Everyone from Tolkien to the Brothers Grimm has dwarves delving under the earth, mining for jewels and precious metals. To the Brothers Grimm, surely, dwarves were just small humans, not a race or culture as they are in Tolkien; somehow, still, the mining thing.

Where did this trope come from?

  • I would actually expect the Grimm Brothers to associate dwarfs with trolls and elves (as in Norse mythology), not little people. Commented Jul 6, 2013 at 22:47
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    As a side note in middle ages the mine tunnels are narrow and tight (lack os engineering) and to work on mines they used kids. Someway that dirty-on-coal-small-young-people become the dwarfs of legend
    – jean
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 12:00

1 Answer 1


You can trace their association back to Norse mythology:

Dvergar or Norse dwarves (Old Norse dvergar, sing. dvergr) are entities in Norse mythology associated with rocks, the earth, deathliness, luck, technology, craft, metal work, wisdom, and greed.

I should point out that the pluralization of "Dwarf" spelled as "Dwarves" is a Tolkien invention.

  • That's a great Wikipedia page, thanks. The page lists "Durin" and "Dvalin" as being Dwarves from Norse mythology; can't believe I never realized this before. Commented Jul 6, 2013 at 21:05
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    If your question has been answered, don't forget to check it. This provides both rep and other people on the site can see the question is answered.
    – Arammil
    Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 2:18
  • @arammil - I may be a noob here, but I am a 49k user on SO :) Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 3:10
  • And let's not forget that it's "Dwemer" in the Elder Scrolls, and they were great machine builders, as well as miners. (although TES does use 'Dwarven' to refer to the products made by the Dwemer) uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Dwemer Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 5:33
  • Great?? On this exchange in particular of the few I follow regularly.. I see lots of questions with 3+answers, and even comments from the OP that say "thanks!" .. yet nobody ticks the "answered" thing.. and that drives me insane.
    – Arammil
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 7:42

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