What are gnomes for?

Gnomes are a cute addition to the garden and also a good-luck charm.

The history of gnomes being used in gardens is longer than you might think. The tradition originated in the 1800s, and those original garden gnomes are far different than the plastic or plaster gnomes we know today.

Contents

A Short History of Gnomes

The first known garden gnomes were produced in Germany in the early 1800s. They were made out of clay. Gnomes first appeared in gardens in England in the 1840s, and from there their popularity began to take off.

The first garden gnomes that were mass-produced also came from Germany in the 1870s. The two big names in gnome manufacturing were Philipp Griebel and August Heissner, with Heissner becoming known around the world for his gnomes.

Unfortunately, the world wars wiped out most garden gnome production in Germany, and beginning in the 1960s, the plastic gnomes we know today came on the scene. These gnomes are campy and cartoonish, and many people don’t like them.

In the 1980s, companies in the Czech Republic and Poland started to make gnomes and flooded the market with cheaper imitations of the German products.

The American company, Kimmel Gnomes, is one of the few manufacturers of clay and resin gnomes that are finished by hand and not mass-produced. People who want a gnome with some soul seek out these, which come in a variety of sizes and poses.

Why Gnomes

The history of gnomes also passes along the folklore and why you would want one in your garden. Gnomes are known as symbols of good luck.

Originally, gnomes were thought to provide protection, especially of buried treasure and minerals in the ground. They are still used today to watch over crops and livestock, often tucked into the rafters of a barn or placed in the garden.

A garden gnome adds a bit of whimsy and a connection to the old world, where farmers believed the good luck charm could help their fields yield more produce and protect them from thieves, pests and other problems. They were also thought to help gardeners in the night, which we all could use!

Gnomes in Folklore

The mythical gnomes in history were thought to live underground, and their name is thought to derive from a Latin word for earth dweller. They were popular in German fairy tales and were often described as old men who guarded treasure.

However, gnomes or similar creatures were also found in folklore from many different countries, where they went by different names such as Nisse in Denmark and Norway, Duende in Spain and Hob in England.

The Look of Gnomes

Gnomes generally were not described thoroughly in the stories, but garden gnomes produced throughout the world have the same general look, usually with a long, white beard, a red hat and simple clothes.

The female gnomes tend to have long hair, the same hat and a simple dress, and look somewhat like witches.

These days gnomes can be found in all sorts of different costumes and configurations, adding to the distaste felt by many who don’t like these creatures. There are gnomes with kegs of beer, built in solar lighting, skiing gnomes, gnomes taking baths, and gnomes mooning onlookers.

While these are much different from the traditional intent of gnomes in the garden, if they give you a laugh they are serving their purpose and are a lot more fun than conventional garden statues.

Buying Garden Gnomes

There are many sources for mass-produced garden gnomes, but far fewer opportunities for finding high-quality, handmade gnomes. Here are some places to look for your perfect garden protector:

  • Clear Air Gardening has a good basic selection of gnomes.
  • Garden Gnomes Need Homes has gnomes that are slightly higher quality.
  • Gnome Town USA has gnomes in several sizes.
  • Zwergli Gnomes has handmade German gnomes.

No matter where you shop for your garden gnome, know that you are following a rich history of people who have used gnomes for decoration, protection and to bring a bit of whimsy into the garden.

SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

Garden gnomes. They might be your favorite decoration or your biggest pet peeve. Garden gnomes are small ornamental statues, typically resembling humans. Garden gnomes have been the subject of cultural fixation, reverence, and scorn, but have stayed an essential part of garden decor and more, even as debates raged about their purpose and pranksters tried to snuff them out. No matter what side of the garden gnome debate you’re on, learning the garden gnomes history is fun and enlightening.

What Are Garden Gnomes?

Traditional garden gnomes are male and bearded and have pointy hats. Some are depicted participating in leisure activities. Female garden gnomes are less common and usually don’t have beards.

Today, garden gnomes can also portray popular figures or stereotypes. Biker gnomes, for example, have the traditional pointy hats and bears but also wear leather vests. There are a lot of ways to be creative with gnomes. They can be depicted doing different activities, and can have signs, plaques, or props to accompany them.

Garden gnomes are modeled after gnomes, small, mythical creatures whose folklore arose during the Renaissance in Europe. Gnomes appeared prominently in Romanticist art and fairy tales as humanoid creatures that lived deep in the forest, primarily underground, and resisted contact with humans. In stories, gnomes sometimes protected and guided humans when they did come in contact with them, and sometimes had magical abilities. In some darker fairy tales of the period, gnomes led humans to their demise by tricking them.

The History of Garden Gnomes

How did these little guys wind up in gardens, you ask? Well, first we have to take a little step back to ancient Rome, where the history of the garden gnome begins.

Garden statues have always been popular. Ancient Romans placed statues of the fertility god Priapus in their gardens, to help the plants grow and flourish. During the Renaissance and the Romantic period, people also placed status in their garden of figures like hunchbacks, which they called “grotesques.” Art influenced these decisions, as people modeled their decor after the culture of the day.

In the 18th century, people began adding small gnome-like figures made of wood or porcelain inside their homes. They referred to these figures as “gnomes,” inspired by fairy tales. In Germany, the fairy tales further inspired the production of the statues, as people conflated the myths and folklore with the figurines.

Because the traditional gnome lived in a forest and was associated with the Earth, people began putting the gnomes in their gardens as well. The appearance of garden gnomes varied by region depending on that region’s folklore, so the gnomes sometimes appeared jolly, or older and more human depending on the region. Around this time, garden gnomes took off in Europe and were primarily found in the gardens of the wealthy as a symbol of fashion and status.

In 1847, Lord Charles Isham brought 21 terracotta garden gnomes to his home in Northamptonshire to be featured in the garden. Only one of the gnomes, nicknamed Lampy, survives to this day and is on display at the estate. Isham effectively brought gnomes to England and made them fashionable for the upper classes, a major turning point in garden gnome history.

Sir Frank Crisp owned the second largest collection of garden gnomes in England, and opened his estate up once per week between the years of 1910 and 1919 to the public so people could view his garden and garden gnome collection. As gnome demand grew, manufacturers in Germany flourished. This meant that cheaper options for gnomes were available, and they were also displayed in the gardens of people from all socioeconomic classes.

Garden Gnomes in the 20th Century

The aftermath of World War I was particularly hard on Germany, whose garden gnome manufacturers were met with little demand for ceramic figurines and had very little resources. Garden gnome popularity greatly declined at this time, but the history of garden gnomes wasn’t over yet.

Some garden gnome manufacturers recovered in the 1930s after the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. They found that there was newly renewed interest in garden gnomes, and the appearance of the garden gnomes was “Disneyfied” to reflect the cartoon-like innocence of the animated dwarves. However, the garden gnome industry declined again during and after World War II, as time and resources were devoted to the war effort.

In the 1970s, gnome-makers began producing novelty gnomes, and modeled them after politicians, celebrities, or other popular figures. Gnomes were mass-produced, cheap and readily available. Since they were so cheap and since they were produced in jokey form, they lost a lot of the artistic and whimsical reputation they once had.

In the 1990s, garden gnomes re-captured public attention when a group of pranksters in France, called the Garden Gnome Liberation Front, gained fame for stealing gnomes, taking them traveling, and sending pictures back to the owners, or simply taking the gnomes and leaving them in allegedly funny situations for people to find. Often, the garden gnomes are given signs claiming that they wanted freedom, or that they had other motives for “escaping.”

Some thieves returned the gnomes, and others collected large groups and then set them up in scenes in public spaces. The goal of the GLF was to “free” the gnomes, but many owners of these gnomes were incredibly upset that their gnomes disappeared. Some unofficial gnome liberation groups still operate, though the original group in France was caught and fined.

Gnomes in Pop Culture

Yard gnomes have appeared in popular culture regularly over the past few decades, though they don’t necessarily decorate gardens the way they once did.

The World of David cartoon aired on Nick Jr. in the 1980s and featured a gnome named David who lived in the forest. The Goosebumps series featured a gnome as a villain in both the book and show, which is a possible pre-requisite to the zombie and horror gnomes that we still see today.

Travelocity also used a gnome in their ad campaign starting in the early 2000s, as the gnome traveled the world. This was shortly after their height of the garden gnome liberation thefts, all of which personified the gnomes, showing them with voices and personalities, and going on adventures. This friendly attitude toward garden gnomes had always been there, but the more human the gnomes became, the more actual humans became attached to them.

German artist Otto Horl displayed an art installation of 1,250 garden gnomes posing in Nazi salutes in 2009. Though controversial, this did further the viewpoint of lawn gnomes being personified and having a purpose, names, etc.

