Where do garden gnomes come from?
November 19, 2019 8:02PM
The exact origin of our modern concept of the garden gnome is somewhat contested, but it has strong German roots.
Garden statues (including lifelike animal sculptures and a well-known figure called gobbi—Italian for dwarf or hunchback) became popular throughout Europe during the Renaissance. German sculptors combined this trend with local fairytales to create Gartenzwerge (garden dwarfs) with the hallmark pointed hats, white beards, and big bellies that we expect in the gnomes that guard our gardens today.
Several different German garden gnome manufacturers claim to be the first, so it's not clear who gets that honor. What is clear is that by the second half of the 19th century, garden gnomes were catching on across Europe.
Slightly off topic, but some historians think the quick adoption of garden gnomes in Britain was partly due to the popularity of "garden hermits" at wealthy estates in the 1700s. Landowners would hire "hermits" to live in shacks on their properties, not bathe, and keep to themselves just for the aesthetic. I would, and I cannot stress this enough, highly recommend looking into them if you’re interested—pretty wild.