The Goblin Market: What Kind of Fruits are these Anyway?

Within Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”, one of the most striking passages to me takes place between lines 422-446. Previously, we saw Laura be successfully tempted by the Goblin men to try their “fruits”.Here, we see Lizzie has escaped the safety of Laura and her home to find the Goblin Market. Previously enamored with the idea of these Goblin men, Lizzie finally manages to find them. However, their seduction turns sinister as they scratch, bite, and pinch her, trying to get her to open her mouth and taste their “fruits”.

This passage is full of both incredibly violent and overtly-sexual imagery. First, we see Lizzie be likened to a “horse” being lead to water. The common use of horses nowadays is very objective. They are used by men, and are mostly ridden from a starting place to an end or finish. Therefore, not only is Lizzie objectified, but also made out to be a tool for the ease of these Goblin MEN. Repeat, MEN. There is not a single reference to any goblin women in this text, which also paints the idea that the only men in this story are these small, repulsive creatures.

These men become violent when Lizzie refuses to taste their “fruits” for themselves. Phrases such as “kicked and knocked her”, “coaxed and fought her”, and “pinched her black as ink” are used to describe their forceful ways of trying to have Lizzie open her mouth. The specific phrase “pinched her black as ink” is used to describe them bruising Lizzie, which leaves darker marks on her fair, white skin. This definitely seems to be saying that these men are tainting Lizzie’s innocence through their bruising her “pure” white skin. Finally, these men, fed up with her refusal to eat, drench Lizzie with the “juices” from their fruit. This “juice” is overtly sexual, as fruit is typically thought of as fertility. Therefore, the juices of the fertile parts of these goblin men are left smeared all over Lizzie’s face and neck. This passage both shocked and repulsed me, as the blatantly sexually-charge and violent imagery oozed off of these pages.

Goblin Market…Prelapsarian?

Rosetti’s Goblin Market has this prelapsarian vibe right from the opening lines, but you might not realize it until further into the poem. After line 4, with the “come buy, come buy” readers do get the sense that these goblins are attempting to upsell or persuade the maids to buy their fruit. Reminds us of something else in literary history, no?

“Morning and evening

Maids heard the goblins cry:

“Come buy our orchard fruits,

Come buy, come buy:” (1-4)

However, Rosetti doesn’t stop there. Throughout the rest of the poem, Laura and Lizzie are faced with the temptation by the goblins to eat of the fruit they are trying to sell. It became quite clear that Laura was the sister who should be worried about in terms of falling victim to the temptation. “Laura bow’d her head to hear/ Lizzie veil’d her blushes” gives readers the sense that Laura was eager to read into what the goblins were saying/selling while Lizzie was hesitant and even went so far as to attempt to persuade her sister out of such a potentially bad situation.

Throughout the poem, while Laura claims at one point they should not engage with the goblin men or the fruit they are selling, she continuously falls into the trap of temptation from the goblins. They [the goblins] clearly had a motive and Laura was falling right into it.

It is interesting that Rosetti alludes to the story of Adam and Eve in such a way that involves two sisters rather than a man and a woman, and the tempting force, instead of a serpent, is a goblin. While this was written in the Victorian era, it certainly has the mythical and almost supernatural elements that Restoration and Romantic literature also encapsulated.

It is unique how early in the piece Rosetti makes the temptation known; there is no masking what is going to happen in this poem even in the opening lines. She gets straight to the point and carries the theme throughout the piece. As stated, the Adam and Eve vibe is definitely there, however, where we don’t get much of an image of what life is “like” prior to the temptation, I still see a unique way of describing the prelapsarian element to Lizzie and Laura. Rather than having a whole story/context given about them, their “before the fall” is the back and forth with the goblins.

Goblin Market Close Reading

In this poem “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti the goblins represent evil or possibly Satan. The fruits represent the forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve ate in the garden of Eden. This is made very clear in the first stanza of this poem, especially when the goblins say “Come buy our orchard fruits, come buy, come buy” They are trying to lure innocent people into buying their fruits in order to corrupt them. In the first few lines, they are talking about luring maidens in to sell them fruit. In this age women are seen as very innocent and naive, they would be very easy to convince to eat the fruit that is forbidden in this case. There are also several words used in order to make the fruit seem more desirable to the women. At first all of the fruits are all described as plump and then in the middle of the stanza it is said that they are “All ripe together in summer weather” I do not know about anyone else but I personally really like all fruits that are typically ripe in summer. They just seem more sweet and juicy at that point. There is also the fact that they describe some of the fruit in a sexual way in order to make it more appealing. They say, “Figs to fill your mouth” Honestly, this whole poem seems to be a parody of the fall of Adam and Eve. The goblins are Satan and all the fruits that they are selling are forbidden to the maidens that might be tricked into eating them. It is also a narrative poem so it seems more like a story then a poem to me.

