En keboter geit üp reis en nimt med … / A gnome should remember to pack for the trip …

Sassisk

André Efftink holdet en bült van holt, dat hee van boumen syn arbeid van måked hev. Med syn wark seet hy vansülv heyl wat holt, man ouk andre såken. Üp en mål geit hee når süksen boum to, en seken sülvs. Man hee seet noch wat anders dår ouk:

“‘Tot mien verrassing zag ik een kebouter zitten, met een keboutervrienddinnegie derbij. De familie Evers vertelden toen dat dizze kabouter al de heule wereld over reisd har. Vader Evers har van de kinder ooit dizze kabouter kregen, compleet met lampie en zunnecel deran. Hij kreeg een plek in de tuun, zo kunnen ze mooi zien waoras de plek van de dreugmeulen was. Nao een vekaansie was de kabouter verdwenen. Wel kwamen der regelmaotig ansichtkaorten oet de heule wereld, met de groeten van de kabouter. Kaorten oet China, oet Canada. Dat gung zo een jaor lang. Raodselachtig! Tot op een dag de kabouter der opens weer was, met een vriendinnegie.’ De kabouter woont nou in de olke eik en zien hoes wordt goed verzörgd deur de Bomenwacht. Was dit een actie van het Tuinkabouterbevrijdingsfront?”

Leny Hamminga, ‘Een boom is net een schip [Interview med André Efftink],’ in Zinnig 5.2 (2021), s. 19.

Tja, keboters, dwargen, aulken, how of du see ouk nömen wilt, see lyken en eygen wille to hebben. En wille når et reisen öäver heyle wearld hen. Dat hebben wy doch al eyrer seen, dow ik en mål um aulken skreav. Disse aulken gån vurd, dår et kristendum in West-Europa kommen is, en höär könink Ikke-Akke uut de tyd kommen is.

De wünsk up reis to gån kin ik my good indenken. Seakers van tuunkeboters of garddwargen. Dee kyken heyle dag mål uut öäver desülvde tuunde, dat wurdet joa heyl trankyl. Ik meyn, meynsten van uns hebben dat ouk dån tydens corona, en now willen wy doch gaern weader når et uutland to. Sou ouk keboters. Et is good, dat disse keboter dat recht upnömmen hev – en dårby hev e ouk en pudy vünden, al skyr!

Sülv har ik my eyrst van et fenomean van de reisende keboter höyrd, dow ik de film Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain seen har. In disse film gappet Amélie de tuunkeboter van höär va, en en vründ nimt hum med up en reis öäver heyle wearld hen. De ‘keboter’ (man eyglyks disse vründ) skikket ansiktkårten torüch når Amélie höär våder. Amélie håpet, dat höär va up disse wyse inspireard wurdet, um sülv ouk de wearld in to gån.

Good, wat moten wy der um denken? Binnen et wårlik garddwargen, dee sik når andre wearldsteaden vorvuren? Now, meskeen neet. Neavens Brunvald kumt et fenomean vurd uut de studintenwearld van Engeland en Australien vanof 1986. Et idea is, de keboter (of ander gareel in de tuunde) wurdet mednömmen, um låter torüchbracht te wurden med en komisk nåricht (süks as ‘ik bin blyde, weader tohuus to weasen’ of ‘dat was now en gode krogengang!’). Dat hev sik låter untwikkeld når et toskikken van breevkårten uut de heyle wearld, of et medgeaven van en fotoalbum as de keboter torüch kumt (Jan Brunvand, Encyclopedia of Urban Legends: Second Edition (2012), s. 532-533).

Et is wat maklik to seggen dat, med de populärität van de film Amélie, et en bült lüde givt, dee inspireard wurden um andre keboters up wearldreis to stüren. Dat likt et doch neet direkt to weasen. Disse film kwam uut in 2001, en meynste nårichten (uut Nedderland en Düütskland) binnen van end 90. jåren en et vruge 2000. Ney, en direktere link is to vinden in en andre kring: de terrorismuswearld.

