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Ever since I read the Silmarillion, I've been wondering why the Dwarves were created mortal. Since mortality is the gift of men from Ilúvatar, it didn't make sense to me that Dwarves also have the same gift. Moreover, everyone at that time was immortal, so what made Aulë decide that the Dwarves should be different in that aspect?

I've read The Lord of The Rings and the Silmarillion, but none of the other works of Tolkien. Did I miss something, or is the reason explained in the other resources?

From the Silmarillon, on the creation of the Dwarves (copied from the wiki page):

Since they were to come in the days of the power of Melkor, Aulë made the dwarves strong to endure. Therefore they are stone-hard, stubborn, fast in friendship and in enmity, and they suffer toil and hunger and hurt of body more hardily than all other speaking peoples; and they live long, far beyond the span of Men, yet not forever.

(emphasis mine)

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    One could say that the Dwarves got the short end of the stick. ;) – Ceiling Gecko Mar 3 '15 at 13:04
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The fate of Dwarves after death is given in the chapter titled Concerning the Dwarves in History of Middle-earth 11:

For they say that Aule cares for them and gathers them in Mandos in halls set apart for them, and there they wait, not in idleness but in the practice of crafts and the learning of yet deeper lore. And Aule, they say, declared to their Fathers of old that Iluvatar had accepted from him the work of his desire, and that Iluvatar will hallow them and give them a place among the Children in the End. Then their part shall be to serve Aule and to aid him in the re-making of Arda after the Last Battle.

Now, "mortal" and "immortal" have very specific meanings in Tolkien:

  • "Mortal" means that your spirit is not bound to the world after death, but instead leaves it, going to nobody knows where. A mortal spirit will also continue to exist beyond the end of the world.
  • "Immortal" means that your spirit is bound to the world and cannot leave it; if your body is destroyed your spirit may go to the Halls of Mandos from where it may be subsequently released into a new body. The fate of an immortal spirit beyond the end of the world is unknown.

It should be clear that Dwarves fit neither of these definitions:

  • Their spirits don't leave the world, but yet,
  • They are not released from the Halls of Mandos (with one exception: the Seven Fathers).
  • And the fate of their spirits after the end of the world is known.

So it's more accurate to say that Dwarves were created neither mortal nor immortal.

The clearest reason for this is given in the Silmarillion chapter Of Aule and Yavanna:

And Aulë made the Dwarves even as they still are, because the forms of the Children who were to come were unclear to his mind...

In other words, Aule very probably just didn't know any better, although the possibility that Dwarvish fate was an explicit intervention by Iluvatar remains open.

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    Note that although I said "the possibility that Dwarvish fate was an explicit intervention by Iluvatar remains open" I consider it extremely unlikely because of Iluvatars words: "in no other way will I amend thy handiwork, and as thou hast made it, so shall it be". – user8719 Mar 2 '15 at 11:29
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    Thank you. So their death of old age is not similar to that of men and cannot be considered a gift, since their spirits do not leave the world. – Tymric Mar 2 '15 at 11:53
  • Very concise answer, well done – nine9 Mar 3 '15 at 5:51

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