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Goblin is a general term that can apply either to the ugliest members of the fae, or to certain sub-races. Those fae numbered among the goblin subraces, include the Scottish Trows, English Spriggans, Welsh Knockers, Cornish Knockers, German Kobolds and Wichtlein, the Irish Phooka and even Shakespeare's infamous Puck .

Aka : Hobgobs, Gobelins, Hob-thrush, Blobins, Bogles, Bogies, Brags, Boggarts, …

Illustration from Pete Venters


According to some traditions, goblin comes from Gob or Ghob, the king of the gnomes, whose inferiors were called Ghob-lings.

However, according to "The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English" the name is probably derived from the Anglo-Norman language gobelin (medieval Latin gobelinus), which is probably a diminutive of Gobel, a name related to the word kobold. Goblin is also related to the French lutin.


They grow up to 30 cm and are covered with a thick coat of black/grey hair. The Goblin is usually found wearing very dark colored cloths and a tall cap similar to that of the Gnome. They can appear as animals. They have a somewhat bestial or grotesque appearance: their brow is fully covered with thick hair and their mouth is filled with yellowed, crooked teeth. Female goblins are referred to as "hags" or "crones". It is said that they mimic human actions in their sardonic way, twisting human rituals and culture to show the worst aspects. In recent depictions Goblins have been portrayed as green in color. There is no tradition of this practice.


Goblins are of the Unseelie Court, and are at war with fairies. In some circles, Goblins are considered to be the cousins of gnomes, except that gnomes are stupid and no one in their right mind would confuse the two.


Earth, associated with Death. Goblins are also associated with fire, or have the ability to create said element.


  • They can appear as animals.
  • They are sometimes said to be mostly invisible to human eye.
  • They can weave nightmares out of gossamer and insert them into the ear of a sleeping human.


Tricks : Goblins are pranksters, and are known for rearranging items in the house, tangling horses, banging pots and pans, removing the clothes from sleeping humans, knocking on doors and walls and even digging up the graves to scatter the bones around. Goblins like to borrow horses and ride them all night. If a horse is tired in the morning, it is said a goblin rode it. If a horse is panicking, the goblin is trying to mount it.

Goblin women steal human babies, replacing them with ugly goblin babies (changelings).Goblin changelings are sometimes known as "oafs" or "crimbils".

Mine goblins make knocking noises by stricking pickaxes and hammers against the stones. Some miners take the resulting sounds as a sign of good luck, believing they indicate the presence of rich deposits of ore. Other believe that they (Kobolds and Wichtlein) just imitate the miners to fool them. As a death companion he is sometimes accused to cause underground fires or warn for the coming deaths. To avoid the Knockers' wrath, a pastie (traditional miner meal) should be left for them.

Other traditions:

  • A goblin smile curdles blood.
  • A goblin laugh sours milk and causes fruit to fall from trees.


Often portrayed as the vilains and troublemakers of faerie, Goblins are not truly completely evil. Though they seem to have no moral code of their own, they are happy to enforce the one of their human hosts. The miserly and lazy are apt to feel their pinch or find their rooms and possessions in disarray.


The English Hobgoblin loves to live in homes where he makes much trouble for the people who live there. Some other reside in mines where they search for treasure/trouble. Still others of the family prefer grottos, often residing in the same one for their entire life.

One fabled origin for Goblins is in France, in a cleft of the Pyrenees, from which they spread rapidly throughout Europe. They hitched a ride with Viking ships to get to Britain. Bryn y Ellyllon 'The Hill of the Goblins' is a place in Somerset. The Gap of Goeblin is a hole and underground tunnel in France.

