knightmare.org.uk/component/legacy/page/display/lexicon?s=view&EID=goblin
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- Briggs, K. M. (2003). The Anatomy of Puck. London: Routledge.
- Briggs, K. M. (1967). The Fairies in English Literature and Tradition. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
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