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Dwarf Myth Orgin; Nordic, Germanic Or Celtic?


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#1 Robeck Stonehammer

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 08:37 AM

From which mythlogy did the Dwarf´s orginate form?

We have seen countless books, films and games which include dwarfs. From the Lord of Rings to Dungons and Dragons, from the Misty Mountains to the depths of the Worlds Edge Mountains, you can´t have a fantasy world without running into the Dwaven folk.

But where do they come from?

I am not talking about their orgins which is given in the different fantasy worlds. I talking about here in the real world! Where did this bearded, ale-drinking, mountain-dwelling people, come from? Was it in the Nordic, Germanic or Celtic myths that they first appeared?

Please leave your thoughts and historical opinions below.

#2 Bonecrusher

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 09:46 AM

Well dwarfs were in Viking legends, and since Vikings were Danes, Norsemen, Scandinavians, where they were smiths beyond compair.
Dwarves on the other hand were a Tolkien creation inspire from the viking legends. Changing the spelling from dwarfs to dwarves was to show they were different from the legends which they are. If you read the legends and compare to Tolkiens you can see clear differences.
But there are dwarfs in other cultures as well, who are a type of fairy or elf. I'm sure a number of members know the story (abet vagly) about Rumpelstiltskin.

#3 Alebelly_Cragfist

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 01:05 PM

All cultures have "little people" in them. I'm by no means a mythology expert, but the only culture I know that named a sect of the little people "Dwarves" was the original Germanic folklore. They had White, Brown and Black Dwarves - they all looked like little old men and all were master craftsmen. White Dwarves were good natured and generally helpful, Brown Dwarves were more mischieveous and cantankerous, Black Dwarves were out and out evil and malicious, crafting mighty weapons for despicable acts. Apparently there is alos a Red Dwarf from Native American folklore, but I don't know a great deal about him and he's a one off.

#4 Alaric Ironaxe

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 03:14 PM

There are tons of myths relating to dwarfs...and some are very different. It's hard to tell which myth Tolkien got made his Dwarves from but I think as Bonecrusher said it was probaly Vikings. Dwarves have a lot in common with the common perception of vikings (which isn't all fact, such as vikings wearing horned helmets...).

Bonecrusher: Thought Rumpelstiltskin was a Gnome or some other small creature...didn't think he was a dwarf though.

#5 Alric Jormstrom

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 04:20 PM

What has to be understood to truly understand any fantasy genre is that fantasy is a big melting pot of ideas and concepts some completely unique and new, some heavily drawn upon from history or ancient myths. As far as I am aware J.R.R Tolkien is the first author to change dwarfs from spiteful little people into the proud warriors of good so fammiliar in modern settings. Much of this hatred of dwarfs before tolkiens time was due to suspicion of those with disabilities including dwarfism as being cursed and therefore servants of the devil following the entirely un politically correct logic was common in writing about dwarfs. Some of that alleged wickedness does show through, for example NIm the dwarf in the children of Hurin. Those with dwarfism were very much considered comedic and an odity and many kings of Europe had famous paintings of their "pet" dwarf commisioned, this may be why dwarfs are often very comedic with their devil may care attitude, their alcohol problem and their mad beards.

I hope this has been useful and all the stuff about those with disabillities is sadly true.

#6 Kallstrom

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 06:28 PM

Well dwarfs were in Viking legends, and since Vikings were Danes, Norsemen, Scandinavians, where they were smiths beyond compair.


Danes are Scandinavians just like Swedes and Norwegian people. Norsemen were "we" all. :)

Edited by Kallstrom, 23 March 2012 - 06:28 PM.


#7 Wendersnaven

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 07:46 PM


Well dwarfs were in Viking legends, and since Vikings were Danes, Norsemen, Scandinavians, where they were smiths beyond compair.


Danes are Scandinavians just like Swedes and Norwegian people. Norsemen were "we" all. :)


They are now, but weren't for a looong time. After the fall of Rome (which turned Byzentine and held off the Turks) the germanic tribes were very much divided by blood feud. As demonstrated in histories as well as epics like Beowulf. The Danes stood out amongst all the others because they did the most pirating- thus the Vikings that were feared most were the Danes. The Finnesberg Fragment, Battle of Maldon, and The Battle of Brunanburh all attest to this; these are all Anglo-Saxon fragments of heroic poetry from around 420 A.D. and on. As the Scandinavian culture became more conglomerated, the deep folklore of the surviving Norwegians became more popular and the focus of what constitues a Viking shifted to them. Rich stories, a distinct language, Norse Gods, and unique craftsmanship (longboats) and world discoveries redifined the lay man's point of view on Vikings. But it was the Danes that were the real pirates of the north.

Furthermore, it was the Danes that were hired to assist in the early fueds in England and led to the downfall of Prince/King Albert- who is famed for starting the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The subsequent invasion of the Danes is recorded all the way up to 991 just before William the conquerer came in 1066 and ended the newly unified Anglo-Saxon Lord's rule. The Danes essentially were invited as mercenaries and their leader Vortigern became king in 449- a Danish king in England. Yep, he decided to stay since he liked the Country that much. He mixed the different peoples save for the Picts and the Anglo-Saxon culture solidified.

