Originating from Germanic mythology, legends of kobolds have survived into modern times in German folklore. They are usually invisible, but can materialize in the form of an animal, fire, a human being, and a candle. Common depictions show them as humanlike figures, the size of small children. They are depicted as living in human homes and wearing clothing of peasants. These kobolds perform domestic chores or play malicious tricks, if insulted or neglected. Famous kobolds of this type include King Goldemar, Heinzelmann, Hödekin. In some regions, kobolds are known by local names, such as the Galgenmännlein of southern Germany and the Heinzelmännchen of Cologne. Some live in mines and are depicted as hunched and ugly. The ones that live on ships called Klabautermann smoke pipes and wear sailor clothing, and help sailors.
Stories of kobolds date to at least the 13th century, when German peasants carved kobold effigies for their homes. There is a similar German room spirit called kofewalt. The name of the element cobalt comes from the creature’s name, because medieval miners blamed the sprite for the poisonous and troublesome nature of the typical arsenic ores of this metal (cobaltite and smaltite) which polluted other mined elements.