Chapter 4: Over Hill and Under Hill

Why “The Hobbit” needs its goblins.

Lights in the Library

Enter the goblins.

They’re underrated, they really are. Sure, you’ve got The Lord of the Rings with its orcs and uruk-hai and they’re a bad lot to be sure, but there’s something about those goblins.

On one level, they’re the perfect bad guys for a children’s fairy tale. Not that The Hobbit doesn’t have other antagonists, but the goblins fulfill an essential role. The spiders are creepy, but they’re not so much evil as they are—well, spiders. Spiders eat whatever they can catch in their web; it’s just what they do. Likewise, the trolls are too clumsy and stupid to really justify being called evil. The elves are mean, yes, and selfish, but you can’t really hate or fear them. They feel more like immature children with too much power than calculating villains (why yes, I did just put elves in the ‘bad guy’ category. So sue me). And…

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