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The Kobolds are diminutive humanoid creatures of Germanic legend. They are typically depicted as house spirits, or dwellers of mines and other underground locations. Their nature is ambivalent. They can help the human residents of their homes by performing certain chores or favors for them. Or they can play malicious pranks on them, acting as typical tricksters. Etymologically they are probably cognate to the Greek term "Kobalos" ("impudent knave", mischievous spirits), and the French "Gobelin" (Goblins). As house spirits, their role is equivalent to the Latin "lares".

The underground kobolds were often given a more sinister role. They were associated with mine accidents, cave-ins and rockslides. Either directly causing them, or appearing to warn miners of imminent danger.As tricksters they were also reputed to mislead miners. Leading them towards to ores seemingly rich in silver or copper. Which turn out to useless, poisonous, or plain toxic.

18th-century legends speak of kobolds who made their dwellings in ships rather than in more traditional locations. Their role here was also ambivalent. They were thought to work their own repairs on the ships, trying to keep their homes afloat. But they could play nasty pranks on the sailors who failed to respect them. Kobolds were said to evacuate the ship when it was about to sink. Seeing the kobolds was thought to be an omen of death for unlucky sailors and fishermen.

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