March 24, 2005

The Origin of Garden Gnomes

Here is a little excerpt about the Garden Gnome. And Might I add that I am not a fan of placing them in my yard, but it takes all kinds of people to make the world go round.

"GRAEFENRODA, Germany (AFP) - With his jolly face and little paunch, Reinhard the potter resembles the garden gnomes he produces by the dozen in this little village in Germany where, they say, the phenomenon began.

Reinhard Griebel grew up surrounded by gnomes in Graefenroda, tucked in the forests of the eastern German state of Thuringia.

This village of 3,500 people claims to be the birthplace of "nanus hortorum vulgaris", or the common garden gnome, which local folklore says was dreamed up by a local potter in 1880.

The craftsmen of the village, including Reinhard's great-grandfather, wasted no time in capitalising on the idea and, in the land where the Brothers Grimm created Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the popularity of gnomes spread fast.

"With his red hat, his lantern, his wheelbarrow and his basket on his back, he is the very image of the miners who used to work in this region," Reinhard said.

"He's small enough to worm through the mineshafts and always full of the joys of life."

Germany was in the throes of the industrial revolution and workers on their Sunday off found they liked having a decorative touch to add to the garden where they would sit and relax before returning to the daily grind.

Before long, garden gnomes had conquered all four corners of the world.

For Reinhard, the reign of the gnomes reached a low point in the days when the communist regime in East Germany banned them because they were considered a capitalist symbol, although they were happy to export them to the West in return for hard cash.

Since the mines shut down in this region, gnome manufacture has become the lifeblood of the village. And there is no shortage of work -- Reinhard estimates there are more than 18 million garden gnomes in Germany alone."

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