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Hob (folklore)

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Runswick Bay, North Yorkshire. Local people would ask "Hobhole Hob" for help to get rid of a cough.

A hob is a type of small mythological household spirit found in the English Midlands, Northern England,[a][b] and on the Anglo-Scottish border, according to traditional folklore of those regions.[3] 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.[4]



"Hob" is a diminutive form of the name "Robin", which is itself a diminutive form of the name "Robert". [5]

"Hob" is sometimes a generic term given to a goblin, bogle or brownie. The name "Hob" became associated with the mythical creature as "a piece of rude familiarity to cover up uncertainty or fear";[6] essentially, calling a mystical creature by a common nickname was a way to make the concept less frightening, and the nickname eventually became the common term.

As well as the brownie, another cognate exists in the Scandinavian nisse or tomte; all 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.[7][full citation needed]





Hobs have been described as small, hairy, wizened men. Hobs were viewed as kind but mischievous spirits, helpful to local people in need. One famous hob lived near Runswick Bay in a hobhole; this hob was believed to be able to cure young children of kink-cough (whooping cough).[8] Parents would bring their ailing young to the hob's cave dwelling and recite the following:[9]

Hobhole Hob!
Ma' bairn's gotten 't kink cough,
Tak't off ! tak't off!

Hobs are generally considered household spirits, who preferred to be about at night. Hobs were not tied to a particular place, but seemed to come and go as they chose.[10] A hob would help the farmer in the field or the shopkeeper in his store.[11] The householder had to be careful in dealing with a hob, so as not to offend it. If a farmer were to speak poorly of a hob on his farm, the hob might retaliate by breaking dishes and turning loose livestock.[12] Most importantly, a hob must not be given a gift of clothing, as this would be greatly resented and might cause a helpful hob to leave immediately.[13] This was said to have happened at Sturfit Hall in Yorkshire, where the well-meaning family left a small hat and cloak for their helpful hob; however, when he encountered the gift, he exclaimed "Ha! a cap and a hood, / Hob'll never do mair good!" and was never seen again.[14] Another Yorkshire hob, this one at Hart Hall, refused with a warning when offered a work shirt: "Gin Hob mun hae nowght but a hardin' hamp, / He'll come nae mair nowther to berry nor stamp."[9]

North York Moors


Farndale flit


Farndale in the North York Moors is separated from its neighbour Rosedale to the east by a high but relatively level moorland promontory known as Blakey Ridge. On the east side of that ridge is a topological feature known as Hobb Crag, overlooking the village of Rosedale Abbey. A local story relates how a farmer in Farndale was so troubled by a Hob that he decided to relocate to another farm – just to get rid of that Hob.[2]

He loaded his cart with furniture and farm equipment and set off. On the way he met a neighbour who exclaimed, "What's thoo doin' George, flittin'?" And a voice from the churn called out, "Aye, lad, we're flittin'!" So the farmer turned his horse and cart round and went back to his farm, knowing that the hobgoblin would always be with him.[2]

Note the local dialect word flittin[c] which may be derived from the Old Norse language.[citation needed]

Names and habitations




Local name


"Hob-trush Hob ! Where is thou ?[d]
. . ."Ah's tying on mah left-fuit shoe;
An' Ah'll be wiv thee—Noo!"

J.C.Atkinson – Cleveland Dialect.[16]

It was customary for a local hob to have a local name and a local habitation.[e]

Some "Hob" names may suggest their mischievous personality:

Hobbe Hyrste


The name Hob-thrush may be derived from Hobbe Hyrste[g] or Hob o' t' hyrst – "Hob of the hurst".[h]

  1. Hob o' t' hyrst
  2. Hob-t-hyrst
  3. Hob-thyrst
  4. Hob-thrust
  5. Hob-thrush

See also WiKtionary : Old English < hyrst > ..."hurst, hillock, eminence, height, wood, wooded eminence".

The following names may be derived from Hobbe Hyrste:

Name Habitation Location
"Hob-trush" Hob-trush Cave[d] Mulgrave woods, North Yorkshire.
"Hobthrush" Obtrush Rook[i] Farndale, North Yorkshire.
"Hobthrush" Hobthrush's Isle St Cuthbert's Isle (Hobthrush), Northumberland.
"Hob Hurst" Hob Hurst's House Hob Hurst's House, Beeley Moor, Derbyshire.

Similar names are found in disparate parts of the country – it is possible that these were introduced by migrant workers while moving between employments, especially those involved with mining and railway construction.


