Goblin Market

by

Christina Rossetti

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The Goblin Men Character Analysis

The goblin men are the mysterious villains of the poem. Where they come from is never specified, but each morning and evening they call out in order to tempt young women into purchasing and eating their fruit. The fruits they bring to sell are beautiful, sweet, juicy, and altogether otherworldly. Once eaten, however, the fruit causes women to experience an overpowering hunger and thirst that cannot be satisfied; they weaken and pine away, aging prematurely and sometimes—as in the case of Jeanie—they die. The goblins are hybrid creatures, who resemble both men and animals, and their voices also combine the gentle purring and cooing sounds of animals with the persuasive qualities of human speech. Indeed, the goblins are seductive figures, able to convince women to stay in the woods and eat with them by offering them presents and using flattering language. Laura and Lizzie even seem to experience arousal in the presence of the goblins, evidenced by their “tingling cheeks and finger tips” and Laura’s intense curiosity about their hybrid bodies. Yet the goblins seemingly exist only to harm women; they delight in tricking young women into eating their fruit and then abandoning them, causing great misery. Although they can be sly and persuasive, the goblins are also vicious and brutal: they savagely attack Lizzie in a way that resembles a sexual assault when she refuses to eat their fruit. The goblins are thus symbols of temptation and the dangerous sexual appetites of men, and their behavior reflects societal fears about how women become “fallen.” Many works of Victorian art and literature represented fallen women who were tempted, seduced, and then abandoned by their false lovers, and Rossetti transforms these predatory men into monsters who are not quite human.

The Goblin Men Quotes in Goblin Market

The Goblin Market quotes below are all either spoken by The Goblin Men or refer to The Goblin Men. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Goblin Market published in 2005.
Goblin Market Quotes

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
[…]
Plump unpecked cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheeked peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
[…]
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy.”

Related Characters: The Goblin Men (speaker), Laura, Lizzie
Related Symbols: The Goblin Men’s Fruit
Page Number: 5-6
Explanation and Analysis:

Crouching close together
In the cooling weather,
With clasping arms and cautioning lips,
With tingling cheeks and finger tips.
“Lie close,” Laura said,
Pricking up her golden head:
“We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?”

Related Characters: Laura (speaker), Lizzie, The Goblin Men
Related Symbols: The Goblin Men’s Fruit, Hair
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Laura stretched her gleaming neck
Like a rush-imbedded swan,
Like a lily from the beck,
Like a moonlit poplar branch,
Like a vessel at the launch
When its last restraint is gone.

Related Characters: Laura, The Goblin Men
Related Symbols: The Goblin Men’s Fruit
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste:
“Good folk, I have no coin;
To take were to purloin:
I have no copper in my purse,
I have no silver either,
And all my gold is on the furze
That shakes in windy weather
Above the rusty heather.”
“You have much gold upon your head,”
They answered all together:
“Buy from us with a golden curl.”
She clipped a precious golden lock,
She dropped a tear more rare than pearl,
Then sucked their fruit globes fair or red:

Related Characters: Laura (speaker), The Goblin Men (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Goblin Men’s Fruit, Hair
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

“Do you not remember Jeanie,
How she met them in the moonlight,
Took their gifts both choice and many,
Ate their fruits and wore their flowers
Plucked from bowers
Where summer ripens at all hours?
But ever in the noonlight
She pined and pined away;
Sought them by night and day,
Found them no more but dwindled and grew grey;
Then fell with the first snow,
While to this day no grass will grow
Where she lies low:
I planted daisies there a year ago
That never blow.”

Related Characters: Lizzie (speaker), Laura, The Goblin Men, Jeanie
Related Symbols: The Goblin Men’s Fruit, Hair
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

One called her proud,
Cross-grained, uncivil;
Their tones waxed loud,
Their looks were evil.
Lashing their tails
They trod and hustled her,
Elbowed and jostled her,
Clawed with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
Tore her gown and soiled her stocking,
Twitched her hair out by the roots,
Stamped upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeezed their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat.

