Garden gnomes look wonderfully charming in any outdoor space and give your gardens an otherworldly and even whimsical, magical touch. These garden gnomes are available in a multitude of colors, sizes, and shapes, but there lies a dark reality behind their origin.
With their pointy hats and big bushy white beards, gnomes are one of the oldest and most popular surviving garden decorations, but only a few people know why. There have been many conspiracy theories about the origin of gnomes and whether or not they were real people at some point in time.
Whether you love gnomes or find their small painted faces incredibly creepy, you will be sure to enjoy learning more about them and find their story immensely fascinating.
Here Are Some Facts Behind “Are Gnomes Real?”
1. Where Did Gnomes Come From?
Gnomes are thought to have originated from Europe since the legend of the gnome is derived from Northern European tales and traditions. Gnomes have been highly popular in Dutch, Germanic, and Scandinavian fables that have entertained and excited children for centuries.
The first mention of gnomes can be found in 1566 when Paracelsus, a Swiss alchemist, wrote about the beings. Many early descriptions detail gnomes as earth-dwelling creatures who worked hard to protect minerals and the soil.
The original concept of ceramic garden gnomes has been thought to have originated from the United Kingdom. Sir Charles Isham is credited with being the innovator of the garden gnome. He brought 21 Terracotta figures from a visit to Germany and positioned them in the gardens of his house.
These figures made their way into the United States of America and arrived in the North American continent with Christopher Columbus and his companions in 1492. With many flora in the new continent, the gnomes were perfect for green lands and were taken to different areas across the region.
2. Are Gnomes Real? Can You Find Them Today?
Before the ceramic garden gnomes are found today, there used to be a much more somber rendition of the garden gnome who was, in fact, a human. The human chosen for the role was a bearded old man who did not mind living in a secluded area and skipping out on basic personal hygiene care.
The old man was also called the ornamental or decorative hermit. The man wore a stern expression and a robe and was put in charge of guarding flora and fauna of the space. It was a popular trend in Georgian England to hire men to guard their gardens as a way to exhibit their material wealth to the world.
Wealthy individuals asked for expansive and beautiful gardens for their houses. They would want these gardens to show off their riches and the social traditions of the time, such as overt expression of emotions such as melancholy and solitude.
The elite of the era viewed this as an introspective version of melancholy and thought it to be a mark of high intelligence, and loved to associate themselves with it. Many wealthy landowners began to put ads in the newspapers to fill the position of a human gnome.
Ad writers began to seek out men who would willingly live in the gardens for a large span of time (multiple years) and would designate themselves to an existence that seemed wise, mysterious, quiet, and desolate from the outside.
These hermits were only allowed a bible, an hourglass, a hassock, reading glasses, a mat for their feet, water, and food from the house. They were charged with wearing a camlet robe and were not allowed to cut their hair, beard, or under any circumstances.
The job also secluded these men from society as demands from landowners included never to exchange words with other servants or go beyond the grounds of the estate. It was a terrible position, and many men could not continue on for more than a few months or years.
3. What Do Gnomes Look Like?
Aside from the appearance of the real garden gnomes found in the 18th century, there have been mystical and mythical stories about gnomes detailing what they used to be like when they supposedly roamed the Earth. They are supposed to have pointy hats and bushy beards with short stature.
Gnomes are believed to live in a structural family and society. The elder members of the society help the young find food and look for new places to live. These gnomes were also in charge of taking care of the young and entertaining them with stories about their epic adventures and history. The stories told to the younger generations are historical tales that need to be preserved or lessons for the younger gnomes to stay away from mischief.
Gnomes are supposed to be very gentle beings and like to ensure all creatures: animals and humans, remain unharmed. These small creatures carry short knives with them while gathering food to remove splinters from animal paws and protect creatures who cannot fend for themselves. These creatures also carry maps and journals to aid them in their journeys and make notes about their travels for other interested gnomes.
