Goblins appear in various mythologies from around the world but are primarily centered in European folklore.  The first mention of goblins takes place in western France in the 1100’s as “gobelin” and later as the Latin “gobelinus”.  They also show up in English and German myths later where they remained prominent for some time.  

There are various descriptions of goblins depending on the region, but most share a few common traits.  In general, goblins are described as ugly, wrinkled, and small in stature.  They tend to be considered “bad”, but more specifically they are typically seen as being extremely selfish.  

Goblins love silver and gold and any type of jewel of high monetary value.  They have been linked to Dwarves because of their penchant for mining, though that appears more often in Germanic myths than others.  Goblins will defend their treasures to the death and have little to no problem stealing the valuables of others, even getting a giddy sense of joy from such activity.  

It is highly contested whether or not goblins have a high or low intelligence.  Different mythologies play off of this differently with some claiming that goblins have a very high intelligence while other say they are generally quite dumb.  I think the best way to describe the intellect of goblins is to say that they are clever in getting what they want.  

When it comes to mischief they seem to figure out ways to lie, cheat, and steal with a high degree of success.  Certainly there must be an intelligence to them if they can regularly profit from manipulation.  

However, by all accounts they are not quite so bright when it comes to standard scholastic measurements, such as reading, writing, or arithmetic.  If goblins had to go to school they would all most likely fail out of all of their classes, that is, if they didn’t already get kicked out for bad behavior.

It should be noted that in most modern fictional depictions of monsters, such as in movies, books, and video games, goblins tend to rank very low on the scale of strength.  Goblins tend to be used as “pawns” of a sort (to make a chess comparison), being considered highly disposable and fairly easy for a human being to beat in a fight.  

Their key strength, it seems, is that goblins tend to move in packs, usually called “hordes”.  Goblins use the concept of “strength in numbers” to overwhelm opponents rather than battle one-on-one.  This is why it is not uncommon for lone goblins to run from battle, only to return later with a group of friends.  

Within tribes of goblins there tends to be one leader designated the “Goblin King”.  It is unclear what exact function the goblin king plays, but it is clear that the other tribe members seem to listen only to this individual.

However you describe them goblins are a staple of fantasy fiction and their history goes back almost a thousand years, suggesting that these concepts came from a place a little too real.

Check out our List of Mythical Creatures for more monster information!

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