The international family of gnomes dates back o the era when the form of the globe consolidated out of Chaos, and the forces responsible for precious and base metals and precious stones implanted them beneath the surface of the earth. Unlike men, gnomes learn from the past and they also have the ability to predict and learn from the future. Their name derives from the Greek word gignosko, meaning 'to learn, understand', and the principal gnome characteristic is an actue understanding of every aspect of the Cosmos.
Gnomes are about twelve centimeters tall and formed in propotion. They resempble the original people of their host country, so that a Beijing gnome is Chinese in appearance, a Hairy Peruvian gnome resembles a native of Peru, and so forth. Apart from their small size, an notable difference between gnomes and humans is their expression of ageless humour. They lack the human facility for worrying, practise therapeutic festivity, and consequently live for several hundred years.
Gnome character is helpful and benign. Gignosko provides them with insigth into the spirits of all animate and inanimate creatures and objects, so that they find it easy to influence and co-operate with trees, tools, animals, plants, and every other creation of the Cosmos and its inhabitants.
Their diet is largely vegetarian, basically cerals and root vegetables, although they consume great quantities of chutney and sausages during their festivities. They brew excellent ale but use it in moderation except in some festivals. Gnomes pioneered many crafts, such as weaving and woodworking, but they have not felt disposed to explorer more complex technologies. They live in simple comfort and avoid the problems of industrialisation.
Their original duty was that of supervising and surveying the mineral treasures of the earth. Each group of family looked after a lode of copper, a vein of gold, a pipe of diamonds, a seam of coal, or some similar resource implanted underground. Each gnome colony lived underground, close to their particular area of responsibility. To facilitate their work they developed the ability to move or 'swim' through the earth.
Their helpful nature inspired them to assist men in discovering natural treasures, in such ways as guiding the feet of prospectors and influencing the science of geology, even though gignosko warned them that men would use their treasures for evil as well as good. But even their gift of prediction, or 'future mining', could not foresee the unending extent of human avarice and its concequences.
As men delved deeper into the earth countless gnomes found themselves displaced. Clumsy miners wrecked the entire colonies and the roar of explosions made live unbareable. Some gnomes turned against the miners, and began a kind of guerrilla warfare by pulling away pitprops, diverting underground streams into adits, and other contrivances. But the majority decided to emigrate to the surface and begin a new existence in the light of day.
The first surface gnomes (unkindly known as 'superficial gnomes' by their underground brethren) emerged into the forests of Britain and Europe at about the time of King Arthur. They found the dimness of the huge forests compatible with their underground nature, and established colonies in the root systems of great trees.
As time passed, their benign character tempted them to aid in human affairs. The little milkmaid weary of her task would find all the milk pails filled before she rose in the morning, the sleeping shepherd awoke to find his flock had been rounded up for him, and many a poor tailor or shoemaker prospered when gnome families worked night shifts in their workshops.
Humans often glimpsed the gnomes but never succeeded in capturing one. Gignosko always keeps gnomes a step ahead of humans and the most cunning of gnome traps never tempted a victim. Eventually humans simply accepted their presence and knew that gnomes would not harm them.
Gnome lifestyle changed yet again when humans felled the forests just as they had looted the earth. Gnomes had to retreat further and further away from the homes of men, and they are now seen only in the few remaining forests of Britain and Europe. In other parts of the world, gnomes have adapted themselves in various ways. Some still try to assist humans by imparting some of their own gift of understanding. A few have turned mischievious, like their cousins the gremlins, and they torment humans with minor but irritating activities. Other gnome families, like the Leprignomes of Ireland and the Hairy Peruvians of South Australia, have travelled as far as Australia in search of new life.