Art / Fiction

Goblins in art and literature

  • Written by George Macdonald in 1871, The Princess and the Goblin is one of the best-written fantasy tales for children. Curdie, the miner's lad, helps to rescue Princess Irene and the royal household from goblins.
  • Written by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit or There and Back Again (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-55) are outstanding works of fantasy for children and adults alike. Tolkien based the goblins in The Hobbit on George Macdonald's portrayal of the creatures The Princess and the Goblin. He coined the word 'Orcs' for such creatures in The Lord of the Rings.
  • Christina Rossetti in her poem Goblin Market (1862), used goblins as symbols of earthly desires who tantalize and nearly destroy a girl who falls under their spell. Laura and Lizzie are two sisters who hear the cry of goblins selling fruit. Laura buys the fruit and eats it, but only longs for more, and almost dies with the longing. Lizzie finally manages to cure Laura. Though the book was not originally written for children, many have read it and enjoyed it.
  • The Webcomic Goblins is famous for portraying goblins as oppressed by presumptuous "heroes" who assume the goblins are vile creatures and kill them for loot and experience.
  • "The Goblin and the Huckster" by Hans Christian Andersen (1853), "The Benevolent Goblin" by Gesta Romanorum, and The Goblin of Adachigahara (Japanese) are just a few fairy tales depicting goblins. Also see Brothers Grimm.
  • Poet Craig MacKenzie, known for his works in portraying mythical creatures, described these creatures as being a paean to early explorers tales, documenting what they seen, It is now known that these creatures were probably small apes. In one of his greater works, MacKenzie uses the comparison of a goblin to the liking of one of his townspeople, Michael Nimbley, using 'goblin' as an insulting phrase.
  • Author George MacDonald, in The Princess and the Goblin, portrayed goblins as malevolent, subterranean creatures.
  • The book is said to have been a childhood favorite of J. R. R. Tolkien, who populated his Middle-earth with goblins, but later preferred to call them Orc (Middle-earth)|Orcs in order to distance them from fairy tale characters, explaining such a change in name was due to "goblin" being another name for Orcs usually used by Hobbits, and occasionally by other peoples (even his Uruk-hai are called goblins at some points).
  • Other books that feature goblins are: The Book of Wonder (1912) (The Hoard of the Gibbelins) by Edward Plunkett (18th Baron Dunsany), The Brownies and the Goblins (1915), Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak, Rainbow Goblins, The White Goblin, The Revenge of the Shadow King by Derek Benz and J.S. Lewis
  • In the Jim Henson film 'Labyrinth, Goblins figure prominently. Jareth the Goblin King, a powerful sorcerer (portrayed by David Bowie), commands a legion of foul, diminutive, largely incompetent creatures. The goblins initially do the bidding of a young girl (played by Jennifer Connelly), who must ultimately overcome her fear of them and resist seduction by their king.
  • Goblins also feature in the novel The Black Cauldron, adapted into a film in 1985 by Walt Disney Pictures, and in the 1986 film Legend, starring Tom Cruise. In 2005, a new perspective of goblins was depicted in the novel Dance of the Goblins by Jaq D. Hawkins.
  • The Green Goblin is a villainous character in the Marvel Comics Spider-Man comic book series .

In the online fantasy spoof Orc Magazine the term "Goblin" refers to one of the six different green-skinned creatures that are collectively called "Orcs". The Goblins who live in the world of "Orc Magazine" all share the following physical characteristics: They have green skin, sharp teeth, narrow shoulders, large pointed noses and long pointy ears. They average about 4ft high. Like Orks, Goblins love violence and war. Unlike Orks, Goblins like guerilla warfare and tend to fight smarter. While Orks will dive directly into close-quarters combat, Goblins will tend to use arrows, catapults and traps. Goblins prefer large scale battles in open area, but fair well in woods and swamp too. Unlike Orks, Goblins have no problem fighting enemies who are much weaker than them. Nor do they mind fighting enemies who they hopelessly out number. Although not as big and strong as Orks, Goblins are smarter and skilled in many other disciplines besides war. Although Orks rule the Orc Empire, it's the Goblins who run it.

  • The March of the Goblins is a polka song composed by J.J. Tarrant.
  • In the Spiderwick Chronicles, goblins are toothless, toadlike beings who use random artifacts in the place of fangs.


Two major branches of goblins exist in popular game properties. Alongside with J. R. R. Tolkien's descriptions of Orcs, the older branch is inherently evil and malicious, with varying coloring and generally matted and filthy hair. This type of goblin appears in Dungeons & Dragons. The distinctive green-skinned, hairless, capricious, and generally amoral (rather than absolutely evil) goblins created for Warhammer are direct progenitors of goblins in more modern games, such as those in the Warcraft Universe or Magic: The Gathering.

