Follow TV Tropes


Peeve Goblins

Go To
This is the Noid. He loves to ruin your pizza!
If you've ever gotten cold pizza, a squashed pizza, or pizza that just wasn't right, the Noid did it!

Peeve Goblins are simple characters or personifications who are portrayed as the ones responsible for the various mundane annoyances you face in life. If the embodiment of hangryness would be your typical hairy bugbear who goes on a rampage whenever it gets hungry, then the peeve goblin equivalent would be some invisible gnome who sprinkles sparkly hangry dust on you every time your stomach growls. In general, these guys only exist to suck the fun out of your day and make it slightly more sour than it already is.

If you ever lost your pen cap at some point and have no idea where it is, it's because there's some small creature following you around who steals everything you drop, and loves nothing more than watching you pull your hair out in frustration as you search everywhere for the cap. Your car is breaking down in the middle of the highway? Some gremlins just replaced your oil with mouthwash. Did you just lose two hours of work put into writing an email or article on your computer? We at TV Tropes are all too familiar with these little bastards.

For advertisers, the "just so" nature of peeve goblins' antics is what makes them perfect anti-mascots for their commercials, setting them up as problems you can quite literally punch in the face to make them go away, but only with the help of the advertised product. Other times they will be portrayed as either No-Selling or messing with every other competing product, or themselves representing everything wrong/irritating about said competing products.

Examples of peeve goblins aren't just limited to small annoyances; some can also be directly responsible for greater-scale problems such as war, hatred, disease, etc. Some examples of The Fair Folk tend to exhibit this behaviour too.

Related to the "Just So" Story. Supertrope to Griping About Gremlins, which is about similar creatures that mess up machinery or other equipment. See also Nightmare Weaver, an entity who only seems to live for giving you bad dreams. Compare Painting the Frost on Windows, for those who run nature. Contrast with Product as Superhero.

See also Talking Pest, an advertising-specific trope that runs on the same principle.