Goblin Market

In this passage beginning at line 475 Lizzie returns to her sister Laura with her takings from the Goblin Market. Although she has found the fruit to ensure that Laura may live and regain her youth Lizzie sacrificed herself in the process being taken advantage of by the many Goblin men and their forbidden fruits they forced upon her. She states “Must your light like mine be hidden” showing this venture to the market was indeed of dark intentions and ultimately sacrificial of her youth and innocence in order to aid Laura. The images of light and dark contrast one another in a way that imitates good and evil; Paradise lost and the curse of mortal men then seems to play a part in the fate of the sisters. It then states “undone in mine undoing and ruined in my ruin” showing her humanity and the ultimate “blame” one could place on humans for their own ill fate. The images of the fruit restoring her from a sultry drouth and her tears “dropping like rain” reiterates the idea that fruit and the fertility it insinuates despite the dark sacrifice of innocence to reach it are essentially a part of nature and the existence of the race. The natural images of fruit and nature to describe these biologically human traits seems to pay homage to the garden of Eden; the contrast of barren and dry in comparison to the forbidden markets which are fruitful and restoring. It seems to point out a lack of total control the human has to in the end take part in its own doom as a race. Without the fruit Laura would die but in order to keep her alive and save the humans or in this case her life Lizzie makes the ultimate sacrifice; her innocence.

Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”


The passage I am focusing on for this close reading of Goblin Market is from line 32 to line 80.  This passage really drew me in because I felt like it was very similar to Paradise Lost by John Milton. The goblins in this poem remind me of the snake in Paradise Lost in the way that they are almost seductive in the way they advertise the fruit. The forbidden fruit itself is a big similarity between these two pieces.

In this passage Lizzie very much reminds me of God when he tells Adam and Eve to not eat the fruit. We can see this where Lizzie says, “We must not look at goblin men,/We must not buy their fruits.” She is telling Laura not to look at the goblin men and buy their fruits for it will tempt her, such as the snake tempted Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Rossetti repeats the words “We must not” in both lines to show the significance of how evil the goblins are. It also shows how Lizzie is trying to look out for her sister and guide her down the right path, instead of eating the fruit and having the same fate as Jeanie.

The goblins call out to the girls, saying, “Come buy” repeatedly, still tempting them as the snake did to Eve. Laura especially reminds me of Eve when Rossetti writes, “Curious Laura chose to linger.” Rossetti uses alliteration in this line, focusing on repetition of c’s and l’s. The word curious is what really drew me in, because when Eve was in Paradise, she was very curious about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil as well as the forbidden fruit that grew from the tree.

As seen in later passages Laura buys and eats the fruit, just as Eve ate the fruit, as well as Laura’s near death experience is similar to Eve becoming a mortal and the fall of man.  Rossetti’s Goblin Market reminded me very much of John Milton’s Paradise Lost with the references to forbidden fruit and seductive creatures.

Close Reading of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market


Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market could be seen as a take on the agrarian lifestyle versus the industrial one. As the industrial revolution takes hold of the nation, it brings with it a dirty sinful lifestyle that tempts and threatens the sweet nature of the agrarian life, as we can see with Lizzie and Laura. Lizzie unlike her sister Laura is not at all tempted by the forbidden fruit whereas Laura is. However it is interesting to see how Lizzie disregards this, when her sister has sinned and given into the dirty lifestyle of industrialism.

Lizzie’s love for her sister as the reader can see is unconditional; she goes to great lengths to end her sisters suffering, much like a Christ figure. “Eat me, drink me, love me” (Rossetti 1506) Lizzie is offering up her body for Laura as a form of communion, who has sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, much like Eve. Lizzies has gone through great lengths to end her sisters suffering, “For your sake I have braved the glen and had to do with goblin merchant men”(Rossetti 1506) again making herself look more like a Christ figure as Christ scarified himself for humanity. Lizzie ends up giving up her innocence, which we can view as her agrarian lifestyle, and trades it in for the industrial one that she has warned Laura about, just to save her for her sins. What is particularly interesting is how sexual in nature this form of communion is, its almost as if both sisters must sin again to become pure. Lizzie offers up her body, much like Christ, however she does so in a very sexual nature “Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices” (Rossetti 1506) it gives the reading an interesting tone, in order to receive penance both sisters must act in deviant and sinful way, both sister must give into the industrial life, to regain their peaceful agrarian one.



Christina Rossetti. “Goblin Market.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. E. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2012. 1496-1508. Print.

