Goblin Culture: An Inside View
by Acinorev in Dark Ages
As a worshipper of Ceannlaider, the only religion to side with the Goblins, I wished to know what or whom we truly were aiding. Most references on Goblin culture are sketchy at best, and highly questionable, as they seem too alike our own. Asking Ceannlaider for assistance, I was granted the form of a goblin, to walk among them and participate in their society. The form was that of a young goblin male, which revealed itself to be the best vessel for learning, as goblin young are considered genderless and are involved in both male and female activities. Previous works on Goblins have barely scratched the surface of their complex and intriguing culture. The learned BrightBlade merely saw them from the view of an outsider, having never ventured into their residences, and projected upon them his theory of masculinity, that they are ruled by warriors. Here I have attempted to dispel the many myths surrounding Goblins, and reveal their true ways of life.
Arriving, I was given the warm welcome of a long lost friend, as I had the smell of their tribe. I was led back to their tunnels, and shown the pride of their construction. At first, the burrow is narrow, leading to a small hollow. Most interpret this as the Goblin living area, but this is merely to fool outsiders. A sharp turn to the right, and we followed a long passageway, at a steep incline downward. Another turn, and it opened up into a very large, cavernous burrow, with three tunnels, one on each side. This was the meeting room. It was dimly lit, with torches, and there were large stones to sit on. Many piles of fruit and berries were strewn about the dirt floor, and goblins of all classes were there, conversing in their guttural tones. After being greeted, I was led back to the tunnel on the left. This was the womens area. I spent much time here, as this is where goblin children are taught the basics of their language and some of their stories. It was better lit, so that they could keep track of all the young goblins. The right tunnel, I learned later, led to the chamber of war for the men. I did not spend much time there, but it held piles of weapons, though each goblin had their own as well. The tunnel straight back was a communal residence, for shelter from the elements; sleeping furs nearly covered the floor. Goblins live in small tribes, perhaps 20 of each class, their wives, and 30 to 40 children, all of whom would sleep there. This being a normal tribal burrow, it did not have a Council room, though several Council members resided there. No hobgoblins live within the Goblin tunnels; though they are goblins they are not a natural caste, as I will describe later.
Goblin men are strong, with hunched shoulders, and are 4-6" shorter than the average Aisling. They wear clothing, jewelry, and helmets made from the trophies of their kills. Goblins have little to no hair. Goblin women are 2-4" shorter, but stand straight, and far exceed the males in girth. The females are cunning, wise, and very formidable foes in the few instances when they must do battle. They wear little in the warmth of the burrows, but have long robes of fur for outside travel. They often wear jewelry also, trophies of the kills of their husbands. Hobgoblins nearly reach the height of an Aisling, and their bodies are twisted beyond that of normal goblins.
Goblin classes are gained, not set at birth. Every goblin starts as a child, with no rank. Goblin children are considered genderless; they may participate in both male and female activities, but must ask permission. They have no rights or privileges in this rankless stage. They are given a basic education, and are generally given tasks of foraging and delivering items between burrows. Though treated well, it is still a degrading position for a goblin, and none wish to stay this way for long.
The first rank attained is that of the Soldier. Goblin raids are frequent, and prisoners are often taken, to be used in their ceremonies such as this one. The goblin seeking to become a soldier must defeat a captive in hand to hand combat. This might seem an easy task, but the prisoners are fighting for their lives and are very vicious. Afterwards, when the goblin succeeds, a ceremonial club is made from the bones of the victim. Rarely do goblins perish in this ceremony, but often they are badly injured. Even this first rank is difficult to attain.
The second rank is that of the Warrior. A soldier must be acclaimed by others in a battle to even be considered. This is only gained by praise of others and usually involves amazing feats of strength on the battlefield. The Council convenes, as do the nearby tribes, and several of those chosen take the goblins test of pain. Oftentimes this involves heavy weights, hot coals, and sharp instruments that the goblin has to endure. This is done near a river or other body of water; if the goblin wishes to end the test, they leap in, ending it. However, this means they failed, and most would prefer to die in the test than perform this act of cowardice.
Following warrior is the Guard. Guards are noticed by the Council themselves, and given a quest specific to them. It centers on their weaknesses, and they must overcome them to attain this, the highest natural rank. Only the strongest goblins can become guards, the quest is not given often or lightly.
After guard, there is only one further stage. Guards who have served long and fought well, but grow old and weak are given a chance to live and continue to protect their tribes. They are too powerful to simply be lost, but the ritual to preserve them, the creation of the Hobgoblins, is very costly to perform. I was fortunate to attend one such ceremony, during the third moon of my stay.
