The Origin of Stenches: Goblin Smell in Mating Selection

An essay by Edmund Teile, as provided by Isaac Teile
Art by Luke Spooner


In previously documented interviews with sixty elf warriors, the most commonly identified features of their goblin enemies were, in reverse order, (4) skin color, (3) stature, (2) teeth, and (1) smell. Their rows of jagged teeth are developed for attacking; stature is due to a combination of generations spent underground and malnutrition; and their green hue, so unique many dwarves can see it in the dark, comes, of course, from their exposure to the demon-god R’kuir in the days after the Great Parting.

But why do they smell so bad? This paper suggests sexual selection as the root cause based on observation of a clan of goblins in the Gart Mountains west of the Vale.

A special thanks to my interns Yve and Oralania, both of whom will receive posthumous Masters Degrees at the Academy of Wizardry and Liberal Arts, and to my third intern Doug, whom I’ve decided to give a “B” despite his cowardice in the caves.



Goblins possess a poorly developed sense of smell, first documented by Dr. Gornius Argle (220). After experiments with fresh meat placed inside a cave and outside, Dr. Argle came to the conclusion that goblins use echolocation and highly developed infrared vision to find meals and each other. They can’t smell crap.

Actually, crap, or excrement, is one of the few things they can smell (Gornius Argle, 220). Their sense of smell is so unrefined that Olquar the Fiery One described it as “primarily for threat analysis … A goblin simply isn’t built to stop and smell the roses. He could only smell them if they were doused in arsenic” (Fiery One, 353).

A goblin would also likely be able to smell those roses if they smelled of “decay,” “diarrhea in the bog of eternal stench,” “a corpse stuffed with a mud monster stuffed with another corpse stuffed with barbarian food,” or “kinda like my grandmother’s bathroom,” all phrases used by the sixty elves interviewed in our surveys (Teile, 511).

Of course, the elves were describing goblins themselves, not roses, and as anyone who has been to the fabled bog knows, goblins do seem to carry a hint of its aroma. As one pan-dimensional traveler tells us, goblins are “nasty, brutish, and short” (Hobbes, 287).

Dr. Argle’s research has held up over the years, so his idea about infrared vision has not been questioned. And indeed, no pheromone receptors have been detected in any of the humanoids analyzed at the Academy of Wizardry and Liberal Arts; in fact, Nichols, et al., argue for the loss of pheromones in all humanoid races some time around the Great Parting (in press).

However, we all admit that hobbits have, in a sense, “re-evolved” their ability to sense the undead after the Great Parting. In the following field report, I argue that goblins, often separated from each other by the curling tunnels of the lava tube caves in which they live, evolved some minor ability to sense each other by scent. Without fully formed pheromone glands, though, the goblins needed to evolve a new way of excreting odors.

I think we can safely say their new way is not pleasant.

Art for "The Origin of Stenches Goblin Smell in Mating Selection"

To see the goblin in its natural habitat is to view one’s self, through a glass darkly. Nothing is like the first time you see a mother consume her rival’s infant.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2017 collection.

Today, my great-grandfather is remembered for terrifying pop quizzes or the era when his ghost haunted the west residence hall. But he was a brilliant scholar; in an effort to restore his memory, I am presenting his best articles from his years as a preeminent researcher in the field of natural and supernatural evolution.

Isaac Teile wrote Resting in Peace: How the Restless Dead of Tira-no-gortha Finally Learned to Cope with Their Curse and edited A Man of Stature: Edmund Teile’s collected essays. He lives near the Blackened Sea and feeds a lot of stray cats. Follow him on Facebook.

Luke Spooner, a.k.a. ‘Carrion House,’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree, he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales, his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy, or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility, as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at

“The Origin of Stenches: Goblin Smell in Mating Selection” is © 2017 Isaac Teile
Art accompanying story is © 2017 Luke Spooner

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