Hob's House Cave, Monsal Dale, Derbyshire.

The habitation was usually a topological feature, such as a hill, crag, hole, cave or island.

Often the feature would be within view of the farm or local settlement:

Habitation Settlement
Hobb Hill Bloxham near Banbury.
Hobb Crag Rosedale Abbey
Hobthrush Isle Holy Island

Hob Hole


WiKtionary: The name element hole might relate to:

  1. English < hole > ..."A hollow place or cavity; an excavation; a pit; a dent; a depression; a fissure".
  2. Old Norse < hóll > ..."hill, hillock, knoll".
Habitation Location
Hob Hole[j] Calais Beck south of Runswick Bay, North Yorkshire.
Hob Hole Hob Hole Beck near Kempswithen, Kildale Moor,
Eskdale, North Yorkshire.
Hobbs Hole Hobbs Hole Farm near Great Tew, Oxfordshire.



It was common for Hob place names to be associated with tumuli:

Habitation Location Listed
Hobthrush Rook[k] Farndale, North Yorkshire. Two round cairns[HE 1]
Hob on the Hill Commondale Moor, North Yorkshire. Wayside cross[HE 2]
Round barrows[HE 3][HE 4]
Hob Hurst's House Beeley Moor, Derbyshire. Square tumulus[HE 5]



Place names


Yorkshire place names


Many topological features, especially in North Yorkshire, are named "Hobs".[l]

Place name Link Location Area Feature Map
N – S
Hob Hill The Fairy Glen,
North Yorkshire Hill [Map 1] 520200
Hob Hole[j] Hob Hole Calais Beck south of Runswick Bay. North York Moors Hole [Map 2] 515500
Hob on the Hill Tumuli Between Guisborough and Commondale.[o] North York Moors Cross[HE 2] [Map 3] 512420
Hob-trush Cave[d] Name Mulgrave woods[p] North Yorkshire Cave [Map 4] 511700
Hobshaddow Wood Name Between Hutton Rudby and Stokesley. North Yorkshire Wood [Map 5] 508300
Hob Hole Beck[j] Hob Hole South of Kempswithen (Kildale moor)
near Castleton, Eskdale.[q]
North York Moors Hole [Map 6] 507800
Hobb Crag Habitat West of Rosedale Abbey, Rosedale. North York Moors Crag [Map 7] 495400
Hobthrush Rook[k] Name Farndale, North Yorkshire. North York Moors Tumulus[HE 1] [Map 8] 494400

Scotland – England

Place name Link Location Area Feature Map
N – S
Hobthrush Name Lindisfarne Northumberland Islet [Map 9] 641600
Hobkirk South-east of Hawick Scottish Borders Church [Map 10] 610900
Hobb's Flow Anglo-Scottish border near Kielder Forest Northumberland Wetland [Map 11] 590100
Hobroyd Whitfield, Glossop. Derbyshire Wood [Map 12] 393200
Hob Hill Whitfield, Glossop. Derbyshire Hill [Map 13] 392800
Hob's House Cave Monsal Dale Derbyshire Cave [Map 14] 371300
Hob Hurst's House Tumuli Beeley Moor near Chatsworth House Derbyshire Tumulus[HE 7] [Map 15] 369200
Hob Hall
Hob Wood
South of Wirksworth Derbyshire Croft
[Map 16] 352700
Jester's Hill Name Shutford near Banbury.[r] Oxfordshire Hill [Map 17] 239500
Hobb Hill Habitat Bloxham near Banbury. Oxfordshire Hill [Map 18] 236600
Hobb's Hole Hob Hole Hobbs Hole Farm[web 1] near Great Tew. Oxfordshire Hole [Map 19] 229100
Hobbard's Hill North-west of Wootton-by-Woodstock. Oxfordshire Hill [Map 20] 220400
Hobb's Hill Hobb's Hill tin mine, Bodmin Moor.[HE 8] Cornwall Hill [Map 21] 069400

Notable people

  • Hobhouse is a rare English family name, belonging originally to a Somerset family.
  • The Scottish national hero Robert the Bruce was known as "King Hobbe" by his English enemy.[s]
  • The 1958 TV serial Quatermass and the Pit, and the later film version, centre around the fictional Hobbs Lane (formerly 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 Lionhead Studios' video games Fable, Fable II, and Fable III some of the minor adversaries are creatures known as "hobbes". They 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.
  • In Richard Dawson's 2017 album Peasant, a song titled "Hob" tells the story of a family's encounter with a hobthrust.
  • In Travis Baldree's book Legends & Lattes, the main character hires a hob as a carpenter in her coffee shop, noting that they are disparagingly referred to as 'pucks' by humans and are not often seen in cities.

