Garden gnomes he long been part of culture, but do you know where they originate from and when? Here is our guide to all things gnome-related over times gone by:
- Gnomes in Stories
- Modern Garden Gnomes
- How Long do They Live?
- Movies and TV Shows
- Do They Bring Good Luck?
- What do They do at Night?
- What is the Gnome Liberation Front?
- Harry Potter
- Different Types of Figures That you can buy
Gnomes in Stories
They have actually been referred to, often using different names, for hundreds of years. The modern ornament that we place in our gardens these days was originally described as a small creature usually between a few inches and two feet tall. They often featured in stories and myths throughout both Europe and the rest of the world and had the tall, pointy hats that are still associated with them. They could walk around just like humans but it was believed that if they were spotted by them then they would be frozen and turned to stone.
Modern Garden Gnomes
It feels like these lawn ornaments have been around forever as many people have them in their yards but they are a relatively modern invention. They originated in the mid-1800s from Germany and spread throughout the world as influential people discovered them and took them to other countries.
Gnomes are thought to have originated in the United Kingdom after the person credited with their invention, Sir Charles Isham, had been on a trip to Germany and brought 21 terra-cotta figures back. These figures were known as Gartenzwerg in Germany which is translated as garden dwarves. He placed these items around his home’s gardens and thus the first garden gnomes were born.
Lampy and the Original 21 Garden Gnomes
Out of the original 21 ornaments that were brought back from Germany, only one still exists today. Sir Charles Isham’s daughters hated the figures and got rid of them. I’m not sure how he survived, but the other one, Lampy, is still around and resides at Lamport Hall in Northamptonshire, UK. He is thought to be the most valuable (and oldest at over 150 years old) gnome ornament in the world as he was insured for £1 million and has an estimated value of £2 million.
How Long do They Live?
Whilst the average human will not usually live past 100 years old, gnomes are thought to live for 400 years on average. This is, in part, thought to be due to their magical abilities.
Their appearance has changed over the years since Sir Charles Isham brought them to the UK. Initially, they looked more animal-like but over the years their appearance in popular culture has evolved to a point where they are more human-looking. They are intelligent and kind which is highlighted by the fact that they take care of their owner’s gardens and also have a good sense of humor.
When it comes to hobbies, they like to smoke pipes, fish and are known to wear bright colored clothes and hats. They are similar in many ways to creatures created in fictional stories created by Tolkien such as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Possibly due to their magical abilities and maybe also their work-ethic in the garden, gnomes are thought to be very strong and extremely quick. This helps them in their duties and also to hide from humans during the day which is something that they are thought to do.
Some people say that when gnomes are spotted moving by humans that they are then frozen. The figures that are found in yards and gardens are thought by some to be those that were spotted.
In more modern times, the variety of different outfits that they wear has grown dramatically due to the number of people that design and make them these days. This is because of technology and the ease in which the average person can sell them around the world on websites such as Amazon and eBay.
A common theme to use for a gnome design is to base them around a form of popular culture such as something from a TV show or movie. A classic example of this and something which has grown in popularity over the past few years are zombie gnomes. The look of these is particularly striking as they have the various elements of a gnome’s appearance that you would expect such as a hat and beard but they also have strong zombie-like features such as a lack of color in their body and face, all-white eyes and blood dripping all over their body, teeth and hands.
Other trends in modern design of these ornaments include the biker in which, again, they have the traditional features but in this instance they have biker features such as a leather jacket and trousers as well as dark sunglasses and a beer-in-hand.
These types of figures, which mix the traditional style with a more modern theme, have the advantages of being comical and interesting to many people. They can also be produced and sold for a low cost which makes them accessible to almost everyone.
They Often Feature in Movies and TV Shows
Gnomes have been a popular part of modern media such as TV shows and movies due to them being something that everyone has heard of and seen in gardens as well as being fun-looking and their name can rhyme with many other words.
A good example is the movie Sherlock Gnomes which was an animation aimed at young children which, as you may have guessed, was based around the legendary detective character. This did well at the box office in 2018 and shows how relevant gnomes still are to everyone.
They are also Featured in Fortnite
If you have been living under a rock and do not know what Fortnite is, it is quite possibly the most popular video game in the world at the moment with millions of people playing it everyday. It is called ‘battle royale’ game in which players are dropped out of a flying bus (bear with me) and parachute onto an island. From there, they go around exploring the island and collecting items such as weapons and other things which give them points and power-ups.
One of the items that has been featured in Fortnite is the gnome! These ‘Chilly Gnomes’ were part of a weekly challenge in 2019 in which players completed this by finding these gnomes and earning themselves rewards.
Find out more about gnomes in video games here.
Do They Bring Good Luck?
They are indeed thought to bring good luck as well as being protectors of yards and gardens from evil. This was actually their original purpose for being in people’s gardens as well as to provide protection of things that were in the garden such a minerals, plants and currency such as gold and silver.
Items of this nature have often been associated with have a positive affect on those around them. In this case, it is probably a combination of factors such as their appearance, slightly mysterious history (most people, whilst aware of what they are, do not know anything about their history which is why we created this website!) and their association by many people to magic. These factors lead people to think that they are the kind of garden statue that will bring good luck.
What do They do at Night?
They are thought to walk around at night when there are no humans around and do things that the rest of us like to do such as eat, talk and play. They sleep during the day which is why we don’t get to see them walking around. Many people believe that if humans see them then they freeze which is the state that they are in when they are used as ornaments. This has not been confirmed though!
What is the Gnome Liberation Front?
This is a group of people that decided to take gnomes from their owner’s gardens, take them on trips around the world and then send photos of them on their travels back to their owners. This was seen as a sort of practical joke and, whilst it is thought to have started in the 1980s is something that people still do to this day.
They Feature in the Harry Potter Books
Gnomes are known as Gernumblies in the story of everyone’s favorite wizard, Harry Potter. Within the wizard’s world these creatures are quite annoying and destructive which is against the majority view of gnomes which is that they are helpful and kind.
Different Types of Figures That you can buy
Over the years, the range of garden gnomes that people have begun making and selling has increased dramatically, especially due to the improvement of technology which has helped people to sell directly from their homes around the world on platforms such as Amazon and eBay.
As they have been around for such a long time, people have looked for new and diverse ways to put a spin on the traditional ornament. The trademark hat is almost always there, as is the long, white beard, however people have tried to reimagine them by making ones based around famous creatures such as zombies, military based figures, sports teams, dinosaurs and Valentine’s gnomes.
People’s creativity is boundless and it is very impressive what they are creating based on what we know about the gnome figure. Many of these spin-offs are great for adding a lawn figure to your particular lawn that will surprise, delight and, sometimes, make visitors laugh.
Garden Gnomes FAQ
Whilst they make look mischievous, they are not evil but in fact said to bring good luck and protect a home and its garden.
No, they are thought to bring their owners good luck and protect the property. They are thought of as being a relaxing and attractive ornament for owners and their visitors to look at as well as brining a sense of calm.
No, gnomes are a race of diminutive humanlike creatures, the same size as Smurfs and sometimes taller. They typically have pointed ears like elves or goblins but can also come with pointy hats to make them resemble wizards! The Smurfs are actually based on a group of elves that appeared in comic books.
In D&D, The Gnome’s eyesight is better than a hawk, their speed 35 miles per hour and they are seven times stronger than man.
Some people also associate red gnome hats with ancient Mediterranean fisherman folklore in which they would wear red hats at night if they did not wish to be seen (white hats if they did). As gnomes often do not want to be seen as they do not want people to see their magic being used or to know where their homes are, they will usually be seen wearing their red hats.