They descended so quietly most of us—perhaps even you, dear reader—didn’t notice them until they’d saturated the suburban landscape. No lawn, front window or aisle of HomeGoods was safe from their proliferation. We’re talking about the revenge of the gnomes.
Not the stone and ceramic creations that have fluctuated in popularity—to the point of being lampooned, with the invention of lawn ornament-gobbling T-Rexes and cheeky little guys that moon passersby—over the decades. This new, mass-produced iteration on Scandinavian folklore has a cuddlier glow-up; they’re stuffed, with their pointy hats and bushy beards obscuring their faces completely. They have more of a rustic, down-home charm, like something you’d pick up at a craft fair, only now you can find them at basically every major chain, from Walmart to Amazon. Also known as Tomte or Nisse, gnomes have been part of Swedish and Norwegian culture for centuries. So how did this take become so popular stateside as of late?
After feeling stalked by said gnomes—a recent trip to my local HomeGoods, for example, turned up no less than two dozen variations on said gnomes, including their likeness plastered on everything from mixing bowls to bath towels, I did some digging. While their exact origin remains a mystery, there are some key insights I gleaned to explain its meteoric rise over the past five or so years.