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A goblin is

"An evil or mischievous spirit; a playful or malicious elf; a frightful phantom; gnome." (source)

Christina Rossetti, in the poem "Goblin Market", used goblins as symbols of earthly desires that tantalize and nearly destroy a girl who falls under their spell.

Author George MacDonald, in The Princess and the Goblin, portrayed them as malevolent, subterranean creatures. The book is said to have been a childhood favorite of J. R. R. Tolkien, who populated his Middle-earth with goblins but later preferred to call them orcs in order to distance them from fairy tale characters.

Goblins also figure prominently in the Jim Henson film Labyrinth, in which a powerful sorceror (Jareth the Goblin King, portrayed by David Bowie) commands a legion of foul, diminutive, largely incompetent creatures. The goblins initially do the bidding of a young girl (played by Jennifer Connelly), who must ultimately overcome her fear of them and resist seduction by their king.