4. How Did Gnomes Become so Popular?
The gnomes with the billy-goat beards have been a popular garden accessory for a long time. The word gnome actually comes from the Latin word “gnomus” or the Greek word “gnosis”. Both of these words have a connection to the ancient Greek words for “earth-dweller” or “knowledge of hidden treasure”. According to traditions, gnomes used to be responsible for many processes of plant life and therefore became important to plenty of Northern European farmers. This was the reason why these garden gnomes became such an important garden ornament in Europe in the mid-1800s.
As the years progressed, garden gnomes became increasingly popular as a must-have garden accessory for gardening enthusiasts throughout Europe and the United States of America.
Garden gnomes have cycled in and out of fashion over the recent years and have developed so much further than the simple and traditional clay style gnomes as they used to be. Nowadays, people can find resin garden gnomes that have been manufactured in China and that have been emblazoned with football brand logos.
Garden gnomes made an iconic entry into pop culture with the highly popular French film Amélie, as the mischievous protagonist sends her neighbor’s garden gnome around the world and delivers pictures and postcards of the gnome’s travels to them. Each picture contains the gnome near classic tourist spots, which leaves the neighbor perplexed as to what happened to their gnome.
5. Do Gnomes Hold Any Special Significance?
Gnomes hold a special significance in some cultures and have mythical links to the four elements such as water, fire, air, and earth. These creatures were known to be as nocturnal protectors of the Earth and have been known to live underground, where they guard their treasures and the plant life. Some people also believe that gnomes could turn to stone if they were exposed to sunlight.
Many people like to collect garden gnomes, and it has been a popular prank for young children to steal garden gnomes from neighbors’ gardens. More strange groups on the internet demand the release and freedom of gnomes from the garden and into their natural wild habitat.
The Italian group called MALAG and the French group called “Garden Gnome Liberation Front” (Front de Liberation des Nains de Jardins) call for returning garden gnomes to nature. At the same time, most places remain neutral to the motion.
Gnomes have also been the focus of many class-divide issues. The Chelsea Flower Show is an extremely famous and prestigious gardening event in England that has pointedly banned garden gnomes.
Organizers of the event believe that the presence of gnomes takes away from the original garden design, which is something working-class gardeners deem highly classist. This action was thought to be snobbery by the high society since garden gnomes are the most popular gardening ornament used by working-class gardeners.
6. Where Are Gnomes Most Popular in the World?
Most folklore and mythical stories about gnomes have originated from European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, France, Iceland, and other Scandinavian countries.
There is a similar mythical creature found in Japanese cultures known as yokai. On the other hand, the Hispanic equivalent of gnomes is called “duendes”, which are small men with large beards and pointed hats.
History of Garden Gnomes – Family Plot
Most cultures worldwide have a mythical creature similar to the gnome. They are earth people associated with soil and plants. Legend holds that if a gnome comes above ground in the light of day, it will turn to stone. The first gnomes were made of terracotta in Germany in the 1800s.
A few of them were brought to England, and English craftsmen started copying the idea. Today, garden gnomes are very popular and known to be caretakers of your garden at night.
Even though the magical and mystical versions of gnomes are definitely not real, a much darker rendition of garden gnomes used to exist sometime in the past. These humans were employed by rich individuals as a means to show off their wealth and were restricted from social exchanges and personal well-being just to follow others’ absurd whims.
Gnomes are still beloved mythical creatures who are thought to be humans’ and animals’ friends as they helped the fauna and flora flourish in lush green spaces. These mysterious beings are thought to live in a fixed societal structure where the elders were in charge of caring for the young ones.
We hope this article answered the question “Are Gnomes Real?” and helped you learn more about them.
I’m Natalie Garcia and I started this website to share my love of trivia, facts and fun knowledge tidbits. We cover things like celebrity gossip, historical facts, tv shows, world leaders and just odd and random fun things. I started this site to have some fun with my hobby and share some useful information with you, our community. Please feel to send me your suggestions and feedback through the contact form. And if you have suggestions for things to write about, please shoot me a message!