  • A favorite sport among Goblins is playing deadly pranks on humans, gnomes, elfs, and dwarfs (in RPG games).
  • An infant goblin is sometimes confused with a Snotling (in Warhammer).
  • A group of goblins is referred to as a horde.
  • In some cases, Goblins love mushrooms, and utilize them for housing, recreation, and as food.
  • In The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Goblins consider hobbit meat a delicacy and cannot abide the furry footed creatures alive.
  • Goblins suffer from discrimination in almost all fantasy settings (in RPGs).
  • Goblins are often depicted posessing a coarse raspy sounding and slightly high-pitched voice.
  • When speaking a human tongue, goblins will stereotypically refer to themselves in third person
  • Goblins are often mistaken for imps among other sprites.
  • Goblins are sometimes believed to be associated with trolls.

Goblins in RuneScape

In the MMORPG RuneScape, goblins are creatures that are mainly for beginners to the computer game to loot for gold and experience. They are generic goblins and are very primitive. They are very abundant in beginners' areas and even have two cities of their own. There are also advanced cave goblins (called "Dorgeshuun") that wear more advanced clothing, have a society similar to the human one (relative to normal goblins) and have more varied weaponry than regular goblins.

Goblins in Dungeons & Dragons

Goblins in Warhammer

Like Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer's goblins tend to associate with Orcs. Also known by the name Gobbos, Goblins are among the smallest( they are just, bigger than Gnoblars) greenskins and survive through cunning and intelligence rather than brute force. Many different subcultures of goblins exist, with varying degrees of autonomy from their Orcish cousins, including the bizarre night goblins]] and primitive forest goblins. All varieties of goblins are violent and malicious, but consider warfare to be a pastime or hobby, genuinely not understanding that killing a foe and eating it might not be appreciated by the victim.

Goblins in Palladium

Goblins are believed to be malicious, ugly members of the faerie folk, but except for the Cobbler Goblin, the Goblin race lacks any natural magic powers. These villains are thieves and bushwhackers who lurk in the shadows and attack the unsuspecting. They are cruel, malevolent creatures who are attracted to evil and power like moths to a flame.

Consequently, they make eager, although unreliable, henchmen and minions for thieves' and assassins' guilds, bandits, witches, evil sorcerers, black priests, deevils, and demons, among others.

Ogres and trolls are constantly trying to whip them into an organized army, and some have even amassed goblin and orc armies that are thousands strong. However, it is difficult to keep huge numbers of these chaotic and easily bored creatures focused, controlled or happy for any length of time. Desertion among goblin armies will typically run at 60% in a matter of weeks. However, the more tempting the opportunity — the bigger the reward, the easier the prey, the more decadent and violent — the better the goblins like it, and the more likely they are to stay committed. Strong and frightening leaders like greater demons, dragons and powerful practitioners of magic, trolls and ogres are the most likely to keep goblin minions in check and motivated. Goblins, like hob-goblins and orcs, also make great cannon fodder because of their large numbers and they are easily whipped into a frenzy in which they act without thinking. They are seen as the perfect pawns for dark forces.

Goblins are the descendants of a swarthy mining race, but recent generations have forsaken the pick and shovel for the sword and dagger in pursuit of easy treasure. Many have also given up their subterranean habitats to live on the surface. They are disagreeable, vindictive, (seemingly) stupid creatures with a passion for precious metals and gems equal to their attraction to skullduggery. Goblins hate the larger races, particularly elves and humans. They have been known to join forces with orcs, hob-goblins, ogres, and Wolfen in assaults against human and elven settlements just for the pleasure of killing then.

Strangely, goblins detest their racial first cousins, the kobolds, and some goblin clans will attack them on sight. This hostility has lasted for centuries, presumably stemming from the kobolds' degrading treatment of all goblins. Kobolds find the Goblins rage and anxieties very amusing and tend to fuel goblin hatred with cruel, degrading pranks and skirmishes. While kobolds dislike and distrust goblins, they will seldom attack without reason or provocation.

