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Thanks for the review. I'll probably pass on the book and save my coin for some pig faced orcs.

It was a birthday present. Otherwise, I'd prolly have waited for it on ebook at a significant discount; that said, it really should be the number 1 tome when it comes to the history of RPGs. It's exhaustively researched.
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Anyway, one of the many amazing tidbits that stuck in my head is that orc, ogre, kobold, and goblin are all regional variations derived from the Latin word for the god of the dead (who is, himself, a demonic god in D&D - Orcus), and all more or less started out describing the same thing, a nasty spirit or monster along the lines of grendel. Likewise, the words for undead - spectre, shade, wight, lich - also came from the same early routes, and started out describing more or less the same thing, but were later split up and monster manualed.

 

In general, language despises true synonyms. Every word that starts out meaning the same thing as another word develops shades of meaning or morphs until it has its own unique meaning.

 

In roleplaying games this tends to happen even more quickly, since game companies are always looking for something new to sell to GMs ... different name, different critter, one more page of the monster compilation complete.

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"Kobold" eventually lent its name to the metal cobalt, and the blue pigment which is derived from it.

 

:lol: Leave it to Pingo to tie a monster discussion to pigments. That's awesome!

 

I still remember my very first D&D game. I had a fighter who used a morningstar, and our first encounter was with a group of kobolds.

 

I was the only new player, so the DM didn't bother with a creature description, he just said that we came across a group of kobolds. Of course I heard cobalts, and since I had no idea what they were, I figured they must be a fearsome metallic beast. I felt like a God, felling these powerful creatures of metal with a single blow. It was only much later that I discovered my achievement was somewhat less impressive then I had imagined.

 

3' tall dog-like humanoids with rat tails? Hardly the thing of legends, except in my mind.

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It was my understanding that kobolds were a sort of German mining pixie, equivalent to the Cornish "knockers" or "Tommyknockers."

I was more'n a little surprised, back in the day, to find a mob of them hiding out at the Caves of Chaos with doggy faces and little horns, having given up mining for attempted homicide.

I was even more surprised, thirty years later, to find 'em retconned into a race of tiny dragonfolk.

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I'm really enjoying the variety of Orcs in PJ's Middle Earth; it calls to mind the weird menageries of 'em in Tolkien bestiaries, particularly: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7345.A_Tolkien_Bestiary

 

The geographical variation seems appropriate, Orcs in the books were sort of divided up by region, and the inconsistent use of Goblin and Orc between The Hobbit and LOTR also lends itself to distinct groups. Of course, visually distinct localized Orcs are also better for merchandising, without which big-budget movies simply don't get made anymore. (Making money out of movies is also the simple commercial reason for The Hobbit being a trilogy. Of course, if Twilight, with zero content, can be a series of movies, then The Hobbit, with a very great deal of content, can be a trilogy, IMO)

 

 

And yes, I am loving the Hobbit movies. Love, love, love.

Edited by smokingwreckage
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I've been (very slowly) reading "Playing At The World" which goes remarkably in-depth into the history of D&D - not just how the game was created from wargaming, but how wargaming came along; not just why fantasy was chosen as the genre, but where the fantasy genre came from. It's pretty amazing, although a very dry read (like a textbook, or academic paper).

 

Anyway, one of the many amazing tidbits that stuck in my head is that orc, ogre, kobold, and goblin are all regional variations derived from the Latin word for the god of the dead (who is, himself, a demonic god in D&D - Orcus), and all more or less started out describing the same thing, a nasty spirit or monster along the lines of grendel. Likewise, the words for undead - spectre, shade, wight, lich - also came from the same early routes, and started out describing more or less the same thing, but were later split up and monster manualed.

That does sound interesting. However, kobold is unrelated to orcus. It comes from the Germanic kobe, or hut, and holt, a term meaning goblin (from a word meaning kind or gracious, used euphemistically; compare to the Kindly Ones). The term was applied to rock laced with sulfur and arsenic, and then to the metal, which could be found in such rock. Goblin is also likely unrelated, though its precise origins are unclear. Ogre and Orc are both Orcus, though.

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I've been (very slowly) reading "Playing At The World" which goes remarkably in-depth into the history of D&D - not just how the game was created from wargaming, but how wargaming came along; not just why fantasy was chosen as the genre, but where the fantasy genre came from. It's pretty amazing, although a very dry read (like a textbook, or academic paper).

Anyway, one of the many amazing tidbits that stuck in my head is that orc, ogre, kobold, and goblin are all regional variations derived from the Latin word for the god of the dead (who is, himself, a demonic god in D&D - Orcus), and all more or less started out describing the same thing, a nasty spirit or monster along the lines of grendel. Likewise, the words for undead - spectre, shade, wight, lich - also came from the same early routes, and started out describing more or less the same thing, but were later split up and monster manualed.

 

That does sound interesting. However, kobold is unrelated to orcus. It comes from the Germanic kobe, or hut, and holt, a term meaning goblin (from a word meaning kind or gracious, used euphemistically; compare to the Kindly Ones). The term was applied to rock laced with sulfur and arsenic, and then to the metal, which could be found in such rock. Goblin is also likely unrelated, though its precise origins are unclear. Ogre and Orc are both Orcus, though.

Yeah, I misremembered/garbled that bit pretty harshly. I hoped nobody would notice. ^_^ In my defense, the section on kobolds/goblins immediately succeeded the bit on orcs/ogres, so it was conflated in my head.

 

"Similar ambiguities surround the origins of goblins. Jacob Grimm gave a compelling etymology for the term that begins with the Greek kobalos, meaning 'rogue,' enters Latin as cobalus, which Middle Latin renders as gobelinus, hence the French gobelin and the English "goblin."* This same root word, Grimm argued, passed into German as Coboldus, then kobolt and eventually "kobold." Suddenly it seemed very wise of Chainmail to have deemed kobolds a subcategory of goblins - are we to understand they are one and the same? Shakespeare knew of goblins, but deploys them in very diverse contexts; Hamlet speculates that the ghost of his father might be a 'goblin damn'd,' but a fairy thinks the name Puck is synonymous with 'Hobgoblin.' Even by 1872, when George MacDonald produced his influential juvenile novel The Princess and the Goblin, he wrote that 'in these subterranean caverns lived a strange race of beings, called by some gnomes, by some kobolds, by some goblins.' At the conclusion, he hints that the goblins would later evolve into the Scottish brownies. Do all these creatures conflate into one race?" (Playing at the World, Jon Peterson, p. 147)

 

"*Grimm, Teutonic Mythology (Vol 2), 502. The Oxford English Dictionary today largely corroborates this, though it cautions that the French usage gobelin only began in the sixteenth century. It does note that the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman chronicler Orderic Vitalias gave the name Gobelinus for a spirit haunting the city of Evreux in Normandy. Finally, the OED clarifies that even in Greek, the kobalos had a supernatural connotation, sometimes referring to sprites summoned by rogues to commit various acts of mischief." (ibid)

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