    open/close all folders 

  • 1930s advertisements for the coffee substitute Postum employed a character named Mr. Coffee Nerves, a personification of the irritation and jitteriness one supposedly gets from drinking coffee.
  • Polish advertisement campaigns for Danio (a yoghurt-like product made by the French company Danone) use the character of "Mały Głód" (Little Hunger), a small, ugly, orange gnome who tries to keep people hungry. Some adverts have him teaming up with other "hungers" as well. The character is oddly popular, though - you can buy Mały Głód plushies.
  • Allstate's commercials are famous for Mayhem, a jerk in a suit who gets people in accidents, playing anything from distraught teenage girls, a very bad housekeeper, a deer in the headlights, to a blind spot in some lady's pickup truck. Some commercials also feature the Rate Suckers, ordinary actors who literally suck victim's rates by latching onto their cars like leeches.
  • Breakfast Pals, a 1939 animated commercial of Kellogg's Rice Krispies cereal, pits Snap, Crackle, and Pop against their Evil Counterparts Soggy, Mushy, and Toughy, promoting Rice Krispies's as a cereal that stays crunchy even with added milk.
  • Mucinex has Mr. Mucus, an anthropomorphic glob of phlegm portrayed as a stereotypical Lower-Class Lout wearing a dirty wife-beater. Other commercials portray him as The Friend Nobody Likes.
  • One ad from the late 2010s, called Telfast, involved creatures responsible for different allergies and diseases. They were Itchy Larry (allergy to dust mites), Sneezy Betty (hay fever in adults), Allergy Annie (hay fever in children), Cold Calvin (colds), Moody Mandy (allergy to mould), and Teary Harry (allergy caused by air pollution).
  • One Michelin's Tires ad promoting the brand's ability to improve gas mileage features an evil giant gas pump sucking in everyone's money with its nozzles, until the Michelin Man comes to stop it.
  • One Weight Watchers commercial features the Hungry Monster, an orange Muppet who constantly tries to sabotage your efforts in losing weight by tempting you with junk food.
  • Peeve Goblins appear in Jimmy Dean's commercials for the Jimmy D's line of pre-packaged breakfast foods, such as a guy in a crab costume who makes kids hangry, and the Slow Motion Man.
  • Since The '60s, Raid commercials always featured cartoony pests who cause mischief in households, only to be killed in a cartoony fashion by the titular pesticide.
  • In The '80s, The Noid — a wacky claymation humanoid with rabbit ears wearing a red jumpsuit — starred in many Domino's Pizza commercials. He is portrayed as a trollish prankster who loves to ruin people's pizza, but bears intense hatred for Domino's own quality pizzas, which he constantly tries to destroy only to be thwarted at every turn.
  • This Dr. Scholl's Freeze Away commercial features an annoying talking wart growing on a woman's finger who acts like a stubborn house guest. He scoffs at a generic wart remover that takes weeks to get rid of him, only to immediately shut up as soon as the advertised product is pressed hard into him.
  • Toilet Duck has a number of commercials along these lines, in the form of anthropomorphized stains known as Grungies.
  • A famous animated short in the 2010s was "I had a black dog, his name was depression" released by the World Health Organization, which refers to the depression as a black dog and exemplifies how depression works with this dog. The video got such good reception that the "black dog" short can be seen also in hospitals and mental health institutions around the world.
  • Cap'n Crunch would follow suit in The '80s with the Soggies, villainous creatures that looked like globs of milk that sought to sog out kids' Cap'n Crunch cereal to no avail. There was even a villain by the name of Dr. Sog who showed up in one major commercial and sought to steal everyone's Cap'n Crunch cereal through means of robotic/zombie Cap'n Crunches.
  • Before his start as an author, Dr. Seuss did some work in advertising (including Flit insecticide) and portrayed a number of creatures that could only be vanquished through the correct product.
  • A comic strip advertising Beely, a Finnish car-sharing firm, has Satan as the ultimate Peeve Goblin: his mission as the embodiment of evil seems to be to create all the unpleasantness humans experience. The tenuous connection with the firm being advertised is that used-car salesmen are also his henchmen.
  • 1940's newspaper advertisements for the analgesic Ben-Gay featured comics about "Peter Pain", an ugly, green-skinned, unshaven gnome in a bowler hat, who used various implements (such as spikes or clubs) to inflict pain upon people. He appeared first in the 1940's and was finally retired in the 1960's (see James Lileks's blog for some example ads).

    Anime & Manga 
  • One Piece: In the Dressrosa arc, there exist a local legend where "fairies" will steal some minor item from people's belongings without them noticing it until later. They're actually lilliputian dwarves who live in a nearby small island; they are allowed to do this by the king, Riku Dold III, as an apology for his ancestors oppressing the dwarves.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Family Circus has an intangible creature called "Not Me" and his Distaff Counterpart "Ida Know" who live to sabotage the grownups' day to make the kids look bad. They think this is hilarious.
  • The Far Side:
    • "Car Key Gnomes" shows two garden-gnome like figures in a nightly living room picking a ring of keys from a pair of trousers hanging over a chair, with the apparent intent of hiding it under the couch cushions.
    • "Door Ding Gnomes at Work" depicts two elf-like beings in a parking lot using hammers to create small dents on the sides of cars.

    Films — Animation 
  • Stitch from Lilo & Stitch is a tiny, genetically engineered creature designed and programmed to cause mass chaos both large scale as well as minor, like stealing everyone's left shoe.
  • Winnie the Pooh (2011) has Owl and the others blame all manner of problems on a creature called the Backson, who supposedly vandalizes books and laundry, messes up your house, and causes all manner of minor issues.

