The news that Robert Zemeckis is set to produce a movie adaptation of the Chuck Sambuchino's book How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack came as a surprise to a lot of people.
Gnomes have been freakified in many horror spectacles - memorably numerous times in Goosebumps - but the true story behind them is more bizarre than anyone could have expected...
Rich people used to have LIVING garden ornaments
The function of this live-in servant was somewhere between a court jester and a resident entertainer. He lived on the premises, and would be called to amuse guests when the host had visitors, reciting poetry and pouring wine.
The man was dressed as a 'druid'
This involved wearing raggedy clothes or animal skins, with strict instructions not to wash or cut their hair or nails during their employment. Unpleasant as this sounds, once their term of service was up - usually a 7-year period - they'd be given enough money so they'd never have to work again.
Many old houses have little huts or caves for this
These little houses or 'hermitages' seem like weird little Hobbit-holes to us now, but it was a fairly common practice among the wealthy, especially in 18th Century England. Gnome historian Gordon Campbell notes:
It was fashionable for wealthy individuals living in 18th century England to hold the notion of a melancholic existence so highly – they would construct a small cottage, excavate a cave or build a contemplative gazebo for their 'hermit.'
Famous men from Hadrian to Pope Pius IV owned one
Yup, totally normal to keep an unwashed, bearded man in a little hut in your garden to entertain guests. Totally normal.
Model Gnomes were a cheaper alternative
This, and the general fading out of the whole Garden Hermit practice, became the modern garden gnome: an inanimate reminder of the peculiar rituals of our ancestors.
No wonder those gnomes are so darn vengeful...