See also





  1. ^ Atkinson 1868, pp. 262–263.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Scott 1965, pp. 108–109.
  3. ^ Atkinson, Philip. Folk Tales of North East England.
  4. ^ A Dictionary of English Folklore. 2000, 2003, Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ a b See WiKtionary: English < hob > Etymology 2: "From Middle English Hob (a diminutive of Robin, an Old French diminutive of Robert)."
  6. ^ Scott, Charles C. P. (1895). "Hob". Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association. Vol. 26. American Philological Association.
  7. ^ "Cove-Gods". An Other Dictionary.
  8. ^ "Whitby Myth and Folklore: Hob", Whitby Online
  9. ^ a b John Christopher Atkinson (1868). A Glossary of the Cleveland Dialect (1st ed.).[1]
  10. ^ Roberts, Kai (2013). Folklore of Yorkshire. The History Press. ISBN 9780752489544
  11. ^ Bane, Theresa (2013). "Hob". Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology. McFarland. ISBN 9781476612423
  12. ^ Wright, Elizabeth Mary (1913). Rustic Speech and Folk-Lore (2nd ed.)
  13. ^ Terence W. Whitaker (1983). Yorkshire's Ghosts and Legends. Granada Publishing.
  14. ^ Henderson, William (1879). Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders (2nd ed.).[2]
  15. ^ Atkinson 1868, p. 190.
  16. ^ a b Atkinson 1868, p. 263.
  17. ^ a b c d Atkinson 1868, pp. 262.
  18. ^ Scott 1895, pp. 103.
  19. ^ a b Crofton 2014, p. 88.
  20. ^ See Robin Hood § Mythology.


  1. ^ *"Hobbs Hole Farm". Countryside Classroom. Retrieved 2 May 2023.

Historic England



  1. ^ "MAGiC MaP: NZ 654 202 – Hob Hill – Saltburn-by-the-Sea". Natural England, Magic in the Cloud.
  2. ^ "MAGiC MaP: NZ 813 155 – Hob Hole – Calais Beck – Runswick Bay". Natural England, Magic in the Cloud.
  3. ^ "MAGiC MaP: NZ 646 124 – Hob on the Hill – Commondale Moor". Natural England, Magic in the Cloud.
  4. ^ "MAGiC MaP: NZ 838 117 – Mulgrave Castle (Norman), Mulgrave woods". Natural England, Magic in the Cloud.
  5. ^ "MAGiC MaP: NZ 487 083 – Hobshaddow Wood – Hutton Rudby". Natural England, Magic in the Cloud.
  6. ^ "MAGiC MaP: NZ 666 078 – Hob Hole Beck – Eskdale". Natural England, Magic in the Cloud.
  7. ^ "MAGiC MaP: SE 716 954 – Hobb Crag – Rosedale Abbey". Natural England, Magic in the Cloud.
  8. ^ "MAGiC MaP: SE 661 944 – Hobthrush Rook – Kneysbeck – Farndale West". Natural England, Magic in the Cloud.
  9. ^ "MAGiC MaP: NU 123 416 – St Cuthbert's Isle (Hobthrush)". Natural England – Magic in the Cloud.
  10. ^ "MAGiC MaP: NT 586 109 – Hobkirk near Hawick, Scottish Borders". Natural England – Magic in the Cloud.
  11. ^ "MAGiC MaP: NY 567 901 – Hobb's Flow – Kielder Mires SSSI". Natural England – Magic in the Cloud.
  12. ^ "MAGiC MaP: SK 027 932 – Hobroyd – Whitfield". Natural England – Magic in the Cloud.
  13. ^ "MAGiC MaP: SK 043 928 – Hob Hill – Whitfield". Natural England – Magic in the Cloud.
  14. ^ "MAGiC MaP: SK 176 713 – Hob's House Cave – Monsal Dale". Natural England, Magic in the Cloud.
  15. ^ "MAGiC MaP: SK 287 692 – Hob Hurst's House – Beeley Moor". Natural England, Magic in the Cloud.
  16. ^ "MAGiC MaP: SK 288 527 – Hob Hall and Hob Wood – Wirksworth". Natural England – Magic in the Cloud.
  17. ^ "MAGiC MaP: SP 390 395 – Jester's Hill, Shutford near Banbury". Natural England, Magic in the Cloud.
  18. ^ "MAGiC MaP: SP 423 366 – Hobb Hill, Bloxham near Banbury". Natural England, Magic in the Cloud.
  19. ^ "MAGiC MaP: SP 411 291 – Hobbs Hole Farm – Great Tew". Natural England, Magic in the Cloud.
  20. ^ "MAGiC MaP: SP 422 204 – Hobbard's Hill – Wootton-by-Woodstock". Natural England, Magic in the Cloud.
  21. ^ "MAGiC MaP: SX 185 694 – Hobb's Hill near Hobb's Hill tin mine, Cornwall". Natural England, Magic in the Cloud.