  • Brazilian Folklore: The Saci-Pererê is a mischievous fae-like being with the appearance of a single-legged black child wearing a red cap who loves to make pranks, such as souring the soup, entangling horses' manes, scaring travellers at night, making objects get lost, etc. The Caipora is a protector of the woods that also frequently makes pranks and assumes the role of The Trickster, so do Comadre Fulozinha, Romãozinho and others.
  • In European folklore, Nocturnal Emissions were blamed on succubi having their way with men while they were asleep, among other ills such as night terrors and sleep paralysis.
  • Whenever a printing error happens in Sweden, locals like to attribute it to the Tryckfelsnisse ("printing error elf") entity. Similarly, the Finnish would blame it on Painovirhepaholainen ("printing error devil").
  • Imps are often described as small, mischievous, trouble making demons who usually prefer to torment you with small things rather than harm you in a major way. Usually.
  • Among aircraft maintainence personnel and pilots, whenever something on an aircraft inexplicably breaks down, it is said to be a result of "Gremlins," diminutive creatures which take delight in sabotaging perfectly working aircraft and turning them into "Hangar Queens" - that is to say, planes that never leave the hangar due to constantly being in disrepair. This has also extended to other forms of transportation, especially on ground vehicles, where "gremlins" are often the case of many a driver's and mechanic's woes.
  • Medieval European scribes would blame errors in their work on a demon called Titivillus, saying he had been sent by the archdemon Belphegor to introduce them.
  • The kamaitachi are weasel-like Youkai who represent the sensation felt during bitterly cold winds, and attack in trios: one knocks down a traveler with a gust of wind, the next cuts the traveler with its sickle-like claws, and the last applies an ointment that stops the resulting bleeding, leaving their victim with bloodless but inexplicably large and painful wounds.
  • Various folklores have stories of House Fey which are usually helpful to whoever they share a home with. However, if the fey gets angered for some reason, they can cause trouble, either small (such as hiding household objects or breaking them) or large (killing livestock and making farmland infertile). In German folklore, kobolds were often believed to be the cause of accidents in the areas where they lived, which they caused if angered or not properly paid for their services. Household kobolds would cause accidents around the house, or spread bad luck or disease. Mine kobolds were blamed for cave-ins, rock slides and the discovery of a worthless, poisonous metal that we now know as the element "cobalt". Ship kobolds would tangle rigging and plague a vessel with bad luck.
  • The "Great Galactic Ghoul" is a space monster often facetiously invoked to explain the abnormally high failure rate of probes to Mars. Supposed victims of the "Ghoul" include the Soviet Phobos probes, NASA's Mars Polar Lander and Mars Climate Orbiter, and Japan's Nozomi.
  • Icelandic Christmas folklore gives us the 13 Yule lads, a group of mischieveous spirits that are the sons of the man-eating giants Grýla and Leppalúði. While their parents (and their giant man-eating cat) are much more dangerous, these 13 pranksters are much less so, arriving one by one over the final 13 nights leading up to Christmas/Yule to cause minor inconveniences. Their English-translated names are very apt on describing each of their gimmicks.
    • Sheep-Cote Clod: Harasses sheep, but is impaired by his stiff peg-legs.
    • Gully Gawk: Hides in gullies, waiting for an opportunity to sneak into the cowshed and steal milk.
    • Stubby: Is abnormally short, steals pans to eat the crust left on them.
    • Spoon-Licker: Steals and licks wooden spoons, is extremely thin due to malnutrition.
    • Pot-Scraper: Steals leftovers from pots.
    • Bowl-Licker: Like Spoon-Licker, but with bowls.
    • Door-Slammer: Likes to slam doors in the middle of the night.
    • Skyr-Gobbler: Has a great affinity for skyr (similar to yogurt).
    • Sausage-Swiper: Hides in the rafters and snatches sausages that are being smoked.
    • Window-Peeper: A snoop who looks through windows in search of things to steal.
    • Sniffer: Has an abnormally large nose and an acute sense of smell which he uses to locate leaf bread.
    • Meat-Hook: Uses a hook to steal meat.
    • Candle-Stealer: Follows children in order to steal their candles (which were once made of tallow and thus edible)

