A staple trope in fantasy and indeed European folklore is a race of short humans, usually fond of mining; these mythical creatures are usually spelt dwarves after Tolkien. They do not exist in real life.

A smaller number of fantasy works, most notably A Song of Ice and Fire, feature ‘dwarfs’, that is to say human beings who through a genetic condition are of short stature. Obviously, there are many people with dwarfism in the real world!

What is the first work of fantasy to feature both a mythical race of dwarves and a human being with dwarfism?

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    Certainly not the first, but Harry Potter has both 'midgets' and dwarfs
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 17:21
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    Depending on how you stretch genetic condition, the Lord of the Rings itself could qualify. Hobbits are an offshoot of men, whereas Dwarves are quite different.
    – Nolimon
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 1:51
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    @Nolimon I think they would at most be pygmies, not dwarfs (although maybe you could argue that they're a different subspecies instead). So, OP, do pygmies count? Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 1:58
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    In a foreword to The Hobbit (1937) Tolkien mentioned that he used "dwarves" to distinguish from "dwarfs" (midgets), so technically, he had both in a book back then, if only in a foreword. Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 8:05
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    @clockw0rk huh? He doesn't use Elb, and Elf was already the normal spelling (with slightly idiosyncratic capitalisation). He also uses Dwarf in the singular, only using Dwarves in the plural, and whilst Nazgul have some similarities with Liches as conceived of today, that conception mostly dates to after him and he might be expected to object to such a term on philological grounds (coming from Old English lic literally meaning "body")
    – Tristan
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 13:40

1 Answer 1


The Discworld series of novels by Terry Pratchett.

They have Dwarves, which are a separate species to humans.

They also have a recurring character Nobby Nobbs, a human of well below average height. He is described as being shorter than most dwarves. He carries a certificate to prove that he is human.

First appearance, Guards! Guards! 1989.

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    I, after hearing evidence from a number of experts, including Mrs Slipdry the midwife, certify that the balance of probability is that the bearer of this document, C. W. St John Nobbs, is a human being.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 18:10
  • may be worth noting that illustrations on book covers don't appear to show him as having proportionally short limbs (he is especially identifiable on the cover of Night Watch where he is shown as a child with his finger tips at about the level of the top of his oversized boots, likely around his knees, making them proportionally longer than is typical for humans). Given Pratchett's tendency to address aspects of his earlier work that later struck him as having problematic implications, I think the lack of such comment about dwarfs likely indicates that he did not think of Nobbs as one
    – Tristan
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 12:22
  • @Tristan Might help to specify/link which book cover(s). There's apparently been quite a few of them. My copy doesn't show the character at all, it's just a dragon on a flat green background. Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 13:21
  • a dragon on a green background on the cover of Night Watch? 0.o I mean the Paul Kidby cover illustration based on Rembrandt's The Night Watch which apparently is on the British Edition
    – Tristan
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 13:36
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    Josh Kirby's art was beautiful in its way, but he quite often misunderstood the description. Pratchett described Twoflower as having a second pair of eyes, i.e. he wore spectacles which were unknown to Rincewind. But Kirky drew him with four literal eyes. Here is a cover by a different artist, Graham Higgins. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51f8s4nAO5L.jpg
    – Pete
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 14:31

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