Related Characters: Lizzie, The Goblin Men
Related Symbols: The Goblin Men’s Fruit, Hair
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

White and golden Lizzie stood,
Like a lily in a flood,—
Like a rock of blue-veined stone
Lashed by tides obstreperously,—
Like a beacon left alone
In a hoary roaring sea,
Sending up a golden fire,—
Like a fruit-crowned orange-tree
White with blossoms honey-sweet
Sore beset by wasp and bee,—
Like a royal virgin town
Topped with gilded dome and spire
Close beleaguered by a fleet
Mad to tug her standard down.

Related Characters: Lizzie, The Goblin Men
Related Symbols: The Goblin Men’s Fruit, Hair
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

She cried “Laura,” up the garden,
“Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeezed from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me:
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men.”

Related Characters: Lizzie (speaker), Laura, The Goblin Men
Related Symbols: The Goblin Men’s Fruit
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Goblin Market LitChart as a printable PDF.
Goblin Market PDF

The Goblin Men Character Timeline in Goblin Market

The timeline below shows where the character The Goblin Men appears in Goblin Market. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Goblin Market
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
Each morning and evening young women hear the cry of the goblin men, who encourage the women to “come buy” their fruit. The goblins sell a variety... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
One evening, two young sisters, Laura and Lizzie, hear the goblins’ call as they are collecting water from a brook. Laura bows her head to better... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
...they should look,” but Laura rears “her glossy head” and continues to gaze at the goblin men as they tramp and hobble down the glen toward the sisters. Transfixed, Laura encourages... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
...again warns her sister that they should not allow themselves to be charmed by the goblins’ fruits and wares, which she calls “their evil gifts.” Thrusting a “dimpled finger” in each... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
Laura watches as the goblin men approach her, and takes notice of each goblin’s appearance. Not only do their bodies... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Laura stretches her “gleaming neck” towards the goblin men, like a swan or “a vessel at the launch / When its last restraint... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Meanwhile, the goblins are tramping backwards up the glen, continuing to call out, “Come buy, Come buy.” Their... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
...move. She desires the fruit but has no money to offer in exchange. Nevertheless, the goblin merchants continue to try to tempt her to sample their fruit without paying. One speaks... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
...to accept the fruit without being able to pay. She hastily explains this to the goblins, regretting that she has no coin to offer in exchange and that to accept their... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
The goblins, however, point to Laura’s golden hair as an adequate payment and urge her to clip... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
...of the dangers of loitering in the glen at midnight because it is haunted by goblin men. Lizzie asks Laura if she remembers the fate of Jeanie, who met the goblins... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
...brook. While Lizzie is calm and untroubled, Laura is eager for another encounter with the goblins. Lizzie initially occupies herself by picking purple and golden “flags,” but as the sun sets,... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
Laura refuses to come away, loitering among the rushes in hope that the goblins will return. She tells Lizzie that it is still early and the dew has not... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
For several days and nights, Laura silently keeps watch in hope that the goblins will reappear, but she never sees or hears them again. In her sorrow and anxiety,... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
Salvation and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...can no longer bear to see Laura suffering. Unlike Laura, Lizzie continues to hear the goblins’ cry each night and morning. Lizzie longs to buy the goblins’ fruit to comfort Laura... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Salvation and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The goblins laugh to find Lizzie looking for them. They hobble, run, and fly toward her, noisy... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
Salvation and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The goblins try to persuade Lizzie to sit and eat with them, protesting that their feast has... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Salvation and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...and spire/ Close beleaguered by a fleet/ Mad to tug her standard down.” Though the goblins try various tactics to make her eat, pinching, scratching, coaxing and mocking her, Lizzie withstands... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
Salvation and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...and in a mental daze, Lizzie runs home. She is no longer afraid of the goblins but pleased to have escaped with her coin. Her kind intentions to help Laura cause... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Salvation and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...chair and pulls at her hair. She fearfully asks Lizzie if she has eaten the goblins’ fruit and wonders whether her sister will begin to wither and age as she has.... (full context)