If you meet a hobgoblin and he asks for a coin, find one. Dig deep if you have to. Otherwise, he’ll turn the forest around and you’ll lose your way. When I read that old eastern European tradition, I thought, THAT explains it. Aren’t we all lost in one sense or another? Maybe, we aren’t paying the hobgoblin.
Too many of us underestimate the Little Folk. Or think we outgrow them. Generations past didn’t make that mistake. My German grandmother literally believed in kitchen elves. They were blamed for spilled and spoiled food. She believed it was good, common sense to keep them placated. Even today, an Irish friend knows every fairy tree in her part of County Cork and never messes with them. She doesn’t need the trouble. Is that superstitious or wise?
Stories explain things we can’t explain easily. Got a problem (hobgoblin)? Find a coin, pay the price, deal with it. Otherwise you risk letting things get more tangled, less clear, even more difficult. We all know that, but stories allow us to frame the idea with humor. “Paid the hobgoblin?” might be a way to gently remind ourselves to get on with things. It also acknowledges that we all have hobgoblins, all of them ugly.