Eyglyks sol eyn geyn garddwargen steylen doon, dår see eygendum binnen van de lüde dee de tuun underholden. En grup lykas Front de Libération des Nains de Jardin (up et nedderlansk: het Tuinkabouterbevrijdingsfront) seet dat doch anders. Tuunkeboters binnen weasens, dee recht hebben up en vry leaven, dat see sülv bepålen künt. Niks geyn sklåven van de mensklüden, mål binnen see höär eygen bås! Disse ard gruppen vorsöket, alle garddwargen to bevryden van höär swåre löt.

Now joa, sou noubel is et doch altomål neet. Eyglyks is et eyn groute kuur, doch en wat meyr georganisearde wits. Gruppen van junge lüde (of, in al val, wy denken dat disse lüde benåm jünk binnen) nimmen tuunkeboters med, en låten nårichten achter as ‘et Front zur Befreiung der Gartenzwerge hev dyn leeve garddwarg mednömmen når en ny huus; hyr [up en specifyk adres] kinstu hum torüchkrygen’.  Van mid 90. jåren töt end 2000 binnen disse gruppen wårlik aktyv west (Marc Jacobs, ‘Tuinkabouters in Beweging: Een Bijdrage tot de (Cyber)nanologie’ in Mannen met Baarden: Het Huis van Alijn over de Tuinkabouter (2001), s. 75). Now binnen de meynste websteaden van de Fronten offline, en höyrt eyn der weinig um.

Now kin eyn good denken: wat hev dit alles now med folklore van doon? Folklore geit doch um unwåre såken, um vortellingen um alderhande bisten dee neet bestån, lykas geysten, werwulven, heksen, monsters, en andere unholden? Man disse ard bisten voroursåken alderhande sorten gedrag in mensklüde. Et givt ritualen, dee sükse bisten avweard, dat see neet når et huus of loog kommen. Vansülv kin eyn ouk up sök gån når disse weasens, wat byvübbeld krypto-zoologen doon: see jågen up Bigfoot of et Monster van Loch Ness en sükse såken meyr.

Ouk hyr geit et derum, dat et lüde givt, dee sik med disse ard bisten toholdet. Et standbild, de garddwarg, wurdet behandeld lykas of et wårlik leavet, de wearld umreisd, en alderhande breevkårten toskikket an de lüde, dår as e by in de tuunde vorblyvet. Disse ard såken, wårby vortellingen of folkloreweasens gedrag inspirearen, nömen wy in de folkloristiek ‘ostensioon’. Et låt uns seen, dat folklore noch altyd leavet, dat et nimmer vurd west is – lüde binnen noch immer gangs med keboters, en låten see noch altyd inspirearen döär dåden uut et vorleaden (vöärgangers dee garddwargen vurdnömmen hebben) en döär de mensklikheyd van tuunkeboters. See binnen sou mensklik, dat see seakers up en dag allens up wearldreis gån kinnen. As altyd is folklore neet van et vorleaden, man wat van de eywigheyd, wat dat by mensklüde höyrt lykas dwargen höyrt in de tuunde.

English

André Efftink loves wood so much that he turned trees into his profession. He encounters a lot of wood during his working hours, but also other things. Once he went to such a tree, a sick one even, but there he actually spots something else as well:

“‘To my surprise I saw a gnome sitting there, together with a gnome girlfriend. The Evers family told me then that this gnome had been traveling all around the world. Father Evers once received this gnome from his children, provided with a lantern which is outfitted with a solar panel. He received a spot in the garden, so that the family could see where the Hills Hoist is. After a holiday the gnome had disappeared. But every now and then, post cards would arrive from all over the world, with the best regards from that gnome. Post cards from China, from Canada, and that for a whole year. How strange! Until, one day, the gnome suddenly returned, with a girlfriend.’ The gnome now lives in an old oak and his house is well taken care of by the Tree Watch. Was this perhaps an action by the Gnome Liberation Front?’”

Leny Hamminga, ‘Een boom is net een schip [Interview with André Efftink],’ in Zinnig 5.2 (2021), p. 19.

