British domestic fairies or brownies of nocturnal habits. In past centuries they were said to be the most populous species of elves in England and were said to stay in houses close to warm fires. Each section of the land had its own name for them—Hob-Gob, Robin Round Cap, and Hob-Thrush, for example. Today they are best known from their appearance in literary works, the most famous hobgoblin being Puck, of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Puck has a merry disposition, and he says he is a jester at the court of Oberon, king of the fairies.
In Discovery of Witchcraft (1584) Reginald Scot states, "Your grandames maids were wont to set a bowl of milk for him for his pains in grinding of malt and mustard, and sweeping the house at midnight. This white bread, and bread and milk, was his standard fee."
In some folklore traditions hobgoblins were malicious rather than mischievous, and in medieval times they were associated with the devil. The hobgoblin was believed by some to be a demon who led men astray during the night. Sometimes he was represented as clothed in a suit of leather, and sometimes he wore green. He was usually considered to be full of tricks and mischief.
Arrowsmith, Nancy, with George Moorse. A Field Guide to the Little People. New York: Wallaby, 1977.