Halloween gnome costumes became popular as people dressed up as gnomes and crossed into other depictions and themes, like Gnome Chomsky, modeled after linguist and philosopher, Noam Chomsky. The Netflix series Trollhunters even includes a character named Gnome Chompsky.

Making a costume out of a gnome version of something became popular, and helped repopularize novelty gnomes for a time. The animated movie Gnomeo and Juliet was a take on the classic Romeo and Juliet, and incorporated many Gnome-themes like forests and gardens into the lives of the gnome families.

The Great Garden Gnome Debate

Despite their early history as exclusive decorations for the wealthy and powerful, garden gnomes today rarely have the same status and are sometimes even viewed as “tacky.” The Chelsea Flower Show famously banned gnomes until 2013, and permitting them at the show was considered a highly controversial move since it “degraded” the gardens. However, those who complained about the lawn gnomes received significant backlash, and were accused of being snobbish, since garden gnomes are common in middle and working class homes.

This debate has been going on for most of the history of garden gnomes, which is part of why gnomes gained and lost popularity repeatedly throughout the years. Also, due to their humanoid appearance, garden gnomes seem to be a target for humans to want to put them in funny situations, like in Travelocity’s ad campaign. Funny videos of gnomes doing human activities like “directing traffic” can sometimes go viral.

Today, gnomes are known for being funny rather than dignified. There are still serious collectors of garden gnomes, but they aren’t necessarily serious gardeners—hence the view of some gardeners that gnomes are a novelty, not a garden piece. Ultimately, it’s up to an individual to decide if they want to include a garden gnome in their home. Some people today make elaborate “fairy gardens” and create a whimsical space in which to place their gnomes. Others add a gnome for a humorous touch.

Garden gnomes, however, you feel about them, have long been a part of gardening culture. While gnomes may never have a totally secure place in gardens, they are clearly here to stay and hopefully looking forward to the next step in their colorful lives.

What’s Next?

Looking for more fun history? Check out these true stories about David Ghantt and Aleister Crowley, and this post on 1920’s Fashion.

If you are looking for exciting, unique ideas for your next research paper, check out our list of 113 Great Research Paper Topics, and 113 Persuasive Essay Topics. You can read our narrative essay and argumentative essay examples!

Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article! About the Author

Carrie holds a Bachelors in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College, and is currently pursuing an MFA. She worked in book publishing for several years, and believes that books can open up new worlds. She loves reading, the outdoors, and learning about new things.

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The History of Gnomes – Gnomania

CULTURE | July 3, 2019

Scene from Gnome King and the fairy of the silver mine, at the Queen’s Theatre, London, United Kingdom. The Illustrated London News, volume LIV, January 2, 1869. Source: (Getty Image #935341336 De Agostini Collection)

Typical gnomes are those little stone garden people always hanging around in people’s gardens. They are usually colorful with white beards, puffy cheeks, and wearing a dunce cap. Gnomes are depicted in the Wizard of Oz, Narnia, and Middle Earth in various forms.

Gnomes in England. Source: (Wikipedia)

History

In actuality, these garden people first appeared on the scene in the 1800s but they looked much different than what you see today. They were first produced in Germany and were made out of clay. In the 1840s, they became popular in the gardens of England. They became increasingly popular and, as a result, were mass-produced in Germany in the 1870s reaching worldwide popularity with the help of August Heissner as well as Philipp Griebel who were manufacturers of these gnomes.

Leprechaun. Source: (aransweatersdirect.com)

Mythological Creatures

According to mythology, gnomes lived underground and were considered to be guardians over treasure such as gold. The name “gnome” is a Latin word that means “earth-dweller.” Gnomes are referred to as leprechauns in Ireland, hobs in England, and various other names in other countries. Sometimes they would be mischievous and “moon” people among other such antics. In contrast to the way they look today, they were small, ugly creatures.

Hermit Homes. Source: (internationaltimes.it)

Human Gnomes

In the 18th Century, a traditional practice of the wealthy in England was to show off their wealth by having human gnomes in their gardens. They hired people called garden or ornamental hermits who would be entertaining to their guests. Francis of Paola was the first one of these “human” gnomes who had lived in caves in Southern Italy during the 15th century. These English elites would build a small hut or grotto to place at the end of their garden for them to live in and have certain items placed nearby such as a Bible or classical book, an hourglass, and/or other such items.

The hermits had to abide by strict rules upon being hired. They had to have the right attire such as a druid-like costume, were not to wash, cut their hair or beard, or leave the garden area while they were under assignment to them. Some were not allowed to speak to anyone such as guests or servants and was like a statue. Others actually did want them to speak as a way to entertain their guests. Because of these rigid rules, many of them ran away. Later, many of these human hermits were replaced with robotic type ones until eventually garden gnomes became popular more like what is seen today.

Kidnapped Gnomes. Source: (commons.wikimedia.org)

Gnome-snatching

A practice began that started out to be harmless pranks by family or friends that would “kidnap” the gnomes. The gnome-nappers would take pictures at various places with the gnome while on a trip and then later return the gnome “unharmed” to the owner along with a photo album of all of the pictures they took. Later, this “game” went to another level. The “gnome-nappers” would not just take the gnome but leave a ransom note in its place and it was no longer just family and friends but strangers doing this. Then groups called Gnome Liberation Groups started popping up where they felt the need to liberate the gnomes from their “gardens,” thus taking them; but, rather than returning them to their owners, would leave them in forests or parks as that would be their more natural habitats.

Garden Gnomes. Source: (commons.wikimedia.org)

Modern Day Garden Gnomes

The reasoning behind garden gnomes is that they are said to help protect the garden at night which is when the gnomes supposedly come alive. According to legend, they loved the darkness because of having lived underground for so long, and when exposed to the light, they were turned to stone. Others also believe that they bring good luck and good fortune for not only their gardens but also for their livestock.

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Gnome

A Nisse (gnome) hiding behind a toadstool.

The gnome is a class of legendary creatures throughout Europe and, by cultural transfer, in the United States that has taken on many different meanings, but most generally refers to very small people, often men, that live in dark places, especially underground, in the depths of forests, or more recently in gardens. Most European ethnic groups have had some kind of gnome legends with local variations. Modern traditions portray gnomes as small, old men wearing pointed hats and living in forests and gardens.

Despite varying forms, gnomes have the common attribute of being able to move through the earth as easily as humans move atop it. Paracelsus, a sixteenth century Swiss alchemist identified gnomes as a class of nature spirits comprising earth elementals (in contrast to the air, water, and fire elementals). The class of gnomes has been considered to include satyrs, pans, dryads, elves, brownies, and goblins, some helping plants and animals, some helping humans, some reclusive ones staying underground or in dark forests, perhaps hoarding treasure, and others interacting mischievously or even harmfully with humans.

The garden gnome, first appearing in Germany, has appeared in gardens in many parts of the world and achieved an iconic status in popular culture.

Etymology

The word gnome is derived from the New Latin, gnomus. It is often claimed to descend from the Greek gnosis (“knowledge,”) but more likely comes from genomos “earth-dweller.”

Description

The depiction of gnomes has changed quite often over the years and remained different in different cultures. Originally many of them were conceived of as ugly, ground dwelling creatures that were less humanoid than the gnomes of today. In fact, they were more akin to small goblins and disfigured faeries, and acted more like animals than human beings. In contrast, modern sources often depict gnomes as diminutive, stout humanoids who wear tall, pointed conical caps and dress in solid colors such as blue, red, or green; in this depiction, the male gnome always has a long white beard. They have the intelligence of a human (are sometimes thought to be wiser), and have human-like personalities.

While their appearances may differ, the older and newer traditions do share a similar belief in gnomes’ capabilities: They are said to move as easily through the earth as humans walk upon it, and the sun’s rays turn them into stone. They are incredibly strong and fast, and said to possess almost supernatural abilities in the manipulation of natural material (although they also are said to fiercely guard against any unnecessary damage to the earth and wildlife).

Origin

Gnomes first appeared in the oral tradition of Northern European folklore, and so it is difficult to pinpoint their exact origins. Gnomes share many characteristics with the Norse dwarves, so much so that it is suggested that at a time in Scandinavian tradition, the two were actually interchangeable. At some point, however, a split between gnomes and dwarves occurred. It is not clear if this happened before or after dwarves were assimilated into Dutch and German tradition. What is known is that the modern day depiction of gnomes is more Dutch than Scandinavian. Thus, it is speculated that Dutch tradition created gnomes as they are known today out of Norse dwarves, and from there gnome belief spread to Germany and back into Scandinavia.

In the sixteenth century, the Swiss alchemist Paracelsus popularized the gnome when he declared them to be the most important of the elemental spirits. In his view, gnomes represented the earth, specifically stone and minerals, and possessed the supernatural energies associated within these materials.