The goblin society lives by the philosophy that "the strong preys upon the weak." This shabby tribal unit is usually comprised of a warrior chieftain, a war chief (second in command), and a cleric leader (dark priest, witch, druid or shaman and third in command). Goblin tribes can be found throughout the known world, although they prefer woodlands, prairies with tall grass, and mountain regions. They are also known to live in the slums of cities and ancient ruins above and below ground. An area dominated by goblins will contain dozens of small nomadic tribes ranging widely in number from as few as 20 to as much as 400.

Goblin tribes are seldom larger than 600, typically 30% female, 20% young, 50% male. Large tribes construct a network of subterranean tunnels and chambers dug under hills, ruins or into the sides of mountains. These dwellings resemble troglodyte lairs with their crude walls and low ceilings; however, goblin tunnels are never as long, elaborate, or deep. They are seldom more than 100 feet (30.5 m) deep or span more than a one mile (1.6 m) radius. Lazy creatures, goblins prefer to take over abandoned tunnels rather than dig their own.

On the surface, goblins live in small huts, shacks and tents, or take over abandoned villages, temples or decaying ruins. Many of the large, ancient cities in the Western Empire have a chronic problem with goblins and Ratlings living below the city in man-made catacombs, basements, and sewers, as well as in tunnels of their own making. From their subterranean lairs, these creatures sneak out to steal, mug, kill, vandalize and cause mischief, as well as add to the problems of waste disposal and overcrowding. Like rats or cockroaches, once an area infested with these nasty creatures, it can be difficult getting rid of them.

A goblin player character is likely to be a mercenary, thief, assassin or a young adventurer out to find his place in the world. Selfish and evil characters are likely to view humans and most good characters with contempt, suspicion or as suckers to be used. However, goblins respect strength, ruthlessness and power so they tend to be relatively loyal and obedient to such characters. Otherwise, the character is likely to watch out only for himself and will cheat, lie, and betray members of the player group; although if such acts are too blatant he is likely to get into trouble.

A goblin of a good alignment will be loyal, honorable and friendly, although such traits in goblins are uncommon. Evil goblins view such characters as wimps, sissies, goody two-shoes, and kiss-ups, and treat them accordingly. Most humans and their allies are likely to view goblins with suspicion, racial prejudice and possibly hatred.

Notable Goblin Traits

- Typically anarchist or evil; but most player characters are likely to be unprincipled, anarchist, aberrant or even good. - Aptitude for digging - High Psychic Potential Energy - Occupations limited to assassin, thief, mercenary, soldier, black priest, witch, vagabond, and the occasional psychic, most goblins become thieves or mercenaries. - Short and skinny with spindly limbs. Even robust goblin with a broad chest and thick neck will have comparatively thin arms and legs. Black, brown, or red hair, large ears and mouth, and dark eyes. - Size: 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 m) - Weight: 70 to 120 pounds (31.5 to 54 kg). - Average Life Span: 80+ years; some have lived up to 150. - Rarely dabbles in the art of magic - Rarely have psionic talents - Enemies include Humans, kobolds, dwarves, gnomes, changelings, and especially elves. However, a goblin will accept and serve a member of any of these races if the character proves to be evil, ruthless and powerful enough to impress and intimidate them. Goblins dislike faerie folk, except for some of the uglier, meaner faerie kin, such as toadstools and bogies. -Regularly work with hob-goblins, orcs, ogres, and trolls. Indifferent towards troglodytes, giants and most creatures of magic. - Goblins are found throughout the world but are most common in the Old Kingdom, Eastern Territory, Western Empire, Timiro and in the South. The largest known communities are found in the Old Kingdom. - Favorite Weapons include all, except pole arms and long bows. - Worship evil gods, devils, demons and even powerful dragons, sphinx, giants and sorcerers. - Often sell services as mercenaries, spies, thugs and thieves. - Can wear any type of armor, but most prefer studded leather and chain mail. - Poor craftsmen who hate physical labor other than brutalizing or killing people. - Tend to be lazy, cruel, vindictive bullies as well as deceitful and treacherous. - Goblins operate best in small groups with a charismatic and powerful leader. - Although aggressive, mean and given to acts of terrorism and brutality, goblins and hob-goblins are easily intimidated (and bluffed) by demonstrations of power.