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ J. C. Atkinson. "Hob". Cleveland Dialect. "The appellation of a spirit, or being of elf-nature, who must once have occupied a prominent place in the belief or popular faith of the people of the district." p. 262.[1]
  2. ^ Harry J. Scott. Yorkshire.[2] "In the moorland areas the farming community preserved their old customs ... Cut off from the outside world except for rare occasions, a supernatural world provided explanations ... There were many Hobs – which might be good or evil spirit ... A good Hob would help his master bring in the hay or cure an ailing pig ... A bad Hob would pester a man so that all went ill ... Good or bad, a self-respecting Hob would attach himself to a family and stay with them ...[2]
  3. ^ J. C. Atkinson. "Flit". Cleveland Dialect . "1. To remove one's goods, household furniture, and gear generally, in the process of removing from one tenement or residence to another." p. 190.[15]
  4. ^ a b c J.C.Atkinson – Cleveland Dialect < Hobtrush >
    ..."Hobtrush Hob, a being once held to frequent a certain cave in the Mulgrave Woods...
    ..."he is supposed to haunt woods only : Hob o' t' hyrst...[16]
  5. ^ J.C.Atkinson – Cleveland Dialect < Hob >
    ..."Probably, like the nisses of popular faith in Denmark, there were many Hobs, each with a local habitation and a local name... [17]
  6. ^ Harry J. ScottPortrait of Yorkshire
    ..."Good or bad, a self-respecting Hob would attach himself to a family and stay with them...[2]
  7. ^ Charles Scott – The Devil and his Imps
    ..."I suppose it to have been existent as early as 1489, at which date...Hobbe Hyrste...[18]
  8. ^ J.C.Atkinson – Cleveland Dialect < Hob >
    ..."Certainly, it is not impossible that Hob-thrush, as well as Hob-thrust, may be a corruption of this assumed Hob o' t' hurst...[17]
  9. ^ J.C.Atkinson – Cleveland Dialect < Hob >
    ..."Hobt'rush Rook on the Farndale Moors...Obtrush Rook...[17]
  10. ^ a b c J.C.Atkinson – Cleveland Dialect < Hob >
    ..."Thus there is a Hob Hole at Runswick, a Hob Hole near Kempswithen...[17]
  11. ^ a b Historic England..."Obtrusch round cairn was originally known as Hobthrush Rook... [HE 1]
  12. ^ Harry J. ScottPortrait of Yorkshire
    ..."This may explain why you will so frequently find "Hob" place names in Cleveland...[2]
  13. ^ a b MAGiC MaP – Help
    1. Use Table of Contents for Colour mapping.
    2. There may be intermittent problems with the magic.defra.gov.uk website, if so then try again another time.
  14. ^ Hob Hill is above a deep river gorge known locally as The Fairy Glen.
  15. ^ Hob on the Hill is the meeting point for three parish boundaries:
    • East – LOCKWOOD CP
    • South – COMMONDALE CP
  16. ^ The exact location of the cave, if one exists, is not known. The grid reference is for the Norman Castle in Mulgrave woods.
  17. ^ Hob Hole Beck is upstream from Dibble Bridge[HE 6]
  18. ^ Jester's Hill is 2.5 miles (4.0 km) north-west of Hobb Hill, Bloxham.
  19. ^ Ian Crofton. Walking the Border.[19] "Hobb was formerly a familiar name for anyone called Robert or Robin.[5] The English soldiery gave the nickname 'King Hobbe' to Robert the Bruce and sang rather a rude song about him in Middle English. ... Hob was also the name of Robin Goodfellow, the mischievous sprite also known as Puck.[20] Robin Goodfellow was associated with Will-o'-the-wisp, the pale flares of marsh gas sometime seen in boggy areas at night."[19]

General and cited sources