Greeted by a garden gnome people often grimace in horror and mutter some displeasure while thinking how anyone could anyone have one of those in their back garden. But we’re also told ( from people in the know) that there are approaching four million of them in southern Germany and if you know where to look there’s quite a few in the US aswell.
Well it doesn’t surprise me about the Germans, since the first gnomes graced us with their appearance about 160 years ago. The first logged appearance was in the UK about 1840 in Lamport Hall. According to local myths gnomes are very lucky. It is documented in the 1870’s that manufacture began on a large scale. Apparantly they are meant to help around the house and garden, and in more isolated areas were meant to guard over produce and livestock.
Eventually, the European gnome creators became experts and masters of their work. During it’s most popular period a gnome factory in Griebel, Germany produced over 300 different characters.
In 1989, after the collapse of the iron curtain, savvy businessmen entered the market in the Czech Republic and started to produce cheap imitations of the original characters. At first they were stopped from entering Germany by a law customs officers confiscate those gnomes who were infringing copyright laws.
Unfortunately, it is all now all quite slack on the German border. The grandson of the founder, Reinhard Griebel, now has just one workshop and the gnome museum.
The first gnomes were always characterised as gardeners carrying out daily country tasks, but this grew to fishermen, sportsmen, musicians and many more. Then they started to model ones from people still living out of clay or stoneware.
In North Devon, in the southwest of England, there is a gnome reserve. There are over one thousand pixies and gnomes in the four acre reserve. Gnome fishing equipment and hats are given out so the gnomes feel at ease.
They are others that have a very different opinion about them. FreeTheGnomes.com provides Garden Gnome Liberation information and urges people to take action. They proclaim that “ Thousands of gnomes are enslaved across America. For too long we have let are neighbours usurp the rights of these gentle woodland creatures. Join the boycott. Organise a picket demonstration. Write to congress. Free a gnome. We’ll show you how.”
Some groups have even crossed to the wrong side of the law. In April 2000 the Garden Gnome Liberation Front in a nighttime raid on a Paris convention stole 20 gnomes.
By the way, if you’re thinking of selling your home, a study made in 2003 concluded that a gnome in your front garden would lower the price of your house by about £400.