A garden gnome has been popular garden accessory since they first appeared in the 1800s. They are considered good luck symbols when placed in the home or garden.
Garden Gnome History
In folklore, gnomes are small, gentle woodland creatures who wear pointy red hats. They work by night and can live to be four hundred years old or more. Garden and house types are the most commonly represented gnomes. According to legend, these helps with chores such as sweeping and planting. This is why many traditional gnome statues hold garden tools such as rakes or shovels or are pushing wheelbarrows. Many statues made today depict them sleeping, reading, or otherwise relaxing.
The first clay versions were made in Germany in the 1800s. The garden gnome became especially popular during the Victorian age and again in the 1930s and 40s. Starting in the 1960s, mass-produced and badly painted plastic gnomes became ubiquitous, causing them to lose respect for a time. But they have made a comeback.
Making a Comeback
Recently, the garden gnome has become something of a pop culture icon, appearing in movies, in ads, and on the Internet. The current popularity might be traced back to the 1997 film, The Full Monty. In the film, a guy is distracted during a job interview when his friends stage a battle with his garden friends outside a window behind his interviewers' heads. In the 2001 film Amelie, the lead character inspires her widowed father to travel by sending his on a world tour.
In Europe especially, kidnapping the characters became a popular practical joke. Shortly after a garden gnome is stolen, the owner begins to receive pictures of him in various places the kidnapper has taken them. A kidnapped statue was the focus of an ad campaign for travel website Travelocity. The "Roaming Gnome" first appeared in late 2003 in a series of ads inspired by the traveling prank. The company initially provided a website called www.whereismygnome.com, to track the movements.
Another satirical website, www.freethegnomes.com, provides information about the Garden Gnome Liberation Front (GGLF). The GGLF calls for an end to oppressive gardening and freedom for garden gnomes everywhere. Sadly, emancipation is sometimes taken too far, with liberators abducting gnomes, photographing them at international landmarks, and sending the pictures home to their former owners with ransom notes. In 2000, to counter the activities of the GGLF, the International Association for the Protection of Garden Gnomes was founded in Switzerland. The group's president has attempted to have legislation passed making the theft a criminal offense.
Garden Gnome Collecting
For some people, collecting becomes a passion. More casual collectors may need just one perfect gnome-- to bring good luck or simply to accent their garden or home. While a garden is the most likely place for a gnome, they are also appropriate indoors. A well-placed statue can add the finishing touch to your fireplace hearth, bedroom, or bath.
There are now many high-quality, attractive versions available. Today's a garden gnome is made of clay, concrete, or poly resin, and is available in a variety of sizes.
The statues range in styles from traditional to kitschy. There are fishing, musical, biker, and patriotic gnomes. There's even a George W. Bush version. Whatever your interests, there's sure to be one to suit you.