In The Lord of the Rings Tolkien writes that 7 Dwarves were given rings. I know that Tolkien took a lot of inspiration from different sources including ancient fables and stories, tales of the Pagan religions and other places when forming the mythos of his stories.

Is there any indication that the 7 dwarves handed rings are linked, via shared inspiration, to the 7 dwarfs from Snow White?

Did the Brothers Grimm and Tolkien take their inspiration from the same sources, or was Tolkien himself inspired by the Grimm fairy tales in some way. Or is this just one of those coincidences and one has no bearing on the other?

The Book of Lost Tales In The Book of Lost Tales the very few Dwarves who appear are portrayed as evil beings, employers of Orc mercenaries and in conflict with the Elves—who are the imagined "authors" of the myths, and are therefore biased against Dwarves.[T 3][T 4][1] Tolkien was inspired by the dwarves of Norse myths[2][3] and dwarves of Germanic folklore (such as those of the Brothers Grimm), from whom his Dwarves take their characteristic affinity with mining, metalworking, crafting and avarice.[4][5]


This would seem to suggest the 7 where inspired by the Brothers Grimm, but I am unsure as to the reliability of this source.

  • 2
    From reading online it seems like Tolkien took inspiration for the Dwarves of Middle earth from Germanic Folk law and the Grimm fairy tales are listed as an inspiration, but this is a wiki page and no real sources given.
    – Richard C
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 15:00
  • 6
    Seven is a significant number in a lot of fantasy literature, so it's not too much of a coincidence that seven dwarves popped up twice. Interesting question though, +1.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 15:03
  • Does wiki saying "Germanic folklore (such as... Brothers Grimm) suggest the 7 was inspired by that story? Sounds like it may have played a part in the traits of the Dwarves but so did various other Germanic folklore and Norse myths.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 15:09
  • For why 7 you may want to look at this HP question.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 15:13
  • 5
    Parenthetically, the Grimms' Seven Dwarfs were left unnamed until a play in 1912. In each succeeding adaptation of the tale, they have been given a new, always playful set of names, e.g., Huckepack, Naseweis, Packe, Pick, Puck, Purzelbaum, Rumpelbold. Tolkien's love of wordplay similarly turns up in his own lists of Dwarves (Bifur, Bofur, Bombur etc.). Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 15:57

1 Answer 1


It is possible, but doubtful. Tolkien based his dwarves on Norse mythology (the names are taken from the Edda), whereas the dwarves of the Brothers Grimm seem to be based on Germanic tales. The number 7 is probably a coincidence, seeing as 3, 7, and 9 are magical numbers in mythology, and Tolkien uses all three in the Ring verse.

However, the Germanic tales have Nordic roots, or share common roots, e.g. seen in that the Germanic Nibelung saga is very close to the Nordic Volsunga Saga, and Tolkien also drew heavily on the Nibelungenlied, with its Ring of Power, broken sword, and an item that bestows invisibility.

This is still far from enough evidence to suggest any similarity between the 7 dwarfs of Snow White and Tolkien's 7 dwarven kings. After all, Grimm's dwarfs are humble miners, whereas Tolkien's dwarves are mighty kings. However, I doubt it can wholly be ruled out that the number seven for the dwarven kings wasn't a tongue-in-cheek joke by Tolkien, as he must have been aware of the Grimm fairy tale.

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