Cultural variants

Like many creatures based in oral tradition, every culture that incorporates gnomes views the creatures somewhat differently. Below are descriptions of the most common gnome traditions found in Europe.

Scandinavia

A tomtenisse made of wood. A common Scandinavian Christmas decoration.

The traditional word for gnomes in the Scandinavian culture is Tomte which was originally coined by Saint Birgitta of Sweden in the 1300s. They are also known as Nisse in Norway and Denmark. Gnomes are believed to live for 400 years, are industrious, kind, and wise. Family is important to them, and they almost always merry. Female gnomes give birth only once, usually to twins. They always live in rural areas, sometimes even on (or below) farms, and will give advice to farmers. They are seen as guardians of nature and animals. Although they are kind to humans, gnomes are still very secretive; they never allow humans to know the location of their burrows, never teach non-gnomes their language, and appear only when they want to.

In more recent times, gnomes have been said to be the helpers of Santa Claus, and in Scandinavia, Christmas images usually depict gnomes in the role that elves play in other parts of the Western world.

Germany

Rübezahl, Moritz von Schwind, 1859.

Often featured in Germanic fairy tales, including those by the Brothers Grimm, the German gnome often resembles a gnarled old man, living deep underground, who guards buried treasure. Because of this, Swiss bankers are sometimes disparagingly referred to as the “Gnomes of Zürich.” Individual gnomes are not very often detailed or featured as characters in stories, but in Germanic folklore, Rübezahl, the lord over the underworld, was sometimes referred to as a mountain gnome.

Germany made gnomes famous in the mid-1800s with the first production of the garden gnome in the town of Gräfenroda in Thuringia, by Phillip Griebel. Griebel made terracotta animals as decorations and created the gnome based on local myths as a way for people to enjoy the stories of the gnomes’ willingness to help in the garden at night. Gnome manufacture spread across Germany, with numerous large and small manufacturers appearing, each one having its own particular design.

Netherlands

Kabouter King Kyrië in Hoogeloon, the Netherlands.

Kabouter is the Dutch word for gnome. In Dutch mythology and Dutch folklore, kabouters are tiny men who live underground or else are household spirits helping in the home. They are generally shy of humans. The males have long, full beards (unlike dwarves, who do not always have full beards) and wear tall, pointed red hats. In the Legend of the Wooden Shoes, an old Dutch folktale, the kabouter teaches the Dutch man how to make wooden shoes.

The Dutch illustrator Rien Poortvliet played an important part in Kabouter lore with the publication of Leven en werken van de Kabouter (“Lives and Works of the Gnome”) written by Wil Huygen, later translated into English and published as Gnomes.

Garden gnomes

Typical German garden gnome. A replica of Lampy the Lamport gnome.

After the first garden gnome was produced in Germany by Phillip Griebel, the practice quickly spread across all of Germany and into France and England, wherever gardening was a serious hobby. Griebel’s descendants still make them and are the last of the German producers, all others having moved production to Poland or China.

Traditional garden gnomes are made from a terracotta clay slurry poured into molds. The gnome is removed from the mold, allowed to dry, and then fired in a kiln until it is hard. Once cooled the gnome is painted to the level of detail desired and sent off to do his work in someone’s garden. More modern gnomes are made from resins and similar materials.

Garden gnomes have become a popular accessory in many gardens. In certain locale, however, the garden gnomes have become the target of pranks: People have been known to return garden gnomes “to the wild,” notably France’s Front de Liberation des Nains de Jardins and Italy’s MALAG (Garden Gnome Liberation Front). Some kidnapped garden gnomes have been sent on trips around the world.

A sub-culture exists among those who collect garden gnomes, which is frequently lampooned in popular culture.

Gnomes have become controversial in serious gardening circles in the United Kingdom, and are banned from the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show as the organizers claim that they detract from the garden designs. Gnome enthusiasts accuse the organizers of snobbery because gnome figures are popular in working class and suburban gardens.

Gnomes in popular culture

Gnomes show up in many books and tales in popular culture. L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, Ozma of Oz, all featured gnomes (called “nomes”). Legendary author J. R. R. Tolkien used the word “gnome” in his early work, The Book of Lost Tales, for the people later called the Noldor (part of his High Elves). However, he dropped the term in his published works, since he found the gnomes of folklore to be so unlike his High Elves as to confuse his readers.

Some of the most famous works regarding gnomes are Gnomes and Secrets of the Gnomes by Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet. They are illustrated fictional guidebooks to the mythical creatures, and resulted in the animated series, The World of David the Gnome. Originally written in Dutch, these books depict the Kabouters (Dutch gnomes) as a wise, noble, and civilized race whose natural enemies are the trolls, due to their contrasting natures.

In some role-playing games, including RuneScape, Dungeons & Dragons, EverQuest, Horizons: Empire of Istaria, and World of Warcraft, gnomes are featured as a short race of humanoids, closely related to dwarves, exceptionally adept at tinkering and mechanics. They and their allies often have technologies not normally found in fantasy settings, such as firearms or robot-like automata.

Notes

All links retrieved June 23, 2017.

  • History of garden gnomes with pictures showing how they are made

Credits

New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:

  • Gnome history
  • Kabouter history

The history of this article since it was imported to New World Encyclopedia:

  • History of “Gnome”

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What is a Gnome?

A Gnome is a small creature with an affinity for the earth. In old legends, these little men were miners who lived underground. Today, they have come out of their tunnels to help humans tend to their gardens.

Characteristics

Physical Description

Thanks to the garden gnome industry, you probably have an automatic idea of what a “gnome” looks like. Gnomes are small men with short arms and legs and round cheeks and bellies. They have light skin and white beards, large noses and friendly smiles that make their cheeks puff out. To complete their charming, earthy look, Gnomes wear bright colored tunics, usually green, yellow, or blue, with a wide belt and contrasting leggings. And, of course, a Gnome is never fully dressed without his dunce-cap, which is usually bright red.

This iconic image of Gnomes has been around since the 1800s, but if you do a little digging, you’ll unearth the Gnome’s original look. It’s quite different! The original Gnome was a small, ugly creature who lived underground. A wild being, he paid little attention to hygiene, and he certainly didn’t wear the colorful tailored clothes that Gnomes today are so fond of!

Personality

The very first written account of Gnomes describes them as “very reluctant to interact with humans,” which could explain why they liked to live in burrows underground. The Gnome’s elusive nature has lasted throughout the ages. Even the cute and cuddly gnomes of today have a reputation for being shy, which is why they are often found peeking out from behind plants, with a bashful grin.

Ancient Gnomes, who lived underground, were often associated with mines and wealth. They were thought to be the guardians of golden treasure, and they had great wisdom, not only about mining the earth, but also about managing money in general. Advice from a Gnome could make any man rich.

Today, Gnomes have surfaced from their mines, and they can be found wandering woodland areas or hiding out in old gardens. Their days in the mines taught them to be hard-working and responsible, so they can still take on a “guardian” role in their forest or garden, protecting their territory and helping out when possible.

Of course, Gnomes have also become more light-hearted since they emerged from their dark mines. Many of them have developed mischievous streaks, and they enjoy popping out of unexpected places or playing silly pranks—like dropping their britches in public!

Special Abilities

Gnomes have a special connection to the earth. In fact, they were once considered “earth elementals,” meaning that they could travel through earth as easily as humans travel through air. To this day, they are believed to enrich garden soil, making vegetables and flowers flourish.

Some Gnomes are capable of speech, while others are not. The Gnomes who do speak are known to be clever with jokes and riddles.

Cultural Representation

History

Gnomes were first introduced by Paracelsus, a 16th century alchemist who believed that these little creatures were earth elementals. For the next three centuries, Gnomes continued to be underground, so to speak. They were mostly discussed by alchemists and obscure mythological scholars.

During the 19th century, Gnomes began to creep into the public awareness. At first, they were used as the opposite of fairies—ugly, earthy, and backwards creatures, where fairies were beautiful, ethereal, and graceful. But, by the end of the 19th century, the public had embraced Gnomes. They appeared as quaint, helpful creatures in children’s stories, and Garden gnomes were already being mass produced to delight adults.

Modern Appearances

Despite its slow and obscure beginning, the Gnome has become a staple in modern fantasy. These little creatures pop up in Oz as underground businessman; in Narnia as underground slaves; in Tolkein’s Middle Earth as talented miners of gemstones, and in JK Rowling’s wizarding world as common garden pests.

Gnome Controversy

With their bright colors and affable smiles, Gnomes might seem like the least likely mythical creature to spark a debate. In fact, these little men are a flashpoint for several controversies!

