Anyone who knows anything about garden statues (and Germanic mythology) also knows you can’t mix elves and gnomes, because they just don’t get along – but which ones are better for the holidays?Well, here in the real world you’re an elf person, a gnome person, you mix and match or you just don’t care. But, if we’re to consult the mythology it’s easy to see that, at least when it comes to garden statuary
, there’s only one choice that makes sense.Elves vs. Gnomes: Age & Origin
Historically speaking, both elves and gnomes
are old, but it’s the elves that are really old
. Elf lore is positively medieval, found in the texts of Anglo-Saxon England, medieval Iceland and among ancient Germanic tribes.Gnomes, on the other hand, didn’t crop up until the 16th century when the term was first coined by a Swiss-German Renaissance fancy-pants named Philip von Hohenheim (though he liked to call himself Paracelsus, presumably because it sounded fancy).So, if we’re going by seniority, the elves are winning this thing hands down. BUT, Santa’s elves
didn’t show up in literature until the early 19th century in a little poem you may have heard sometimes called “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”:“…He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself …”Elves vs. Gnomes: Garden Dwellers?
In language, the word “gnome” refers to “earth dwellers” that live underground. In Germanic lore, they’re related to dwarves and similarly protect the fruits of the earth – which is how they ended up in your garden in the first place.Elves, on the other hand, are historically not so benign. Early texts describe them as tricksters and seducers, and having little to do with dirty earthly hobbies (hobbits?) like gardening.So, if we’re going by the book (of legends), elves wouldn’t be the most mythologically* accurate choice for garden statues.*not a real wordWinner: Gnomes
Holidays or not, gardens belong to the gnomes. Or, so the story goes. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t have elves out there mixing it up if that’s your style. As long as you’re having a happy holiday, it’s safe to say your family of garden statues is enjoying it, too.