Dwarves (or is it “dwarfs?”)

Dwarves have made an appearance in literature for decades. There are many ancient stories that give dwarves a variety of characteristics. One of the earliest tales is from the 13th century (Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson) and gives dwarves cosmic powers, like holding up the four corners of the sky. Their names, Norðri, Suðri, Austri and Vestri, were Norse words for Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western.

Most people do not have to think back as far as the 13th century to have a dwarf or two come to mind. We can thank J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis for their contribution to dwarf-lore that has taken us on many satisfying adventures.

Tethered World Dwarves

Glavasion by Heather Fitzgerald
Glavasion (aka “Lava”) the Dwarf, as explained to Heather L.L. FitzGerald by Sadie Larcen.

Glavasion (aka “Lava”) the Dwarf, is a bloke who may be half Sadie’s size, but she assures me he possesses unbelievable strength. Apparently there’s a lot of muscle hiding under all that hair! He also was fond of his carved Mammoth tusk pipe, but I couldn’t get a feel for how to draw something to look “Mammoth,” and decided to leave that detail out of the sketch.

Lava and Wogsnop are two new dwarves that are introduced in The Tethered World. They’re a couple of the Dwarves of Berganstroud from the Land of Legend. Lava and Sadie became close comrades in their adventures sneaking into Craventhrall, journeying to Calamus, and venturing onto the Isle of Skellerwad to rescue the Larcen parents. Sadie was amazed to learn that the dwarves are the ones who built the pyramids and supplied the ancient world with their weaponry and armor!

Middle Earth Dwarves

In Tolkien’s wonderful tale, The Hobbit, we meet a bungling bunch of dwarves with names that tend to rhyme: Thorin Oakenshield, Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin, Thorin, Dwalin, Balin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, Nori, and Ori. Thorin Oakenshield is King of the Durin’s Folk and dies in the Battle of Five Armies. Where did Tolkien get his inspiration for King Thorin?

Wikipedia explains: “Tolkien borrowed Thorin’s name from the Old Norse poem “Völuspá”, part of the Poetic Edda. The name “Thorin” (Þorinn) appears in stanza 12, where it is used for a dwarf, and the name “Oakenshield” (Eikinskjaldi) in stanza 13. The names also appear in Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda.”

Hey! Didn’t we just learn a little about that at the beginning of this page? Nice to know that great writers can become inspired by their predecessors. 🙂

Narnia Dwarves

Any discussion about dwarves would be incomplete without tipping our hats to C.S. Lewis for creating the “Sons of Earth” in his Narnia series. Part of the Narnian “underground”–those loyal to Aslan and Old Narnia–the White Witch turned many of these good guys (called Red Dwarves) into stone. Those not loyal to Aslan were called Black Dwarves. Ginarrbrik was the Black Dwarf that did most of Jadis’ dirty work. Throughout Lewis’ seven books in The Chronicles of Narnia, we meet many memorable dwarf characters with some catchy names. Diggle, Griffle, and Nikabrik are famous Black Dwarves. Bricklethumb, Duffle, Poggin, and Trumpkin are some of the Red Dwarves that readers have grown to love.

Most dwarf mythology is rooted in folklore from the German and Norse traditions. According to Wikipedia, a dwarf “is a being that dwells in mountains and in the earth, and is associated with wisdom, smithing, mining, and crafting. Dwarves are also described as short and ugly, although some scholars have questioned whether this is a later development stemming from comical portrayals of the beings.”

But The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the Chronicles of Narnia series—tales from our aforementioned literary heroes, Tolkien and Lewis—are the epic, quintessential escapades that have whittled those bristly dwarves into the hearts of most of the modern world.

Hopefully, The Tethered World causes your imagination to stretch in some exciting directions as well!