Lady of Hat's art rendition of the classic Dungeons & Dragons style goblin.
Lets hit one of the green spots in Dungeons & Dragons, the lowly dungeon dwellers the goblins. There's supposedly a bunch of prejudices associated with the little green chaotic murder machines as well. Again I've been hearing this since the dawn of time & gaming. This goblin plagued blog entry is gonna depend upon the goblin wiki entry here.
When we start to dive head first into the mythology & background of the names of the goblin then we start getting into some of the dark & gritty roots of the little green bastards;
"Alternative spellings include gobblin, gobeline, gobling, goblyn, goblino, 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 Latin gobelinus in Orderic Vitalis before 1141, 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". Alternatively, it may be a diminutive or other derivative of the French proper name Gobel, more often Gobeau, diminutive forms Gobelet, Goblin, Goblot, but their signification is probably "somebody who sells tumblers 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. The term goblette has been used to refer to female goblins."
Let's hit the twenty ton goblin issue & put it squarely where it belongs. Are goblins in Dungeons & Dragons racist & anti Semitic? Well first let's put this squarely where this whole cloth manure pile where it belongs? Squarely in the ball park of the Harry Potter books & their author J.K. Rowlings or is it?! According to the Quora website going all of the way back December of 2019;
"I've read the Harry Potter books 5+ times each, and I find this question interesting and hard to assess. I found the following post online, and I find its conclusions and observations pretty reasonable:
Debunking the Harry Potter Anti-Semitism Myth
By Stephen Richer
There’s no shortage of theories connecting Judaism and Harry Potter. Entire books have been written on Potter philosophy and Torah wisdom (see Moment’s interview with Dov Krulwich), and some commentators have posited that its magicians—chosen people misunderstood by others—are essentially Jewish. Yet, others also a postulate a rather unfortunate perspective that J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series are guilty of perpetuating an anti-Semitic slur: underhandedly equating the book’s loathsome goblins with Jews.
The goblin-as-Jew allegation deserves assessment, partly because anti-Semitism is so serious, but also because if the complaint is true, millions of Jews, including yours truly, could not continue to happily reread and rewatch one of the greatest stories ever told.
The theory—as put forth by one its leading proponents Matt Zeitlin—is pretty simple:
The goblins, especially as depicted in the movies, are universally hooked nosed, short, unattractive, and green. …Professor Binns’ soporific History of Magic lectures tell tales of centuries of goblin oppression, segregation, mistrust, bad relations, exclusion, and revolts. Sound like any European ethnic minority you know? That’s right, Rowlings’ depiction of goblins reflects the type of stereotypes that are more fitting for Russia in the late 19th century or a second rate Gazan newspaper.
As further evidence, Zeitlin offers a side-by-side comparison of an anti-Semitic cartoon with the Warner Brothers’ rendition of a Rowling’s goblin:
Once the goblin-Jew connection is made, it’s easy to prove a dislike for Jews. After all, Rowling’s distaste for goblins is quite evident. Rubeus Hagrid – a character inclined to see the good in all people and creatures – warns Harry about goblins in the first 100 pages of the seven book series: “They’re goblins Harry. Clever as they come, goblins, but not the most friendly of beasts.”Deathly Hallows portrays goblins as impassionate neutrals in a fundamentally moral war who ironically play something of a Switzerland banking for the Nazis (Gringotts goblins). In Goblet of Fire, goblins are more concerned with their money than the terrorization of innocents (World Cup Dark Mark raid). And, as judged by the only goblin we really get to know in detail – Griphook – goblins are untrustworthy.
