Extraneous Voices of Picayune > Citadel Tavern

The Discrepancy Between Fantasy Dwarfs and Actual Dwarfs


What's up with that? Tolkien pretty much invented them, though of course he got inspired from several mythological sources. But the only thing they both have in common, is being short. With normal dwarfs, the whole body usually shrinks down(course there are a ton of different dwarfisms).
While fantasy dwarfs are stocky and almost as broad as they are tall. Then we got the whole beard thing, which is usually more related to the classic gnomes and what not.

It's really an interesting thing to consider, how he arrived at the stereotypical fantasy dwarf, and why he chose to call them dwarfs at all for that matter, since they're very different from real dwarfs. Of course one is a birth defect and the other a unique race, so yeah...

I've been gone for awhile, but didn't we already have this discussion? Tolkien may have invented the stereotypical fantasy dwarf (a one-note view I dislike, BTW) but those were most definitely not the first mythical depiction of dwarves. Norse mythology (which was a huge source for Tolkien's work; hell, he ripped the names of the dwarves from the Hobbit straight from the Eddas) is rife with them. And I'm sure there are others.

That's entirely possible, but that was ages ago. And yeah, must have forgotten about the Norse mythology part when I wrote this, but that begs the question, why did they come up with it, they ought to have had dwarves as well, one would think.

And this was just for my Dwarven Guild Entry...exam...test or whatever, but nobody seems to want to touch the subject with a ten foot pole. :P

Oh, right. The other conversation was another troublemaker Dwarf meeting the guild requirements. :P

Good question, though. I'm kind of curious myself.

Tolkien was a linguist and he specialized in the old Norse languages, and IIRC Finnish in particular. As mentioned above he took some names directly from the epic poems he was translating to English and used them in his own writings. Gandalf literally means Big Elf. His work was seminal in the fantasy Genre, and he basically laid out the tropes for the fantasy book: start with a map, band of misfits on an adventure, destroy the dingus, go all over the map, etc. None of his work even touched on real life dwarfism. But, when Tolkien was alive and writing, the medical world was a much different place and if you saw a dwarf, it wasn't Peter Dinklage in a serious role, or Warwick Davis in costume, it was a person at the Circus or at the Freak Show.

Tolkien's dwarves are short vikings without boats.
The men of Rohan are vikings on horses

Runic languages
Drinking contests
Slaying the dragon

The Hobbit and LotR is pretty much Viking Epic Fantasy.


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