First, they have been banned from several gardening competitions, since they are considered inelegant and childish. The backlash has been huge, with Gnome-supporters accusing the gardeners of being snobbish and classist.

Second, they are often “gnome-napped” from gardens. Originally, gnome-nappings were committed by friends of the family who owned the gnome. The gnome-napper would then travel with the gnome, taking pictures of it in various locations before returning it with a photo album of its “vacation photos.” In recent years, gnome-napping has escaladed. Strangers have begun abducting Gnomes, which has led to charges of breaking-and-entering and theft. Organized “gnome liberation groups” have even sprung up around the world. Gnomes who are taken by the liberators are never returned to their homes. Instead, they are “released” into their natural habitat, usually a forest or park.

    • Garden gnomes are those statues you see of pint sized chubby human-like creatures usually wearing red hats and blue pants. You can find them in a variety of poses and pursuing various past times such as fishing, napping, or in the case of my personal gnome, smoking a pipe. Garden gnomes are typically male and have beards but you see the occasional female gnome statue these days.

      While it took longer to catch on in the United States, garden statuary has been popular in European countries since at least the Renaissance. Saints, gods and mythical creatures were among the early figures depicted, and one character called Gobbi, which is Italian for “dwarf” or “hunchback”, starting in the early 1600s.

      From there, references of “House Dwarves” are found in the late 1700s. These statues were made of porcelain and produced continuously through the 19th Century. It is believed the dwarves morphed into gnomes and moved from the house to the garden when Baehr and Maresch out of Dresden, Germany started producing their own take on the dwarves around 1841.

      Sir Charles Isham was also a key figure in the spreading of the gnome, when he introduced gnomes to the United Kingdom by bringing 21 of the terracotta figures home with him from a trip to Germany around 1847 and placed them in the garden of his home. (Amazingly, one of those original gnomes is still around. Lampy, as the statue is called, is on display at Isham’s home, Lamport Hall.)

      Within a couple decades of Sir Isham’s trip, garden gnomes began being strongly associated with Gräfenroda, Germany, a region famous for its ceramics. The two biggest players in the industry there were August Heissner and Philip Griebel (with the Griebel company still producing the gnomes to this day).

      Griebel originally specialized in decorative terracotta animals but branched out to produce gnomes based on existing local myths about the creatures. These legendary magic using gnomes were said to be earth elementals (hence their placement in gardens) who lived underground in the daylight where they guarded their treasures, and would emerge at night. If they were caught out in daylight, they’d turn to stone, which of course lends itself to the idea of the garden gnome statues.

      Thanks largely to Heissner and Griebel’s designs, the garden gnome’s popularity quickly spread across Germany and Europe and then the world.

      Besides just sticking the Gnomes in a garden, another modern Gnome “tradition” has recently popped up- Gnome-napping. Essentially, you steal someone’s garden gnome, then take it on a trip or other sort of adventure while taking lots of pictures of what the gnome’s been up to on its journey and send them back to the owner. If you choose, when you’re done, you return the gnome to where it started. This practice seems to have started in the 1980s in Australia, but saw a huge upswing in popularity thanks to the 5 time Academy Award nominated 2001 film Amelie where this is depicted.

      If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

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      Bonus Fact:

      • Popular or not, garden gnomes and their owners have faced persecution through the years. In 2006, the Royal Horticulture Society of Britain banned the use of “brightly colored creatures” in landscaping for the Chelsea Flower Show, considered to be the gardening world’s equivalent to the Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, the ban applied to gnomes. Show organizers claim the decorations detract from garden designs, but gnome supporters say it’s a case of snobbery because the gnomes are popular and common in the gardens of working class people.

      Expand for References

      What Are Garden Gnomes: Uses For Garden Gnomes In The Landscape

      Garden whimsy is a common theme in landscapes and captured by the addition of statues and other works of folk art. One of the most time honored representations of this theme is through the use of garden gnomes. The history of garden gnomes is long and storied, rooted in folklore and superstition. Their rise in modern popularity can be explained by taking a look at traditional garden gnome information and their historical use and genesis. These little garden guards are both silly and important from a perspective of the past.

      What are Garden Gnomes?

      Garden gnomes are one of the perennial delights common to home landscapes. These small statuettes have been around for centuries and have a rich heritage in European gardens. What are garden gnomes? Garden gnomes are effigies of small squat little men with snowy beards and red pointed caps. They are endlessly charming and serve as garden mascots. The early history of uses for garden gnomes are rooted in legendary tales of living gnomes.

      If you spy a little man less than a foot tall who is wearing outdated clothing, a red cap almost taller than the man, and a full white beard, you are probably looking at a garden gnome. The first gnomes as we know them today were created by Phillip Griebel in the 1800’s. However, the gnomes were also making appearances as early as

      the 1600’s, but their appearance was quite different, less whimsical and more totemic.

      Griebel’s sculptures were made of terra cotta and appealed to the people of Germany in that period, since gnome myths abounded at the time. Before long, gnomes were being manufactured by many countries and spreading though out Europe. An interesting bit of garden gnome information is the number of names for the statue. Each region and country has come up with a different name for the gnomes which corresponds to its historical mythology.

      Garden Gnomes Facts

      Gnomes were a common mystical creature who represented the earth element. They were thought to be stout little nature dwelling creatures who were either mischievous or helpful, depending upon the lore.

      Many stories said that gnomes could move through the soil and only went about during the night since they would be turned into stone in the light of day. The little statuettes we use today likely originated from this part of the story. The history of garden gnomes indicates that the name comes from ‘genomus,’ meaning ‘earth dweller.’ This supports the traditional tales of the gnomes being helpers in the garden, who awake at night and assist with landscape chores.

      One of the oldest known garden gnomes is “Lumpy,” which was once in the gardens of Sir Charles Isham in 1847. While the garden gnome was treasured for a time in Europe, it began to have a bit of trouble in the late 1800’s. In fact, professional horticultural societies denounced the practice of using the brightly colored statues in gardens.

      Uses for Garden Gnomes

      There are numerous uses for garden gnomes in the garden.

      • Place the gnome near a water feature where he can reflect on the sound and sights of the moving water.
      • Put your gnome near the patio, partially hidden by a bush or cluster of flowers, so he can enjoy family activities. You can even stand your gnome sentry at the front steps.
      • The best way to use a garden gnome is in a natural setting, where he can be hidden enough to surprise and delight a meandering visitor to your garden.

      However you choose to use your garden gnome, be warned. There are those who might see the use of the statue as slavery and choose to “liberate” your gnome. These liberators may also be up to some mischief since the practice of stealing gnomes and then taking their picture at sites of note to send back to the owner has become a popular prank.

      So pick the location of your garden gnome carefully, both to keep him safe and to add a delightful surprise to your landscape.

      How The Tradition Of Putting A Gnome In Your Garden Began

      Flickr/Spencer T. Garden gnomes are those statues you see of pint sized chubby human-like creatures usually wearing red hats and blue pants.
      You can find them in a variety of poses and pursuing various past times such as fishing, napping, or in the case of my personal gnome, smoking a pipe.
      Garden gnomes are typically male and have beards but you see the occasional female gnome statue these days.

      While it took longer to catch on in the United States, garden statuary has been popular in European countries since at least the Renaissance. Saints, gods and mythical creatures were among the early figures depicted, and one character called Gobbi, which is Italian for “dwarf” or “hunchback”, starting in the early 1600s.

      From there, references of “House Dwarves” are found in the late 1700s. These statues were made of porcelain and produced continuously through the 19th Century. It is believed the dwarves morphed into gnomes and moved from the house to the garden when Baehr and Maresch out of Dresden, Germany started producing their own take on the dwarves around 1841.

      Sir Charles Isham was also a key figure in the spreading of the gnome, when he introduced gnomes to the United Kingdom by bringing 21 of the terracotta figures home with him from a trip to Germany around 1847 and placed them in the garden of his home. (Amazingly, one of those original gnomes is still around. Lampy, as the statue is called, is on display at Isham’s home, Lamport Hall.)

      Within a couple decades of Sir Isham’s trip, garden gnomes began being strongly associated with Gräfenroda, Germany, a region famous for its ceramics. The two biggest players in the industry there were August Heissner and Philip Griebel (with the Griebel company still producing the gnomes to this day).

      Griebel originally specialized in decorative terracotta animals but branched out to produce gnomes based on existing local myths about the creatures. These legendary magic using gnomes were said to be earth elementals (hence their placement in gardens) who lived underground in the daylight where they guarded their treasures, and would emerge at night. If they were caught out in daylight, they’d turn to stone, which of course lends itself to the idea of the garden gnome statues.

      Thanks largely to Heissner and Griebel’s designs, the garden gnome’s popularity quickly spread across Germany and Europe and then the world.

