As a disclaimer, I am not asking whether or not Rowling is an antisemite. She has commented on antisemitism before, and the answer to the question of her deeply held personal views would almost certainly be opinion-based. I am wondering only whether or not she addressed the specific question about the Goblins of the Harry Potter universe.

Basically, it's this: Rowling's Goblins raise a very understandable red flag for quite a few Jews. Their faces are essentially dead ringers for the common offensive caricature of a stereotypical "Jew," complete with the long nose, wrinkles, the evil smile, and the long grabbing clawed fingers. They love money / coins, and hoard gold. And, rather than just burying or hiding it, they work within the established financial system as bankers, and they wear suits. In the 21st century it's difficult for this to simply be waved away via visual fairy tale elements, so I am wondering whether or not Rowling has commented on this specific part of the Harry Potter franchise.

  • 3
    Umm, you’re comparing the movie representation of Goblins or JKR’s description from the books? I’m confused. The question seems to be swinging between the two.
    – Shreedhar
    Sep 15, 2019 at 18:36
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    As a Jew, I want to point out that I do not look like a goblin, in any way, shape, or form. Thank you. (But I do like money.)
    – TheAsh
    Sep 15, 2019 at 19:49
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    @TimSparrow Jewish caricatures are based on a grossly exaggerated stereotype of Semitic features as perceived by Europeans, and the association of Jews with gold has mainly to do with historical restrictions placed on jobs available to Jews in Europe. Neither came from goblins. But regardless of that, I'm not really a fan of the naivete argument, especially when it comes to damaging historical imagery (I see it sometimes applied to blackface use - "this has nothing to do with racism, only with the character's skin"). Creative choices matter. Real goblins don't exist. Jewish caricatures do.
    – Misha R
    Sep 16, 2019 at 16:49
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    Before commenting, I will point out that the only encounters I have ever had with these "Jewish stereotypes" has been people complaining that something else is "based on it". The Goblins in the Harry Potter films are based on old tales of goblins appearing as small, twisted, greedy and ugly old men, as part of ancient stereotypes of "good = beautiful / evil = ugly". Goblin-like creatures exist in old Greek, Roman, Chinese and Native American mythology. That anti-Semites later coöpted some of these characteristics and rebranded them as "Jewish" stereotypes is a different matter entirely Sep 17, 2019 at 12:11
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    It's also hard to miss the fact that in the Harry Potter series, the goblins are presented as a people who have historically gotten the shaft in a big way for a long time. Whether that is supposed to remind us of the Jewish people is left for others to answer.
    – EvilSnack
    Mar 21, 2020 at 21:53

1 Answer 1


Probably Not

One evidence to suggest "no" is that there are many articles online referring to the alleged resemblance between Jews and Rowling's goblin characterization, both accusational and defensive, and none of them seem to make any mention of an official quote from Rowling on the matter.

To further bolster this negative answer, we have the following "unpublished" quote from Rowling taken from a private interview, where the quote has apparently been taken from a transcript shared directly with the author of an essay on MuggleNet:

"I’ve never really told the goblin story. It just sort of bubbles under. Because I see them as a really, sort [of] active political force."

If we take this quote as authentic, and assume that there has been no abrogating statement in the years after that 2005 interview (I didn't see anything on Accio Quote), then it seems that she has spoken about goblins only enough to say that she has not really spoken about goblins. Presumably, that includes any relationship to any real world group or ethnicity.

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