I was pleased to see that a garden gnome taken from its home 17 months ago has been returned home -- with a fat package of photos showing places it visted around the world. Just as in the movie Amélie and the Travelocity ads.
I'm not sure why I like gnomes so much. I'm generally very picky about garden ornaments. Maybe it's the years I lived in Germany (before gnomes became mass-produced in China). Whatever the reason, they make me smile.
The history of these characters, which are considered Teutonic versions of leprachauns, is a bit murky. They are considered close to the environment, which is, I guess, why they end up in the garden. They either appeared in the early 1800s, mid-19th century, or in the 1870s. We tend to see mostly the cheap ones, but there are many styles.
There are "gnome liberation" sites in several languages. But the most popular prank is stealing a gnome, leaving a note saying it has gone traveling, and then returning it with a record of its journey or sending postcards or notes and photos all along the way.
It's fun reading about it. I suspect that if gnomes were alive, they would enjoy seeing a little of world before returning home to be in charge of a smaller environment.