Goblin Natural Abilities include; - High physical attributes - Nightvision 90 ft (27.4 m) - Good day vision - Underground Tunneling Aptitude - Knowledgeable in Underground Architecture, including a moderate ability to detect and deactivate traps - Impressive Underground Sense of Direction, but judging the approximate relation/proximity to surface structures (natural and artificial) is poor (especially if in an unfamiliar area). - Moderately resistant to faerie magic

Goblins in Warcraft

In the Warcraft Universe, goblins are a green-skinned, diminutive, crafty race, known for their occasionally explosive, but usually effective engineering.

Goblins in Final Fantasy

In the Final Fantasy series of RPGs, goblins are synonymous with imps. In the earlier episodes of the series they traditionally appeared as the weakest enemy in the game. They are depicted as being small and skinny with browinish skin and pointy ears and nearly always wearing a stocking cap, owing more in appearance to the scottish redcap than the traditional Tolkien goblin. They also occasionally appear as a low level summoned creature. In Final Fantasy XI, they appear as one of the more intelligent species of Beastmen, occaisionally living as merchants in cities and interacting with the people there. The more hostile Goblins are also known as some of the most annoying enemies in the game, frequently appearing at high levels in popular leveling zones, much to the chagrin of campers who must constantly avoid them.

Goblins in Everquest

In the MMORPG Everquest 2, goblins are portrayed as largely mischievous, primitive, fairly foolish creatures. Small and green, with large pointy ears and yellow eyes, they tend to look and sound as silly as they act. Gigglegibber Goblins run a series of gambling games throughout Norrath. Upon visiting their hideout during the 'Frostfell' season (Christmas 2005 special quest) it is revealed that in addition to this gambling game they are also attempting to - unsuccessfully - forge gold coins, and yet they have no intention spending any of this money, they simply wish to 'have' it. Most of their schemes are harmless, though often illegal. Not all goblins of Norrath are so benign, however, with some being evil, and even falling under the control of external dark magics.

Goblins in other computer games

Other computer games featuring goblins include Goblin Commandos , Dungeon Keeper 2, Ghost´n Goblins (Arcade) and the Gobliiins! series, in addition to games based on other works featuring goblins.

Goblins in Magic: the Gathering

In the collectible trading card game, Magic: The Gathering, goblins are a very popular creature type. They tend to be red aligned creatures that come in large numbers, love rocks and have little to no sense of self preservation. They are often a source of humour within the game (for example, the flavour text of the spell Shock reads "I love lightning! It’s my best invention since the rock", attributed to the goblin weaponsmith Toggo). Their popularity is such that they have received more attention at the cost of other red flavoured creatures, such as dwarves and orcs.

Goblins in Yu-Gi-Oh

In the Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game there are a small number of Monsters identified as goblins which are depicted as green or light grey anthropoids and are classed either as warriors or fiends. Also there are several Spell and Trap cards with goblin in their names which normally have effects linked to card drawing or life point alteration. However it should be noted that as of 2005 there are few of these and they don't fit a particular deck type or theme. The most famous of these monsters, with the word goblin in its name, is Goblin Attack Force and its Toon counterpart.

Goblins in The Elder Scrolls

Throughout the franchise, including the 2006 "Oblivion", goblins have been used as an NPC class of monsters. The goblins featured in Oblivion are semisentient, diminutive greenskined barbarians. They range in power from the weak and cowardly "peon" goblins to the mighty goblin warlords.


  • British Goblins: Welsh Folk-lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions by Wirt Sikes
  • Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were by Michael Page & Robert Ingpen
  • The Complete Encyclopedia of Elves, Goblins, and Other Little Creatures by Pierre Dubois
  • Goblins! and The Goblin Companion by Brain Froud

External links to relevant sites of interest

See also