Gnomes are the smallest humanoid species on the Discworld (a fictional flat world created by Terry Pratchett) ranging from four inches (10cm) to 2 feet (61cm) in height. There may be some confusion between the names gnome, goblin, and pictsie, which are more-or-less interchangeable terms for the same creature.
A gnome is a goblin living underground, while a goblin is a gnome coming up for air and a pictsie is a gnome fighting (see Nac Mac Feegle). Although Pratchett has made several connections between the Nac Mac Feegle and the more general gnomes, such as Buggy Swires, there remains a certain ambiguity as to whether they should be considered the same race. It seems that gnomes and the Nac Mac Feegle share a lot of the same characteristics, such as immense strength, bellicose personality and the use of tamed birds as lookouts. In the Discworld Companion, Pratchett describes Wee Mad Arthur, an Ankh Morpork gnome, as an urbanised Nac Mac Feegle, and Paul Kidby's illustration of Buggy Swires in The Art of Discworld is indistinguishable from the pictsies on the cover of The Wee Free Men. However, as yet no gnome has shown evidence of the Nac Mac Feegle's fairy abilities like the crawstep (the ability to cross into dreams and parallel dimensions), or of their bee-like social structure.
Rincewind and Twoflower meet a gnome in The Light Fantastic. Twoflower is disappointed, believing he should be dressed in brightly-coloured clothes and "more sort of... jolly". Rincewind explains: "He's six inches high and lives in a mushroom, of course he's a bloody gnome."
Gnomes (or goblins) are able to make a good living as rat-catchers, because as well as being able to chase the rats into spaces where humans cannot, they can make several good meals, and indeed warm clothes, from a rat. Gnomes also tend to be surprisingly strong for their height, described as "the strength of a man compressed into a body 6 inches tall".
Goblins are also featured in the short story Theatre of Cruelty, in which a children's entertainer forces them to perform as a Punch and Judy show. This story also reveals the existence of goblin dogs and alligators.
The Law of Unequal ReturnsEdit
This is a growing point of contention among the larger races that reside in Ankh-Morpork, detailed in The Discworld Companion. The problem is this: there are many jobs in the city for which a gnome is equally (or in some cases more) competent, such as rat-catching (as detailed above) and watch-making, as their small hands make them ideal for performing intricate work. As money is generally paid for the amount of work done, gnomes are invariably paid the same for doing these jobs as a human or dwarf would. However, as a gnome is much smaller than a human or a dwarf, the money will stretch further. For example, a dollar might buy a loaf of bread. To a human or dwarf, that is two or three meals. To a gnome, the same loaf of bread is food for a week and can also be hollowed out to provide emergency accommodation. This disparate value of earnings is making many of the taller workers in the city angry, but at this point it is not known if any legislation has been or will be passed on the matter, or indeed if the matter has become anything more serious than a grumbling point.