The goblin king

Sam Gagnon


Currents in Brit lit

“The Goblin Market”


I read this poem, and immediately washed my hands afterwards. It is filthy rich with compelling storytelling, harrowing overtones, and fluid language. I’m not inclined to say I have a dirty mind, but allusions to eroticism are recklessly splattered across one stanza to another. Value and temptation are persistent in the piece, but at the same time, value and temptation aren’t just tethered to want of purchase and want of product. When I disenfranchise myself from the whimsical wonder the goblins provide along with the quaint simplicity of the sisters’ relationship, playful beckoning unsheathes its mask and rears its sickening face. When Laura succumbs to devious pleasures, her sanity begins to disintegrate. As a man myself, I’m not trying to stand on a soapbox and self-righteously shame men, but from a feminists lens, the passage I’m about to elaborate upon demonstrates a contrast between the naïve gullibility of Laura and the oppressive resentment the Goblin men conceal with their song and dance masquerade.

As Laura disregards fair warning and goes in for the fruit, lines 123-128 go to say

“You have much gold upon your head, they answered all together: Buy from us with a golden curl. She clipped a precious golden lock, she dropped a tear more rare than pearl, then sucked their fruit globes fair or red.”

More often than not, currency is measured in terms of silver or gold. In this instance, Laura’s value as a human being stems from her free flowing blonde hair. It’s unfortunate to say, but some men, on a universal standpoint, still determine a woman’s importance based upon physicality. This sentiment appears to ring true with just the first line alone. Considering the fact that my perception of Goblin’s falls in line with disfigured creepy little creatures, it only makes sense to me that these Goblins are synonymous with the foulest representatives of my gender.

While money is nice in its own regard, the Goblins desire to exploit and humiliate women appears to host more worth to them. As they request a lock of hair for their fruits. When Laura snips her hair, my restoration senses tingle, and I reminisce about Alexander Pope’s “Rape Of The Lock.” While two different breeds of animal, they both share a commonality in how womanhood is desecrated by unnecessary means. Except in this case, Laura willingly prostitutes her femininity for a greater evil.

Dominion over a Woman’s choice and freedom are magnetized as Laura sheds a tear more rare than pearl. I imagine that when the goblins see that Laura caters to their offer despite her emotional distress, the goblins find more power in puppeteering people than they do collecting coin. The last line has sex written all over it. Laura is doing the dirty only to pay homage to the conception of what she thinks she wants. The goblins offer enticing fruit, yet fruit is bound to rot and sweet nothings aren’t much more than what they are.

Ultimately, misguidance and blissful ineptitude harnesses Laura’s dependency to the goblin’s and their fruit. While it wasn’t fair that she was involved in the circumstances that she was, her fate was the byproduct of fallaciously accepting things at face value without paying attention to multiple dimensions in the situation. Moral of the story being, don’t believe in everything you see, don’t listen to everything you hear, and always think twice before making decisions.

Lizzie: Christ, Laura’s Savior

Christina Rossetti’s Pre-Raphaelite poem, “Goblin Market” tells a story of two young sisters who live a simple, agrarian life and are tempted by goblin men who advertise their fruits to the maids. The character of Lizzie, who never succumbs to the goblins’ temptations, acts as a Christ-like figure who is responsible for Laura’s salvation in the end of the poem. This religious symbolism is obvious in the passage in which Lizzie returns to Laura after attempting to buy some of the goblins’ fruit for her dying sister:

Never mind my bruises.
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeezed from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men (Rosetti 1506).

Lizzie is literally offering Laura her body because it is covered in the goblins’ juices after they mashed their fruits into her face when she refused to eat them. This passage is extremely reminiscent of a huge tenant Christian faith, that Jesus Christ was tortured and ultimately died for the sins of all men. The lines, “Never mind my bruises./Hug me, kiss me…” is reminiscent of Jesus’ plea to all humans to accept Him as their Lord and savior. Specifically, when Lizzie talks of her bruises, the reader is reminded of how, before Jesus was crucified, he was whipped. The Bible even says that “He [Jesus] was bruised for our iniquities” (King James Bible, Isaiah 53.5).

In addition, Lizzie makes it clear that she dealt with the goblins for Laura: “…suck my juices/ Squeezed from goblin fruits for you…For your sake I have braved the glen/ And had to do with goblin merchant men.” Lizzie specifically said that she “squeezed” and “braved” the goblins, two words that indicate that she did a burdensome, terrifying task. Not only this, but she did these things “for you [Laura]” and “For your [Laura’s] sake.” Lizzie qualifies her actions, specifying that she did each of those things for Laura. In the Christian religion, Jesus also went through torture, death, and even hell so that his followers could be forgiven of their sins and go to heaven. In this case, Lizzie represents the savior and Laura represents those who need to be saved.

