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.
As well as the brownie, another cognate exists in the Scandinaviantomte or nisse; 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
In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, hobs are eyeless creatures who burn in light. They therefore use a spell which creates a substance known as myrk to shield an area from light, and then drag their victims to their tunnels to eat. 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. The hobbes then use an unknown process (which involves hanging the children in sac`s made of an unknown biological substance from the ceilings of caves) to turn those children into 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, and which can enter into a human being and cause him or her considerable trouble (which is what happens to the series' protagonist). In Hood's fantasy world, "Hob" and "Imp" are two names for much the same kind of being.
In Tad Williams' The War of the Flowers, hobs are the unseen managers of the manors and towers of the upperclass Fairies. They serve as guides and messengers within their building, being able to rearrange the building such that rooms are brought to the individual and broadcast private and public messages to the building's inhabitants.
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. The Hob is large, muscular yet graceful, with dark grayish skin, amber colored eyes, a tufted tail, pointed ears threaded with piercings, fangs, and a strong sense of honor mixed with whimsy.
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. He is also quite insane, killing those no longer useful to him in grotesque ways.