Gnomes used to be very popular garden decorations and they are still used in European cultures. A 2,000 year old Swedish gnome is the oldest one known. Scientific testing proved that it was made of a hardwood that no longer grows.
The new “Gnomes Deluxe Collector’s Edition” explores this and all manner of gnome history, fact and fiction. It is written with humor and beautifully illustrated and even includes two pages of North America and European maps that indicate the areas where gnomes live.
Just so you’ll know when you see one, a male gnome wears a red cap with a peak on top. He has a full beard. His clothing includes a blue smock, brown-green pants and either felt boots or wooden shoes. Rosy red cheeks, grey eyes, laugh lines and a turned up nose complete the picture.
Female gnomes wear gray or a khaki skirt and blouse, and a green pointed cap. Most of them are plump figured and have blond hair.
Gnomes all wear the same distinctive clothing so that birds do not mistake them for food. As they move around, they step carefully to prevent leaving footprints.
Gnomes are smaller than humans but they can run, jump and move better than humans.
In the same way as animals, gnomes sense the world through smell, including types of trees, herbs, water, metals plus human and animal activity. Through their extrasensory perception, gnomes can sense which animals have been nearby, the weather, and natural disasters that are about to occur.
The garden gnomes most of us know about live in old gardens. But there are also Woodland, Dune, House, Farm and Siberian gnomes. Besides gardens, they make their homes in rabbit holes, and under tree roots. Farm gnomes sometimes live under haystacks. All types of gnomes prefer simply constructed homes with necessities such as a boot room, a water well, stove, and furniture.
Marriage becomes a consideration when the male gnome is about 100 years old. All gnome couples have twins.
When the twins turn 13, the father teaches the boys all about mushrooms, how to run and escape, how to whistle, and how to work in the trades such as woodwork and painting.
Girl gnomes learn cooking, spinning and the other home arts such as beeswax candle making. The men and boys make ceramics that are decorated by the girls and women. They also do glassblowing, metal work, carpentry, basket making and cloth making.
Gnomes speak their own language and have little to do with other beings such as elves, goblins, nymphs and fairies. Meddlesome trolls cause problems for most animals and humans but have no power over gnomes.
Gnome medicine is primarily naturopathic. Illnesses and injuries are remedied with herbs, vinegar and sorcery. These treatments must be effective since they live 400 years, even though they smoke a pipe and use mildly alcoholic beverages. They keep track of their age through the growth of an acorn planted on the day of their birth.
Many animals rely on gnomes to provide first aid. They remove ticks, cure cows of puncture wounds, save rabbits from traps, and repair broken limbs. Acupuncture is one of the common techniques used for healing.
Originally published in 1976, “Gnomes” was on the New York Times best seller list for a year. The new version is extensively illustrated with original art. The book is 8 by 12-inches with 224 pages, plus eight prints in a back pocket that are meant to be framed.
“Gnomes Deluxe Collector’s Edition” written by Wil Huygen with art by Rien Poortvliet, was published by Abrams, 2011. $30 from the publisher or $20 online.