By Donna Iverson
They are hard to resist, these diminutive colorful figurines of animals and people, especially gnomes.
When you start looking for them, you find them everywhere, in neighbors' gardens, under bushes, in store windows and even at the local farmers' market. They are for sale at garden centers throughout the state. Am guessing, there is a good chance you already have one in your yard
Their appeal is ancient, with a written history dating back to Roman times when people reported seeing "little people" in Western Europe, including Holland and Scandinavia. By 1200 AD, artisans were creating statues of these "little people" out of wood and clay. They measured about 6 inches high and were traditionally of elderly small men, with a white beard and red pointy hat. There were called gnomes and it was believed they lived underground, came out at night and could move at great speed. Female gnomes were also reported along with gnome babies, usually twins. There are rock gnomes, forest gnomes, river gnomes as well as the more traditional garden gnome.
Garden gnomes could be found in colonial America, and became especially popular after WWII around the Great Lakes. Farmers placed them in barns and fields, believing they offered protection to crops and livestock. The 1960s brought plastic gnomes, in the style of Disney, the kind you see most likely to find today in the big box stores.
So what is there enduring appeal? For one thing, they are darn cute. Our fascination with miniature railroads sets and doll houses, extends to the garden. And the gnomes reputation for bringing good luck doesn't hurt.
We aren't the only ones who are charmed by their appeal. Famous writers have incorporated gnomes into their tales, including Tolkien, Lewis, and, you guessed it, JK Rowling in the Harry Potter series Gnomes also appear in the Wizard of Oz, where they are hot tempered and mischievous.
Gnomes have made it into the digital world too. A gnome is a character in Dungeons and Dragons as well as many gaming apps.
Today, if you want your own gnome, the plastic ones are the most widely available. If you want a clay gnome, you will need to search flea markets and antique stores. Wooden ones are the most valuable and the most difficult to get your hands on.
Once you acquire a gnome or two, it is difficult to part with them. Gnomes have been passed on in families for decades. If you are really into gnomes, a gnome festival is held yearly in Boulder, Colorado And it is reported that architect Earl Young has built homes for gnomes in Charlevoix, Michigan.
So , if you don't have one yet, your garden would likely benefit from its presence, if our ancestors belief in their protective qualities has any truth in it.