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A goblin is a legendary evil or mischievous creature described as a grotesquely disfigured or gnome-like phantom that may range in height from that of a dwarf to that of a human. They are attributed with various (sometimes conflicting) abilities, temperaments and appearances depending on the story and country of origin. In some cases, goblins have been classified as constantly annoying little creatures somewhat related to the brownie and gnome.

Goblins can come in any colour but are mainly depicted as green or brown. While they are generally considered crabby, very rarely a story or movie will feature kind goblins.


According to The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English, the name is probably derived from the Anglo-French gobelin (which was rendered, in Medieval Latin, as gobelinus), which is probably a diminutive of Gobel, a name related to the word kobold (a German sprite). In addition, there also exist various other alternative spellings of the word goblin, including: Gobblin, gobeline, gobling, goblyn, gobelinus (Medieval Latin).

Hiisi, folletto, duende, tengu, Menninkäinen and kallikantzaroi are often translated into English as 'goblins'. The Erlking and Billy Blind are sometimes called goblins. 'Goblin' is often used as a general term to mean any small mischievous being.

Origins in folklore

Illustration of a goblin
A modern account gives a fabled origin for goblins in Britainmarker. After spreading throughout the UK, they sneaked aboard ships and sailed to France, and from there rapidly movied all over Europe They are said to have no homes, being wanderers, dwelling temporarily in mossy cracks in rocks and tree roots.

Goblin Places

Early Fiction

Modern Fiction and Culture

The orcs in J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books bear similarities to traditional goblins, with those in The Hobbit referred to as such.

Goblins appear as non-player characters in the online game World of Warcraft, and will eventually be a playable faction in the forthcoming expansion World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.

In the online MMORPG RuneScape, goblins are a stupid, weak race of cannonfodder warriors for Bandos, the god of war and non-humanoid species.

There are many villains in the Spider-Man franchise whose names include "Goblin", and who carry a goblin motif, like Green Goblin, Hobgoblin, Demogoblin, Normie Osborn etc.

Despite its title, goblins are featured as the main villains in the cult movie Troll 2.

See also


  1. The Complete Encyclopedia of Elves, Goblins, and Other Little Creatures by Pierre Dubois, in English 2005
  2. Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were by Michael Page & Robert Ingpen, 1987
  3. Apples4theTeacher - short stories
  4. Rick Walton - folktale
  5. Dutch Fairy Tales for Young Folks, 1918, compiled by William Elliot Griffis
  6. Sacred texts
  7. Sacred texts
  8. Ghosts, Goblins, and Haunted Castles, Aventinum Publishers, 1990 in English, page 51
  9. SF Site

Further reading

  • 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 Brian Froud
  • Spirits, Fairies, Gnomes and Goblins: an Encyclopedia of the Little People by Carol Rose



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