      Besides just sticking the Gnomes in a garden, another modern Gnome “tradition” has recently popped up- Gnome-napping. Essentially, you steal someone’s garden gnome, then take it on a trip or other sort of adventure while taking lots of pictures of what the gnome’s been up to on its journey and send them back to the owner. If you choose, when you’re done, you return the gnome to where it started. This practice seems to have started in the 1980s in Australia, but saw a huge upswing in popularity thanks to the 5 time Academy Award nominated 2001 film Amelie where this is depicted.

      If you liked this article, you might also enjoy:

      • When a Tulip Cost More Than a House
      • How a Wife Beating, Serial Killer Puppet Gave Us the Expression “Pleased as Punch”
      • The Fascinating Origins of the Neck Tie
      • Why the Oscars are Called the Oscars
      • The Story Behind the Morton’s Salt Girl

      What Are Gnomes And How They Can Help You – By Tana Hoy

      By Tana Hoy – May 13th, 2013

      • Share & Enjoy
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      In my continued quest to unravel the mysteries that surround enchanted beings, I am going to provide some insight into ‘what are gnomes’. Sharing this magical knowledge with you about these delightful little creatures will help you understand ‘what are gnomes’, and where they exist.

      Basic Facts About Gnomes

      These fascinating, adaptive beings, look just like you and me, but stand only about6 inches (15 cm.) tall. When confronted by a human, gnomes will stand perfectly still, thereby giving them the appearance of being a statue.

      Gnomes are very hard-working, and are bringers of good luck. They are good-natured, peaceful, and rather jolly. They love glittery things like gems and jewellery, and therefore they are expert jewel craftsmen and gem cutters.

      Gnomes are also known as ‘Earth Spirits’, so they are guardians of the animal world. They tend to sick and injured animals, and will often release a trapped animal from a human’s snare.

      A gnome can live up to 400 years, and they survive on a vegetarian diet. They love to eat nuts, berries, fruit, mushrooms, and vegetables of all kinds. As a treat, they like to drink fermented raspberry juice, spiced gin, and fermented honey, which is also known as mead dew.

      Gnomes are different than fairies. Visit here to learn how to find fairies

      How to Spot a Gnome And What To Look For

      Gnomes are invisible to most humans, except those humans who are gifted with the ability to see them. They are nocturnal in nature, and are rarely seen during the daytime. They do not like to draw attention to their presence, so their shoes are specially designed to leave bird-like footprints. They also wear clothing that helps them into their surroundings.

      The males have long beards, and often wear long, pointed, hats, along with wooden clogs or boots. They have fair complexions with bright, rosy cheeks. The females are recognised by their golden curls that are said to be bright like the sun. The females often wear a blouse, along with a long skirt and an apron.

      The Magical Powers Of Gnomes

      Gnomes have lots of special powers. They can easily speak in animal tongues, allowing them to be able to communicate with all creatures of the forest. They are very fast, and can easily outrun even the quickest animal. They have the eyesight of a hawk, and can spot something miles and miles in the distance. Even though they are really tiny, they can be surprisingly strong.

      Gnomes And Their Homes

      You will find a gnome colony amidst rocky woodlands and hilly meadows. They may live in a cozy, underground nook, or even in the bark of a willow, elm, or oak tree. Gnomes have pantries in their homes, where they store grains, fruit, vegetables, berries, and other things they might need to survive the cold winter.

      The Different Types of Gnomes

      There are several types of gnomes, and here are the more common ones:

      Garden Gnomes

      A garden gnome likes to live among the flowering plants of an old garden. They love to remodel the garden in which they live by moving pots around, or taking seeds from a flower and replanting them in another spot. So if your garden looks a little different from what you remember it to be, don’t be alarmed. It is your garden gnome at work!

      Woodland Or Forest Gnomes

      Woodland or forest gnomes are the most elusive, as they rarely come in contact with human beings. They live in dense forests, acting as guardians of the forest, and the creatures that live in it.

      Dune Gnomes

      Dune gnomes live in the sand dunes of deserts or beaches. They are said to be a little larger in size compared to their other cousins, but just as nimble and spry.

      House Gnomes

      House gnomes live in the nooks and crannies of the homes of human beings. Oot of all of their cousins, they are the most knowledgeable about the ways and customs of humans, and can even speak our language. Gnome kings are chosen from this race, as they have the most information about their greatest enemy – humans.

      Farm Gnomes

      Farm gnomes prefer living in the barns of old farms, taking care of the livestock there. They are rather conservative and quiet.

      Do you need answers? Let me tell you what I see, and give you the information you need to know about your future! Learn more here!

      Though these magical little creatures are rather bashful, a gnome is said to bring immense good fortune to those who chance upon them. So if you continue in your quest to discover more about ‘what are gnomes’, good luck will follow you! The best way to discover what are gnomes is to look for their little signs,and you will quickly find that they are all around you!

      Tags: garden gnomes, gnomes, house gnomes, psychic tana hoy, tana hoy, what are gnomes

      22 Responses

      1. Kris r. says:

        I want to chance upon one of these dear little creatures!

      2. Marc edward says:

        mr. Tana HOy can you see them??

      3. Eleonora says:

        Love it. thank You Tana!!!!
        I make 2 balcony for fairys and gnomes.

      4. James Niles says:

        Hi Tana what a delightful piece of information as on your blogs i learn something new all the time. You are a very outstanding and very informative person. who as so much information to share with people and i admire you very much. Keep up the good work as will always read your blogs as they are a credit to you. Take care and god bless to you from Jamie.

      5. Char says:

        You’re so awesome, thank you for this great article. Have a great night :)))

        • Tana Hoy says:

          Thank you Char! You too!

      6. Rashad says:

        My yard was gmoneless on a wednesday, got 9 inches of snow on thursday, and by sat the snow melted and a gnome (black beard, gold pipe, orange/peach hat with green rings, blue pants, and a yellow coat, sitting on a rock) appeared in between my hedges. Im not much of a religious person, but for some reason i feel that if i were to remove him some repercussions might happen. My questions: can I relocate him? Can I change the color of his attire? What do his colors mean if anything? What should I do with him? Advice would be appreciated thnx in advance.

      7. Diane and Blaire says:

        My Granddaughter, Blaire and I really enjoyed your article and learned a lot. Blaire has four gnomes. Thanks for the information.

      8. Sarah says:

        I have a presentation on gnomes and this helped me so much! thank you!!! 🙂

        • Tana Hoy says:

          You’re very welcome! Hope your presentation goes well!

      9. Kathleen Tedder says:

        I have recently met the Lord of the Gnomes. He came in a dream while I had been suffering two days with a migraine. He said “I am blowing PRANA.” Then he took a deep breath and blew right at my third eye area for a real long time. I could actually feel it. I opened my eyes and for a few seconds I could see him. Wow. I got up and told my boyfriend that I just met the Lord of the Gnomes. But remarkably my 2 day headaches went away within an hour. I have since seen them in the Forest near my home. I walk and look everyday…. Thank you.

        • Tana Hoy says:

          What an amazing experience!!

      10. Kissy says:

        Hi there,

        I went for a walk last night and sat with a beautiful tree near my home… As I intened to connect with the Earth element. Before I went to bed, I meditated and had a vision of a male gnome with 2 bouquets of flowers on each hand with a broom under his arm on his side… I noticed his pants were yellow and his hat resembled a mushroom… His beard was white and long… He was walking across a tree.
        Thank you for the article. It’s so nice to know the meaning of my vision.

        • Tana Hoy says:

          Thank you for sharing this with us, Kissy.

      11. Stacy says:

        When I was a small child I saw a gnome standing at my bedroom door. I wasnt frightened at all. I was in bed. I just kept looking at him and he kept looking at me. In the morning I told my brothers that Santa claus was standing at my door but he was little. That sure. I now know it was a gnome.

      12. James G. says:

        On 12-09-18 While hunting for elk in a remote area. I was looking on a edge of a hill. Where I cansee the river down below this steep mtn. As I was glassing the mtn ridge for elk I didn’t see anything & decided to walk back to the truck. I noticed this little man gnome looking at me smiling. His hat was a dark blue and his body was grayish color. It disappear when the wind picked up. I walked passed where he was at and noticed a rock shape bowl laying in the middle of the road with a small pebble or something small in it. I didn’t want to pick it up knowing it not mine & belong to them. I thank you for this information. It helped me understand more about them…

      13. Susan Bersani says:

        Yes I found your writings very useful., and informative.
        My sister and I both had the wonderful experience of seeing gnomes in our old farm house on cape Cod Massachusetts when we were young. The only came late at night and would stand near the bedroom door entrance and look at us while we were in bed. Sometimes I would wake to see them at the end of my bed pulling on my covers.
        I never felt scared or odd. They were very playful. They disappeared as quickly as they came and didnt stay long. I feel so lucky to have seen and experienced this.

