Brian Froud & Terry Jones,
The Goblin Companion
A Field Guide to Goblins

(Henson Associates, 1986)

I suspect a lot of people own and enjoy The Goblin Companion and have never read a word of it.

That's because the artwork of Brian Froud, presented here in the style of typical ""field guide'' sketchery, is so clever and inventive that it's easy to overlook the presence of text on the page.

That's a shame, really, because former Monty Python funnyman Terry Jones did a cracking good job at writing words to accompany Froud's sketches. He begins by insulting Froud's character.

In his introduction, he calls Froud "an eccentric piscepodiatrist" (defined in a footnote as "a foot doctor who specializes in the treatment of fish"). We also learn that Froud is "an eminent goblinologist," and that he drinks more wine in a day than most French restaurants serve in a week. (There are suspicious rings, as if left by the base of a wet glass, on some of the drawings to support this claim.) And his description of Froud's discovery and intrepid investigation into the lost secrets of the goblin world is real Indiana Jones-type stuff -- minus, of course, the action, the danger and the Harrison Ford charisma.

And that's just the introduction. What follows is a page-turning series of goblin drawings: action poses, extrapolated details and the like, all in the muted colors of Froud's field pencil set. It's hard to believe the artist didn't see these wee beasties first-hand, so detailed and lifelike is his work.

Some of the art is lavishly illustrative, finely sketched to expose every last bit of goblin expression. Others are hasty scribblings, as if the artist expected the subject to bolt for cover at any moment. Some look fierce, others whimsical, and they bear names like Laetherleggs the Low, Gibbergeist, Boegiboe, Feedle and Eled the Worm-Tamer.

With each bit of art, Jones provides the accompanying story. In some cases, he tells a bit about the creature, its habits and quirks. In others, he gives us a taste of goblin lore, telling tales about the pictured goblin's particular history.

Most of Jones' descriptions will earn a chuckle or two, if not an outright belly laugh.

Combined, the work of Froud and Jones is an excellent reason to find a copy of The Goblin Companion. Keep it on your coffee table or on a shelf with your bird and butterfly books -- oh, come on, everyone has at least one bird or butterfly book! -- and see how many conversations it starts. And page through it often; you're certain to see something new each time.

And, if you're feeling especially intrepid, perhaps you, too, could take to the field and catalogue your own set of fey beasties.

[ by Tom Knapp ]