• The Origin of Stenches: Goblin Smell in Mating Selection

    by  • November 27, 2017 • Fiction • 0 Comments

    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.


    The Field Report: 

    The Gart Clan lives in the curse-shattered Dungeons of Rath, which is where the great wizard and former Dean of Natural Law Gornius Argle was struck down by his doppelganger (Memnar the Terrible, 491). The grounds there still smoke with the spiritual imprint of Dr. Argle’s last fire spell, and two of my interns reported seeing a figure dressed in archaic wizardry robes racing across the spine of the mountain howling in rage.

    Thanks to a generous endowment to the university by Dr. Argle’s ghost, the Gart goblin clan is one of the most studied in the world (AWLA Quarterly, 510). This means the goblins are used to human presence, and will sometimes come right up to you and micturate on your leg, an ideal condition for researchers seeking samples but somewhat problematic for those studying natural goblin behavior.

    Our research began with myself and three interns, Yve and Oralania, both of whom were dual-major fighter/wizards, and Doug, a theater major with a minor in goblin behavior. To allow the goblins time to adjust to our presence, we spent three days camped outside the entrance to the dungeon. Each night, we left a flank of rotting boar with a note with a drawing of a smiley face on it. Each morning, the boar would be gone. This favorably suggests that goblins use their weak sense of smell to find food, despite Dr. Argle’s previously mentioned argument for echolocation.

    On the fourth night, we entered the dungeon.

    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.

    Unfortunately, my interns did not properly inspect the front door for traps, despite my insistence and their awareness of the university’s liability contract. Anyway, the arrow pierced Oralania’s eye, so I am sure her death was rapid and painless. After that, we were more cautious. Doug had three hours of Thieving 101, though he still hadn’t finished his lab. That and a few spells prevented any similar accidents.

    Of course, the Dungeon of Rath isn’t really a dungeon, but a series of linked caves that happen to work well for holding prisoners. The goblins had set up in the former guards’ barracks. We entered, our torches adding to the acrid smoke coming from a pit of burning meat–our boar, I might add.

    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. It’s impossible not to see such behavior and think, How I wish it were socially acceptable to smash Professor Galloway’s face for stealing my research on the giant centipede! Truly a universal experience.

    At first, the goblins argued among themselves, but eventually, they took us to their leader, a goblin no less stubby than the others. He wore a jester-like hat. The goblins spoke in a unique, particularly swear-ridden dialect; my best translation spells were unable to decipher their gibberish. He opened his mouth, showing his rows of teeth, big hunks of what I presume was boar stuck at all angles up and down his pointy mouth. Then he flicked a large hunk of meat at us. And he laughed.

    “If they laugh at you, they want to eat you,” Doug whispered to me.

    “Nonsense,” I told him. After all, Ormruck the Lesser’s seminal Goblins: How to Know if They Plan to Kill You notes that humor is typically a sign that the goblins will act mischievously but without outright malice (Ormruck, 315). As I assumed, the goblins stopped laughing and escorted us to places at their table. The meal they offered us, we can safely assume, is how Yve contracted the parasite which would later kill her and use her body as host to assassinate the Duke of Ala-Basili. At the time, though, we had no way of knowing what the future might hold. She even forced a smile as she ate, a sign of a true champion.

    After dinner, I decided it was important to perform the first of what I had hoped would be many experiments involving goblin scent.

    But before I describe that, I want to note that, while the university has suggested I do not comment on pending litigation, I am positive I mentioned the jar of liquid extract of goblin scent which I had on my person. That is despite Doug’s written complaint to the contrary. After all, what purpose would we have had for entering the cave if we weren’t going to see if the scent controlled goblin attraction?

    The goblin scent was removed from a previously little-understood gland in the goblin’s colon which, as I have noted, likely controls attraction much the same way similar but less disgusting glands do in other animals. I sprayed about twelve fluid ounces on Doug’s pants. And while it is true I sprayed it under the table, I was hiding this information from the goblins. I certainly wasn’t hiding it from him. Today’s university students are so touchy.

    The reaction from the goblins was most convincing and began almost immediately. One by one in a line, the female goblins’ ears began … I can only say “wiggling furiously.” As for us, it was Yve who noted the smell first. Her back arched and her face contorted in disgust before she began retching furiously, an indicator that the smell does little for non-goblinoid species.

    In a moment, one of the goblins leapt up and crawled across the table to Doug. She rolled over onto the rancid meat, revealing her three rows of breasts, and began a low wail like a cat in heat might make. Then she leapt into his lap and began licking him.

    “Su-su-su- su-su- su-su-sir she’s ku-ku-ku- ku-ku- ku-ku-kissing my neck,” Doug said, trying to wiggle backward in his chair but finding no easy escape.

    I assured him this was natural and asked him to allow her to continue, which he did, as he later noted in his complaint, “reluctantly.”

    To Doug’s credit, when the second, third, and fourth goblin women began caressing him and stroking his chest, he sat perfectly still. It wasn’t until the men stood, raising their swords, that Doug fell from the bench and ran for the door.

    Now, as Doug should have known, a running human sends goblins into a state of agitation (Fiery One, 353). This tendency was perhaps exacerbated by the smell, and in what seemed like just a few grains of sand through an hourglass, the entire tribe, male and female alike, was chasing Doug, shouting and waving sword or breast in his general direction.

    But all our research was not lost. The goblins yelled, “grrm’o sk’arrghrrm’o,” a phrase which is similar to the Vale Clan’s “agrrm sk’arrghrrm,” or, “It’s not the season.” I suggest these two phrases carry the same meaning. The goblins, then, were especially agitated because it was not mating season. Thus, goblins likely only release their scents during a specified mating season. This is likely during the summers when they do not attack as frequently (Ormruck, 315), but further research is needed to be sure. Any additional research, however, must include an intern who shows more respect for goblin culture and this university’s ability to conduct its research than Doug, who, pending litigation or no, ran away just because he smelled a little funny.

    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 www.carrionhouse.com.

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

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