The Gnome That Turned Into A Giant BY BARBARA VARRO 1978 Chicago Sun-Times Sun-Times Sun-Times From tiny gnomes, giant product promotions do grow. At least that's what art-book art-book art-book publisher publisher Harry N. Abrams Inc., not known for its wild and crazy ways, discovered when it launched a marketing blitz based on seller Gnomes by Wil Huygen and Poortvliet The spawning of paraphernalia by the book is almost eerie. It's as though the gentle little people who live quietly in the bowels of the earth have turned into competitive capitalists intent on flooding the world with gnomabilia. Some facts about the book and the ness, call it happy hype, that it has generated: The book has been on the best-seller best-seller best-seller list for a year and more than 700,000 copies-of copies-of copies-of the hardcover book priced at $17.50, have been sold. A special Bantam paperback edition, costing $9.95, will be out Feb. 14. Since October, 1977, when "Gnomes" hit the book stores, more than $10 million of gnome-related gnome-related gnome-related items have been sold, thing from baby hats and bottles to posters and hand-painted hand-painted hand-painted porcelain figurines. More than 200 items based on the book are being marketed by the publisher as well as licensees. licensees. A hundred department stores country used a gnome theme for their mas decorations. CBS-TV-Tomorrow CBS-TV-Tomorrow CBS-TV-Tomorrow CBS-TV-Tomorrow CBS-TV-Tomorrow Entertainment will produce a one-hour one-hour one-hour animated Gnomes, written by Ray Bradbury, in ber, 1979. LENA TABORI, Abrams' vice president of special sales, admits that the success of gnomes has exceeded the publisher's expecta tions. "We discovered that we cannot un derestimate the power of the gnomes," she said. "Everything about the book has been remarkable. For instance, It hit the national bestseller lists Just three weeks after it came out, which is unusual for an art book that sells for $17.50." ' She said that Abrams had a hint was on to something big at the 1977 booksell ers convention where "Gnomes" was astically received. "That's when we decided to make a commitment to produce qualitt prod-ucts prod-ucts prod-ucts through our Abrams Art Papers division," she said, "and to make arrangements arrangements with reputable licensees. We knew we were on to something when the book almost sold out that Christmas. Then, instead of slid-ing slid-ing slid-ing off the best-seller best-seller best-seller lists after the Christmas Christmas season, which generally happens with art books, Gnomes remained on the lists." The first item to be produced by Abrams was a 1978 Gnomes calendar at $6.95. More than 400,000 of them were sold within a couple of months. Then came note paper and puzzles and gift wrapping and on to licensed products, products, such as watches and clocks and soap and Christmas tree ornaments. And there is more to come, including dolls with the distinctive distinctive cone-shaped cone-shaped cone-shaped caps, music boxes, sheets and towels and even kitchen accessories accessories drawing on a pun for its name: "gnome on the range." WHY ARE people so turned on by some mythical little people who rubbed noses to greet each other and lived happily to a ripe old age of 400? To get some answers to that question, the publisher went to psychologist Joyce Brothers. According to Tabori, "Brothers "Brothers thinks it's because in times of trouble or depression, people want to be able to relate to someone who says to them, 'There, there, dear,' as the kindly gnomes do. She calls It the 'there, there, dear' syndrome." Another theory offered by others who tried to analyze the phenomenon, said Tabori, is that many people In these hectic modern times feel a need to exercise their fantasies. The book gives those people an opportunity to invest their imaginations into the lives of the gnomes. Tabori herself believes the current fascination fascination with fantasy is a major reason why Gnomes, a book that isn't selling sex or self help, is doing well. "Look at the success of the science fiction movie, 'Star Wars' and the products emanating from It" she said. "And in publishing, gothic romances that take readers back to another time and another world are the strongest selling genre. People obvioulsy are interested In escapism." its best Rien inspired super - busi worth every In the Christ special, Novem that it enthusi SHE MAINTAINS that adults respond to Gnomes because many are still children at heart. "The response is similar to that for J.R.R. Tolkien's hobbits," she said. "People love the gnomes because they are good and they represent a return to nature and the simple pleasures in life. Gnomes treat others with gentleness and warmth and love. They are hard-working hard-working hard-working woodworkers. They are conservationists who use solar energy. They don't overpopulate (gnome couples have twins to replace themselves). They are friendly friendly to everyone, including animals." Among the many promotion activities for the book, the one that was the most amusing, Tabori said, was a "gnomenclature contest." Among the puns that are now immortalized on such items as buttons, bookmarks and bumper stickers. Gnome wasn't built in a day. There's no place like gnome. You're gnome-body gnome-body gnome-body till somebody loves you. A city gnome is a metrognome. Jolly fat gnomes who love to eat are gastrognomes. Gnomes avoid drafts lest they catch gnomonia. Commercial hype, of course, but silly fun nonetheless. No one can be sure when gnomania will end, but Abrams already has another book about little people of the netherworld ready to take over. The book Faeries, by Brian Froud and Alan Lee, has been out for a couple of months. Tabori is watching it closely, but at the moment no marketing blitz is planned. "There is quite a difference between gnomes, who are benevolent beings," she said, "and fairies who are primarily malevolent. Whereas Jnomes dealt with the culture of those little people. Faeries deals with legends and lore about strange, enchanted creatures who are mischievous at best and dangerous at worst." SO YOU think Abrams is hung up on little people? Not so, Tabori said. Next September the firm will publish Giant. "It's going to ex plore the myths and legends of the big people, most of whom were viewed as evil, but it seems that there were some good giants." Entrepreneurial types may think there is more gold to be mined from other legendary ' little people. They may be right. Among the categories of mythical wee folk who may represent limitless possibilities for commercial commercial exploitation: Brownies: Shaggy, and sometimes very ugly, creatures (found in Scotland and Wales and the Isle of Man) who generally adopt a household. They've been known to come out of their hiding places at night to complete the chores left unfinished by humans. Dwarfs: Originally in Germany and Scandinavian countries, these are strong and usually bearded beings who mine precious metals. Because of their association with Walt Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," adults and children think of them as appealing appealing tykes. Elves: Ancient fairies in Norse mythology. mythology. The good ones, tailed light elves, danced in the air and on the grass and rested in trees. The bad ones, known as black elvesr lived in the ground and moved through the earth as though it were water. Some were ugly with humpbacks, and they could be dangerous,' causing disease in humans and animals. Gremlins: Troublesome creatures that allegedly caused mechanical difficulties in airplanes. They were supposedly originated by British pilots during World War I, but became became more popular during World War IL Hobgoblins: Mischievous sprites, generally generally with pointed ears, found in the British Isles. One of the most famous hobgoblins is ' William Shakespeare's Puck, In "A Midsummer Midsummer Night's Dream." Leprechauns: Sly, solitary cobblers of , Irish heritage who wear tri-cornered tri-cornered tri-cornered hats (which enable some of them to spin on their heads like tops) and live under leaves or hedges. - Pixies: Urchins with pointed ears who , sometimes take the shape of hedgehogs. Thought to have originated In Dartmoor section section of Cornwall, England. They generally wear bells that can be heard softly tinkling on the moors. Trolls: Scandinavian dwarfs who have an aversion to daylight and live in caves or hills. These mean little creatures with funny faces were around in doll forms during the late '50s and early '60s when they were the rage with college students. '