Norse dwarves

In Norse mythology, the dwarves (Old Norse: dvergar) are highly significant entities associated with stones, the underground and forging. Apart from the Eddas, they notably appear in the Völsunga saga, where Sigurd meet the dragon Fafnir. They are often identified and seem to be interchangeable with the svartálfar (black elves) and sometimes the trolls (see also wight). Some sources divide them into three tribes, lead by Mótsognir, Durinn and Dvalinn, respectively.

The dwarves were created when Odin and his brothers Vili and Ve fabricated the world from the giant Ymir's body, the dwarves grew like maggots in his flesh (i.e. earth or stone). They were later gifted with intelligence and human-like appearance by the gods. The dwarves are described as small and rather ugly to the human eye. They fear sunlight, which might even turn them into the stone they sprang from. Their dwelling places is the underground realm of Nidavellir, one of the nine worlds fixed to the world-tree Yggdrasil according to Norse cosmology.

They are mostly seen as selfish, greedy, and cunning. They are skilled metal-workers and the makers of most of the artifacts of the gods, both Aesir and Vanir. Among their most famous creations are the spear Gungnir and the golden ring Draupnir of Odin, Mjolnir the hammer of Thor, the golden hair of Sif, Freya's necklace Brisingamen and even the ship Skidbladnir of Frey. The dwarves also fabricated a certain kind of helmet, called huliđshjálmr (concealing helmet), or sometimes a cloak, with which they could make themselves invisible. (Once more, cf. wights.)

They could also be minor deities, much like the (light) elves, which is suggestive of why they have accuired the name of dark or black elves (see also: elf versus dwarf). The dwarves Norđri, Suđri, Austri and Vestri support the four cardinal points. Nýi and Niđi governs the waxing and waning lunar phase, respectively.

Their role at Ragnarök is not clear, Völuspá only mentions that:

How fare the gods?
how fare the elves?
All Jotunheim groans,
the gods are at council;
Loud roar the dwarfs
by the doors of stone,
The masters of the rocks;
would you know yet more?"

J. R. R. Tolkien got some of the names of the dwarves in his books from from the Völuspá, where a long list of dwarves constitutes the by far most boring section of the poem: Durin, Dwalin, Náin, Dáin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Nori, Thorin, Thráin, Fili, and Kili. He also used some of the Norse dwarf names for other non-dwarf characters, for example Gandalf.

List of Norse dwarves

See also

it:Nani (mitologia nordica)


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