  • Book of Imaginary Beings: Elves, described here as the strictly fairytale kind of tiny, mischievous beings, seemingly live just to cause people trouble. Among other things, they're the ones to blame when you get tangled hair and sudden painful stitches — the first by tying it into knots, the second by shooting tiny arrows that vanish into the skin without a trace.
  • The Borrowers is about a group of small beings called Borrowers who borrow humans' belongings without asking. This trope is Played With in that they always take objects and items which they're certain humans won't notice when they go missing, and avoid borrowing personal items which will be noticed by humans, thus risking being discovered.
  • In the Discworld story Hogfather, the titular Santa Claus analogue vanishes, which leaves a surplus of unbound Belief left over that manifests itself in a new crop of Peeve Goblins. Examples include the Verruca Gnome, who goes around handing people unsightly foot warts; the Hair Loss Fairy, who hides under your hat and yanks out your hair; the Eater of Socks, a tiny elephant-like creature with a habit of consuming only one sock from a given pair; the birdlike Stealer of Pencils with its pencil sharpener-like beak; and the Oh God of Hangovers.
  • Disgusting McGrossface: Subverted; the boy blames messes on a creature named "Disgusting McGrossface", but then it turns out that Disgusting doesn't exist and the boy was just lying.
  • Mr. Nobody, a children's poem published anonymously in 1947, describes a mysterious character who lurks in houses with children and performs acts of mischief when there isn't anybody looking — after all, if all the children deny having tracked mud on the carpet or left the toys lying around, then Nobody must have done it.
  • The Name of the Game (Elrod): There exists a race of demons called car key gnomes.
  • Goblins that appear in Pact and Pale are described as "creatures of filth, vulgarity, and the basest, and the ugliest of human actions." They love disturbing and disgusting humans and gain sustenance from it. They also have enormous variation in size and power with the smaller ones being the equivalent of "rude jokes in the process of being told ad-nauseum" but more powerful Goblins are "mistaken for dark and twisted gods." They're so varied that Our Goblins Are Different still applies to them on an individual level but being disgusting and inconvenient to humans is an important part of understanding them.
  • In The Rape of the Lock, a gnome upsets a bag over Belinda's head, causing her even more distress over the theft of her hair and leading to a massive battle of the sexes.
  • In the literature of Richard Sharpe Shaver, the "Deros" (short for Detrimental Robots, though they are in fact organic beings) are responsible for just about every misfortune that befalls humankind, up to and including disturbing or intrusive thoughts. Shaver, being a mentally disturbed man (possibly a paranoid schizophrenic), believed the Deros actually existed.
  • The Secret: A Treasure Hunt is half treasure-hunt puzzle book, and half field guide to various faerie creatures of this sort that satirize common American problems and fads of The '80s. The Energenii waste energy and run up electric bills, the Sophomore Jinx causes college students to perform Wacky Fratboy Hijinx, the Tupperwerewolves are why you can never match a container with its lid, and so on. You can see all of the profiles here.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Dead Like Me, Gravelings are responsible for causing fatal mishaps, and thus their presence helps the Reapers figure out where and when to collect the next soul.
  • In Good Omens, demons cause some, but not all, misfortune. Crowley, for instance, likes to crash telephone lines just to annoy people, and one of his big achievements is interfering with a certain motorway's construction so traffic jams are more likely. There are also the Four Horsemen (War, Famine, Death, and Pollutionnote ) who cause the problems they're named after.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Nomine: Imps are minor infernal spirits charged with hindering and inconveniencing humans without actually causing physical or spiritual harm, such as by hiding car keys, draining batteries, or tampering with birth control.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Popular folklore in Imperial hive cities and spaceship crews attributes "the bendies" (a common name for the Hrud, a species of highly secretive, diminutive aliens who often secretly inhabit other species' structures) with whatever goes wrong. Missing item? The bendies stole it. A machine breaks and you didn't disrespect the Machine Spirit? The bendies did it. Someone vanishes? The bendies took him.
    • Machine Spirits themselves tend to fall into this category whenever a vehicle or weapon suffers a malfunction with no immediately apparent cause. Lasgun misfires? The Machine Spirit is displeased because you forgot to polish it. Land Raider refuses to start? It's offended because you called it a "bucket of bolts" a few days ago. Your bolter keeps firing for a moment after you release the trigger? It's acquired a taste for blood... or it's just that dedicated to killing in the God-Emperor's name. In a metafictional context, the behaviour of the Machine Spirit serves as an In-Universe explanation for... well, bad dice rolls with vehicles or attacks, though the exact cause of the failure is often left up to the GM. All this being said, this trope actually tends to Zig-zag it, due to heavy implications that machine spirits are actually real; though the lore tends to be somewhat vague on just how real they are at times, or how far their influence upon the machine itself actually is. Suffice to say, however, the machine-worshipping Adeptus Mechanicus are very quick to blame any malfunctions without an apparent cause on the machine spirits, rather than, say, poor maintainence or the fact that much of their equipment is literally thousands of years old.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Jabberwocks, monstrous and rare Chaos creatures, are a recurring bogeyman among Imperial peasants and tend to be blamed for ills that strike without apparent cause — for instance, if a line of washing is blown over by the wind, it's said that the Jabberwock came and knocked it down.


