((Welp. I tried to start a YouTube series. I tried to create a simple but practical and charming visual aesthetic to go along with my (hopefully) edutaining solo rambling. I tried to develop long-term designs to get in on that sweet AdSense gravy-train in a way that wouldn't pepper my blog with awkward, unrelated advertisements for low home refinancing rates or highly specific dating websites.
Operative word being "tried".
In the end, I just don't have the skill, patience, or computer processing power to be able to build a video series from scratch.
So instead, I've decided to throw the audio up onto Soundcloud!
Come listen to the first episode of Goblin Watch here.
In this new format, I'll be approaching the history of the "goblin" in a rambling solo-cast style, but also providing each episode's script as a textual post of its very own, in case anxious, high-pitched voices aren't quite your cup of tea. So feel free to click above or scroll down, or both if you're feeling generous, and enjoy.
Let me know if you have any suggestions for how I can improve this (besides getting a better mic, of course. I am a bit limited on funds for now), and let me know if you would prefer future episodes to be shortish like this (5-15 minutes total), or if they should be beefier (20-30 minutes or more).
Additionally, if you would like me to dedicate a Ko-Fi post to audio, let me know in advance! I am still eagerly awaiting CuPost material.))
Goblin Watch, Episode 01.
Hello, and welcome to Goblin Watch! The mini-series dedicated to the origins and iterations of everyone's favorite folkloric critters and adventurer fodder.
Have you ever wondered where goblins come from? Well, when a mother goblin and a father goblin love each other...
Wait, wrong episode.
But seriously, have you ever wondered where the idea of a goblin comes from? Who invented it, and in how many different parts of the world? What makes a goblin different from or similar to other mythical creatures like elves, or dwarves? In what state was the idea of the goblin when that Tolkien git came along and got his hands on the word, and what has it been like ever since he left his indelible mark on it and in part wedded it to the revolutionary new idea of orcs?
These and many other questions will be raised, and hopefully we'll be able to find some good answers to them.
I am, appropriately enough, the Furtive Goblin, and I will help lead the way.
Over the next few weeks, or months, or however long this lasts, we will be delving into the history of the concept of the goblin, and how people have used that idea over the centuries.
This exploration will take us through vast stretches of mythology, literature, cinema, video gaming, and even pop culture, though not in any particular order.
It will also be a journey of self-discovery for me, as I come to grips with my identity.
Without any further ado, let's begin with the first step taken in any ambitious series: A soul-crushing lesson in etymology and dead languages!
Just a head's up, I am not a linguist, and my ability to pronounce words in other languages, even Romance languages, is pretty abysmal, so my apologies for getting many things wrong.
The Modern English word g-o-b-l-i-n “goblin” is the current most common version of the word, with several other spellings having been around and attested to for a while before most writers decided on the simplest one. So, the vast majority of goblins we'll come across from here on out will be just goblins. Goblyn with a 'y' is something we are going to come back to in a couple of chapters once we hit tabletop role-playing games, however.
English goblin first appeared in the 14th century CE, deriving from the earlier Anglo-Norman word gobelin, which itself derives from an Old French word of the same spelling.
(Little known fact, a contingent of 200 goblin cavalrygobs was instrumental in the victory at the Battle of Hastings. They rode on William the Conqueror's hunting dogs.)
This French word in turn deviated in around the 12th century CE from the Medieval Latin word cabalus or possible gobalus. We aren't quite sure which, because of the different ways Latin handled /g/, /c/, and /k/ sounds in written script.
Finally, our old Latin friends seemed to have ripped the idea from the Greeks, who used the word kobalos, plural kobaloi. In addition to being a rude name you'd call someone you might deem a rogue, knave, or thieving jerk, the kobalos is a class of spirits or other minor divinities in Greek Mythology- again, material we'll be sure to touch upon in a later episode.
And that's pretty much all there is. I was somewhat disappointed to find that there isn't a strong suggestion anywhere of what the Greek word might come from, or if there was a single Proto-Indo-European word from which all of this descends.
But that's only the more popular etymology for goblin in modern discourse.
Another theory which I'm personally more skeptical of is that goblin is ultimately a diminutive sort of pet-version of the proper name Gobel/Gobeau, possibly of Germanic or French origin.
A third theory is that goblin derives from the name for the continental Germanic kobold, but given that kobold shares Greek kobalos as the same etymological root, this theory sort of turns around into the first etymology.
(Side note, this also gives an etymological precedent for kobolds being so similar in behavior and physical appearance to goblins in the first few iterations of Dungeons & Dragons, despite my personal preference for those of a more recent, scalier persuasion.)
Goblin itself is the origin for the Welsh creature called a coblyn, showing that we are not dealing with a linguistic dead-end, and giving an inkling of where the word might go in the coming centuries as language changes and interacts. The coblyn is classified as a type of Knocker- a more brownie- or leperchaun-esque being which I've only heard about for the first time in researching this video. It's an interesting point for later exploration, but for now we've got to stay on topic.
Now that we've got an idea of the word, let's take a look at its earliest uses. Tune in next [insert time frame here] for a look at the nature and actions of goblins and their ancestors in myths, as well as folklore- that last great bastion for all half-discarded things which have fallen out of the favor of dominant mythologies and belief systems.