Perhaps you have seen these little men before, lurking in your neighborhood gardens as well as other yards in your home town. One has been featured in several commercials while others simply tickle your funny bone. Like pink flamingos, garden gnomes are very well known yard decorations that have become increasingly popular over the years.
The garden gnome was first created in Germany in the early 1800s. By 1840, they have reached England at Lamport Hall, the seat of Sir Charles Isham and by 1872, gnomes were manufactured in large numbers. Regarded as good luck charms according to German folklore, gnomes supposedly helped around the home and garden. They often lived in the rafters of barns so they can watch over the animals and crops on farms.
Throughout the years, gnome craftsmen honed their skills and became masters in their craft. In 1989, The Czech Republic decided to produce a few of these creatures when they decided to enter the market. The Griebel gnome factory, located in Germany produced as much as 300 different gnome characters at it’s peak. Original gnomes were depicted as gardeners doing garden tasks. Over the years, the repertoire of gnome tasks has increased to include musicians, fishermen, artists and others. Traditional gnomes are made out of a terra cotta clay slurry, which is poured into molds. After the gnome takes its shape, it is removed from the mold and left to dry and later fired in a kiln until it is hard. Once the gnome is cooled, it is painted in great detail and sent to the stores and sold to customers. Modern gnomes are made from resin and other materials.
Along with the gnomes popularity comes the humor of gnomes as well. Among the most popular of gnome humor is gnoming; where they are kidnapped and returned to the wild. A French organization called the Garden Gnome Liberation Front, is famous for the prank. Other gnome kidnappers have even sent the gnomes on trips around the world and photographing them in their various locations. The traveling gnome prank became the inspiration of a series of commercials for a travel agency. A website, called FreeTheGnomes.com, even provides information on “Garden Gnome Liberation” as well as a calls to action. In their proclamation, they claim “Thousands of Gnomes are enslaved in Gardens across America. For too long we have let our neighbors usurp the rights of these gentle woodland creatures. Join our boycott. Organize a picket demonstration. Write to Congress. Free a Gnome. We’ll show you how.”
Unfortunately, some of it went a little too far when the Garden Gnome Liberation Front decided to steal 20 gnomes from a gnome exhibition in Paris in 2000. In a statement following its weekend strike, the Front’s Paris wing stated “We demand … that garden gnomes are no longer ridiculed and that they be released into their natural habitat.”
A bizarre gnome abduction included a Labrador retriever named Magnum in Fairfax County, Washington D.C. Magnum had been retrieving the figurines from an elderly lady and bringing them home. Another strange abduction took place in an Australian neighborhood where gnomes started disappearing. Months later they were found gathering around the largest gnome in a meeting that was located in a clearing in the bush.
Garden gnomes are very unique creatures that either put a smile on your face, or give you the creeps. Whether you love them, or hate them, garden gnomes are very popular and cheerful additions to gardens around the world.