A hob is a type of small mythological household spirit found in the north and midlands of England, but especially on the Anglo-Scottish border, according to traditional folklore of those regions. They could live inside the house or outdoors. They are said to work in farmyards and thus could be helpful; however, if offended they could become nuisances. The usual way to dispose of a hob was to give them a set of new clothing, the receiving of which would make the creature leave forever. It could, however, be impossible to get rid of the worst hobs.
"Hob" is simply a rustic name for the countryside goblin, "a piece of rude familiarity to cover up uncertainty or fear". "Hob" is generally explained as a nickname for "Robert". "Hob" is sometimes a generic term given to a goblin, bogle or brownie.
Hobs have been described as small, hairy, wizened men. In northern Britain the hob was viewed as a kind but mischievous spirit, helpful to local people in need of healing. A famous hob called the hobthrust lived near Runswick Bay in a hobhole, and was said to be able to cure whooping cough.
The hob would help the farmer in the field or the shopkeeper in his store. Hobs are generally considered household spirits, who preferred to be about at night. Katherine Briggs noted that hobs were not tied to a particular place, but seemed to come and go as they chose.
As well as the brownie, another cognate exists in the Scandinavian nisse or tomte; all of which are thought to be derived from the household gods of olden times, known in England as the cofgodas (Old English for "house-gods") of which the brownie and hob are indeed a survival.
In Moldovan Romani folklore a correlate of the hob was the "Goblin". They also lived inside or outside, worked incredibly fast and hard and could make plants grow quickly. These abilities combined with their supernatural strength and speed made them invaluable to farmers lucky enough to be on their good side. There existed no folklore regarding a negative interaction with clothing except that these creatures considered the clothes of mankind to be inferior to their own.
Modern popular culture
- The 1958 TV serial Quatermass and the Pit, and the later film version, center around the fictional Hobbs Lane (formally called Hob's Lane); the significance of the name becoming apparent as the plot unfolds.
- In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, hobs are eyeless creatures who burn in light. They serve the Queen Mab of The Winter Court of the Sidhe.
- In the Lionhead Studios' video games Fable, Fable II, and Fable III some of the minor adversaries are creatures known as "hobbes". Hobbes in the Fable series are created from children who misbehave and are captured by hobbes.
- In J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, house-elves (such as Harry's friend Dobby) appear to be a type of hob, doing household tasks for human masters and driven from their households if given gifts of clothing (in what most house-elves see as a type of shameful expulsion, but the eccentric Dobby – and several human observers – consider an emancipation from slavery).
- The Hob appearing in The Years of Longdirk by Ken Hood is considerably different from the traditional depiction, being a powerful spirit which is amoral, neither good nor bad, but which has considerable destructive powers it can use if provoked. In Hood's fantasy world, "Hob" and "Imp" are two names for much the same kind of being.
- In The Hob's Bargain by Patricia Briggs, the Hob is a powerful creature, possibly the last of his kind, who bargains to help protect a local village from a necromancer in exchange for a mate. The heroine who brought the Hob to the village agrees to his bargain in exchange for his help.
- In Moonshine, the second novel of the Cal Leandros novels by Rob Thurman, the villain is "Hobgoblin" or "the Hob," the oldest of the race of immortal creatures known as pucks. In this series, the pucks all look alike, with curly brown hair, green eyes, and "foxlike" faces. Unlike his fellow puck, Robin Goodfellow, the Hob sees humans merely as toys and tools, beings which are utterly beneath him.
- In An Elder Scrolls Novel: The Infernal City, hobs are used as kitchen slaves.
- English Folklore. A Dictionary of English Folklore. 2000, 2003, Oxford University Press.
- Scott, Charles C.P., "Hob", Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol.26, American Philological Association, 1895
- "Whitby Myth and Folklore: Hob", Whitby Online
- Bane, Theresa. "Hob", Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology, McFarland, 2013 ISBN 9781476612423
- Roberts, Kai. Folklore of Yorkshire, The History Press, 2013 ISBN 9780752489544
- "Cove-Gods," An Other Dictionary.