Dwarves

Like any other author, if you look in my search history on my computer, you’re going to find a lot of weird things. That’s just the life of an author. We constantly do research and on increasingly weird topics.

My research today was mainly just out of curiosity. I’ve been thinking about the history of my own specific breed of elves – another liberty of a fiction author is that I get to completely make it up. It doesn’t have to be based on anything, really. But I’ve been doing some research anyway, to find the most basic form of a dwarf. Where did the idea even stem from to begin with?

I think most of us could come up with one answer or another for that, right? I read a series last year where the dwarves were said to literally have formed from the rock of the mountain itself. Or, as in Lord of the Rings, they were created as a result of impatience and, when they were supposed to be killed off, their creator instead took pity and gave them their own lives. Or, hey, what about Snow Whites dwarves?

And what do most dwarves have in common? Ask anyone and they’ll all give the same description. Short, strong, sturdy, stout, typically grumpy. And if they’ve really read enough about them, they’ll continue to tell you about their weaponry of choice – axes, heavy metal work kind of thing. They’ll tell you that they live in the mountains exclusively. And they’ll tell you that they’re pretty good with mining and making jewelry.

That’s all fine and dandy, but in the research I’ve done this morning, it seems as though the Germanic myths were the first ones to tell of dwarves. So I did a little research into those myths – after all, why not learn the very first origin story, right? Recall everything you’ve ever read about any dwarf and listen to this…

“The lines between the dwarves, elves, and dead humans are very blurry. The dwarves are occasionally called “black elves” (Old Norse svartálfar),[6] and in some instances they’re described as being dead or resembling human corpses.”

(found on norse-mythology.org)

Earlier in the article, it says that nowhere in Germanic myths has it ever been said that the dwarves are even short fat creatures. Actually, it says that they’re probably pitch black in appearance. Some things have remained the same – for instance, they live under ground, they’re good smiths and craftspeople, and they’re strong. In fact, the four original dwarves (with the names that translate to East, West, North, and South) hold up the four corners of the sky.

To me, this is one of the greatest things about being an author of fiction – there are no rules!! You think the dwarves should be short? Make them short! You think they should be carved from stone? Do it! Even though there’s no evidence that any myth supports these commonly accepted “truths” about dwarves, a fiction author can do literally whatever they want – well, as far as writing a story goes, anyway.

Kate