Early in the morning, the chosen guard was led to a flowing river, where a heavy iron pot was placed, nearly submerged, on a sturdy flat rock. The water splashed up nearly into the pot, cascading down and around the metal. Two goblin guards hoisted their companion into the cauldron, where he took one last look around, and lowered himself into the empty bowl. Curled in a fetal position, he barely fit. Several goblins stepped forth, these were those who had failed the earlier tests, they would give their lives for this ritual. The council gathered around them, and they sacrificed themselves over the pot, their blood draining over the guards body. Chanting words almost un-goblinlike, the Council watched the proceedings. The chant placed the guard in a trance, but the blood poured over him; he would surely drown, and the freezing river water rushed over the pot, chilling its contents. I noticed several rings of metal on the sides of the cauldron, torches were brought and fitted into these. The crackling of the fire near the crashing of the water, and the Council chanting made the very air seem charged. The chant ceased, dancing began, the energy seemed limitless, and not a glimpse of food or drink. Noticing the torches were starting to be brighter than the surroundings, the Council began the chant again, and all others silenced. The head council member brought forth a gnarled branch with a metal orb at one end. She placed this in the pot with the guard, the orb in the air, shining eerily in the moonlight. Waving her arms, she called out to the skies. Lightning shot down, streaming onto the orb on the staff. The great sal energy of the river stretched and elongated the body of the guard, the srad empowered his body with great strength. The lightning charged the body, bringing it to life as the imbalance of creag swept over the ceremonial ground. It started in the pot, as a rumble that gave the newly formed Hobgoblin the staying life force. It swept over the ground, knocking goblins to their knees, and continued, growing as it went. The goblins got to their feet, and praised the creation of the Hobgoblin.
Hobgoblins, though strong and nearly deathless, are rendered incoherent. The process of their creation infuses the lives of those sacrificed, and their minds cannot manage to co-exist with that of the original guards. Hobgoblins are insane, incapable of language or normal thought processes, and know only to kill anything that is not a goblin. Thus Hobgoblins have no social status or powers.
Gained ranks among females do not exist, they attain their power from their husbands. Females without husbands are the equal of males without rank. Women are educated, in stages, as their husbands gain in rank. Wives of soldiers teach children the language, and clean the burrows of waste even the goblins cannot tolerate. Wives of warriors teach the soldier wives. This involves basic battle strategy and some healing techniques. Wives of guards teach warrior wives moderate strategies and memorization of goblin legends. And finally, the true power of the goblin tribes lies in the Council. These goblin women were wives of soldiers who have transcended to Hobgoblins. The Council is highly educated, its members often speaking the Aisling tongue as well as their own. They form complex strategies for battles, and hold together the entire goblin society. They have mastered the healing arts. They teach minor forms of healing magic, and prepare guard wives, whose husbands are chosen to become Hobgoblins, for life as Council.
Female goblins own all that the goblin family possesses. They keep their position if their husband dies, and all that they owned. Goblins mate for life, and a goblin who sought to re-marry would be seen as trying to gain a higher position. While the focus for the males is on strength, the females work for intelligence and wisdom. The women are very cunning; not being allowed on hunts they must plan and plot for every occurrence without seeing the battlefield, the enemy, or any events therein. Marriages are for strength and power, the male goblin seeks a wise wife, the female a strong husband, who will become a Hobgoblin. The most common marriage for a daughter is the fathers brothers son, while the normal for a son is the mothers sisters daughter. Goblins believe that seeking along these male and female lines strengthens the male and female traits they hope to advance in their offspring.
There is a legend among the Goblins as to their origin. It is told that once there were many creatures on the world, all of whom looked alike. They were all content. One of these, who was called Gaul, was walking through the woods and met a being that he had never seen before. This was not unusual, as there were many inhabitants of the woods, but it looked...different. It was short, and squat, and looked very strong. It wore a long crimson cape, and its clothing shined like the sun itself. It spoke, and its voice was deep and guttural, though Gaul had never heard the words before he could clearly understand them. It spoke his name, and told him of a race of beings. Beings of strength, whose destiny would be to rule over all others. It told him that he, Gaul, would be the first of these if he so chose. Gaul agreed to this, and the being raised its arms. Flames leapt up, leaving trees and plants untouched, but screams were heard in the distance. The being told him the weak had been cleansed. Gaul looked back, and the creature was gone. Glancing down, he saw his body twisting, legs shortening but thickening. He heard the voice in his ear, telling him to find Ahna, that she would join him and be his wife. Finding her, he saw that she was shorter than he, and he spoke her name. "Achgna," he said. She spoke to him, "Gthal." From that time on, they were known as Achgna and Gthal, and were the first of the Goblins.
This legend shows the values of the Goblins, that their culture is centered around strength and domination. However, the power is in the hands of the women, and they seek intelligence and wisdom. This I discuss in the afterthoughts. Still, goblins are a warrior culture with a strong belief of superiority. They care for nothing but their own strength, and seek nothing but war with other cultures.
When my time there drew to a close, I asked to attend a hunt. I was tempted to stay, as my instincts were becoming too much like that of a goblin, but slipped away and out of the woods just as my guise dissolved.
I spoke earlier of the male goblins strength and females intelligence. Hearing the legend, I realized the goblins had been speaking of Ceannlaider, God of War. After a time, I began to wonder if perhaps the female, Anha, had been visited by Luathas. Eventually I realized the folly of this belief; they still sought strength and domination, merely used a different means. After much thought, I have concluded that Ceannlaider wished the goblins to be strong enough to always exist, but never strong enough to actually dominate the other species. As God of War, he created the ultimate War species, tactician females, who can plan a battle at a distance, and soldier males, not wise enough to know to run from a losing battle.
The current events in Undine have upset me greatly. Goblins would never build ships, or sail on them. Council decides every action goblins take, but...ships? This is the actions of a Mundane, perhaps even an Aisling. Clearly, there are traitors among us, and among the goblins as well. Loures had a pact with the goblins during the Entreaty of the Calling Stone, this does not bode well, as Goblins act in their interests, which is for our destruction. Taking Undine does nothing for the goblins, especially alongside another race. The Council as a whole undoubtedly has something in store for us, but perhaps they should watch their backs as well, as one of them speaks with Mundanes instead of killing them on sight.