The History of Garden Gnomes

Gnome lawn ornaments or garden dwarfs as they are sometimes called may look like a statue of a dwarf but they are not. 

These small figures were originally thought of as a caretaker or good luck symbol for the yard or garden and they are still widely recognized for this role even today. It is believed that they watch protectively over their designated location in the natural location they are set in. Very in tune with nature and its inhabitants these small gnomes were reputed to care for the greenery and small forest creatures nearby them. In the garden they would help to insure the space thrives by helping out with chores such as sowing seeds and watering.

Thought to be temperamental and mischievous early gnome statue antics included pipe smoking and napping but the modern day gnomes seem to get into considerable more trouble than their forefathers before them. It has become quite a game among home owners to collect unusual and mischievous gnome ornaments to add into their outdoor decor.

Because they are considered an elemental creature there is some controversy which exists on domesticating them or in keeping them captive. For this reason gnomes are frequently stolen from homes to be released back into the wild.

They are a lawn ornament with a fairy tale twist. If you look closely at them you can see that the garden gnome ornaments bear a striking resemblance to the dwarfs in Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The gnomes wear the same little peaked hat as Disney's seven dwarfs, are short in stature, and have chubby little cheeks just like the dwarfs. So could it be that the garden gnomes are actually miniature dwarfs who have somehow managed to escape from their fairy tale world?

You can spot chubby little gnomes everywhere in the summer. They abound on lawns and in gardens throughout virtually every town. Garden gnomes are watering flowers, tending vegetable plots, climbing trees, and a few are even mooning me as you drive by.

If the truth is to be told garden gnomes are not dwarfs - they just look like them. Dwarfs are people who are exceptionally short in stature where as gnomes are a race of being all their own.

Gnomes have a human type body, are generally two span high, and are rarely taller than 3 span high (27 inches). Gnomes also have a tendency to live under the ground rather than above it. It is believed that gnomes can travel throughout the under ground just as well as we can move through the air around us.

The earliest mention of Earth dwellers is perhaps with the Greeks who referred to these beings as Genomos. The Greeks believed in sprites, goblins, mermaids, Nymphs, fairies, and many other mystical creatures who they felt inhabited the Earth, air, and sea about them. In the 16th century the Swiss alchemist Paracelsus mentions his underground Earth dweller Gnomus within his teachings. Similar to the Greeks he puts forth the idea that the natural elements of earth, fire, water, and air have beings within them.

History indicates that our modern day image of the traditional garden gnome originated quite some time ago in Germany. These little statues first made their appearance there around 1841 or 1860 depending on which district's claim is the accurate one. But it is interesting to note that a type of garden dwarf was made throughout Europe way back in the early 1600s with Gobbi being the name of a popular hunchback dwarf from Italy.

The word gnome is often spoken in similar terms as a goblin, wingless fairy, or elfin creature might be. Genomos - Gnomus - Gnome different cultures but similar in folklore and appearance. Perhaps it is a spelling error or language barrier that is to account for the difference yet similarity in name for these like creatures. 
Poems and fairy tales help to glorify the image of this underground dweller. In 1937 when Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs hit the silver screen the image of gnomes the world around was cast. Looking into the past you can begin to see how our modern day gnome may have come into being.

Gnomes can be found setting up homes at the base of your backyard trees so if you suspect that they may be living in your yard look there. You may spot a garden gnome exiting his burrow first thing in the morning or in the darkness of late evening when he presumes that your household is fast asleep.

If you wake in the morning to find that your yard gnome has disappeared, there is a strong likelihood that he may have wandered off or one of your neighbours may have felt sorry for him and decided to set him free. I had always thought that when a gnome wanted to travel that he burrowed underground much like a ground hog but I have now heard rumours that they use all manners of transport to arrive at their chosen destination.

Keep your garden creature friendly all year long. Having a few feathered friends visiting can greatly help to improve the atmosphere no matter what the weather is like outside. Their chirps and songs are a delight to hear and a definite mood pick me upper. Come spring and summer their happy sounds can help to encourage you outside to play. When the sun is shining it is definitely time to get outdoors and catch a few of those glorious rays.

In early spring and during the cold winter months the available seed or suet provided in feeders is much appreciated by local and migrating birds. Keep your yard creature friendly and bring a touch of sunshine to those who visit there. I have a multitude of birds visiting my yard but for some reason my gnomes prefer to stay indoors.

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