Hobnobgoblin Homes

Donald Shephard

Hobnobgoblins require the same basics as you and I although not to the same degree and with some less than subtle differences. We all require food and shelter and at least one good friend. We humans generally build our homes overtly above ground whereas Hobnobgoblins are more concerned with concealing their houses than with the position of their home below or above ground level. We tend to construct our homes from standard materials in uniform rows. If you can recognize one of our structures as a domicile, then you will likely identify all the others around it.

The homes of Hobnobgoblins show greater variety in the materials used and in the resulting structure and shape. There are two results from this variety. Humans over the age of six can look straight at a Hobnobgoblin home and not see it while the little inhabitants can recognize the home of a friend by the way it blends in with its environment and by its very structure.

Take, for example, the house that Nob and Snab-of-the-Valley created. Snab, despite her name, was a maid of the hills and the long views down the hillside to the valley below. There was to be nothing subtle about the rolling curves of their home. Comfort and ease, if not actual luxury, were to be preeminent. While the interior colors were to be those of the springtime meadow flowers, the exterior was to blend so well into the surrounding trees and glades as to disappear.

Nob, as we have seen, was a cooper of shire-wide renown. He built a series of interconnected domes beneath her favorite beech tree. He ran his hands over the many and various curves of Snab-of-the-Valley morning, noon and night so that he could be inspired to carve, chisel and shave the beech wood into corresponding curves. Snab encouraged him in all his endeavors. As it came into existence, their home rose and fell in undulations which could easily have been created by Mother Nature herself. As in nature, one of the predominant mounds was almost imperceptibly larger than the other. Nob thought that he would have to extend the central living space once his family began to grow.

He labored long and hard to cover the domes with sod. The process would have been easier if Snab had not insisted on finding just the right area of turf for each dome. She favored a fine fescue interspersed with wild flowers. The thrushes, woodpeckers, and the titmouse family frolicking above them had the impression that this new house was covered by a fine floral patterned dress with a lacy white border provided by meadow foam and lady’s bedstraw. In summer the grasses would take over the camouflaging of their home. In autumn they would be insulated from the cooler weather by a blanket of rustling beech leaves and in early spring a carpet of beech seedlings would protect them from showers. For many springs thereafter, the birds that nested in the beech were to observe that to Nob’s chagrin the dress did not swell; the floral pattern of the crinoline of the house of Nob and Snab-of-the Valley did not mature into a maternity smock, nor did it change into the pinafore of a mother.

A series of reflective tubes provided sunlight to all the areas of the house where it was needed. A system of wooden ducts octagonal in section provided water to the bathroom and kitchen. Nob embedded the furthest part of the duct from the house in the gravel of the stream and kept it disguised as surface roots until it dipped into his house. He darkened one set of pipes with tannins so that the sun heated the water. In summer, the water was so steamy they had to mix hot and cold before taking their showers. In winter they had to take a bath and supplement the tepid water with some they had boiled at the hearth.

Snab had Nob make their furniture from new elderberry wine barrels. He cut a barrel into two and, by adding a soft cushion, he produced curved-back chairs. His table was supported at each end by a barrel cut vertically down the middle creating a curved nest for Hobnobgoblin legs at each end. Light fixtures, doors, door handles, window frames, and the cabinet for his fishing tackle were sawn, carved, and shaved from good oak barrel staves.

Nob invented a ventilation scheme for the house. He wrapped an ivy vine around a low limb of the beech and ran it down to a piston that moved to and fro as the branch of the beech tree waved in the breeze. The stroke of the piston governed the size of the aperture into the house allowing fresh air to enter. On windy days, when the piston was thrusting mightily like those of a railroad engine, a double X-shaped device reduced the air inlet to the house to a minimum. On calm days the smaller stroke of the piston made the device enlarge the air intake. The result was a steady flow of fresh air regardless of wind conditions. In time, the demand for this and other Nob inventions was to bring him fame throughout Sheepshire, Elseshire and The Rodings. When Hob and Mab decided to marry, they created a more intimate space in the hollow of an ancient oak. The Hobnobgoblins called it the goose-pen tree especially as it filled with one child after another to the extent that the younger offspring of the Hob and Mab union were known in the village as “one of the Hob and Mab chappies”. Mab lined many of their rooms with the prodigious number of rabbit skins that Hob snared. The walls, ceiling and even the bedroom floors were softly fur- covered. The blankets were quilted rabbit fur. Hob, Mab and all their children ate well and slept in the depth of comfort. Just outside the door at the base of the tree trunk, Hob had dug out an old rabbit warren and converted it into a root and elderberry wine cellar. The cellar maintained a constant cool temperature year round.

