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Single and minor spoiler in this post, but not really.


In Avengers: Infinity War, we see the Dwarf King of Nidavellir -- Eitri.

When looking up the Dwarves of Nidavellir, (and Eitri), the consensus is that their average height is 4-5 feet tall, however, Eitri is well over 10 feet tall, and is pretty much a giant (maybe even bigger than the Hulk).

I thought that, partly by definition of race, Dwarves were short in stature. In fact, IIRC, I don't think I've ever come across a "giant dwarf". Generally, such a large and similar creature is played by something more akin to a troll, in my experience.

So, what's up with Eitri's giant stature? Why would Eitri be so unusually tall in the film, given that he's a dwarf (albeit, the Dwarf King)?

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    I thinks its supposed to be something of a joke that the dwarves are giant – Ummdustry Apr 30 '18 at 19:07
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    I think that in Norse mythology the dwarfs weren't actually short (or there's some debate about it), but the short attribute was added later, so perhaps the avengers are going by the original Norse myth. (Sorry, I don't have a proper reference for it.) – Nicola Talbot Apr 30 '18 at 19:23
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    Dunno. Why don't we go out of that universe into a few others and ask Carrot? :) Or perhaps Navin Johnson (who "was born a poor black child") can explain. – ivanivan Apr 30 '18 at 19:57
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    Maybe if the Dwarf King were not a Dwarf he'd be 20 feet tall. – Misha R Apr 30 '18 at 23:40
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    He's called a dwarf because he dwarfs everyone around him – Petersaber May 1 '18 at 8:25
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Why would Eitri be so unusually tall in the film, given that he's a dwarf

Plainly it is a joke that the "dwarf" is enormously tall.

Also part of the joke is that the actor playing the "giant dwarf" is Peter Dinklage, who is famously only 4 foot 5 inches tall due to his dwarfism, and that Dinklage has always resisted playing the typical "fantasy creature" characters that short-statured actors are typecast into. One imagines that the offer to play a ten foot tall "dwarf" does not come along every day; obviously he made an exception to his rule for this unique opportunity.

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Dwarves/dark elves are not short in Norse mythology, They were made out to be short/stout by the dramatisations of the old legends, by acting troupes, theatre companies, etc. all across Europe during the later middle ages. Dwarfs may have originally been thought of as lesser supernatural beings, which became literal smallness after Christianization.

Scholars have noted that the Svartálfar (Old Norse 'black elves') appear to be the same beings as dwarfs, given that both are described in the Prose Edda as the sole denizens of Svartálfaheimr.

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TV tropes has a trope called "Our Dwarves are all the Same".

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OurDwarvesAreAllTheSame1

It has a section listing many works were the nonhuman dwarves are very similar to standard nonhuman dwarves.

This trope has an alternative title "Our dwarves are different" and includes sections depicting nonstandard and even bizarre dwarves in various works of fantasy. And TV Tropes has a whole series of tropes called "Our _____ are different", about the wide variations in the depictions of fantasy creatures with the same name between different works of fantasy.

In short, there is no reason to expect that Marvel movie dwarves are identical to Marvel comic book dwarves, or that Marvel comic book dwarves are identical to dwarves in other fantasy stories.

The OP wonders why a nonhuman fantasy being called a dwarf is not short like a member of the human species called a dwarf. In English the word "dwarf" is used for both an unusually short human and a member of the nonhuman species from mythology and fantasy.

This use of the same name creates the expectation that nonhuman dwarves in mythology, fairy tales, and fantasy are short, like human dwarfs are short. And many illustrations, films and TV shows depict nonhuman dwarves as being short like human dwarfs, increasing the expectation that nonhuman dwarves are short like human dwarfs.

But has the same word been used for nonhuman dwarves and human dwarfs since the beginning of the English language?

The modern English word "dwarf" for a human of short stature has evolved over centuries from Old English.

The use of dwarf in English for a member of a nonhuman intelligent more or less mythological species is first known in 1770, and is from German.

https://www.etymonline.com/word/dwarf2

I tried an auto translate program and "dwarf" in English translated into German as zwerg. Zwerg seems to have both English meanings, a small human and a nonhuman mythological being.

As well as I remember, most of what we know about Scandinavian mythology comes from the writings of Christian medieval Icelanders like Snorri Sturlusson.

"Dwarf" is translated into modern Icelandic as dvergur, and it is possible but not certain that both zwerg and dvergur have the same root in ancient Germanic.

Anyway, I have to wonder if the word(s) for mythological dwarves in pagan Scandinavian languages was also used for unusually short humans, or if there were two separate words.

I don't remember ever reading any mention of the height of mythological dwarves in reading about Norse mythology. I have to wonder if all Norse dwarves were shorter than humans, or if they were sometimes taller, sometimes the same size, and sometimes shorter, than humans, as is the case with some other supernatural beings.

Tolkien's dwarves were based on Norse mythology and short, about four or five feet tall I guess, but it is possible that Tolkien added the short size to his dwarves and it was not in the original mythology.

Thus we may need an expert on Norse Mythology to explain.

Here is a link to another question:

https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/111658/could-a-humanoid-species-exist-with-vastly-different-heights/111742#1117423

That has drawings of trolls from four different Scandinavian countries, widely varying in size, shape, personality, etc. And I suspect that if anything it oversimplifies the varieties of Scandinavian trolls in folklore.

And I suspect that Scandinavian dwarves may have had a similar variation.

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    So in attempting to answer a question about the height of a character, you've not only failed to address the universe in question, your conclusion seems to be that you yourself don't know the answer? Maybe you could edit this post to have it align closer with what the OP is asking as opposed to it listing the translations of the word dwarf in various languages? – Edlothiad May 1 '18 at 5:58
  • @Edlothiad I have revised my answer. – M. A. Golding May 9 '18 at 17:40
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    So in attempting to revise your post, you’ve decided to add several hundred more unrelated characters, while briefly addressing the post. By editing I meant revising the post, not simply adding addendums to the post. – Edlothiad May 9 '18 at 20:54

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