      14. Billee says:

        A kin of mine said years ago when he was like 4 or 5 years old as he and his father would take him to the forest to walk, around for excersise, that at one point the child needed to urinate so the dad points in the direction an says go over there to urinate since no one else was there but them two, and as the child walks alone to that point to urinate he says he saw these statue like figures a lot of them all around him looking at him but they wouldn’t move and they all had pointy hats, at the time he said he thought somebody put them there and thought to himself why would somebody plant statues here. He didn’t tell his father what he saw until a few years later….

      15. Beth Wilder says:

        About 15 years ago, I was alone in the house, just sitting in my rocking chair (which happened to be a big, heavy platform rocking chair). As I rocked backwards, I felt something hit the back of the chair really hard about a foot and a half off the ground, and whatever it was caused the chair to go forward, knocking me out of it.
        I immediately ran to the back of the chair to see what happened, and I saw the back of a little man dressed in an olive green cap and clothes that had leaves on them, running down the hall, and he disappeared as he ran through the closed closet door at the end of it.
        He was so cute — I will never forget his little elbows moving up and down as he ran so fast. I know he was just playing with me.

      16. Danielle Summers says:

        I saw a gnome but then he disappeared and I questioned my sanity. I saw a gnome moon me in my third eye. I thought it was funny. There is someone in my apartment complex who has a gnome statue by on their apartment porch. When I walk by the statue I smile and before I noticed it was there I sensed gnome spirits around the corner from that apartment. I want a life long gnome friend spirit guide!

      17. Snow White says:

        So I was being hunted by bad men some call me Snow White. I only saw the 7 I nomes once. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one . I was hiding in the redwood forest. The knowers apparently thought it best if I stay there because they did something to my cars engine then stayed a while nearby then ran away. The next day the car didn’t run. So I decided to keep hiding I think it was for the best as I survived . Thank you knowers. I’d say I’d like to see them again but I have many other creatures helping me. And I have Jesus and his Arch Angels but they do exist in the realm of the elves and unicorns

      18. Rosie says:

        I remember when I was little, we had a nosey neighbor living next to us at our old house. As a result, my parents set up a security system, complete with a few cameras. One night, my mother and I were checking the tapes to see if our neighbor had trespassed again and that’s when we saw it. A little figure, walking around in circles behind our fence. It was small, had a pointed hat or head and swayed in a side to side motion as it walked. It was stout and very very small. It was daylight on the camera and it wasn’t hard to see something clearly walking around on little feet. It sort of patrolled the fence for a bit before shuffling off into a shrub and we never did see it again. My mother has since gotten rid of the tape thinking it was bad luck but I’ll never forget it. Even being grainy footage from the early 2000s I’ll never forget that strange little gnome just strutting around our fence.

      The Curious History and Mythology of Garden Gnomes

      The History & Mythology Of Garden Gnomes is more interesting than you might think

      In many neighborhoods – the world over, it’s quite common to walk past a well manicured garden and see cute little figurines commonly known as garden gnomes. Gnomes often resemble dwarf-like statues with beards and red pointy hats.

      Dwarf-like statues have been made popular by movies like Disney’s Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs which is a timeless classic – that tells the story of a beautiful young woman who hides out in a forest with seven dwarfs to escape the “Wicked Queen”.

      Here is the history and mythology of garden gnomes…some mystical, and some a little strange.

      Gnomes Became Popular In Germany In The 1800’s

      In the mid-1,600’s some small dwarf-like statues began appearing in Europe. They weren’t like the Gnomes that appeared later, but they are considered the inspiration of what was to later become known as garden Gnomes. The Germans were where the pointed little hats and long beards became the norm and now nearly all of them have at least those two features, plus little pipes as well.

      When they first started showing up in the 1800’s in Germany, they were called “Gnomen-Figuren” which translates to miniature figurines in English, which is probably how they became known as Gnomes. They were very popular in neighboring France, especially among the elite class that loved to have large gardens, decorated fully with small ponds, bird baths, figurines, small bridges, and fountains.

      They often employed several full-time gardeners just to care for their huge gardens. Then the popularity spread to England where not only people with expensive gardens loved them, but many commoners bought them and placed them around their front yards for decorations and for good luck. Germany is thought to have the most of these little creatures per-capita with an estimated population of more than 25 million. However, even though they are most popular there, their production is mostly done in neighboring Poland, and more recently, in China.

      What Do Gnomes Do at Night

      There Are Pranksters World Wide That Steal Gnomes And Release Them Back Into The Wild

      It started in France where the Gnomes are believed mythical and thought to come alive at night, and that’s when they work tirelessly in the garden where they stay. They were also believed to help protect the garden and the garden’s owners home from evil spells.

      In France a secret underground group was formed called the “Garden Gnome Liberation Front” and their sole purpose was to free as many gnomes from the slavery of working in gardens every night. So they would kidnap the little statues and take them into the forests to set them free.

      Other times they would take the small statues on trips, sometimes internationally, and take photos of them with various well known landmarks in the background. These photos would then be posted online for all to see. This practice is called “Gnoming” and has become more popular as social media has made its way into every computer and iPhone.

      Before Facebook, the pranksters would commonly take the photos, print them up, and then mail them to the previous owners. A lot more work than posting online for sure. These pranks became so common that they even made national news in the US several times during the 1990’s. There are Gnome parades throughout the world in various countries, you can find one near you with a simple internet search for your nearest parade.

      Some Of Elite Society Look Down on Garden Gnomes

      England 1847, Sir Charles Isham, the 10th Baronet of Lamport was an avid lover of Gnomes he went to great lengths to bring 21 of these terracotta figures back from Germany to decorate his rockery garden. They were an instant hit, and people came from far and wide to see his little garden friends.

      However, his two daughters thought the small statues to be unfit for display in a palatial estate. So they eventually eliminated all of Sir Charles’ statutes except for one lonely guy nicknamed “Lampy” who was left in a hidden part of the garden for many decades.

      At a later date he was discovered and given a crown declaring him the oldest known Gnome in the world. Then more of his friends were brought into the garden to keep him company.

      Another unfortunate example of gnome ‘haters’ are The Royal Horticultural Society of Britain. This world-renowned garden charity has banned gnomes from the Chelsea Flower Show for many years. They’ve used words like unsightly, tacky, tasteless, and unsophisticated to describe them in their literature. For lovers of these decorative ornaments, this kind of snobbery is considered equally tacky they don’t hesitate to point it out whenever they see it.

      The German Origin of Garden Gnomes Made Them Very Unpopular During WWI and WWII

      Due to the horrible atrocities that happened during the first and second world wars, many of them emanating from Germany, Gnomes quickly fell out of favor in most of Europe. Many people took their little statues inside and stashed them away to keep them safe from angry neighbors.

      However, after the war, people began to slowly bring them back out and put them on display like before. With re-release of The Snow White movie every few years, the gnomes eventually came back into style and were popular again. Now, since the movie is available on DVD and digital format, the story of Snow White can be enjoyed by all generations.

      Gnomes are also more popular now with working class people. Some of these individuals have amassed collections that range from anywhere from tens to thousands of gnomes. One of these collectors, an Austrian woman has been collecting her gnomes for over 25 years.

      Garden Gnomes Are Traditionally Bearded Males

      There are very few females in the genre, they are almost exclusively males, with white, thick, curly beards, and red pointed hats. Many of them have small pipes, but a few have other items they carry such as shovels, picks, axes, fishing poles, and a variety of other things.

      They also come in a lot of different poses, usually relaxed, but not always. Some are laid back, while fishing, napping, or just smoking their pipes. There are lots of them that are just standing and grinning as well.

      How Are Garden Gnomes Made?

      Traditionally their manufacturing process is usually involving very runny clay that is poured into molds. Once it has begun to harden, the mold is stood up so that the sill runny interior can run out. Then the remaining shell is put into the kiln to be fired until very hard. After it has had a chance to cool, then it can be painted, many times by hand.

      Today, a lot of the statues are made of plastics that are injection molded in huge factories. These are usually painted by machines and sold cheaply in large stores. There are also a variety of new styles coming out such as the biker model, the hunter, skateboarder, bicycle rider, and dozens of others to make gifts to match every type of popular hobby imaginable.

      What Kind of Gnome Should You Get

      If you’re looking at decorating your own yard, you can find thousands of different garden gnome images online including websites like Pinterest. There you can also find just as many different ways to use the little statues in different garden poses with tiny ponds, little bridges, tiny homes, small wishing wells, tiny donkeys, sleighs, or little fruit stands for more fun. There is no limit to the number ways you can use these garden ornaments and they are bound to become even more popular with new styles that are hitting the market.

