Gnome

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A gnome is a mythological / fictional humanoid creature characterized by its extremely small size and subterranean lifestyle.[1] The word gnome is derived from the New Latin gnomus. It is often claimed to descend from the Greek γνώσις gnosis, "knowledge", but more likely comes from genomos "earth-dweller", in which case the omission of e is, as the OED calls it, a blunder.

Paracelsus includes gnomes in his list of elementals, as earth elementals. He describes them as two spans high, and very taciturn.[2] It is possible that Paracelsus simply made the name up. Sometimes they are seen as a type of fairy, though at other times are seen as a distinct species in their own right.

Contents

History

Some confusion arises as the gnome is one of many similar but subtly different creatures in European folklore; mythical creatures such as goblins and dwarves are often represented as gnomes, and vice versa. A fairy tale describes little brownielike creatures called "Heinzelmännchen" as nocturnal helpers for mundane tasks dwelling in the city of Cologne, they may have set the paradigm for the garden gnomes with all their gardening tools. In the Book of Lost Tales by JRR Tolkien a race of Elves (the Noldoli) are also referred to as Gnomes.

Gnomes feature in the legends of many of central, northern and eastern European lands by other names: a kaukis is a Prussian gnome, and barbegazi are gnome-like creatures with big feet in the traditions of France and Switzerland. Further east, tengu are sometimes referred to as winged gnomes.

According to certain medieval beliefs, Gnomes were deformed, usually with a hunchback, and were led by their king, Gob, who ruled with a magic sword.[3]

Today, Gnomes are traditionally thought of as being small, bearded and wearing pointed, colourful, conical hats. They live in natural areas close to the Earth and care for wildlife. They are more benevolent than other folkloric creatures such as goblins. This traditional view is supported in such fictional works as The Secret Book of Gnomes.

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