The Water Goblin is a creature of European mythology, with differences in the myth according to nationality. The Czech version of the goblin has a human body, with green skin. He's thought to be the cause of drownings, and stores the soul of the drowned victim in a porcelain cup. Some tales of the water goblin portray him as rather comical, but Dvorak used a poem based on the tale written by Karel Erben, a Czech poet, writer and collector of folk tales and songs. The Water Goblin portrayed in Erben's poem and used by Dvorak is most certainly not comical! A short sketch of the poem and story:
Pretty gruesome stuff for sure, but such is the way of folktales sometimes. The music is some of the best Dvorak ever wrote for orchestra. Rich in tone and orchestral color, it is a piece written by a master of the orchestra. And with the use of a little imagination, you can hear The Water Goblin cavorting through the orchestra.