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Kobolds are goblin-like creatures of German folklore that can be found either in houses or in underground mines.

Kobold holding a bat

Family

Kobolds are related to the brownies and leprechauns. The most common version, Hinzelmann (plur: Heinzelmännchen), is similar to Robin Goodfellow.

Etymology

The name comes from "Kobe" = house, hut and the word "hold" = comely, good (Paul Hermann, "Deutsche Mythologie") and is often translated in English as goblin. The name of the element cobalt comes from kobold, after the poisonous and troublesome nature of the typical arsenical ores of this metal (cobaltite and smaltite) which polluted other mined elements (compare nickel).

Description

In the 16th and the 17th century, they were usually depicted on paintings as little devils with a conical hat, pointy shoes, a hairy tail, and bald feet instead of hands.

Behavior

Kobolds are spirits of ambivalent nature. Like Robin Goodfellow, they may either help or harass humans through they are not considered inherently evil. As household spirits ,they sometimes perform domestic chores, but play malicious tricks if not appeased. Another type of kobold, more similar to the gnome, haunts mines and other underground places.


Popular culture

  • In the fantasy novel Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, one of the main characters is a kobold. However, she is called a "Brownie" in the English version. (She has a humanoid shape, but furry and with a head like a cat's.)
  • In the fantasy novel Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull, a kobold infiltrates the main characters' middle school and begins to work all kinds of nasty mischief. In this book the kobold is described as a bald, scabrous, pus-oozing monster who takes the shape of an eighth grade boy to get close to his victims.
  • In the fantasy novel The Spirit Ring by Lois McMaster Bujold, kobolds inhabit mines in the fantasy world in which the book takes place. The first kobold in the book is described as about two feet tall, brown, and with black eyes. Kobolds as presented in this book also enjoy milk, and the way they drink it is described as cat-like.
  • In the fantasy novel Revenge of the Shadow King by J S Lewis and Derek Benz, kobolds are mercenaries hired by Morgan La Fey. They can see through solid objects and are resistant to iron, which kills other faeries. They are a kind of goblin with armor, used to working in mines.
  • Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods returns to the traditional legend, depicting Hinzelmann as an ambivalent spirit that guards an apparently perfect small Wisconsin town.
  • Terry Brooks series Landover features two kobolds. One is the King's protector, while the other is the castle cook. Their names are Parsnip and Bunion.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's novel Friday contains numerous references to kobold dwarfs. They are "living artifacts", or genetically engineered beings, drawn from human stock, but built to be the perfect miners.
  • Larry Niven's novel Protector has much of the action take place in a small, secret, artificial world named "Kobold", part of which was built to resemble M. C. Escher's famous 1953 painting Relativity.
  • In the Sega Genesis game, Sword of Vermillion, Kobolds are one caste of race of anthropomorphic canines.
  • In the Suikoden series of video games, Kobolds are sapient anthropomorphic dogs.
  • In the PC MMORPG Ragnarok Online, Kobolds are anthropomorphic warrior dogs.
  • In the MMORPG series Everquest, Kobolds are warlike anthropomorphic dogs that especially inhabit the Steamfont Mountains area around the city of Ak'anon.
  • In the Warcraft universe, Kobolds are anthropomorphic rats. They are often found in mines and have candles atop their heads.
  • In Quest for Glory I: So You Want To Be A Hero by Sierra, one of the quests involves a meeting with a kobold.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, kobolds are small lizard-like people that often live in underground, mine-like dens filled with traps.
  • In Robert Rankin's novels The Book of Ultimate Truths and Raiders of the Lost Car Park one of the characters is called Arthur Kobold. He is referred to as a kobold in some sections.
  • In Magic: the Gathering, Kobolds are red-aligned creatures most well known for costing nothing to cast.
  • In the Suikoden series, Kobolds are a type of recruitable character.
  • In the Forgotten Realms series, Kobolds are common enemies almost (though not quite) as weak as goblins.
  • In the Neverwinter Nights expansions Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark, you meet Deekin, a comic relief character who can join you in your adventures, and who happens to be a Kobold. He also shows up as a merchant in Neverwinter Nights 2.
  • In the fantasy novel Incubus by Nick Gifford, the kobold Hodeken taunted and teased Danny by whispering and telling him to do things that will be "good for the family."
  • In the RPG Golden Sun: The Lost Age, kobolds are enemies depicted as rabbit-like creatures in armor with swords.


See also