Friday, June 21, 2024

Two More

In my post on the pictorial history of goblins earlier this week, I inadvertently forgot to include two more goblin images. Here's the first one:

It's an illustration by Jim Roslof from the AD&D Monster Cards, which came out in 1982. This places it, chronologically, right between the 1981 Tom Moldvay-edited Basic Set and the 1983 revision of the same by Frank Mentzer. Roslof's version of the goblin is broadly in keeping with what came before and after, though it looks a bit less monstrous than most of the other depictions. Notice, for example, that this specimen lacks fangs or pointy teeth. 

1982 also saw the publication of a translation into French of The Keep on the Borderlands, which I first saw a couple of years later. Apologies for the poor quality of the image, but I wanted to blow up the portion where the goblins are present. 

Again, you can see a very broad similarity between these monsters and all the other images I posted in the earlier post, including Holloway's own prior efforts. What's most fascinating to me is just how varied goblins appeared in old school D&D art. Aside from being short, there was actually a fair degree of diversity in the way they were drawn, even when the same artist drew them for different products. In that respect, they're a bit look like orcs, whose depictions likewise lacked consistency.


  1. Dungeons & Dragons' goblins seem slightly more stable in appearance than its orcs: I suspect that's because D&D goblins are, essentially, Tolkien's orcs (small, sallow, fanged, bow-legged, big heads) - which means that the "orcs" have to find a new visual identity.

    You could drop almost any early D&D illustration of a goblin into The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, and it would look perfectly congruent with the text. That's not the case with D&D orcs or even hobgoblins (too big to be the Uruk-hai, who seem to have been around the size of dwarves, with the lesser orcs the size of Hobbits).

    I think that's possibly why the D&D orc was so vulnerable to influence from Warhammer: its identity was less stable than the goblin and so more easily replaced.

    In that regard, it's interesting to track the changing size of the (proto-)D&D orc. In Chainmail, the suggested use of smaller-scale miniatures for orcs indicates that Gygax and co. were following Tolkien in having orcs be smaller than humans (even the big ones - and in Chainmail, "orcs" seem to be Uruks in contrast with "goblins" as lesser orcs). Early D&D illustrations by Sutherland show short pig-faced orcs.

    But, by the Monster Manual, orcs have become quite big, at 6'. And then, under the influence of their Warhammer kin, they become bigger still.

    This changes the half-orc too. The 1e AD&D half-orc is plainly derived from Tolkien, whose half-orcs are especially threatening because they're orc-like but as big and tall as Men (even though the 1e orc is as big as a large man - so the Tolkien derivation doesn't quite make sense). But in more modern editions, the half-orc is big and fearsome *because he or she is half orc*. It's a curious inversion that results from the D&D orc's less certain identity compared with the "true" Tolkien-derived orc: the D&D goblin.

  2. I had the vinyl figure and the monster tribe miniatures box set in the 80s that also influenced my perception of goblins.

    1. I don't think I ever saw either of these back in the day. Thanks for sharing them (especially the bugbear, since I'm working on a post about them for next week).

    2. I had a few of the figures picked up at a Kmart. The ones I wanted but never had was the Orcs of the Broken Bone. Appreciate the look and the fact they named a tribe for the action figures.

    3. Weirdly enough, I have the orc officer with axe on the painting table at the moment; I picked him up on eBay a year or two back and had no idea of his provenance.

  3. A cover of dragon magazine issue 88( had what looks like a hobgoblin orc and goblin) ! And sightly off topic the orcs in A1 arent like the pig orcs like in the MM, with only a difference of 3 years

  4. Page 48 of the 1st edition Cyclopedia of the Realms has an interesting picture of 'goblinoids', including a goblin. The only other one I can readily identify is an orc, though while pig-like is covered with fur. At least one of the creatures flanking the orc is probably a hobgoblin. The tall one in the back I think is an ogre, which in 1st edition Forgotten Realms was often grouped with other 'goblinoids'.

  5. Page 48 of the Cyclopedia of the Realms, from the 1st edition Gray Box Forgotten Realms boxed set, has a picture of various 'goblinoids'. The easiest to identify is the goblin (shortest of the bunch) and the orc (which is pig-like but furry). I believe at least one of the two creatures is a hobgoblin, while the tall one in the back is a rather human looking ogre, which in the Realms was often grouped with goblinoids.

  6. The second image has the eyes whites being black again (like Holloway's excellent depiction in the first post of this "series").

    I think that's especially effective and creepy!