Gnomes: Magical Protectors or Guardians of the Garden?

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By: Andrej Jovanovski

The Kind-Hearted Spirits

We’ve all seen the little jolly gnomes that reside in the front yards of many homes, often resembling the dwarves from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Being creatures from European folk, the gnomes are diminutive spirits that usually reside in mines, with an unusual ability to move through solid earth just like fish move through water, they are the protectors of the wealth and treasures.

Throughout their existence, gnomes have been known as good luck charms, as they played a big role when it came to gardening.

An old Swiss myth described the gnomes as one of the four elements of nature spirits, invisible beings that exist among humans. In this myth, the gnomes have magical powers, which they would use during the night where they would come out and help the plants grow.

Protectors of the Mines and Miners

Although they have been portrayed as spirits that help Mother Nature by taking care of the plants, the gnomes were best known for their habitat which were mostly mines.

In there, gnomes would not only protect nature by hiding gold and metal from miners in order to make sure that the resources won’t be over-mined, but they’d also help the miners by warning them of many dangers within the mines.

The way they issued their warnings was by knocking on the mine walls, which gave them the nickname Knockers.

So it’s safe to assume that gnomes are friendly spirits that would never harm us, right?

Well, no. There have been myths where the gnomes would cause harm, misery, injury, and sometimes even death to disrespectful and greedy miners.

Still, this is rarely the case as gnomes only harm people when someone is being really disrespectful and doesn’t stop even after the warnings.

From Mines to Gardens 

At the end of the XVIII century, small statues of dwarves started showing up which were mainly used to decorate houses. However, these statues were really small and made of wood.

What we know now as garden gnomes became popular around the 1840s in Germany and soon spread all throughout Europe.

After the first World War, they made their way to the United States, where they became a staple of gardening.

However, this didn’t last long as their popularity started decreasing until the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released.

This sparked a new interest in garden gnomes, making them resemble the friendly and helpful dwarves of Snow White, which gave them their famous pointy hat.

The gnome hat is one of the most recognizable features of a gnome and it usually comes in three colors.

garden gnomes up close
Garden gnomes

The most famous one is the red gnome hat, being worn by gnomes that have magical powers, which is a hat that is worn when a gnome doesn’t want to be seen.

The green hat is worn by gnomes who spend most of their time in the wilderness helping plants grow.

And the yellow gnome hat is given to a gnome when they are born. This hat is worn all the way till they come of age, which is around their 40th birthday.

The Portrayal of Gnomes in Pop Culture

Gnomes are no strangers to stage light. They have been featured in countless movies, books, and games.

Yet there’s often confusion between gnomes and dwarves, sometimes going to the point where both names are used as synonyms.

However, this shouldn’t be the case, because gnomes are much smaller than the dwarves, and unlike the dwarves that live in the forests and mountains, the gnomes live underground and in mines.

There have been a lot of books that were written about the gnomes, one of the most famous ones are Will Huygen’s Gnomes (1976) and The Secret Book of Gnomes (1984), which show the gnomes living together in harmony.

In The Chronicles of Narnia, the gnomes are often referred to as Earthmen. They live in Underland, a series of caverns, but unlike traditional gnomes, they have a wide variety of physical features.

And of course, almost every MMORPG video game has the gnomes included either as a playable race or as a key component in the story. Such examples are World of Warcraft, Dungeons & Dragons, RYL, Lands of Lore, etc.

One important fantasy franchise that doesn’t have traditional gnomes is Tolkien’s universe, where gnomes are shown to be tall, beautiful, dark-haired, and immortal, often considered to be the most gifted elves. In this universe, the word ”gnome” means “those with knowledge”.

The previously mentioned Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs blurs the lines between a dwarf and a gnome since most garden gnomes look like the dwarves from this movie.

So someone could argue that the dwarves are actually gnomes, especially since they are shown to be miners, something that corresponds with the myth of gnomes more than the myth of dwarves.

So Are the Gnomes Alive?

Although there is no scientific proof that a gnome is alive or let alone that one exists, this hasn’t stopped miners from spreading the myth by sharing their experiences where they have been saved by the gnomes.

Another frequently asked question is the possibility of a garden gnome coming to life. This however is nothing but a story that is told just to scare children.

Garden gnomes are man-made statues that are built just so a gnome might come by the garden and bring the owner good luck since they bring good luck wherever they go.

The existence of gnomes was popularized by the Swiss physician and alchemist Paracelsus, which were described as nature spirits.

Being able to date back their origin helps us in deciding if they actually exist or not.

So the answer is, no. Gnomes do not exist and garden gnomes cannot come to life since they are usually made of clay by a human.

However, one thing that we should point out is that gnomes are awfully shy creatures that rarely want to socialize with humans.

So in the end the possibility of their existence shouldn’t be thrown out so lightly, since this might all be a part of their plan where they want to hide from our attention.


Tommyknockers of the Western Mines,did%20not%20believe%20in%20them , Accessed 27 August 2021
The Fascinating History of Garden Gnomes , Accessed 27 August 2021
Difference Between Gnome and Dwarf,Gnomes%20are%20mythical%20creatures. , Accessed 27 August 2021
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