THE BASEMENT BOOK SHELF: “The Complete Gnomes” by Wil Huygen and Riev Poortvliet

One thing I am very nostalgic about is my youth. One thing that I have very fond memories of was discovering the store The Flaming Cauldron, later called The Troll Shop, in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. I was in awe the first time I went into this store; it was packed with all kinds of weird things; things that I loved!

Everywhere I looked I was in heaven. A display of mounted insects and arachnids. Trolls made of all natural materials from a company called 5 Arts Studio. Gnomes. Faeries. Original, hand-made Cabbage Patch Kids by Xavier Roberts. So much stuff that I had not seen before. I loved the items in this store so much that for Christmas that year, probably 90% of what I got was from this store. One of the things I got was the book “Gnomes,” by Wil Huygen and illustrated by famed artist Rien Poortvliet.

I read this book cover-to-cover over and over again. It was one of the most amazing books I had ever seen. Regardless of your beliefs in the wee folk, this book was very convincing as to the believability of gnomes. A follow-up book came out in 1982 called “Secrets of the Gnomes.” Though I never added this book to my library, many years later I did add the book “The Complete Gnomes,” a combination of the two original books. This is the definitive guide to this very interesting subject.

Every aspect of this book is presented as fact. The artwork, by Rien Poortvliet, is absolutely stunning. Poortvliet, a Dutch painter, prided himself on his illustrations of nature. He saw himself as a storyteller in drawings and even the animated show ARCHER referred to him as a “beloved illustrator of gnomes.”

Poortvliet’s artwork, combined with Wil Huygen’s text, create one of the most interesting field guides ever created. Every aspect of a gnome’s life is covered in extensive detail, both textually and visually.

Gnomes” and “Secrets of the Gnomes” arrived on American shores in 1977 and 1982 respectively and jumped right onto the best seller lists. Scores of readers were immediately enchanted by Poortvliet’s expressive illustrations and Huygen’s delightful text, and of course, by the gnomes themselves. Since then, their combined sales have well exceeded 1.5 million!

Gnomes” is filled with amazing gnome facts and history. In “Secrets of the Gnomes,” Poortvliet and Huygen are turned into gnomes and undertake an action-packed journey from Lapland across the Siberian wilderness, during which they see and diagram ingenious gnome technology, discover how fairy tales first began and are even carried by the Abominable Snowman!

The accolades earned by both titles when originally published immediately established them as classic, timeless favorites. “The Complete Gnomes,” unabridged and in full color, is sure to provide endless enjoyment for people young and old. Human beings can learn from gnomes. How to be kind to others of their kind as well as to animals. They are very unselfish beings always looking out for each other and always there to help, regardless of what needs to be done. This is a great message for the whole world.

The Complete Gnomes” came out in 1994 and from doing a quick search, it looks like these books are still available for sale on Amazon and other dealers. Some copies are demanding collectors’ prices but if you look hard enough, you will find them, much like the gnome itself.

To read other entries in my BASEMENT BOOK SHELF series, please go HERE!

~David Albaugh

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