Evolution of a GOBLIN (conclusion)
August 26, 2007
Part 4 – Goblins in a Natural World
In Katharine Briggs’ “Faeries 101” book, An Encyclopedia of Fairies, she describes goblins as:
“A general name for evil and malicious spirits, usually small and grotesque in appearance…”
Using what few visual descriptions I could find, I began thinking and designing. From the start, I made them less human and more animal-like. As I’ve said before, there were plenty of great examples of humanoid goblins, and my designs would break no new ground down that path. Besides, I wanted my designs to speak to readers who may not be fans of fantasy. So I attempted to create for a broader audience and I tapped into more primal and instinctive imagery based on general ideas about goblins.
General Goblin Belief #1:
“Goblins are usually active at night”
Okay, so what animals do we know of are active at night? I could give them large ominous eyes like a bush-baby, or I could give them pale, pupil-less eyes like those found on deep-sea fish. That’s much spookier. In fact, anglerfish in general are creepy looking. Their fleshy skin tags and patterning are ideal for camouflage- something a goblin would need to use to avoid detection. I bet they can change this pattern like a flounder to blend in seamlessly with their background so they can’t be spotted easily even with a seeing stone.
General Goblin Belief #2:
“Goblins are ugly creatures”
Hmmmm. As are toads and frogs (at least by most human standards – think of the cursed Frog Prince), so that was a good starting point. Bat’s faces are usually grotesque and conjure up images of nocturnal activity, plus they’ve plenty of extra-sensory whiskers which may prove handy – especially if these guys are blind. How about extra simple eyes for motion detection like those found on insects and spiders? That would be creepy.
General Goblin Belief #3:
” Goblins are mischief makers”
To indicate that they weren’t just ignorant bipedal frogs, I showed that they knew how to fashion tools and weapons and even understood artifacts gathered from humankind’s wake of refuse – hence the discarded scarf which I thought added a somewhat humorous contrast to such a gnarly critter.
Lastly, I wanted to add something interesting to the folklore. Nowhere did I read that goblins are born without teeth. In fact, it would probably make more sense if they were born with teeth, perhaps even shedding them like a shark. But, I wanted to create an unusual and memorable natural feature to them…Besides, glass, bone, and metal shards were much more gruesome than just plain old teeth.
Part 5 – I Finally Add Something to Goblindom
Some day the Spiderwick goblins may be remembered in the annals of faerie lore, perhaps not from my book illustrations, but from the film adaptation – I suppose only time will tell.
However, to see my designs brought to life in the hands of master animators who understands how muscle, fat, and bone should move in a convincing manner is a dream-come-true for me. And I think the fact that Phil Tippett used a literal translation of my goblin designs is the highest praise this movie FX Jedi could give me. I know the 12 year-old Tony would be very happy indeed.
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