Dwarf

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Template:Dablink A dwarf is a short humanoid creature in Norse mythology, fairy tales, sword and sorcery fiction and role-playing games. Dwarves are much like humans, but generally living underground or in mountainous areas. Here they have heaped up countless treasures of gold, silver, and precious stones, and pass their time in fabricating costly armor. They are famed miners and smiths although, like humans, they specialize in any number of trades. Generally shorter than humans, they are on average stockier and hairier, usually sporting full beards. Dwarfish smiths created some of the greatest and most powerful items of power in Norse mythology, such as the chain which bound the Fenris wolf.

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Mythology and folklore

For Norse dwarves specifically, see that article.

Dwarves are also called little Hill-men (Swiss), Earth-men (Härdmandle, pl. Härdmändlene. - Swiss) and Kröpel (German). Dwarves were described as the height of a 3-year old human child (about 3 feet tall), ugly and big-headed. Nidavellir is the land of the dwarves in Norse mythology. Some dwarves of mythology and fairy tales are: Rumpelstiltskin, the dwarves from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Snorri, Dvalin, Lit, Fjalar and Galar, Alvis, Eitri, Brokk, Hreidmar, Alfrik, Mimir, Berling, Grer, Fafnir, Otr, Regin, and Alberich (or Andvari).

The creation of dwarfs

"Then the gods set themselves in their high-seats and held counsel. They remembered how the dwarfs had quickened in the mould of the earth like maggots in flesh. The dwarfs had first been created and had quickened in Ymer’s flesh, and were then maggots; but now, by the decision of the gods, they got the understanding and likeness of men, but still had to dwell in the earth and in rocks. Modsogner was one dwarf and Durin another. So it is said in the Vala’s Prophecy: Then went all the gods, The all-holy gods, On their judgment seats, And thereon took counsel Who should the race Of dwarfs create From the bloody sea And from Blain’s bones. In the likeness of men Made they many Dwarfs in the earth, As Durin said." - from The Elder Edda (Norse poetry)

"For then also in the country The good Dwarflings still kept house; Small in form, but highly gifted, And so kind and generous!" - The Fairy Mythology [1870]

As for non-Germanic cultures, the Egyptian gods Bes and Ptah were dwarfs. In Judaism, the wise men of the Talmud said that the Egyptian Pharaoh of the Bible and the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar were dwarfs. A number of Native American peoples also believed that dwarfs had special powers and often chose dwarfs born among them as priests.

Other mythological beings characterized by shortness are:

Dwarf places

The Dwarves' Cavern : (In Hasel, Germany) was once home to many dwarfs. This legend gives the cavern its name.

Harz mountains : (Germany) On the north and the south sides of the Harz mountains, and in areas of the Hohenstein region, there once lived many thousands of dwarves, according to local tradition. In the clefts of the cliffs still exists the dwarf caves.

Tyre : In ancient Jewish scriptures, dwarfs were numerous in the towers of the fortresses of Tyre.

Fairy tales with dwarfs in them

Aid & Punishment, Chamois-Hunter, Curiosity punished, Dwarf in search of Lodging, Dwarf-Husband, Dwarf's Banquet, Dwarfs borrowing Bread, Dwarf's Feast, Dwarfs on the Tree, Dwarfs stealing Corn, Dwarf-Sword Tirfing, Friendly Dwarfs, Gertrude and Rosy, The Hill-Man at the Dance, History of Dwarf Long Nose, Journey of Dwarfs over the Mountain, Laird O' Co', Loki & the Dwarf, Lost Bell, Nihancan & Dwarf's Arrow, Nutcracker Dwarf, Rejected Gift, Rose-Red and Snow-White, Rumpelstiltskin, Sir Thynnè, Smith Riechert, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Thorston & the Dwarf, Wonderful Little Pouch, The Yellow Dwarf

Possible origin

Stories of dwarves may have a historical background: during the Bronze Age, tin miners from southern and southeastern Europe slowly migrated northwest, since the relatively rare tin, which is needed to make bronze, was more common in the north. Being southerners, they generally were of shorter stature than northern Europeans and had darker skin, hair and beards. Their knowledge of metallurgy might have seemed magical to the northerners, whose lifestyle was still neolithic; the southerners' superior weapons and armour might well have been perceived as enchanted. This would explain why stories of dwarves are especially common in Northern Europe, and also why dwarves are portrayed as workers, while few other mythological creatures seem to be associated with any kind of organized industry.

The pygmies of Africa, the short Eskimos, Sami (Lapps), the Asian Han (Dropa) pygmies of Tibet, short rain forest natives, and other cultures may have had a hand in the origin in dwarf legends of many countries. Scientists say there could have been a culture of white pygmies in northern Europe.

Dwarves in modern fantasy fiction

Tolkien's dwarves

Traditionally, the plural of dwarf was "dwarfs", especially when referring to actual humans with dwarfism, but ever since J. R. R. Tolkien used dwarves in his fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings, the plural forms "dwarfs" and "dwarves" have been used interchangeably. (When discussing Tolkien's universe, though, only the latter should be used.) Two other plural forms, dwarrows and dwerrows, were also suggested by Tolkien, but he never used them in his writings, apart from the name 'Dwarrowdelf', the English name for Khazad-dûm or Moria, a calque of the Westron name Phurunargian. The Dwarves' name for themselves was Khazâd, singular probably Khuzd.

The Dwarves were created by Aulë, one of the Valar, when he grew impatient waiting for the coming of Children of Ilúvatar. Ilúvatar gave them life after speaking to Aulë about what he had done and seeing that he was both humble and repentant.

Dwarves are long-lived, living at least four times the age of man, but are not prolific breeders, having children rarely and spaced far apart, and having few women among them. Dwarvish children are cherished by their parents, and are defended at all costs from their traditional enemies, such as giants, goblins, and orcs. A longstanding enmity between dwarves and elves is also a staple of the racial conception.

Dwarves in other fiction

Dwarves in the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game are directly derived from Tolkien's dwarves, although many unusual variants exist, such as the hairless, desert-dwelling dwarves of the Dark Sun campaign setting and the evil and psychically-gifted duergar of the Underdark. These various types of dwarves are commonly called subraces. Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons has the dwarves split into the Hill Dwarf, Mountain Dwarf and Duerger subraces, but in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of Dungeons & Dragons the dwarf subraces are Arctic Dwarves, Gold Dwarves, Gray Dwarves (Duergar), Shield Dwarves and Wild Dwarves. Warcraft dwarves are similar, depicted as having Scottish accents and inhabitting the kingdom of Khaz Modan.

Like Tolkien's Dwarves, many other sources depict dwarves as holding magic, elves, and humanoid monsters in contempt.

Female dwarves

A long standing source of interest (and humor) comes from the allusion of Tolkien to female dwarves having actual beards or simply diguising themselves as such. In addition to being rare creatures they are perhaps not often featured in many fantasy milieu for this reason. A more cynical suspicion is that female dwarves lack sex appeal and consequently are of little interest to fantasy fans (stereotypically young men).

See also

fr:Nain (créature fantastique) ja:ドワーフ nl:Dwerg pl:Krasnoludek

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