This line of reasoning seems compelling, but to foist it on Rowling and the Potter series seems unjust. For one, Rowling does a great deal of borrowing in her stories. She followed established conventions, endowing her dragons with fiery breath and wings, giving her trolls dim wit and powerful clubs, and her goblins with short stature, hooked noses, and greedy manipulation—archetypes that existed well before Rowling ever put pen to paper. Perhaps Rowling drew her goblin based on the goblins in the Nineteenth Century poem “Goblin Market,” in which goblins lure and trick with “evil gifts.” Or consider JRR Tolkein’s goblin—“A foul creature…slightly smaller, sometimes hunched over or appearing to walk and run with limps.” Or just look up goblin in the dictionary and you find a definition that largely resembles Rowling’s creatures. Perhaps the goblin character has its origins in anti-Semitism, but Rowling can hardly be convicted of unjust commentary for using a now-familiar Western literary character.
Additionally, the debate over whether the goblin character has its roots in anti-Semitism is wholly unaligned with Rowling’s professed views on Jews. In 2004, Rowling visited a Holocaust Museum and compared the hated “mudblood” and “half-blood” terms used in Harry Potter with the anti-Semitic propaganda of the Nazis: “If you think this is far-fetched, look at some of the real charts the Nazis used to show what constituted Aryan or Jewish blood.” Rowling has also gone on record saying that her evil character—Lord Voldemort—is modeled in part off of Hitler. Both comments won her comments of praise from Jewish organizations.
Then there are the movies—in which Rowling played an active oversight roll. The actor that plays Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe has a Jewish mother, and the film company that produces the movies, Warner Brothers, owes its start to Hirsz, Abraham, Szmul, and Itzhak Wonskolaser (later changed to Warner).
In the eyes of this aspiring Gryffindor, we Jews can enjoy—without misgiving—the latest, and final, Harry Potter movie.
And do yourselves a favor & go read the comments on the the Quora website going all of the way back December of 2019 They are quite 'enlightening' so to speak. There are actually scores of goblins & goblin like monsters across a huge range of cultures;
In 'The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath' By H.P. Lovecraft we get hints of Goblins & goblin like creatures in the wood of the Zoogs; "Of these things was Carter warned by the priests Nasht and Kaman-Thah in the cavern of flame, but still he resolved to find the gods on unknown Kadath in the cold waste, wherever that might be, and to win from them the sight and remembrance and shelter of the marvellous sunset city. He knew that his journey would be strange and long, and that the Great Ones would be against it; but being old in the land of dream he counted on many useful memories and devices to aid him. So asking a formal blessing of the priests and thinking shrewdly on his course, he boldly descended the seven hundred steps to the Gate of Deeper Slumber and set out through the Enchanted Wood.
- A redcap is a type of goblin who dyes its hat in human blood in Anglo-Scottish border folklore.
- Hobgoblins are friendly trickster goblins from English, Scottish, and Pilgrim folklore and literature.
- The Benevolent Goblin, from Gesta Romanorum (England)
- The Erlking is a malevolent goblin from German legend.
- The Trasgu is a Northern Spanish and Northern Portuguese mythological creature of Celtic and Roman origin.
- "The Goblin Pony", from The Grey Fairy Book (French fairy tale)
- "The Goblins at the Bath House" (Estonia), from A Book of Ghosts and Goblins (1969)
- "The Goblins Turned to Stone" (Dutch fairy tale).
- King Gobb (Moldovan Gypsy folktale)
- Mill goblins appear in Norwegian folklore.
- A pukwudgie is a type of goblin from Wamponoag folklore as well as Cryptozoology
- Muki (mythology) (Quechua for a goblin who lives in caves, also for asphyxia)
Many Asian lagyt creatures have been likened to, or translated as, goblins. Some examples for these:
- Chinese Ghouls and Goblins (England 1928)
- The Goblin of Adachigahara (Japanese fairy tale)
- The Goblin Rat, from The Boy Who Drew Cats (Japanese fairy tale)
- Twenty-Two Goblins (Indian fairy tale)
- In South Korea, goblins, known as dokkaebi (도깨비), are important creatures in folklore. They usually appear in children's books. The nursery song 'Mountain Goblin(산도깨비)' tells of meeting a goblin and running away to live.
- In Bangladesh, Santal people believe in gudrobonga which is very similar to goblins.
Other Goblins had been identified with creatures from another culture:
- Goblins sometimes became identified with jinn in Islamic culture.
