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Kobolds are ugly spirits that originate from German folklore. The most common version, known as Heinzelmännchen, are described as helpful or mischievous household elves. They sometimes perform domestic chores, but can also play tricks on the human inhabitants. This type of kobold is said to be related to Robin Goodfellow and browniess. Another type of kobold that can be found in miness and other underground places seems to be more closely related to the gnome.

Kobolds are also found in fantasy fiction. In Dungeons & Dragons and the settings it inspired, many authors present them as aggressive humanoid creatures that are smaller than a person. They are evil creatures that dwell together with their own kind rather than in human homes. Such kobolds have an ugly presence reminiscent of a bipedal rat or dog.