I’ve been remiss on my mythology lately, and I have no legitimate excuse. Things have been a little… upheavalous*…for me lately, and blogging sort of fell out of the back of a bouncing wagon of SHIT I HAVE TO DO. Oops.
*No, of course “upheavalous” isn’t a word, but the sentiment fits.
In honor of tonight’s Kobold extravaganza, I thought I’d see what an interwebz search vomited out, since they are a long-standing feature of various video and RP games. Oh Google, I’m both unsurprised and slightly horrified.
It appears some of you searchers out there have confused Kobolds with dingoes.
Also, spellchecker wants to change “kobolds” to “cuckolds” and I have to say that’s fairly judgmental, Blogger. I’ve found no evidence of kobolds cuckolding, nor would it be likely to catch them doing so since they are purportedly quite sneaky and wily.
Kobolds are most easily described as the Germanic relative of the British Brownie or Norwegian Nisse. They are usually invisible but can appear as child-sized people. Interestingly, their dress seems to be defined by the work they do.
There are three main delineations of Kobold: the house-elf variety (think Dobby from Harry Potter) who are generally seen in peasant clothing; seafaring Kobolds who stow away on ships and of course dress like a sailor (presumably they also swear like a sailor, and would cause a sailor to swear profusely when seen, I imagine); and mining Kobolds who appear hunched over, cranky as hell, and dressed in filthy mining clothes.
The house Kobold, similar to a Brownie, can be quite helpful. Unfortunately, while the Brownies have a reputation for being easygoing and cheerful as long as they’re given regular gifts of food and honey, Kobolds are rather capricious. Even bribed, they’re as likely to cause mischief and messes as they are to sweep or clean, and it appears they’re fairly ambivalent of mood when it comes to interactions with people. It’s often considered lucky to have a house Kobold, and interestingly the creature is attached to the dwelling itself (not the family who lives there). A house with a happy Kobold will be prosperous and lucky.
On the other hand, those who sail seem to be quite helpful to sailors (once everyone gets over that initial Kobold-is-not-invisible meeting). They were considered good luck to have aboard for the most part, and (as is a theme here) the sailors gave regular offerings to their ship’s Kobold. I do wonder if they’re subject to sailors’ maladies, though: do fairies get scurvy, for example? What about syphilis? Do they keep a girly Kobold in every port? Would a Kobold girl in a bar be of the house or sailor variety (and as such, what would she wear)?
Those who mine appear to be something of a cross between a goblin and a dwarf or gnome. As Germanic mythology is often closely related to Norse (Wodan/Odin) I’d guess they originated as dwarf-like characters who both protect and work the mines. They are described as being dirty or even black from mining filth, hunched, and dressed like a child miner. Miners left all sorts of offerings to placate the Kobolds, and some of their tales morphed with creatures like the Cornish “knockers” (not the boob kind…the Tommyknocker kind).
Kobolds, much like other Fairy and spirit creatures, are horrendously dangerous when pissed off. They must never be mocked or laughed at, fed daily (beer seems to be often on the menu, which I suppose fits since it’s a German creature and beer generally surpassed wine in popularity and availability in that area of Europe), and generally treated with respect.
Consider the wrath of an invisible creature who enjoys literally playing with fire, tripping people at the worst possible time, shoving someone overboard, or collapsing a mine shaft. Hodekin, a Kobold of disturbing renown (likely because he lived in a bishop’s house), strangled a servant boy who’d angered him, tore the poor boy’s limbs off, and tossed his head into the stew pot. Yeah. Best to keep on their benevolent side.
Should you find yourself with a Kobold resident, good luck my friend. Feed them their favorite meal daily and try not to get too irritated when they hide your shit or mess with your things (even nice Kobolds are full of mischief). If you offend them, for the love of Pete say you’re sorry and change whatever is offending them IMMEDIATELY and maybe you’ll get back in their good graces.
I will say, however, that I truly did not find any evidence in books, Wikipedia, or anywhere else on the interwebz of Kobolds eating my baby (or anyone else’s), other than Hodekin, but to be completely fair the boy wasn’t a baby…and I didn’t find a version where the Kobold ate him OR the stew.
Seriously, that was the Dingoes.
Also, I’m not kidding Blogger, a dangerous sprite is NOT a cuckold. Wow.