- Goblins are featured in the Danish fairy tales: The Elf Mound, The Goblin and the Grocer, and The Goblin and the Woman.
Are goblins offensive to anyone? No only the PC dungeon explorers of classic Dungeons & Dragons or Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. But with such a wide swath of goblin & goblin like creatures what can be gathered for the dungeon master?! That these agents of evil are spawned across the board & should never be taken lightly.
Surely there's no Lovecraftian connection for the lowly goblin is there?!
In the tunnels of that twisted wood, whose low prodigious oaks twine groping boughs and shine dim with the phosphorescence of strange fungi, dwell the furtive and secretive Zoogs; who know many obscure secrets of the dream world and a few of the waking world, since the wood at two places touches the lands of men, though it would be disastrous to say where. Certain unexplained rumours, events, and vanishments occur among men where the Zoogs have access, and it is well that they cannot travel far outside the world of dream. But over the nearer parts of the dream world they pass freely, flitting small and brown and unseen and bearing back piquant tales to beguile the hours around their hearths in the forest they love. Most of them live in burrows, but some inhabit the trunks of the great trees; and although they live mostly on fungi it is muttered that they have also a slight taste for meat, either physical or spiritual, for certainly many dreamers have entered that wood who have not come out. Carter, however, had no fear; for he was an old dreamer and had learnt their fluttering language and made many a treaty with them; having found through their help the splendid city of Celephaïs in Ooth-Nargai beyond the Tanarian Hills, where reigns half the year the great King Kuranes, a man he had known by another name in life. Kuranes was the one soul who had been to the star-gulfs and returned free from madness.
Threading now the low phosphorescent aisles between those gigantic trunks, Carter made fluttering sounds in the manner of the Zoogs, and listened now and then for responses. He remembered one particular village of the creatures was in the centre of the wood, where a circle of great mossy stones in what was once a clearing tells of older and more terrible dwellers long forgotten, and toward this spot he hastened. He traced his way by the grotesque fungi, which always seem better nourished as one approaches the dread circle where elder beings danced and sacrificed. Finally the great light of those thicker fungi revealed a sinister green and grey vastness pushing up through the roof of the forest and out of sight. This was the nearest of the great ring of stones, and Carter knew he was close to the Zoog village. Renewing his fluttering sound, he waited patiently; and was at last rewarded by an impression of many eyes watching him. It was the Zoogs, for one sees their weird eyes long before one can discern their small, slippery brown outlines.
Out they swarmed, from hidden burrow and honeycombed tree, till the whole dim-litten region was alive with them. Some of the wilder ones brushed Carter unpleasantly, and one even nipped loathsomely at his ear; but these lawless spirits were soon restrained by their elders. The Council of Sages, recognizing the visitor, offered a gourd of fermented sap from a haunted tree unlike the others, which had grown from a seed dropt down by someone on the moon; and as Carter drank it ceremoniously a very strange colloquy began. The Zoogs did not, unfortunately, know where the peak of Kadath lies, nor could they even say whether the cold waste is in our dream world or in another. Rumours of the Great Ones came equally from all points; and one might only say that they were likelier to be seen on high mountain peaks than in valleys, since on such peaks they dance reminiscently when the moon is above and the clouds beneath."
So what does this tell us?! That Goblins are fairy creatures & very dangerous to anyone or anything they encounter. They've been with mankind since the beginning & have been haunting our dreams since original Dungeons & Dragons. A really nice example of humanoids & goblins is found in B10 Night's Dark Terror by Jim Bambra, Graeme Morris, & Phil Gallagher one of my all time favorite Basic Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules.
Goblins have always existed on the fringes of our imagination as the Lovecraftian fairy 'other' a dark reflection of the fears that we have of the unknown terror lurking just at the edges of our imaginations & ourselves. They are the product of the prejudices of ourselves & the our heart pounding fears that exist in our imaginations not as representations of any human race at all. Representations that can kill hoards of characters & PC's at the table top levels.