“When Papa was away at sea, and Mama in the arbor, Ida played her wonder horn to rock the baby still – but never watched. So the goblins came. They pushed their way in and pulled baby out, leaving another all made of ice.”
(Outside Over There, Maurice Sendak)
I love the book ‘Outside Over There’ more than words can say. I must have read it a hundred times and I have no idea why I love it so much, because, it’s slightly disturbing. It tells the story of Ida, who’s daddy has gone away to sea and has been left to look after her baby sister. This is never ideal for a young girl and Ida would much rather be doing a hundred other things than looking after the baby. So, while her mother is in the arbor, Goblins steal her sister to become a goblin bride and leave her with a baby made from a block of ice. Ida has to go on a magical quest to rescue her. I think I was genuinely in shock when Ida hugs the replacement ice baby the goblins replace her sister with and the ice baby drips onto the floor.
Yet, despite the scary cloaked goblins that lurk around the pages, this book is full of wonderful words like ‘wonder horn’ and ‘arbor’ and dreamy landscapes and objects like the yellow velvet cloak. I think I must have been drawn to this book as I always wished that there was an ‘outside, over there’ fantasy world, a mysterious wood hiding Minpins or Faraway Trees, and hidden lands in wardrobes.
“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have found my way here to the castle beyond the goblin city to take back the child that you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom is great. You have no power over me.” Sarah, Labyrinth (Jim Henson)
I only just discovered, that my favourite movie, Labyrinth, was actually based on ‘Outside Over There.’ When I first met my friend, Sarah, we both discovered that we loved this movie and also fancied the pants off the Goblin King (played by David Bowie). Yes, ok – he steals Sarah’s baby brother (the character not my friend), but he was also a great dancer with great hair and just a soupcon of evil. The perfect combination. While Sarah was screaming ‘you have no power over me,’ me and my ‘real’ friend Sarah, were shouting ‘I’m over here Jareth, come take me!’
You just know that Jareth would have been the sort of boyfriend that would let you lounge around the castle drinking champagne, while he went out conducting random mischief with his big hair and tight tights.
This clip is dedicated to my friend, Sarah. Enjoy!
Isn’t he irresistible? But before you watch this again and become hooked by his charms – just think – would the Goblin King really have been a good boyfriend? You’d constantly be fighting for the mirror to do you hair and makeup in the mornings.
While, Jareth was blessed with good looks, the rest of his muppety mignons were afflicted with boils, warts, big noses and badly fitting tights. My favourite was the guppy faced female goblin with a terrible singing voice. I think she gets kicked into the air by the Goblin King at one point.
In the Spiderwick Chronicles, goblins are toad-like with sharp teeth and squat bodies. Stupid, but tenacious. The goblins of the Misty Mountains are grotesque and greedy and obsessed by jewels and have a profound hatred for Elves (The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien).
They are called ‘Orcs’ by Hobbits which is thoroughly confusing.
Hobgoblins are slightly larger in size, Tolkien tells us, but in the sagas of the Finnish Moomintrolls the Hobgoblin is humanoid and wears a top hat. If there were such a thing as a magical genealogist – I would imagine that he would declare that Tove Jansson’s, Trolls and Grokes of, were very closely related to Goblins. Middle Earth is apparently quite close to Finland.
Goblins are like mushrooms – they pop up everywhere. In the new Philip Reve book – they are mischievous and about to wreak havoc in the magical world. In Harry Potter, the Goblins of Gringotts are just plain mean and quite short. Only Enid Blyton attempts to reform them in the Green Goblin Book; and Tupenny, Feefo & Jinks are almost cute. Her goblins are naughty, but never disgusting.
After exhausting Goblin lore, I then stumbled on this gem – The Goblin Companion Guide. Self-declared goblinologists, Brian Froud and Terry Jones discover a 60 million year old sketch book of goblins of the Labyrinth and proceed to write a very entertaining book about it. Brian Froud who was a piscepodiatrist (a doctor of fish feet) discovers these sketch books in a pot in Tanzania and becomes a goblinologist instead. Here’s a short snippet of these ancient creatures: “The Tallow Goblins are much maligned primarily because they are disgusting, shifty, aggressive…who would cut their own granny open, stuff her, and use her as a sofa as soon as look at her” (p17).
Yet for all their gruesome wartiness, their allure as characters is probably down to the fact that they give us the opportunity to show that through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, we can be more than we are; adventurers, warriors, even good brothers and sisters. They have been the yang to our ying. Maybe that’s why we are drawn to Outside Over There – we can all relate to being occasionally goblin-like and selfish -but all need the chance to redeem ourselves. Now, where did I put my sword of destiny? I need to slay some goblins that have made a mess of my kitchen.
While there is no directly related goblin food – I thought I would conjure up a mildly festive, earthy, magical forest type recipe. And here it is. A Chestnut and celeriac soup that is creamy and filling and packed full of flavour. I served it with some ‘lembas-like’ bread, a rosemary and garlic focaccia.
A tsp of coconut oil
1 knob of butter
Two yellow onions
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 large celeraic
1 can unsweetened chestnut puree
1 cup of chestnuts
4 fl oz cream
1 pint chicken stock
1. Put your coconut oil and butter into a pan and throw in your onions.
2. Follow this by putting in your diced celeriac and let them sweat for about 5 minutes.
3. Add your garlic and chestnuts in and stir for a further 2 minutes.
4. Add in your chicken stock and simmer until the celeraic becomes really soft.
5. Add in your chestnut puree and simmer for a further 5-7 minutes.
6. Add in the cream and puree till smooth.
Please note – the leaves are not edible.