GoblinsColumbine: The folk of faerie can be roughly divided into the folk of the land and the folk of the water. But expressing this division as “fairies” and “mermaids” just won’t quite do. I mean, you can’t really call a troll or a goblin a fairy – well, you could, but they would make the most horrible faces, and they are bad enough already. You could just about get away with calling a selkie a mermaid, since at least they do live in the sea, but freshwater nymphs just aren’t.

The more – dare I say? – disarmingly beautiful folk are naturally the ones usually depicted in the art of the human realm, but the other folk are often found in stories. And while, goodness knows, fairies and elves can be quite dark, other folk often play the role of antagonist in such stories. This is a bit of a generalization of course, and sometimes they are shown in a more congenial light.

Then also, my own experience is the faerie of Europe, and I am reluctant to call the folk of other continents fairies. I have in mind the genies of the east, for example, and the Mimis and Nyols, rock folk of the southern land so convincingly described in The Song of Wirrun.

Here are some of the other folk:

Goblins could be called the default “bad guy”. Usually shown as sly, ill-natured and bad-tempered, they are often also somewhat ridiculous. They are the pawns of the villain Jack Frost in the popular Rainbow Magic series, and the enemies in the classics The Princess and the Goblin and “Goblin Market”. In the Harry Potter series they are the bankers of the magical world and are probably the most respected (by wizards) of the non-human races, though there are occasional intriguing references to the Goblin Revolt of the seventeenth century.

Hobgoblins are a friendly sort of goblin, more mischievous than wicked, more homely than grotesque. The “Goblin” of Davy and the Goblin refers to himself as a hobgoblin. Hobgoblins are contrasted with the meaner goblins in The Hobgoblin Proxy, which also purports to explain where hobgoblins come from. Sometimes in fantasy fiction they are shown as a bigger, nastier goblin, a misunderstanding that started with Professor Tolkein, who later renamed his hobgoblins “Uruks”.

Hobs or brownies are helpful household spirits, for example the Hob who is the “Luck of the Farm” in Grimbold’s Other World.

Boggarts may also be household spirits, but wilder. There is a boggart in Earthfasts which is quite troublesome though affectionate. In Susan Cooper’s The Boggart and its sequel the boggarts are shape shifters, as they are in the Harry Potter series; in the latter, though, they are quiet creatures who prefer to be left alone and use their shape-shifting defensively to frighten anyone who disturbs them. Unusually, the boggarts of The Knights of Liöfwende are village-dwelling hairy sons of toil, one of whom dreams of being a fairy knight.

Trolls are found in northern legend chiefly, and are said to be related to giants. They make an appearance in the Harry Potter series when they are hired as security guards by Hogwarts; they are depicted as surly brutes who leer unpleasantly at people. “They paced the corridor in a menacing group, talking in grunts and comparing the size of their clubs.” In The Sea of Trolls they are descended from frost giants. Sometimes they are depicted as living under bridges – the alchemist troll in the urban fairy tale Valiant lives under Brooklyn Bridge. He is an unusual type though – they are often shown as dangerous but rather stupid. The troll in The Forest of Hours, however, is not of the hulking semi-giant type but more of a woodland hobgoblin.

Other stories largely featuring trolls are the Troll King trilogy by John Vornholt, the Troll Fell trilogy by Katherine Langrish and the amusing, if silly, Troll Trouble series by Alan Macdonald.