SpoCon Panels: Goblins in Myth and Cute Goblins Regardless

A Houseman goblin being small.
The theme this year for SpoCon 2019 is "all hail the Goblin King" as a bow to the wonder that is Labyrinth. Appropriately the convention is doing several panels on goblins. I'll be sitting on two of them.

The first is super easy. Talk about goblins in myth and literature. The word has been traced back as far as the 1300s and in early reference refers to a "mischievous and ugly fairy." Some say that it originates from the Norman French gobelin  the name of a spirit haunting the region of Evreux in chronicle of Ordericus Vitalis. But others will track it back to the folklore of Germany and Greece.

The rank-and-file Labyrinth goblins designed by Brian Froud and performed by his wife Wendy Froud and other members of the Henson crew relate largely to English versions of goblins as small mischief-makers. You can see their grandparents in the illustrations of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Laurence Houseman, and Arthur Rackham for Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market. Since the 1860s that poem has set the look and feel of goblins for many. I borrowed a few of Houseman's goblins for my story Goblin Name Game. Victorian and Edwardian fairy books are full of goblins, all drawn from world folklore and put in the position of being not too terrifying opponents for the brave children who wandered into the woods.

While the world "goblin" is European, the type of supernatural creature (small, greedy, not too pretty) pops up around the world. The goblins are the creatures that cause luck to go awry but can be chased away with determination. Every now and then, a bit of extra magic is needed to help the unlucky traveler. I love the story "The Boy Who Drew Cats" which comes from the Japanese but in Western translation deals with a "goblin rat" that is driven off or eaten by cat drawings.

A more modern goblin that we all struggle to repel is the gremlin. The word pops up in the 1940s to define a type of goblin that causes plane engines and other mechanical doodads to go wrong. Roald Dahl didn't coin the term but he did write about gremlins for Walt Disney and others. The gremlin is the 20th century goblin. Later the idea of gremlins made a splash in the movies that mixed the Chinese mogwai and the British gremlin into a creature who should never, ever be fed after midnight.

The second panel deals with  more in-depth question of "are goblins cute?" To which I'm stuck with a one-word answer (yes) and a lot of time to fill if my fellow panelists are not more articulate. Of course any fairy creature can be cute. Froud's goblins are funny, cute, and blow things up. Kat Cho's wonderful new urban fantasy Wicked Fox has the K-Pop cute version of a Korean goblin out for a good time and lots of cash. He's also a wicked cool dresser.

And of course that classic country goblin, or hobgoblin, named Puck can be anything from cute to downright scary sexy depending on who is playing the part. A bit like a certain Goblin King.

Those that Hobgoblin call you and sweet Puck, You do their work, and they shall have good luck: Are not you he?


Goblins in Myth and Legend

Friday Aug 09 03:00 PM to 03:45 PM (45 minutes)

The Historic Davenport Hotel - Lincoln

Are Goblins Cute

Saturday Aug 10 11:00 AM to 11:45 AM (45 minutes)

The Historic Davenport Hotel - Worthy 


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