I’ve been reading Terry Eagleton’s newest book, the wonderfully funny and perceptive, Across the Pond. I’m sure I’ll write about it later. But I wanted to discuss something I learned in it. “Some years ago, there flourished briefly in Britain a Gnomes Liberation Movement, whose project was to abduct ornamental gnomes from people’s gardens and return them to their owners on the payment of a ransom of candy.” That sounded just too charming. It sounds like Halloween, but better. I had to find out more.
Alas, I think that Eagleton is mistaken. I have not found anything so whimsical as gnome for candy hostage taking. But there really is a gnome liberation movement. It started in France in the late 1990s as Le Front pour la Libération des Nains de Jardin. This literally means “Front for the Liberation of Garden Gnomes,” but is generally referred to as the Garden Gnome Liberation Front (GGLF). In one year, they were responsible for 150 gnome rescues. Of course, the “gnome slave industry”-controlled media refer to it as “theft.”
This was followed in 1998 but the Briey mass suicide. One morning, the people of that city woke to find 11 gnomes hanging by their necks off a bridge. Close by was note that read, “When you read these few words we will no longer be part of your selfish world, where we serve merely as pretty decoration.” Many people believe this was not actually a mass suicide, but a staged protest by the GGLF.
Then, in 2000, the GGLF was back. France had its first ever garden gnome exhibition in March of that year in a suburb of Paris. As CNN reported at the time, it was “a hit with the public as chic Parisians develop a taste for kitsch culture.” That’s right: “kitsch culture.” The servitude of gnomes meant nothing to these people!
The movement expanded to Italy where it took the name Movimento Autonomo per la Liberazione delle Anime da Giardino (Independent Movement for the Liberation of Garden Souls) or MALAG. This arm of the GGLF started a Gnome sanctuary in Barga. They wrote, “These intrepid gnomes have found a green wooded valley, far away from all the problems and pollution of modern life and have started to rebuild their lives with their new found freedom.” The group also released a number of photos of abused gnomes in captivity. (Note: these photos may not be suitable for children or other sensitive people.)
And then, in 2008, a “53-year-old Gnome russler” was arrested in Brittany, France for helping 170 Gnomes escape their captors. Of course, the authorities called it “theft.” This seems to have been the end of the civil disobedience actions of the GGLF. Since then, all of the gnome liberation forces have combined under Free the Gnomes who lobby for gnome freedom. For example, when a gnome is found in captivity, activists will send a letter:
I take it as a given that none of my readers hold gnomes captive. But if you know anyone who does, your path should be clear. Stop oppressive gardening. Free the Gnomes!