      History of garden gnomes

      Garden gnomes originated as a decoration for wealthy Europeans. However, their popularity in gardens and lawns have spread throughout the western world, among different social classes. Garden gnomes are basically lawn ornaments figurines of small humanoid creatures. Traditionally, they mostly depict male dwarfs wearing red pointy hats. Gnomes typically stand between one and two feet. Recently, miniature gnomes of only a few inches in height have been introduced.

      These statues you come across with resembling a human being are normally used for decoration. They are found in a variety of poses. Although garden gnomes are typically male with beards, you will occasionally come across female garden gnome or girl garden gnomes these days. They are considered good luck symbols when placed in a home compound or garden.

      So, how did it all began?

      The history of garden gnomes dates back in the 16th century during the times of Renaissance. The tradition of putting a gnome in the garden stated a while ago. The traditional garden gnomes were mostly made holding garden tools such as rakes or shovels to help with chores such as sweeping and planting. The current gnomes made of plastic or plaster materials you see today are far different from the original garden gnomes. Most of them today depict sleeping, reading or just relaxing.

      The first garden gnomes were produced in Germany back in the early 1800s. These ones were made using clay. After their first appearance in gardens in England back in 1840, their popularity continued to increase and so far, there are a number of garden gnomes for sale. The big names involved in the manufacturing of these gnomes include Philip Griebel and August Heissner. Actually, Heissner became a popular household name when it came to the gnome facts.

      The production of most garden gnomes in Germany was later affected by world wars. Nevertheless, the plastic gnomes you see today started to be manufactured at the beginning of 1960. These gnomes could still be afforded by few due to their prices but as time went by, companies in the Czech Republic and Poland started making cheaper imitations of the German products. Of course, this came in handy due to its pocket-friendly budget. However, this made them lose respect for some time but they have made a comeback. There are a few manufacturers who are still manufacturing clay and resin gnomes and finishing them by hand. Thus making them different from the processed ones. Therefore, it is possible to get unique garden gnomes in the market.

      Gnomes history may shed more light on why you would want one in your garden. For instance, gnomes were originally thought to provide protection to the buried treasure and minerals in the ground. Interestingly, they are still used today to watch over the livestock or crops in the garden. Generally, placing of garden gnomes in the garden brings that connection to the old world since farmers believed in good luck charm to help their farms to produce more and protect them from pests among other problems.

      Garden gnome history goes back to the mythical history where they were thought to live underground. That is the major reason they were so major in most German fairy tales where they were described as old men who guarded treasures.

      The look of garden gnomes

      Basically, the garden gnomes produced throughout the world have more or less the same look. They usually come with a long, white beard, a red hat, and simple clothes. In the few cases of female gnomes, they come with the same hat and a simple dress but they look more like witches. Gone are the days when getting a variety of gnomes was a challenge. It is now possible to get them in different sizes, consumes and configurations. There are gnomes built-in solar lighting, while others taking baths or mooning onlookers. More so, you can actually opt for funny garden gnomes just to give you a laugh. As much as the current one doesn’t have the traditional intent, as long as they are making you happy they have already served their purpose. Even those people who didn’t like these creatures now have a reason to own one since they come with different tastes.

      The different types of gnomes

      Nowadays, garden gnomes are available in a wide variety of materials. Henceforth, you can buy them according to your garden or preference. If you are not ready to give your gnome maximum attention and maintenance, then the better option should be the ones made of plastic. Why so? Because the collectible gnomes require a lot of care.

      There are people who love antique kinds of stuff. In case you get antique gnome, remember that it is not meant for the garden. There are people who believe that caring for your garden gnome properly will likely bring good luck and goodwill to will. However, this depends on your faith.

      When purchasing a garden gnome, for the first time, there are certain things you should put into consideration. Such things include:

      • Maintenance and care
      • Weather condition
      • Repair options
      • Durability

      If you opt to buy the clay ones, remember to provide them with shelter during the winter season and place them in an environment free of frost. If this is too much to ask for your large garden gnomes, then you can go for Kimmel gnomes. They are made with frost resistant stoneware pottery and they can stand extreme external weather condition. In other words, they require less maintenance.

      Another type of gnomes is stone and concrete gnomes. These ones can easily be damaged by moisture especially during winter seasons. One of the best ways to protect them would be applying concrete or masonry sealant on them so as to protect them from moisture and extreme weather condition. If your gnome is painted, make sure you place it in a dry area away from water and snow. This is important so that the pant doesn’t fade away easily.

      Yard gnomes made of resin material are quite durable and easy to maintain. The material used to make them is a synthetic polymer and it is weather resistant. Resin gnomes are also attractive and they are available at affordable prices.

      Important tip: Make sure you wax your gnome at least once a year. If you do so, they will remain attractive for the longest time possible.

      The best inappropriate garden gnomes

      Have you considered putting a smile on your visitors’ faces as they walk your pathway when they come across crazy inappropriate garden gnomes? This is also a nice way of showing the outside world your personality.

      The inappropriate garden gnomes come in different colors, sizes, shapes, and themes. Below are just a few examples:

      a) The mooning garden gnome

      This is a daring gnome to have in your garden. It is a fun example of a naughty gnome. This is a great way of showing your personality to your first-time visitors. It will also add some adventures to your garden, in a crazy way though. When you have this type of gnome in your garden, be sure it will attract the attention of every visitor who comes to your home. It will also make a great piece of conversation.

      b) Go away gnome

      You can as well opt to buy a gnome that clearly informs the unwanted visitors to go away. This inappropriate gnome will say these words by its angry facial expression. This is a great addition to your garden just to show off your funny side that most people close to you would have never known.

      c) Zombie horror garden gnomes

      You just cannot ignore Zombie garden gnomes! They are creepy and scary, to say the least. They actually represent the horror theme. You can use these horror gnomes to showcase your dark and hilarious humor to the world. They also come in handy when looking for Halloween decoration. You can also place them in your garden if you are a fun of horror movies and shows such as the Walking Dead. They do a commendable job when used as holiday decorations and they know how to do their job well. They will always frighten visitors when they first spot them when they least expect it.

      You should consider placing one in your garden so that all creatures who dare to nibble on your tulips or dig up those radishes to think twice lest they provoke this scary looking guy next to them and hell breaks out. No one on this earth would wish that to happen.

      The best way to celebrate your garden

      After a long season of winter, you ought to welcome spring by celebrating your garden. The simplest way to do this is by placing a celebrating garden gnome. Relaxing in your garden gives you a wonderful feeling. If you made a few additions to it inform of garden gnomes, the outcome will be impressive.

      Funny garden gnomes can also showcase your humorous personality to your visitors as they relax and have a good time in your garden.

      A garden gnome is a perfect addition your garden yearns for. When buying, ensure you consider their durability and the ability to withstand strong outdoor elements such as the sun and rain.

      Things to know before buying a garden gnome

      Investing in a garden gnome is a perfect idea. However, for it to serve better and for the longest, you need to put into consideration certain information such as:

      a) The location you intend to place your gnomes

      First things first, make sure you choose the right location for your yard gnomes. So, which is the best location? The most impressive thing about garden gnomes is that you can place them in different sections of your yard or garden. If you want to be more creative, consider having it somewhere in the bushes hiding and staring at your visitors. If you are going to have a gnome with a sign to welcome your visitors, then you might want to place it near to your entrance or the gardens pathway that leads to your door. The choice is yours. However, placing a gnome under a tree looks more natural.

      b) The number of gnomes to have

      This will entirely depend on the size of your garden or yard. The golden rule here is not to overpopulate the place. If you do, your garden will look unappealing. In fact, it is better to stick on one or two before you consider increasing the number. It is better to plan on how exactly you want your garden or yard to look like so that you don’t end up buying more than you need.

      c) Consider the materials used to make it

      You may want to have a closer look at the materials used so that you can be sure that it will suit your personal needs. In most cases, the location you intend to place your gnomes will dictate the material you gnome you should choose. If you want a long-lasting yard gnome, then choose the ones painted by UV resistant paint. This way, you can be guaranteed that your gnome will last for quite some time.

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      The History and Mythology of Garden Gnomes

      We’ve all seen garden gnomes set out in gardens, but what’s the story behind them? Why did people start setting out statues of these tiny men with beards and pointy red hats?

      Small gnome statues began appearing in Europe in the early 1600s, but the garden or lawn gnomes as we know them appeared in Germany in the mid- to late 1800s. The gnome was used because local myths suggested that underground gnomes came alive at night to work in the garden and protect the gardens from evil sorcery. From Germany, garden gnome popularity quickly spread throughout Europe to France and England, and eventually the statues made their way into gardens in North America.

