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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.

Goblin with tongue extended

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.

Sketch of a Bull Goblin

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.

Redcap & Goblins

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.

Common Ground Goblin

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.

Goblin Teeth

Part 5 – I Finally Add Something to Goblindom

Bull Goblin

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.

Tony D. Goblin at 12 years old

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Never Abandon Imagination Tony DiTerlizzi: Never abandon imagination.

Imagination is a world of possibility that exists within each of us. It is what makes us uniquely human. It is our creative fingerprint that touches and influences the world around us. Imagination is essential to art and science; to innovation and prosperity. It gives us hope, calls us to action and leads to change.

Whether it’s fairies, dragons, robots or aliens, all of my children’s book characters are siblings born of my imagination – an imagination strengthened through years of encouragement from family, teachers and friends. While so many others abandoned it during their transition from childhood to adulthood, I fiercely held onto mine, hoping for a day when I could share it to inspire the next generation of dreamers. Innovators. World changers.

Imagination empowers us to envision and create a reality of what could be. We must hold it dear, foster it and never abandon it.