Scientists have analysed the gnomes of five South Africans, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to study their genetic diversity and health.
The study, published in the magazine Fishing Rod, compared the genes of the Archbishop's garden gnomes with the genes of other ones across the world. 'I am excited by the results', he told the BBC, 'and thanks for getting rid of apartheid for us, without the white British campaigners it would still exist, but you can't expect us to manage to do anything for ourselves here.'
'Anyway, it turns out that one of my gnomes is related to the ancient San gnomes who are traditionally found around the edges of the Kalahari desert. And another has the river fishing gene that comes from the gnomes that used to sit patiently with their rods beside the Zambezi Falls for years on end, without getting a bite.'
And see that one over there with the white beard sitting under that lemon tree? His ancestors are from the B and Q tribes that migrated every Saturday to the Outof town regions to gather tiles and door mats, and to hunt for baarger kjings and kaantaakee freede chaakjens with their children.'
The study found that South African garden gnomes are genetically quite distinct from European, Asian and West African ones. 'Gnomes in South Africa tend to be sunburned white-skinned ones with angry faces and eyes too close together', explained Professor Aardvaark Terrablanche from the Johannesburg University of Siegheiligen, 'so have a very similar genetic thingy to one another. European ones are far more genetically diversified but are generally happy, smiling ones, though the fishing gene is common to all gnomes.'
'Gnomes in England have the unique 'eccentric' gene that has led to gnomes doing all sorts of strange things. You can find Morris dancing and cricket playing ones, and even ones that drink warm ale in the snow. And the Scottish gnomes are very distinctive, red-haired, red-faced, violent-looking angry gnomes with drips attached to whisky bottles above their heads.'
'French gnomes are either angry ones or are shrugging while holding a white flag behind their backs, Italian ones are always stirring pots of food, and Belgian and Austrian ones have been banned by the EU as being potentially dangerous to little children.'
'German gnomes continually try and invade other gnomes' gardens, and Irish ones spend all their time telling one another about a carrot famine that happened 2 thousand years ago, blaming English gnomes for something the Irish ones could easily have prevented if they'd made any effort to. The Norwegian gnomes have the pillaging gene in their makeup and aren't too popular with other gnomes, but all European gnomes are united in hating the German ones.'
Some of the individual gnome genes identified in the San related to the gnomes' lifestyles and diet. 'The Kalahari gnomes are totally malaria resistant', said the professor, 'and they have very high enamel levels in their systems. But all gnomes across the world can survive for years without eating or drinking anything, though the Scottish and Irish ones just drink anything they can anyway for the fun of it.'
Archbishop Tutu said 'It is very interesting, not just for South African gardeners but for gardeners everywhere. The next time your child kicks a football against one of your gnomes you can remind him or her that that gnome's ancestors might have sat on an outside window ledge of the house where Joseph Stalin was born.'
'Though Stalin was later to send millions of gnomes to the Gulag to mine salt, saying 'Well, my Mum's garden gnomes kept looking at me in a funny way. You know, their eyes were following me around the garden, so I realised that all gnomes are capitalist lackeys in the pay of the decadant West and shipped them off to Siberia.' Joe was a good Christian boy, wasn't he? He trained to be a priest, so he must have been a good chap.'
A spokesman for the British gnome civil liberties group BEARD, Mr. Robin Cook MP, pointed out that there is some evidence of crossbreeding between gnomes and humans. 'Just look at me', he said, sitting in his garden beside a pool with a fishing rod in his hands, 'I would like another study about that possibility. As would comedian Andy Hamilton.' Archbishop Tutu added 'Don't step on it!'
Gnomes have, of course, been fictionalised by writer Enid Blyton, though when she wrote her books about them few at the time believed that it was credible to portray garden gnomes as inanimate objects and even toys. Noddy has Big Ears.