This is the name of two types of spirits in Teutonic mythology.
(1) The goblins who inhabited the underworld of the mines, like the knockers of Cornwall and who were skilled in the art of mining and metalworking.
They are also known as Cobolts.
(2) The name of the household spirit of German folklore that behaved much like the English brownie.
These Kobolts, also known as Kobold, Kobelt, Kobel, looked like gnomes with their wizened little faces and garments with pointy hoods. They inhabited the hearth area of the home or the barns and stables, where at night the would complete all the tasks that the humans had left unfinished. As long as they were treated with respect and given their portion of family supper all would be well. However, if this were forgotten, then the Kobold could be most malicious in exacting revenge before leaving. Some Kobolds are known by the local names of Chimmeken, Heinze, Hinzelmann, Hodekin, King Goldmar and Walter”
- Spirits Faeries, Leprechauns, and Goblins, by Carol Rose, pgs. 182-183
Thomas Keightly in his 1880 book The Fairy Mythology has a whole chapter dedicated to Kobols and includes te tale of Hinzelmann to illustrate the nature and properties of a Kobold.
Keightly’s book was latter republished under the title of, The World Guide to Gnomes, Fairies, Elves, and Other Little People.
Keightly description matches the household spirit type of Kobolt. Keightly also mentions that the word Kobold wasn’t used before the 13th century and talks about the origin of the word.
In Katherine Briggs’s An Encylopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies and Other Supernatural Creatures mentions in the section on Knockers that these Cornish mine spirits are not evil and malicious like the German Kobolds.
The Briggs book is out of print, but it is one of the re fence books that most RPG designers and writers have used when researching fairies, elves, etc. It shows up in the bibliography of many RPGs and in personal conversations with numerous game designers it was mentioned.
Nancy Arrowsmith in Field Guide to the Little People: A Curious Journey into the Hidden Realm of Elves, Faeries, Hobgoblins & Other Not-So-Mythical Creatures indicates that Kobolde were spirits that used to live inside of trees. The trees were cut down and carved into figures that were locked up and brought indoors and became house spirits.
Children were told to never open the box the Kobolde was keep in else it would escape and cause troube. To teach this lesson toys that housed a scarry Kobolde figure were made, which survive today in the form of a jack-in-the-box.
Arrowsmith goes on to mention that a Kobolde is about 2 feet tall, with a skin colors ranging from dark green to dark grey, and thei clothing is red or green.
And, I’ll shut up about this as I don’t want to start pulling more books off my shell, etc.
Some quick additional things about WOTC,, TSR, and other game companies.
WOTC is now owned by Hasbro. TSR which latter got taken over by WOTC had numerous internal problems that resulted in legal among the people and they made numerous bad financial mistakes.
In regards to the old Deities & Demigods book Wikipedia says this.
“For the first 1980 printing, TSR obtained permission from Michael Moorcock for inclusion of Melnibonéan material (from his Elric series of books). The Cthulhu Mythos was believed to be in the public domain, so TSR assumed they could legally use it without any special permission. However, Arkham House, who claimed to hold the copyrights on a number of works by H.P. Lovecraft, had already licensed the Cthulhu property to the game company Chaosium. Furthermore, Chaosium had also licensed the Melnibonéan copyright from Moorcock. When Chaosium threatened legal action, the first printing was halted and the two companies agreed on a compromise: TSR could continue to use the material but must provide a credit to Chaosium to do so. TSR added the credit for the second printing of the book.
The Cthulhu and Melnibonéan sections were removed from the 1981 edition, making it a 128-page hardcover (and giving the original edition a high collector’s value). TSR felt its material should not contain such an overt reference to one of its competitors and removed the two pantheons altogether, thus negating the need for the credit. For this reason, the first and second printings have generally been in greater demand by D&D fans and collectors. The credit to Chaosium and some references to the deleted pantheons were still included in some of the subsequent printings.”
Tactical Studies Rules did get in trouble with ERB’s estate over a John Carter game and John Carter references in “Whit Box” D&D products.
Drow in the old Demonweb series (G,D, & Q modules) are described as having dark skin. In an old Dragon magazine I used to have Gygax mentioned on where the inspiration for them came from.
One of the bad finical decisions that they made was connected to dice manufacturing. They wasted a bunch of money on that one.
If you ever get a chance to talk to Lou Zocchi he’ll tell you all about the things that various game companies did that ended in them losing money and how nasty various game companies are.
I best shut up before I start going on about why Mattel end up making the Masters of the Universe toy line and other things connected to the gaming industry.