      Garden Gnome Fun Facts

      • The garden gnome is called “Gartenzwerg” in German, which translates to “garden dwarf.”
      • There are 25 million garden gnomes in Germany today.
        While garden gnome production began in Germany, most are made in Poland or China today.
      • The largest garden gnome in the world sits in Poland and is almost 18 feet tall.
      • Those who reject these figurines in the garden are often seen as garden snobs.
      • “Gnoming” is the practice of stealing garden gnomes as a prank. In France, the “Garden Gnome Liberation Front” would “free” garden gnomes from forced garden labor by sending them back into the wild or by sending them on trips around the world.
      • The traveling gnome prank involves stealing a gnome and photographing it in front of famous places, such as Big Ben in London, and then sending the photographs to the previous owner.
      • Each year at the Inman Park Festival in Atlanta, Georgia, marchers dress up as garden gnomes to try to break the Guinness World Record of the most marching gnomes. Britain currently holds the world record with 478 marching gnomes (as of 2012).
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      Ultimate Guide to Garden Gnomes

      You’ve seen them in many gardens throughout your life…those small, chubby, mischievous-looking outdoor statues posing and pursuing various life activities like fishing, napping or even smoking a pipe. But what do you know about them really? Who are they? What is the history of garden gnomes? And most importantly, why would you want one, or more than one, on your front lawn? In this guide, I will give you answers to all these questions. You will know more about garden gnomes than you ever thought was possible!

      Garden Gnome History

      Garden gnomes (or lawn gnomes) are pint-sized statues of a small, human-like creature (usually male), measuring about 1 -2 feet, typically wearing a tall, pointy, red hat and blue pants. This pointy hat is a sign and source of their magical powers. Dating back to 19th century Germany, a country with a deep interest in all things mythical, these cheery, colorful, and slightly naughty critters, were used look after the garden and protect property during the night, offer good luck and ward off evil. Farmers thought of the gnome as good luck charms, keeping their fields free from all kinds of pests – both the people and bug kind. Garden gnomes are endearing, add a little pizazz and address a connection to the days of yesteryear. Today garden gnomes are still extremely popular and are seen on lawns and gardens all over the world, and it appears this sort of appeal will continue for years to come.

      Though they date back to the 1600’s in Europe, where garden statuary was prevalent especially with the upper class, these statues were brought to the mainstream by a man named Sir Charles Isham who took them from Germany to his English homeland in 1847. He decorated his home and lawn with 21 terra cotta garden gnomes and these statues created a huge sensation in the UK. Unfortunately, only 1 garden statue remains today called “Lampy. It is still on display at Isham’s home, Lampert Hall, and is insured for around 1 million pounds (approximately $1.3). Known as “gartenzwerge” (garden dwarfs in German), they eventually became known as gnomes, meaning “earth dweller”, inspired by the Greek word ‘genomo’.

      Grafenroda, Germany, a region known for its ceramic products, became associated with garden gnomes a few decades after Sir Isham’s voyage. The biggest statue industry players at the time were August Heissner and Philip Griebel , with the latter still providing the service of garden gnomes production today. Initially, Griebel specialized primarily in decorative animal statues made of terracotta, however due to the great local popularity of magical creatures, the company turned to the design and production of garden gnome products instead. The gnomes were thought of as “earth elementals” which is why they are placed in gardens. They lived under the ground during the daylight hours where they looked after their precious treasures and would only come out at night to play. The belief is that if they were caught during the day, they would turn into a stone statue – which is why they are depicted as statues. It is mainly because of Heissman and Griebel’s dedication and customer service to these long-bearded do-gooders that the fascination with them spread throughout the rest of Germany, France and England, where garden was a well-established hobby.

      The world wars did unfortunately stop all production of the garden gnome in Germany which is when the plastic gnome made its first appearance in the 1960’s. This is also when the theme and design of the gnome statue became almost cartoonish in nature. A sign things were changing for these garden statues. The true essence of the gnome was sort of lost, especially when companies in Poland and the Czech Republic began mass producing cheap look-alike items resembling the Germanic gnomes.

      Lucky for all of us garden gnome lovers, there are still manufacturers who address our desire for these items, offering high-end design, both traditional and modern gnomes (at a good price) to remind us why we love these products so much.

      Different Types of Garden Gnomes

      Like everything else, garden gnomes come in a variety of styles, designs and colors, therefore adding life and even amusement to your garden area. The very first garden gnomes produced in Germany were made from clay (later terra cotta) and were somewhat costly, differing greatly from the plastic/plaster ones we see today. The fact that they are produced in more economical materials allows them to have a lower price tag and be more durable than other garden décor. The manufacturing of the clay and terra cotta gnomes from earlier days was long, as it had to be poured into molds and painted– a long process. Once the gnome was removed from the mold, it had to dry and was fired in a kiln until it hardened completely. When it had cooled down, it was carefully painted to the desired level… and sent off on its life journey to service the world.

      Another advantage of plastic over other materials is that it can be easily molded into many shapes – whatever shape you choose. Think about it – you can make these little guys in any form you want. If you are a sports fanatic, you can have one throwing a football, holding a tennis racquet or racing a go-cart. They can be wearing your favorite sports team colors or even be posing with the winning Super Bowl trophy! These days you can even find gnomes in sports bars where football games are shown. What if you are a music enthusiast? Well then, why not a rapper gnome or a cowboy boot and hat-wearing gnome? The gnome world is your oyster…shop away!

      The Many Looks of Garden Gnomes

      Gnomes are generally depicted with long, white beards, red hats and blue pants, or at least simple style clothing. No haute-couture here. Though female garden gnomes were quite rare, they have begun to show up more and more on lawns throughout the years. They are usually seen with long hair, the same style of clothing and hat. Some even say they resemble witches!

      Garden gnomes are always up to something and you can see this by the different poses, colorful costumes, and expressions they are wearing. Whether they are chugging beer, sunbathing, or mooning you (yes, mooning gnomes exist), they will delight you. The design range of the statues varies from classic to kitchy; there is truly something for everyone. And though this differs from the original intent of the outdoor garden gnome, if they make you smile and laugh, they have provided the service they were intended to provide.

      Gnomes in Popular Culture

      A practice that has become a particular tradition in the gnome world is called “gnome – napping”. It involves thieving someone’s gnome, sending it or taking it with you on various trips, all while taking photos, then sending these pictures back to the owner. The thief can either choose to send the gnome back or not….unharmed of course. This trend began back in the mid 80’s in Australia with the first ever known gnome – napping. It then took off with the Academy Award nominated French movie from 2001 called Amelie, where one of the sub-themes follows an internationally travelling gnome. The statue is pictured next to the biggest landmarks in the world having a grand ole time. In 2011, an animation called ‘Gnomeo & Juliet was released which featured garden gnomes playing the parts of Romeo and Juliet of the classic Shakespearean tale, followed by another animated gnome film in 2018, Sherlock Gnomes.

      Most notably however, was the “Roaming Gnome” ad campaign launched by the travel website, Travelocity in 2003, called “Roaming Gnome”. In the ad, a kidnapped gnome travels the world and photos of his international escapades are sent back. There was even a website where you could keep track of his movements.

      In the real world of hard-core gardeners, gnomes have become somewhat disliked because of the viewpoint that they take away from the garden design and are generally gaudy. The gnome paid the ultimate price when it was banned from the famous UK Chelsea Flower Show for a 19 year time span. Gnomophiles (what gnome enthusiasts call themselves) rebelled against this ban accusing the Royal Horticultural Society of arrogance, as garden gnomes are a sign of the working people and suburban gardeners. The ban was lifted in 2013 as a sign of peace and to mark 100 years of the show.

      Tips for Putting in a Garden Gnome

      There are no rules when it comes to putting a garden gnome in your yard or garden. The trick is to forget everything you know about garden etiquette and just embrace the whimsical nature and fun of these sweet little guys.

      When it comes to placement, the options are endless. Gnomes are the best welcomers there are, so place them along garden paths or borders so they can meet and greet guests. Put them near a water fountain so they can enjoy the sounds of trickling water, amongst bushes and flower clusters where they can hide and pop up when your visitor least expects it, or somewhere that is void of plants to fill in any empty space. But don’t fret too much on where to place them as they like to move around.

      If you think gnomes are just for outdoor gardens and yards, you couldn’t be more wrong. They can live anywhere; on patios, porches or even inside your home. They are a wonderful addition to your fireplace, bath or even bedroom. Some have even been spotted sitting securely on tree branches overlooking your home ready to alert you of any invaders. And for those who just can’t shop for just 1 or 2, a gnome collection is the answer. Garden gnomes love company. So fill your cart!

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