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Kyrie, the gnome king from the old folklore from the Campine, a region in the Dutch province of North Brabant.

Kabouter is the Dutch word for gnome or leprechaun. In folklore, the Dutch Kabouters are akin to the Irish Leprechaun, Scandinavian Tomte, the English Hob,[1] the Scottish Brownie[2] and the German Klabauter or kobold.[3]

In the folklore of the Low Countries, kabouters are tiny men who live underground or in mushrooms, or spirits who help in the home. The males have long, full beards (unlike dwarves, who are a lot taller and do not always have full beards[citation needed]) and wear tall, pointed red hats. They are generally shy of humans and in stories often punish people for spying on them.

There is a theory that their appearance, little red pointy hats running through the forest, can be attributed to hallucinations from eating mushrooms.[citation needed] Though not associated with narcotics by the general public, they appear in the iconography of smart shops.[citation needed] Another theory connects the gnomes with the sightings of red squirrels.[citation needed]

In the Legend of the Wooden Shoes, an old Dutch folktale, a kabouter teaches a Dutch man how to make piles and how to make wooden shoes.[4]

The Dutch illustrator Rien Poortvliet played an important part in modern Kabouter lore with his publication of Leven en werken van de Kabouter (English title "Live and works of the Gnome"), later translated into English and published as "Gnomes".[5]

In popular culture today, the business Travelocity uses a Rien Poortvliet-style statue of a Kabouter for commercials. They call him the Travelocity Roaming Gnome.

The term kabouter was also adopted by a 1970s hippie movement in Amsterdam that sprang from the Provo movement (see Kabouters). One of its best known representatives is Roel van Duijn.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Oxford history of English lexicography, Volume 1 By Anthony Paul Cowie. Page.275.
  2. ^ Briggs, Katherine M. (1976). A Dictionary of Fairies. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin. p. 339. ISBN 0-14-004753-0. 
  3. ^ Nederlands etymologisch woordenboek by Jan de Vries. Page.905.
  4. ^ Legend of the Wooden Shoes, as retold by William Elliott Griffis in Dutch Fairy Tales For Young Folks. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1918. (English). Available online from SurLaLune Fairy Tales.
  5. ^ (1977) Gnomes, Harry N. Abrams Inc., ISBN 0-8109-0965-0 (20th Anniv.) ISBN 0-8109-5498-2 (30th Anniv.)