Sunday Legends-The Beautiful Ones: The Red Gnome of Detroit

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Most of the faerie lore you’re going to find is going to be European, and for good reason-that’s where most of it originated.

However, the States do have their faeries-at least in random isolated pockets. And some of those pockets may not be where one would think to look.

According to urban legend in Detroit, the Red Gnome or the Nain Rouge was first spotted in 1701 when it began to attack settlers. Descriptions from the 1890s describe it as a furry little man wearing boots, and possessing terrible teeth and horns.

What the Gnome is supposed to signify is up to debate, because he is primarily seen at sites of battle, riots, or before natural disasters. This has lead to a double interpretation-he may be warning people to protect them, or he may simply be a warning or harbinger that danger is coming.

He has been spotted as late as 1996 and the city now has a Marche du Nain Rouge to attempt to drive the gnome out of the city. Ostensibly this would protect Detroit from whatever it is that the gnome is warning of. It should be noted that this mentality that the gnome is warning (or creating) of terrible events seems to be a fairly modern addition to the story; the earliest sitings may place him at the site of tragedy but many of them do not actually link him to a fire, major crime, or storm as he would be in later years.

The event is not without controversy, however. There are those that argue the gnome could be native to the region and could be a type of natural protective spirit and that running him off could be doing more harm than good. The gnome does sound like spirits described in pre-existing local legend, or he could have synergized from local and French beliefs regarding hearth spirits and other entities.

Nain Rouge

Le Nain Rouge

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