G is for Gnome

Gnomes are a more recent addition to European folklore. The earliest mentions of them date to the 16th century. Male gnomes wear red pointy caps, have big beards, and usually have a tool belt, which relates to the fact that they’re technologically inclined. Female gnomes tend to wear more muted colors, has her hair in braids, and begins to grow a light beard when she reaches 350 years of age. They are very small in size, usually ranging from 5 inches to 2 feet tall depending on the source. Both genders have a very long lifespan.

German Garden Gnome

Gnomes are considered more human than their more unluckier cousins and fierce rivals, goblins. Both are viewed as a type of a earth spirit, but gnomes are known as inventors and alchemists, while goblins use crude but effective tools. Gnomes also tend to be capable of earth-related magic.

There are several different types of gnomes. Woodland gnomes, Dune gnomes, House gnomes, Farm gnomes, Garden gnomes, and Siberian gnomes. Woodland and Dune gnomes avoid contact with humans. House and Farm are good-natured and more likely to interact with humans. Garden gnomes enjoy living in older gardens and telling depressing stories. The Siberian gnome is meaner and takes revenge for even the smallest of offenses.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • The origin of the word gnome comes from Latin word gēnomos, which means “earth-dweller.” In the 16th Century, a Swiss alchemist named Paracelsus first wrote about gnomus omitting the “ē,” which the OED noted was a blunder. The word as we know it today came about in the early 18th century, but it became popular in the 19th century due to their popularity in children’s fairy tales.
  • In Scandinavian mythology, they’re thought to have always existed but were mostly considered related to other beings, such as fairy or fey.
  • During the 20th century, due to the popularity of 19th century fairy tales, gnomes became synonymous with other domestic spirits, which protected the residence and did household chores, losing their distinctness of being tied to earthy, subterranean lives.

Here’s a fun video from the video game Fable 3, which features a gnome hurling insults at the main character. It’s pretty darn funny.

Who are your favorite Gnomes? What books, movies, or games have you enjoyed with them in it? Has anyone seen the newish movie Gnomeo and Juliet?

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