The biggest indication that Lizzie is acting as a Christ figure in this poem is that she offers her body for Laura to consume. It echoes the Christian communion. Lizzie says “Eat me, drink me, love me.” She isn’t literally asking Laura to consume her, just as Jesus didn’t ask his disciples to literally eat his body and drink his blood during the sacrament. Rather, they ate bread and wine which were symbolic of accepting Jesus, following him, and being saved. Lizzie is asking Laura to “eat” and “drink” her and be saved. Laura is saved from the brink of death when Lizzie gives her the goblin juices; Lizzie saves her sister just as Jesus saved his followers.

Lizzie symbolizes Christ in “Goblin Market” because she is wounded by the Goblins, acts selflessly in order to save Laura’s life, and offers her body for Laura to consume. Each of these elements can be connected back to the Jesus’ various actions to save his followers. Christina Rossetti was a Pre-Raphaelite. They were a group of artists responding to the huge, largely industrial transformations that were taking place in British Society in the Victorian Era. They sought social and spiritual unity by rejecting their highly alienating industrial world and instead focusing on retelling medieval stories. The abundant presence of religious elements, such as Lizzie as the Christ, in “Goblin Market” emphasizes a struggle for spiritual understanding.


Work Cited

Isaiah. King James Bible. Bible Hub, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.

Rossetti, Christina. “Goblin Market.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed Stephen Greenblatt. Ninth ed. Vol. E. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2012. 1497-1508. Print.

“Goblin Market”

“Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti is a poem about goblin-like men trying to sell their various types of fruit to two girls: Laura and Lizzie. They are very insistent that they take a bite of the fruit they have to offer and even take unusual payment to make sure the women get a bite. The passage, or line specifically, that really caught my attention is line 479, “For my sake the fruit forbidden?” For any person who has read Paradise Lost by John Milton these two words together is no stranger to the scholarly eye. Granted these two words together form alliteration, which not only makes the two words stand out amongst the others but notice the phrasing of the words. Not “forbidden fruit” like we’re used to but the words are flipped to “fruit forbidden.” When we are looking at the archetype forbidden fruit we are thinking of an apple that, when eaten, leaves the human race vulnerable to sin and temptation. The particular phrasing in this poem leaves the reader to believe that, because they moved the words around, it distinguishes itself to a deeper meaning than Paradise Lost and is talking about numerous fruits mentioned in the poem. If the goblin, animal-like men only offered apples than a clear similarity could be made to Milton’s work but since it’s different we can associate each fruit with a different temptation. We also see at the end of the stanza, in line 492 that Lizzie has not eased to temptation, unlike her sister due to her “hungry mouth,” which is saying how she has not been corrupted and has successful avoided temptation for the time being. In conclusion this poem discusses the temptation of the world, in many different forms and specifically talking about the enticement that greedy men have to offer to women. The men being described in such a negative manner doesn’t portray them as prince charming, in fact quite the opposite, and women should avoid the temptation, or the “fruit forbidden”, to resist to them.

Close Reading of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market

Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market is overflowing with vehement sexual imagery, despite the fact that she insisted that is was appropriate for children. Lines 390 through 420 depict the shift that occurs when the goblins discover that Lizzie wants to take the fruits to Laura in hopes of curing her. In lines 334 through 349, the goblins were portrayed as being very happy and affectionate (too affectionate, if you ask me) (“chuckling, clapping, crowing”, “hugged her and kissed her, squeezed and caressed her”). However, this changes quickly as they “grunt” and “snarl” and appear now to be evil and violent.

In both instances, the goblins are compared to animals however the comparisons are vastly different. When Lizzie and Laura first meet them, they are “wagging” and “purring” like harmless creatures, but when Lizzie encounters them later on they lash their tails and bark and hiss. The goblins absolutely represent a binary, as they embody both innocence and corruption.

When Lizzie is attacked by the goblins, the word choice suggests that their intentions are perhaps more sinister than previously thought. The goblins “held her hands and squeezed their fruits against her mouth to make her eat”. The fact that they held her down and “squeezed their fruits against her mouth” suggests that this act was performed against her will. Also, the goblins “tore her gown and soiled her stocking” which too suggests that she was violated in some way by the goblins.

Color is also symbolic in this passage, as Lizzie is described in line 408 as being “white and golden”. White symbolizes purity, which has been soiled by the goblins in the previous stanza, however she stands strong despite the horrors she has faced. Lizzie is also compared to “a royal virgin town, topped with gilded dome and spire, close beleaguered by a fleet mad to tug her standard down”. This image of a beautiful, untouched town being ravaged by pillagers also alludes to the sexual violence that has befallen Lizzie. Surely, Rosetti includes this scene to make a statement about the evils of temptation and how reputation greatly affects women in the Victorian era.

Christina Rossetti. “Goblin Market.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. E. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2012. 1496-1508. Print.