Northwestern Europe, Scandinavia, British Isles, United States
A goblin is a legendary evil or mischievous grotesque dwarf-like daemon or monster that appeared in European stories and accounts during the Middle Ages.
They are attributed with various (sometimes conflicting) abilities, temperaments and appearances depending on the story and country of origin. In some cases, goblins are little creatures related to the brownie and gnome. They are usually small, sometimes only a few inches tall, sometimes the size of a dwarf, and have magical abilities; they are greedy, especially for gold and jewelry.
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 Latingobelinus in Orderic Vitalis before 1141, which was the name of a devil or a 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 nameGobel, more often Gobeau, diminutive forms Gobelet, Goblin, Goblot, but their signification is probably "somebody who sells timblers 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.)
The Welsh coblyn, a type of knocker, derives from the Old French gobelin via the English goblin.
European folklore and collected folk stories
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The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald (1872) depicts the Goblins as grotesque and hideous beings, who centuries ago were human, but due to various reasons, they were driven underground and became malformed and distorted by their new lifestyle. This caused them to despise the humans above the ground and vow revenge against them. The Goblins are shown to be sensitive to loud singing and their feet are soft and vulnerable
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 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.
In the Jim Henson Productions film Labyrinth, the Goblins are led by Jareth the Goblin King (played by David Bowie). The Goblins in this film range from a few inches to several feet in height. Each of the Goblins comes with a variety of descriptions. Some Goblins have small eyes, some Goblins have large eyes, some Goblins have protruding eyes, some Goblins have horns, some Goblins have hair, and some Goblins don't have hair. It has been implied by Jareth that the Goblins were once human children.
Goblins are shown in diminutive form in the film Legend. The Goblins serve the Lord of Darkness.
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.
Despite its title, goblins are featured as the main villains in the cult filmTroll 2.
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.
Jack Prelutsky's children's poetry book It's Halloween includes a poem called "The Goblin", in which a little boy describes "A goblin as green as a goblin can be, Who is sitting outside and is waiting for me".
In Enid Blyton's Noddy children's books and their adaptations appear small humanoids called goblins, who are often very mischievous.
There are many (human) villains in Marvel Comics whose names include the word "goblin", and who use a goblin motif, such as several incarnations of the Green Goblin as well as Hobgoblin, Demogoblin and Grey Goblin. Most of them are enemies of Spider-Man with some of them being created through the result of the Goblin Serum. The villain Menace is also a goblin-type villain.
In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the goblins appear as green-skinned creatures, a little shorter than humans, carrying iron weapons and sometimes lockpicks. They are seen as "dirty little beasts", and can be found in sewers or abandoned houses and forts.
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.
Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl depicts goblins as reptilian entities having lidless eyes, forked tongues, and scaly skin. The goblins in the series are dull-witted and have an ability to conjure fireballs.
In The Spiderwick Chronicles, goblins are portrayed as small, grotesque toad-like creatures born without teeth who therefore use broken glass and rocks as dentition. They have a chaotic behavior and will only behave orderly if ordered so by a more powerful villain, such as the ogre Mulgarath.
^Thompson, William (2005). "Goblins". In Gary Westfahl. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders1. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 348. ISBN0-313-32951-6.