There was a large burl on the north side of the oak. Hob hollowed it out and used it as a garden shed which housed his rabbit trapping springes. A year or so after he finished the shed it housed the abracadabra trap that brought him prosperity from customers in all three shires. When the house was complete, Ob sent, as a decoration for the front door, a wreath with a leaf. Ab sent, without leaf, another wreath.

Just as the fur-covered windows told any passing Hobnobgoblin that Hob lived there and the beautifully curved door made it obvious that Nob would answer a knock on it, so the shelter Glob-the-Obese erected was also revealing. As you must recognize by now, Glob and Ab were creatures of large appetites and little patience for delays in satisfying their desires. Their house reflected those traits. They designed and built their bedroom first. Like them, it was large and ambitious. Glob selected a round rock outcrop and chiseled, drilled and blasted chambers into it. The bedroom was planned in great detail for only one thing was more important to them than eating and that was the passionately explosive use of the energy which resulted from fine dining.

It was not until Glob became a member of the ruling triumvirate of Newtonia that they added a living room and dining room to entertain any official guests who happened along. The Ab and Glob home was none-the-less an excellent example of blending form and function with a style that clearly made the statement “Carpe diem.” Their house was unabashedly shaded by an ash tree, the “Queen of the Woods” which stood out against the sunset. Ab lined the spacious rooms with tapestries of feasts, festivals and food. In the bedroom was a mural depicting more naked Hobnobgoblins than lived in Newtonia and six neighboring villages making love in a wonderful menagerie of ways.

Glob-the-Obese quarried out an acoustically marvelous egg-shaped music room for Ab where she kept her two lutes which she called Lee and Shun. As their daughter grew up Glob would sometimes say to her, “Bring us Ab’s ole lute, Lee.” At other times he would tell her to, “Bring us Ab’s ole lute, Shun.” Brab’s grandfather, Ob would join in with his cello and Ob bow together with Phab’s oboe. When Phab asked, “How was that Glob?” He replied “Fabulous!” if he enjoyed the music and “Phab, you louse!” if it transported him to higher delights.

Once started on the decoration of her home, there was no holding Ab back. On those rare occasions when she flagged, Glob stimulated her to greater heights of imagination and loftier flights of fancy. She had Glob surround the base of the rock bluff with a hedge that appeared to Pumpernickel and his cows to be an impenetrable thicket but within that barrier was a well tended garden of a rather formal layout as is to be expected from such a worthy member of the community. The size and complexity of the wine cellar was commensurate with that same image they had of themselves for each root of the ash tree was a pillar in their cellar creating a kind of catacombs for barrels of elderberry wine.

At last Brab was born and the house completed. Its size, the height and width of the door and especially the bulbous stone door knocker told Hobnobgoblins from far and wide that this was the home of Ab and Glob-the-Obese, let there be no mistake about it. When Pumpernickel was searching for a stray cow one evening, he thought he caught a glimpse of an homunculus slipping into an oak tree through a scar in the bark at the base of the trunk. Later still, he was almost sure he heard the sound of miniature merriment coming from within the thicket surrounding a great globular boulder. Fortunately, he spotted the wandering animal; it was Maisy the daisy chewing heifer. He turned to lead her home and shook off the impressions which he put down to fatigue.

“Get on you damned udder-bag,” he said, as he drove her back to her meadow. He had to complete his endless round of milking before he could eat his supper and flop onto his straw-filled mattress. There he snored in his white-washed cottage between the cow shed and the churchyard. He would get no respite from his daily grind until his frozen hand was pried from Rosie’s teat and he was laid to rest in that same churchyard.

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