How are goblins characterized in famous works of literature?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Many fantasy writers have incorporated goblin-type characters into their writing, so for inspiration, let's analyze the characterization of other writers:

In "Goblin Market," Christina Rossetti depicts her goblin characters as having animal characteristics:

Cat-like and rat-like,
Ratel- and wombat-like,
Snail-paced in a hurry,
Parrot-voiced and whistler,
Helter skelter, hurry skurry.

This set of goblins lure young maidens to buy their irresistable fruit, which after eating becomes strangely addictive.  Her goblins appear to be charming at first, but they are deceptive and wily.

 J.R.R. Tolkien features goblins as one of many dangerous creatures lurking in the wilderness in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  In The Hobbit, the goblins are portrayed as being "cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted" (59).  They are crafty and cunning, delighting in crafting destructive and ingenious devices.  Later when under attack, the "yells and yammering, croaking, jibbering and jabbering" of the goblins sounded worse than if "several hundred wild cats and wolves being roasted slowly alive together" (61). 
The important thing to remember when characterizing the goblins within your own story is to make them your own; instead of going overboard trying to describe their physical appearance, try to capture their true character and personality.

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