"Never mess with goblins, Harry."
-- Rubeus Hagrid (PS5)
Goblins are a race of highly intelligent creatures who live side by side with wizards.
Goblins are short and dark-skinned. They have very long fingers and feet, and some have pointed beards (PS5) and dark, slanted eyes (GF24). Griphook, one of the hundreds of goblins working at Gringotts (PS5), has a bald head, pointed nose, and pointed ears (HPM). Some goblins wear pointed hats (OP7). Goblins speak a language called Gobbledegook.
Throughout the history of the wizarding world there have been rebellions where the goblins have fought against discrimination and prejudice. They are still considered subservient in the minds of most wizards, and they are forbidden by the Ministry from carrying wands, which has lead to deep-seated resentment, although Goblins have their own kind of wand-less magic. Goblin rebellions were most prevalent in the 1600s (PA5) and 1700s (GF15, OP31), but even today there are subversive goblin groups who work in secret against the Ministry, according to the Daily Prophet (OP15). One rebellion, in 1612, took place in the vicinity of Hogsmeade; the Inn there was used as headquarters for the rebellion (PA5). The rebellions have been described as "bloody and vicious." The names of the rebels tend to run along the lines of "Bodrod the Bearded and Urg the Unclean," according to Ron (GF31).
Despite this troubled history, they have established themselves as a vital part of wizarding society. Being in charge of Gringotts, they control the wizarding economy to a large extent. Apart from their cleverness with money and finances, goblins are also very capable metalsmiths. Their silverwork is well known and prized. Sirius Black's wealthy family had dishes which were 'finest fifteenth-century goblin-wrought silver, embossed with the Black family crest' (OP6). When Hagrid visited the giants, one of the presents he brought was a goblin-wrought helmet which was described as "indestructible" (OP21). At her wedding to Bill, Fleur Delacour wore a goblin-made tiara owned by the Weasley's Auntie Muriel (DH8). Goblins actually mint the Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts used in the wizarding world; each coin is stamped with a serial number identifying the goblin who cast it (OP19). Perhaps the most famous goblin-made artifact was the Sword of Gryffindor (DH15). Goblins have distinct beliefs about the ownership of goblin-made objects. "To a goblin, the rightful and true master of any object is the maker, not the purchaser. All goblin made objects are, in goblin eyes, rightfully theirs."(DH25)
There were rumors, almost certainly unfounded, that Cornelius Fudge was plotting ways to wrest control of the money supply and the economy from the goblins while in office (OP10). Ludo Bagman, got on the wrong side of a group of goblins when he swindled them out of a large amount of gold at the Quidditch World Cup in the summer of 1995 (GF37). This exacerbated the anti-Ministry feeling which made it difficult for Bill Weasley who was tasked with the job of trying to persuade the goblins to side with wizards against Voldemort (OP5).
The goblins suffered their share of losses during the first rise of Voldemort to power in the 1970s. A family living near Nottingham had been murdered by Voldemort's followers at that time (OP5).
The Old French word gobelin first appeared around 1195, and probably stems from the medieval Latin word gobelinus which was the name given to a devil said to be haunting the countryside of Normandy.
Goblins have featured in European folk stories since the Middle Ages. They are usually portrayed as being small and grotesque, with personalities ranging from the mischievous to downright evil. Many stories depict them as greedy treasure-seekers, which may have been the inspiration for J.K. Rowling to make them the wizarding world bankers.
In the world of Harry Potter, goblins are considered to be inferior by many wizards, who foolishly believe that the goblins are comfortable with that arrangement. In fact, goblins are extremely clever and more than able to stand up to wizards. The fact that the wizarding population treats them poorly is evidence of the severe injustice built into wizard culture. Ironically, before its destruction, the Fountain of Magical Brethren in the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic showed a goblin, along with a house-elf and a centaur, gazing admiringly at a witch and wizard.
A pukwudgie is a type of goblin from Native American folklore.