Halloween is full of all sorts of monsters and creatures drawn from different cultures, and it can be fun to learn a bit about their roots. One of the popular beings that often make an appearance everywhere from haunted houses to trick or treater costumes are goblins. They may not be as ubiquitous as zombies and ghosts, but there’s a good chance you’ll see one come to your door this Halloween. What exactly are goblins and where did they come from?
What Are Goblins?
According to Wikipedia, goblins are “legendary, evil, crabby, and mischievous” creatures that range in height from dwarf to human size, and they may be disfigured. They can be classified as annoying tricksters, somewhat related to brownies and gnomes (creatures we’ll look at in another article!).
Where Do They Come from?
It’s hard to point to a specific place that goblins first came into existence, because they’ve been a part of our folklore for more than 800 years. Still, many fingers point to Europe. Britain is believed to have started the trend (with goblins sneaking aboard ships to sail to France and the rest of Europe soon after).
Goblins tend to be the villains in Halloween and fantasy stories (in fantasy, they’re often the cannon fodder for the real villains), so there aren’t too many stories where they star. Way back in the 1600s, they were the robbers in a play called The Goblins. The 1872, The Princess and the Goblin may have been the first children’s novel involving the mythical creatures.
If you fancy a modern and rather different take on goblins (similar to what the Shrek movies did for ogres), check out http://www.goblinbrothers.com. The young goblins there are the heroes instead of the villains and star in their own fantastical adventures.
Part of what has made goblins popular Halloween creatures in past decades is their popularity in roleplaying games, such as Dungeons & Dragons, and online games such as World of Warcraft. While they’re often the “cannon fodder” here, as well, WoW has gone a long ways toward giving goblins some personality by making them crafty neutral creatures instead of villains to be slain.
Wherever you see them, goblins have grown and evolved from their early European roots. Look for these critters this Halloween!