They have been in gardens, movies, TV shows, video games, even political campaigns. These human like creatures have mysterious origins, but their popularity doesn’t seem to be letting up. What are they? Where did the come from? Where are they going? Here are some of the questions to answer.
Garden and yard gnomes also known as garden dwarfs are used to decorate the a person’s lawn. They are little figurines of a human-like creature. They are small and usually male. They are known for their red pointy hats. They have been in and out of popularity since the 19th century and have danced in and out of pop culture. Let’s look at the origins behind these notorious creatures invading our lawns and gardens.
Stone statues were made in ancient Rome. They were made to resemble the fertility god, Priapus. This god also happened to protect the plants of the plentiful gardens in Rome. This statues were placed in these gardens. Even though this phenomenon started in Rome, they weren’t actually described until the Renaissance period by Paracelsus, an alchemist from Switzerland. He described them as diminutive. He also claimed they were small and did not like humans. This was during the time when grotesques were placed in wealthy gardens which could have helped garden gnomes begin. It was in the late 1700s that gnome statues were being made of wood and porcelain to be used as decoration. This was popular in Brienz, Switzerland.
From there German folk lores began about the gnomes. They were said to help humans in mines and on farms. A company known as the Dresden Company began stocking these decorations in 1841. Some even say that these were the first real gnomes. From there the dwarf statues spread all over Europe. The garden gnomes were manufactured all over Germany. Their popularity continued until World War I. People were more focused on the war and less on created lawn decorations.
The decline didn’t last long though. The Disney movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. More people were able to purchase the gnomes. Interest died after the movie came out, popularity surged again in the 1970s. These garden gnomes were created to be funny and get a laugh out of those who viewed them. In the 1990s, gnomes made the national news. People began stealing gnomes and sending pictures of the gnome to the owner as a joke, then returning the gnome to its rightful lawn. It was known as the traveling gnome.
Funny garden gnomes continue to pop up in movies and other pop culture events today. In 2001, there was a French movie called Amelie that had a subplot revolving around a garden gnome. 2010 brought more gnomes with the video game Fable III which features a collection of gnomes. In 2011, gnomes got their own movie. Gnomeo and Juliet was created to remake the classic Shakespeare play. Each gnomes plays the part of one of the characters in the original play. Garden gnomes have also been found in commercials for the travel website, Travelocity. This gnome also made an appearance on the hit TV show, The Amazing Race. Contestants were given the gnome when they won a leg of the race and a luxury vacation of some sort.
You can even find gnomes in politics. A gnome named, Coolmen was used for the Social Democratic Party of Austria’s campaign in the 2014 regional elections. This election brought international attention from the media because of the gnome, and a rally created around it. 200,000 gnomes with political signs were created. Police were actually called when 400 of them went missing.
Garden gnomes have been a part of history since Ancient Rome and continue to show up in our world today. No matter how many times they fall out of the limelight, the find a way to steal the show right back again. They can be good, bad, mischievous. Whatever they may be, gnomes have proven that they are here to stay in popular culture and the yards of many.
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