Monday, January 29, 2018

Chaos & Cruelty - A Completely Ecology Point For the Goblin In Old School Campaigns

Goblin from the First Edition Monster Manual by DAT.

I've been thinking over the weekend about goblins in old school games & specifically OSR games. I've seen various threads, blog posts, etc. about making goblins great again or some such. But it got me thinking about goblins from the dungeon master's point of view. Goblins are a completely different humanoid  in mythology & that of course is where I want to start. So I went right back to my source material namely "An Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, & Other Supernatural Creatures" by Katherine Briggs from '78. This book delves into the origin of the myths and the various beliefs about Fairy creatures & the legends behind them. Great stuff if your looking for adventure plot hooks, etc. but you can probably find a copy at your local library.
Basically it the entry says an evil spirit that haunts certain areas so the entry is rather vague but the thing that caught my eye was that both the English name probably comes from the
Anglo-Norman *gobelin & the Old French gobelin also appears. Wiki actually has a decent entry on the mythological origins of the Goblin; "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,[1] similar to Old French gobelin, already attested around 1195 in Ambroise of Normandy's Guerre sainte, and to Medieval Latin gobelinus in Orderic Vitalis before 1141,[2][3] which was the name of a devil or 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".[2][4] Alternatively, it may be a diminutive or other derivative of the French proper name Gobel, more often Gobeau,[5][6] diminutive forms Gobelet, Goblin, Goblot, but their signification is probably "somebody who sells tumblers or beakers or cups".[7] 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".[8][9] 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,[10] Gosselin,[11] Étancelin,[12] etc.)
The Welsh coblyn, a type of knocker, derives from the Old French gobelin via the English goblin"
The interesting thing that keeps coming up again & again is the goblin's connection with rocks, caves, coves, etc. in mythology.  The fact is that these places are the goblins are spawned! In the French, English, and European countryside these are places where the gateways to the world of fairyland manifested. 
Each time they did a pack of 1d6 goblins would be created like so much bacteria. 

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith, 1920

Each time the chaotic energies of Fairy touch our world there's a 40% chance that it might create goblin spirits mockingly patterned after the local area. This is where we get into the origin point for the generators seen & encountered in Seventy nine's Keep On The Borderlands's Caves of Chaos By Gary Gygax. The humanoids were generated by the caves themselves. This ties back into T1 The Temple of Elemental Evil but that's another blog entry. This helps to explain the scores of humanoids living check to jowl in the caves.

This also ties in with the wastelands of the French countryside seen during the Hundred Years War. I don't say wastelands lightly here, these are artificial wastelands created when the real world washes against the realms of Fairy. In Arthurian legend its tied into the impotence of its leader again it was resurrected to certain degree in the events of The Hundred Years War.
As the leader suffers so does his lands. This is the perfect spawning ground for hordes of goblins. Its more then simply another infestation in Rpg Pundit's Lion & Dragon. Its another nail in the coffin of a village or area of  Dark Europe..

Goblin warriors & other humanoid races in European mythology lead directly to the service of the Devil himself. And in Lion & Dragon goblins often serve demonic mid ranking leaders & Underworld warlords!

Given the amount of destruction & warfare of the Hundred Years War its easy to see entire regions being transformed by history & traces of the goblins being half forgotten legends.  These horrors are all too real in the world of  Lion & Dragon. Why? Because goblins are or were a limited life weapon system developed by the Elves who took full advantages of the chaos energies of Fairyland untold ages ago. The prehistoric generators that they created are still being used under Europe during the Hundred Years War. Where the wasteland appears might possibly be where the goblins are being spawned.
There are number of humanoid races that can be used to boaster the ranks of chaos. But goblins have sheer numbers, weight, and are a danger to vex even the most experienced of players.

There is another interesting note where the Arthurian literature  are concerned & this ties in with the Mythos of Clark Aston Smith.
"Scholars of the earlier 20th century devoted much study to the Wasteland motif. In one of the more popular works on the subject, From Ritual to Romance, author Jessie Weston suggested that the origin of the motif lies with an otherwise unattested pagan fertility cult. The book is mostly disregarded today, though T. S. Eliot credited it as the source of the title and the largest single influence on his famous poem The Waste Land."
In CAS's  Averoigne stories which are  based in a province in medieval France there are several stories which reference the interactions of mankind & the realm of Fairy. These do not go well at all. These include Maker of Gargoyles, The (1932), Disinterment of Venus, The (1934),& Enchantress of Sylaire, The (1941) respectively.
The wasteland is one of the points where if the forces of chaos from Three Hearts & Three Lions by
Poul Anderson win this will be the result for the local time space continuum. Goblins & goblin like monsters appear in the book along with the troll as well.

For Lovecraft the goblins have a much more sinister point in the spawning pools of
Shub-Niggurath itself.  We find reference to them in the embrace of the Outer God as it is mentioned as "Lord of the Wood" in HP Lovecraft's  story "The Whisperer in Darkness". This point also has some connections with Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique where goblins are cited as a menace but not given any further credence. This places the goblin race squarely within the Weird Tales setting allowing a DM to throw them lock,stock, and crossbow right into Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition without breaking a sweat. They are simply another spawn of the "Lord of the Wood".

Los Caprichos is a set of 80 aquatint prints
created by Francisco Goya for release in 1799.
Goblins raged across mythology &  classic TSR adventures & its easy to see why. They are the ubiquitous menace that never really goes way. Each time chaos rears its head they are their to serve it in all of its guises and menaces! Beware the warriors spawned in the nights who ride the wrogs! They come for your PC's heads & guts!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.