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. – Bradd Szonye Jul 6 '13 at 22:47
  • 1
    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 Mar 2 '15 at 12:00

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. – Ernest Friedman-Hill Jul 6 '13 at 21:05
  • 3
    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 Jul 7 '13 at 2:18
  • @arammil - I may be a noob here, but I am a 49k user on SO :) – Ernest Friedman-Hill Jul 7 '13 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 – Singular1ty Jul 7 '13 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 Jul 9 '13 at 7:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.