Ari Berk and Brian Froud, Goblins (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2004)

Goblins begins with a disclaimer: THE PUBLISHER CAN ACCEPT NO RESPONSIBILITY WHATSOEVER FOR ANY PROBLEMS ARISING FROM THE PURCHASE OR CASUAL PERUSAL OF THIS WORK.

This is important. There are things in this book that you really don't want to know about. On the other hand, there are things in this book that you really need to know.

Brian Froud is, of course, more familiar with the world of faeries than just about any mortal alive today. Thanks to Brian and Wendy Froud we know what faeries look like, what they do, and even the details of Lady Cottington's faerie pressing project. In this book he turns his attentions to goblins, with startling results.

Of course it is fortunate that Ari Berk, folklorist and scholar, was available to chronicle Froud's findings and to explain them to us via the Codex Goblinensis, "the most important document in the history of Goblinology":

It is for the goblins also a sort of yearbook and scrapbook containing clippings from mankind's writing about them. More important, it is the book in which the various goblin Guilds and Houses have always recorded their ongoing feuds and contests in and about the human world.

Goblins is a brilliant representation of Berk and Froud's contact with the goblin world -- and it was very close contact, as Froud even locked a goblin scribe in his downstairs bathroom (Help! I trapped in downstairs water closet. Mr. Froud very bad man...Come to Froud ground floor poop-cupboard and unlock door. Will give you many socks and a small dog with cheese on him. -- Gargle)! Gargle also assisted by writing comments in the margins of the book...very useful

In Goblins, you'll learn of the Goblin Guilds, the two major Goblin houses, goblin habits and preferences, how to determine if you have goblins and if so what you can do about it (nothing). There are many beautiful -- well, beautifully crafted at any rate -- photos and sketches of goblins, including portraits from the Codex Goblinensis. This being a Froud book, I shouldn't need to go on about the artwork at any great length. If by some chance you've been living on Mars for the past 20 years or so, you can visit World of Froud for more on Brian and Wendy Froud's work and the Goblins site for specific samples from this book. The work is exquisite, as always; in fact, as I tend more toward the darker side of things I find the goblins attract me more than the faeries usually do. I've had a love affair with Froud's goblins since I saw first Labyrinth way too many years ago, and it's good to see echoes of Labyrinth in these pages.

If you've read anything by Ari Berk, ever -- another Froud collaboration entitled The Runes of Elfland, or his columns in Realms of Fantasy, or his poetry -- then you know to expect fabulous writing. The text for Goblins is utterly delightful. Berk is witty and charming and fun. I read Goblins in two sittings; it would have been one if I hadn't started it on my lunch break at work. They insist that I only take my allotted hour, damn them.

You'll love meeting Aggat (a stone flinger who places small, nearly invisible pebbles inside mortal shoes), Redge the Wedger (he tucks a skirt up into women's underpants just as they are leaving the house), and Shnelfig (who pushes your foot down on the car's accelerator when you meant to hit the brake). You'll enjoy learning about goblin devices such as the gammerstang, a device which emits dead mouse smell, and goblin games, such as Pitch Kettle, which is a gluing game involving warm cheese and mortal pets.

And if you're anything like me, you'll be ecstatic when your suspicions are finally confirmed: there is a goblin whose job is pressing his foot onto mortal bathroom scales adding just enough weight to ruin someone's day. I knew it! I knew it all along!

I haven't loved a book of this nature so much since Will Huygen and Rien Poortvliet gave me my first scholarly glimpse into the fey world with their 1977 book Gnomes. Do not miss this one.

[Maria Nutick]