The History and Mythology of Garden Gnomes

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In the charming 2001 French film Amélie, the heroine persuades her father to follow his dream of traveling to foreign lands by stealing his garden gnome, then asking a flight attendant friend to send pictures of it from around the world. In real life, the traveling gnome prank made national news in 2005 when a group of college students took a garden gnome from a property in Redmond, Washington, named him Gnome Severson, and took him on a road trip to California and Nevada. On their journey, they ran into Paris Hilton, who posed with the gnome and People magazine published the picture. Every so often, a garden gnome human interest story pops up again in the news. So why are humans so fascinated with these funny and adorable statues? A brief peek into garden gnome history may hold the answers.

What Are Gnomes?

Gnomes and garden helpers have long played a role in European culture. People believed small human-like beings known as gnomes or dwarves could eliminate evil from the lives of anyone who owned one. Gnomes were thought to possess magical powers to protect or punish people and reward them with happiness and treasures like gold! European magicians and mystics thought gnomes represented the most important fundamental spirits of the earth, water, fire and air elements. Supposedly, gnomes wore conical hats because that allowed them to move through the Earth as easily as humans walk on land.

Gnomes in Folklore and Literature

The Brothers Grimm, most famous for popularizing the traditional folk tales Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel, among others, featured dwarfs in Snow White and The Gnome, a late 19th century series of short stories detailing the gnomes’ malevolent and benevolent character traits. In the highly acclaimed and well-researched 1976 book Gnomes by Wil Huygen, several gnome attributes are characterized. According to the author, they are seven times stronger than humans, live to be around 400-years-old and rub noses to say hello and goodbye.

Garden Gnomes: Then and Now

The first gnome statues in 17th century Europe depicted Gobbi, an Italian hunchback or dwarf. By the late 18th century, porcelain, terracotta clay and wood house gnomes were produced on a wider scale in several European countries. Throughout the 19th century, these little gnomes grew in popularity as house, lawn and garden ornaments. The first mass-produced garden gnomes were made in Germany in the 1870s, with the finest quality figures manufactured by Philipp Griebel and August Heissner. Gnome production in Germany decreased significantly after World War II, with most gnomes manufactured today in China and Poland. At some point, gnomes got a bad rap because they were inexpensively made with cheap materials. Thankfully, Design Toscano has elevated gnome garden statuary back to the glorious art form of yesteryear, with a huge selection of exclusive and unique garden gnomes!

5 Exclusive & Funny Garden Gnomes

Cast for Design Toscano in quality designer stone resin and artistically hand-painted one piece at a time, Gottfried the Gigantic Garden Gnome Statue (AL50726), who stands nearly 4 feet tall, pays homage to the magical legend of giant forest gnomes.

A Design Toscano exclusive, Schlepping the Garden Gnomes Bigfoot (QM16042) depicts a Yeti playing with his four adorable Black Forest gnome friends and is sure to make heads turn – and look absolutely marvelous strolling down your garden path!

With whiskers to his ankles, chubby cheeks and a characteristic red gnome hat, Santa’s devoted gnome helper Whitey the Holiday Gnome (JQ10101) lights Santa’s path and features amazing detail from all angles. Another Design Toscano exclusive, this delightful gnome will add a festive touch to your holiday home.

With his devilish grin and bare rear end, our exclusive Loonie Moonie Gnome (QM22997) will lighten the mood every time you see the cheeky little fellow in your yard!

Embracing the age-old tradition of the helpful garden helper, adorable Edison (QL30314) is ready to serve, lighting up your garden path with his trusty solar lamp!

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