Is Goblin Based On A True Story?
Goblin is one of the most popular Korean dramas released to date. With a fairytale romance, lots of fantasy and many twists and turns along the way, there’s plenty to like about this one. But is there any truth to the fiction? Is everything in Goblin completely made up? Or is there a sprinkling of truth to the material?
If you’ve finished watching this one, you may be wondering if the events and characters are real or fictional. Let’s find out:
Please Note: The information on this page provides information about the main characters and may contain spoilers.
Kim Shin, portrayed by Gong Yoo, plays the titular “Goblin” (Dokkaebi) in the show and his character combines elements of traditional Korean folklore with the show’s unique narrative twists.
Dokkaebi, also known as Korean goblins, are legendary creatures from Korean folklore. They are known for their mischievous and sometimes malevolent nature, but they also have a humorous and playful side. This sums up Kim Shin really well, minus the malevolence!
While Kim Shin himself is fictional, he embodies the main traits of Dokkaebi, who are known to love mischief and playing pranks on humans, especially greedy ones! However, they also have a playful side, and will sometimes reward good-hearted individuals. Unlike the western portrayal of goblins, dokkaebi are not necessarily evil. They tend to be more playful than dangerous.
Dokkaebi are a big part of Korean culture, and their images can be found in many different forms of traditional art.
Ji Eun-tak, portrayed by actress Kim Go-eun, is a high school student who has been able to see ghosts ever since she was young. She is called “the Goblin’s Bride” because of a prophecy that says she is destined to pull out the sword that the Goblin, Kim Shin, has in his chest. In doing so, this will end his cursed immortality and let him rest in peace.
The idea of the “Goblin’s Bride,” along with pulling out the sword, are unique to Goblin and don’t directly translate with traditional dokkaebi folklore. Likewise, Eun-tak’s character is also fictional, although her portrayal in this show is reminiscent of many other fantasy fairytales, with her curious nature lending itself to many other female protagonists in this genre.
Sunny is the owner of a chicken restaurant and becomes a close friend to Ji Eun-tak, the Goblin’s bride. Sunny is a smart, independent, and cheerful woman, and that may be some of the reason she and the Grim Reaper end up in a romantic relationship as the series progresses.
Late on though, it’s revealed that Sunny is the reincarnation of Kim Sun, the younger sister of Kim Shin (the Goblin). In their past life, during the height of the Goryeo era, she was a queen killed by a jealous king. The Grim Reaper, in his previous life, was the king who ordered the death of both Kim Shin and Kim Sun. This revelation brings a great deal of tension and surprise to the story.
Sunny is not based on a real person though, even with the past revelations surrounding the Goryeo era. The character’s backstory, involving her past life as a queen, borrows ideas from that time period, but like the other main characters in “Goblin,” is entirely fictional.
In Korean mythology and folklore, the concept of death and the afterlife is often associated with the figure known as the “Jeoseung Saja” or “Grim Reaper.” Played by Lee Dong-wook, Goblin’s portrayal of the Grim Reaper is one of internal conflict and intrigue.
Within mythology, Korean Grim Reapers are usually portrayed as a tall man in traditional black hanbok, wearing a black hat. They carry a list or ledger of those who are about to die, and when their time comes, are guided to the underworld.
Stories of the Grim Reaper are common in Korean folk tales, although Lee Dong-wook’s version suffers from amnesia and also questions his own role to play in life, making for an interesting character with plenty of depth. But also one that’s completely fictional too!
Samshin Halmeoni, or the Birth Grandmother, is a deity who is responsible for overseeing birth and fate. She plays a crucial role in Goblin’s plot, showing up at important parts of the story. She’s also the one who saves Ji Eun-tak from death at birth. She also marks Eun-tak as the Goblin’s Bride too, which sets into motion the events of the series.
The character of the Birth Grandmother is based on a figure in Korean folklore, who is widely considered the goddess of childbirth. In traditional Korean beliefs, she is said to look after pregnant women, ensure safe childbirth, and also decide a child’s fate.
The Birth Grandmother serves as an interesting player in this show, especially next to the other supernatural characters in the series. While the Goblin and Grim Reaper wrestle with their own role to play in society and fate, the Birth Grandmother is much more accepting of her duty.
Although all the characters in Goblin are fictional, the events they’re based on can be loosely tied back to Korean folklore and legends.
It’s also worth noting that the show did come under fire after airing in Korea, with many commenting on the controversial romance between our high school student protagonist and the 939 year old immortal.