A Gnome by any Other Name…

Garden Gnome with furry assistant: Image via Wikipedia

The garden gnome is a denizen of the quintessential English garden. To describe a gnome, one would say that it is usually a he, so he is a small, often somewhat portly man wearing a pointy hat and possessing a white beard. His occupation is that of gardener – by moonlight – though he is also known to have musical inclinations, especially involving accordions.  Some gnomes have rather bad habits like smoking or exhibitionism. When the sun rises, he returns to the original spot he was placed in the garden and stays as still as gnomely possible, lest the humans around catch him in motion. Humans think he is just a garden ornament but he knows better.

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The garden gnome migrated to England from Germany, where he is still known as a garden dwarf, in 1847 courtesy of Sir Charles Isham. Gnomes, in Germany, originated in Gräfenroda in the 1700s, where there was a ceramics factory. There were many local myths about them and their nocturnal gardening skills so with the aid of Philp Griebel who made terracotta animals; they made the leap solidly into the human realm. About 25 million gnomes still call Germany home in 2011.

Gnomes have pushed their horizons skyward in the last decade or so. The most famous gnome, who left gardening altogether, is the mascot of Travelocity. Lampy, one of the first gnomes brought over by Isham, has a running gig at Isham’s family home, Lamport Hall and is insured for one million pounds sterling. The film Gnomeo and Juliet sees them jump onto celluloid and world-wide consciousness. Their ambition has become boundless.

The gnome has many kin. One is the extremely lewd Greco-Roman fertility god Priapus, who like to frequent gardens in the Classical era. There are also dwarves, elves, brownies, leprechauns, sprites, kobolds, pixies, knockers, tommyknockers, nisse, tomtes, boggarts, bogles, hobgoblins and goblins.

For more gnome photos:

Replica of Lampy: Image via Wikipedia

Gnome garden in the Falklands: Image via Wikipedia

Activist gnome: Image via Wikipedia

Gnome with wanderlust: Image via Wikipedia

Gnomes busy at work and play: Image via Wikipedia

German gnome with pipe: Image via Wikipedia

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