In her poem, “Goblin Market,” Christina Rossetti describes the titular goblins as various types of animals. In the context of the poem, it is clear that these goblins are not actually animals like rats, cats, and wombats, but are indeed small, human like creatures that simply have the traits of those animals. Rossetti, for example, describes these goblins with phrases like “one tramped at a rat’s pace; once crawled like a snail”(3). The use of simile and metaphor in these descriptions leads the reader to believe that these goblins are not indeed rats and snails, but are instead goblins that have physical and behavioral characteristics that are similar to such animals.
It is important to make the distinction between the goblins as animals and the goblins as animal-like because this small clarification wholly alters the reader’s understanding and interpretation of the poem. When Dante Gabriel Rossetti decided to portray the goblins as nothing more than actual animals, he turned the poem into a children’s story. In this portrayal, the goblins are simply strange creatures, and the story turns into a sort of Grimm-esque tale of stranger danger and the risks of going out alone at night.
When the goblins are interpreted as men with animal features, however, the story’s meaning changes. In this version, the goblin men are representative of actual, human men– such as those in Christina Rossetti’s life, especially those that have excluded her from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Rossetti’s meaning here is clear: men are animals whose treatment of women lacks any sort of human respect or dignity. This animalistic nature allows men to get along with one another harmoniously, but they choose to treat women as wholly different because they do not possess these animal features and, therefore, do not belong.
Whether or not Dante Gabriel Rossetti purposely obscured this gender critique is unimportant. If he consciously decided to mask his sister’s meaning by turning the goblins into animals and advertising the poem as a children’s tale, then Christina Rossetti’s observations about men and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood likely had some merit if they struck so close to home for her brother. If Dante Gabriel Rossetti genuinely misinterpreted his sister’s story and did not realize the metaphor of the goblin men, then Christina Rossetti’s point still has merit since it is then clear that men of the time did not view the world (and “Goblin Market”) in the same way as women.