In fantasy novels and RPG, what generally are the main characteristics of dwarves (dwarfs?) that set them apart from humans? There are of course differenct source materials, but most seem based generically on Tolkein’s version of dwarves. My understanding is as follows:[ul]Dwarves do not have a upper limit on their lifespan, and usually do not become enfeebled with age. They do definitely get craggier and greyer with age and in practice usually die eventually in battle or accident. Sorta like oak trees.Dwarves are not only shorter than men but proportionally stockier as well. Especially in upper body strength, they can be as strong or stronger than the human norm.There’s less sexual dimorphism in dwarves than humans; dwarf females usually look and dress like the males. Dwarves are extraordinarily hardy against wounds, disease and poison.It’s very rare for a dwarf to be purely evil, but quite often they can be greedy, stiffnecked, prideful and parochial.Dwarves prefer when possible to live in excavated warrens rather than build aboveground.Dwarven craftmanship is first rate, often out-and-out magical.When there are three major humanoid races, of which humans are one and dwarves are the second, the dwarves and the third race are often antagonist (elves in Tolkein, trolls in Discworld, etc.) [/ul]Any corrections or additions to make to the above list?
Seem to be big on axes.
ive never heard of dwarves having no upper age limit before. I have seen them able to live centuries, but they can also die of old age - the dwarf Flint Fireforge in dragonlance croaks of old age if i recall correctly
Yeah, dwarves do die of age, but they typically live much longer than humans.
Beards: Dwarves always have beards - even the women - and are fiercely proud of them.
Beer: Dwarves love to drink incredibly strong beer.
Also dwarves generally don’t go off on quests. Most dwarves spend their whole life in their hometown. The ones who go off on adventures are considered very strange by dwarvish society.
Dwarves are exceptional craftsmen, especially when they work stone or metal. They also have a strong work ethic, and take pride in their creations.
Well, the part about female dwarves with beards varies from author to author. Sometimes they have beards, sometimes they don’t grow facial hair, sometimes they grow facial hair but generally shave. A male dwarf without a beard is a true rarity, though.
Wait, aren’t you thinking of hobbits?
Technically, he dies of a congenital heart condition which was shared by his bloodline. I think I’m taking that from the original Dragonlance AD&D sourcebook (which was by Weis & Hickman so it’d be canon).
That said, role-playing games, Dragonlance included, usually put an upper age cap on dwarves. In the high hundreds (usually) but shorter than elves who often are immortal until they choose to leave this earthly realm or succumb to wounds, disease, etc.
Reghar had one son who lived to adulthood (Flint’s father). His other son died of heart disease (the same affliction that killed Flint).
It’s also true of hobbits. But dwarves are generally portrayed as homebodies who don’t like going out and mixing with non-dwarves in the wider world.
All fantasy-fiction dwarf races are ultimately based on the dwarves of Norse mythology:
Night vision, for life underground.
Also, a powerful greed, the lust for gold, gems, & precious things can make them quite irrational. Even evil.
BTW–there are Dwarves, of a sort, mentioned in Egyptian Mythology. They were metalworkers too, oddly.
The Greco/Roman god Vulcan/Hephaestus was probably another source of dwarven imagery.
They tend to be portrayed as hot tempered.
That could be a human trait as well.
Nobody tosses a dwarf.
Something that always bugged me about Tolkien was that the dwarves didn’t have anything on the elves, really.
Legolas was braver the Gimli, could fight better, could see better. I could see how his archery skills were better, but when the fighting got in close, Legolas was just as good with a blade as Gimli was with his axe. Elvish craftsmanship seemed to dwarf dwarvish craftsmanship.
Even hand to hand, you’d have expected Legolas to be able to handle Gimli.
When the trio started their epic run down of Merry and Pippin, I remember thinking, “Oh, well, at least Gimli will be able to outlast a human and and elf in an endurance contest” and he was more tired than either of them.
Tolkien ruined dwarves. I think he had his wife stolen by a short bearded man.
They always wind up blowing the reward money on ale and whores.
And you can get the t-shirt to prove it, too!
Dwarves seem to have a low sex drive, with some notable exceptions.
It’s my understanding, and somebody please set me straight if you know different, the legends of Dwarves are entirely Teutonic in origin. The English and Scottish Popular Ballads recorded by Child often mention Faeries, or Elves, but never Dwarves. Yet, somehow in the tradition it has arisen that Dwarves are assumed to speak with Scottish accents. Well, they are believed to be clannish and aggressive, as the Scots are often characterized. But you’d think they’d have more Germanic accents, based on the source of the legend.
In addition to axes, the dwarves are also strongly associated with hammers. I would think they would invest more in weapons that didn’t require a lot of room to swing and so would be useful in the confines of tunnels. Possibly short spears.
Part of the portfolio of dwarves-as-engineers has been taken up by Gnomes. I’m told that this began with the Dragonlance books. At this point Dwarves are still regarded as great smiths and even civil engineers, but Gnomes are strongly associated with steamworks in games such as EverQuest. Not so in World of Warcraft, I’m told, as Dwarves make the crazy flying contraptions. Terry Pratchett makes Dwarves roughly analogous to Jews in Discworld, though in Steve Jackson Games’ Illuminati games, ‘Gnomes of Zurich’ is code for Jews.
In my own campaign, I reify the Celtic/Teutonic confusion by classifying two different types of dwarves, a difference which generally concerns only Dwarves themselves, and the consequences of this difference haven’t really come up. I find in the beer-swilling stereotype rich irony, as Dwarves like to live underground or on mountains (and possibly underground even at those higher elevations) which are lousy places to grow grain. So, despite any prejudice against the outside world, they have deep cultural ties to a product they must be getting through trade with outsiders. This same kind of contradiction arises in the real world, of course, with probably everybody tying their ethnocentric identity to things that they are dependent on outsiders to supply.
I also use the Dwarven fastidiousness about gold and gems to explain the fact that gold coins are worth exactly the same amount no matter what treasure hoard you get them from – because the whole realm has been on the Dwarven Standard since time immemorial. Potentates who would inflate currency by diluting it with impurities will have the murderous outrage of the dwarves to deal with, and development of banking itself has been severely retarded by the dwarven conception of money as actual coin changing hands. They went to war with the Gnomes over the advent of “scrip.”