    Video Games 
  • In Moshi Monsters, whenever the server experiences a crash, a message explaining that "a naughty server monster caused a crash" will appear.
  • Pokémon:
    • Klefki is a keyring-like Steel/Fairy Pokémon that steals and collects people's keys.
    • Impidimp, a Dark/Fairy 'mon modeled after mischievous imps and goblins, feeds on the negative energy released when people are frustrated. Consequently, it often sneaks into people's houses in order to steal and hide small objects, so that it can feed on their frustration as they turn their homes upside-down to look for the stolen items.
  • The Sims 4: Although the creatures themselves do not actually appear, one of the lot traits is called "Gremlins", in which appliances on the lot randomly break. The icon for this lot trait is a goblin-like hand with Creepy Long Fingers.
  • Touhou Project: Discussed in the book Symposium of Post-mysticism. Since supernatural beings in Touhou run on Clap Your Hands If You Believe, and the Outside World (AKA the real world) has grown skeptic to superstitions, almost no new youkai are being born there. Most of them are "Murphy's youkai" like imps that hide the TV's remote control, which exist only for a moment before running out of belief and poofing out of existence again.
  • Yo-kai Watch: The titular Yo-kai are spirits who are responsible for everyday annoyances and problems plaguing humanity, who can be battled and befriended by the protagonists.

  • Shen Comix often uses concepts like Life, Anxiety, etc. depicted as (often muscular) humanoids who torment the creator's Author Avatar in various ways, ranging from simply pestering him to downright beating him up.
  • Something Happens introduces various "minor bogeymen" in a guest strip. Pulling your bedsheet away, resetting your alarm clock, keeping the toilet occupied, making disturbing noises...

    Web Original 
  • On Neopets, sometimes the creators blame little creatures called Meepits for technical glitches.
  • This Very Wiki also has its own Peeve Goblins in the form of Data Vampires, entities responsible for sucking away your work if you go over an edit's time limit.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • In The Fairly OddParents! we have the Anti-Fairies, an Evil Counterpart Race to fairies who are responsible for bad luck. They appear wherever someone triggers a superstition, and they use their magic to make it come true.
  • Family Guy: In one cutaway, Peter, angry his dryer apparently kept stealing one of his socks, climbed in only to discover a portal to Narnia. It was the satyr Mr. Tumnus who was stealing the socks.
  • Rocko's Modern Life: In "Unbalanced Load", Rocko has to rescue his lucky shirt from the Gripes, critters who live behind the walls of the laundromat and mess with people's laundry (stealing socks, tearing or burning clothes, etc).
  • South Park: The Underpants Gnomes go out of their way to steal underwear (and are thus the cause of underwear that go missing) as part of their Missing Steps Plan to get rich quick.
  • Teen Titans Go! episode "P.P." has a variation by being about the Titans' pet peeves, animalistic creatures that represent their respective person's Berserk Button and go wild with them whenever it gets pushed. They eventually learn to tame them like actual pets. The villain of the week happens to be the P.P. Goblin, a neurotic little imp-like creature who has an entire pack of pet peeves of his own that he trained into his personal army of attack dogs.