Well, gnomes, dwarves, aulken, or whatever you would like to call them, they seem to have a will on their own. A wish to travel all across the world. That we have actually seen before, when I wrote about aulken some time ago. These aulken depart when Christianity arrived in western Europe, and when their king Ikke-Akke perished.

The wish to travel is one I can sympathise with. Especially for garden gnomes. They look out over the same garden all day, which becomes quite boring. I mean, most of us have been doing that very same thing during corona, and now we would like to go to different countries again. Gnomes would like that, too. It is good that this gnome seized that right – and found with that a girlfriend as well, great!

I heard first of the phenomenon of the traveling gnome when watching the movie Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain. In this movie, Amélie steals the garden gnome of her dad, and a friend takes him along on a journey all over the world. The ‘gnome’ (but actually that friend) sends post cards back to Amélie’s dad. Amélie hopes that her father will be inspired by this to go out into the world himself.

Alright, but what are we to think about all this? Are there really garden gnomes who travel to other parts of the world? Well, perhaps not. According to Brunvald, this phenomenon arose from student life from England and Australia starting from 1986. The idea is that a gnome (or something else from the garden) will be taken, only to be returned later with a comic message (like ‘I’m happy to be back home’ or ‘that was a good pub crawl!’). This later developed into sending post cards from all around the world, or providing a photo album when the gnome returns (Jan Brunvand, Encyclopedia of Urban Legends: Second Edition (2012), p. 532-533).

It is too easy to say that with the popularity of the movie Amélie a bunch of people got inspired to send off other gnomes one a world trip. That does not seem to be the case. This movie came to theatres in 2001, and most news articles (from the Netherlands and Germany) are from the end of the 90s and the early 2000s. No, a more direct link can be found in another circle: the world of terrorism.

It should be common sense that one should not steal any garden gnome, since they are property of the people who maintain the garden. A group like Front de Libération des Nains de Jardin (in English: the Gnome Liberation Front) would disagree. Garden gnomes are creatures who have a right on a free life, which they can determine by themselves. No longer slaves to humans, now they are their own bosses! These kinds of groups try to liberate all garden gnomes from their sorrowful strive.

Well, all this nobleness might actually be a front. In actuality it is all just one big joke, albeit a more elaborate and organised one. Groups of young people (or, at least we think these people are all youngsters) kidnap garden gnomes, and leave messages like ‘The Gnome Liberation Front has brought your sweet garden gnome to its new home; you can get it back here [on a specific location]’. From the mid-90s up to the end of 2000 these groups have been mainly active (Marc Jacobs, ‘Tuinkabouters in Beweging: Een Bijdrage tot de (Cyber)nanologie’ in Mannen met Baarden: Het Huis van Alijn over de Tuinkabouter (2001), p. 75). Now most websites of these Fronts are offline, and one hardly hears anything about them anymore.

Now one could ask the question: in what way does this all actually concern folklore? Folklore is about stuff that is not true, about stories telling us about all these creatures that do not exist, like ghosts, werewolves, witches, monsters, and other apparitions, right? Well, all these beings do seem to influence people’s behaviour. There are rituals for repelling those beings, keeping them far away from the homestead or the village. Of course there are also people on the hunt for these types of beings, which is the domain of the crypto-zoologists: they hunt for Bigfoot or the Monster of Loch Ness and others of their kind.

The key point here again is that there are people who deal with these kinds of beings. A statue, the garden gnome, is treated as if it is truly alive, truly travels the world, and truly sends home post cards to those people in whose garden he dwells. This type of behaviour, which is inspired by stories or critters of folklore, is what we folklorists call ‘ostension’. It demonstrates to us that folklore is still alive, that it never disappeared – after all, people are still dealing with gnomes, and some get inspired by acts from the past (predecessors who took away garden gnomes) and by the human likeness of garden gnomes. They are just like small people, who might as well pick everything up one day and become globetrotters. Just like always, folklore is not something of the past, but something for eternity, that belongs to people like gnomes belong in the garden.

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