Why is this important?
With the mixing of the cultures, Anglo Saxon culture was consolidated along with their tactics, rainment, and heirarchey. Thanks to the Romans they had knowledge of simple seige equipment (onagers) and the Turtle Formation with their shields. They favored using the axe and wore mail and norse helmets. Their strongest tactic was their defensive Shield Wall, which the Normans (under William) found very annoying as they were mostly cavalry. (Historical reference to Hastings). Loyalty to kith and kin, boasts at the mead tables, and honor in battle- holding the line, doing your part to maintain the unbreakable shield wall was all the rage. Short of longbows, I believe Dawi mostly reflect the Anglo-Saxon culture.

To answer your question:
Dawi are a wonderful mix of Nordic and Germanic mythology with a dose of Tolkien. Their hybrid Gods are similar to the mix of pagan and christian beliefs in the Anglo-Saxon period; and as mentioned, their armor, tactics, heirarchy of Lords and Thanes (retainers) and stubborness also lend to this.

As far as I know, mythologically Dwarfs were a type of fairy/elf as has been stated above. Originally these labels were the latin equivilant of Nightmares or Deamons. It wasn't until the popularity of Arthurian Legend in the late middle ages that these Horrors began to be classified as distinct beings. Spencer polished it up with The Fairy Queen, mixing greek and cultural myths Oberon and fairys for example. We pretty much know the story from there. Folk lore in Shakespeare- (puck robin, queen mab and such) and Grimm's Fairy Tales reformed lore, Hans Christian Anderson and others did also; until we arrive at Tolkien, who in researching the Anglo-Saxon origins modernized fantasy to what we have today.

The Norse mythology mentions dwarfs specifically as small people, who were very good craftsmen, making tools for the Gods. Age of Mythology (AoEmpires) puts a unique take on the original myths, and I feel it is a worthy interpretation of the stories as they back up their take on it with actual documentation of legends. (Which you have access to in the game.) Essentially, dwarfs such as us Dawi, are reflected as an adaptation of Norse mythology more than anything else when looking for origins.

I cannot see any Celtic origins in craftsmenship, artwork, societal structure, language (except some runes), or warfare Except! for our Slayers. Running around naked in blue paint and fighting with ferocious skill was a forte' of the Picts and Celts. Consequently, most fantasy Dwarfs now a days are depicted with Scottish accents, which is a stretch; but I kinda like the accent that way.

Having bored anyone reading this to death I shall return to my studies as we have just begun to read all the Arthurian legends in detail at school. As a literature major going for his doctorate in Anglo-Saxon and medieval literature, I have backed my opinion with many texts and appreciate any discussion, support, or contradictions.

#8 Goldo

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 07:58 PM

All cultures have "little people" in them.


Yes, but not little people with BEARDS!
Nor with impressive underground cities or unmatched smiths.
Most mythical creatures out there named dwarfs were meant to mean "gnomes".
You know, living in forests and being quite skilled with magic...

My country for example uses the word "νάνος (nanos) " to describe either one.

#9 Alaric Ironaxe

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 08:23 PM

Having bored anyone reading this to death I shall return to my studies as we have just begun to read all the Arthurian legends in detail at school. As a literature major going for his doctorate in Anglo-Saxon and medieval literature, I have backed my opinion with many texts and appreciate any discussion, support, or contradictions.


I found your post quite interesting..It's cool that you know so much on the subject. Guess that's why you like dwarfs :wink3:

Regarding Scottish accents connect to Dwarfs the only I've heard of Malakai Mikaisson in Gotrek&Felix having a scottish accent..(welll Malakai accent is a bit extreme...)

#10 Tribun

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 08:28 PM


Having bored anyone reading this to death I shall return to my studies as we have just begun to read all the Arthurian legends in detail at school. As a literature major going for his doctorate in Anglo-Saxon and medieval literature, I have backed my opinion with many texts and appreciate any discussion, support, or contradictions.


I found your post quite interesting..It's cool that you know so much on the subject. Guess that's why you like dwarfs :wink3:

Regarding Scottish accents connect to Dwarfs the only I've heard of Malakai Mikaisson in Gotrek&Felix having a scottish accent..(welll Malakai accent is a bit extreme...)


In the German Books, he has an Bavarian accent :D

#11 Alaric Saltzman

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 08:53 PM

Tolkien actually said his Dwarfs were highly influenced by Jewish people. Warhammer dwarfs seem predominantly viking based on armor motifs, god similarities and monster/dragon slaying themes. They also have a scottish feel to them namely in slayers and terms such as 'clansmen'.

#12 Knud Bryansson

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 09:02 PM

All cultures have "little people" in them. I'm by no means a mythology expert, but the only culture I know that named a sect of the little people "Dwarves" was the original Germanic folklore. They had White, Brown and Black Dwarves - they all looked like little old men and all were master craftsmen. White Dwarves were good natured and generally helpful, Brown Dwarves were more mischieveous and cantankerous, Black Dwarves were out and out evil and malicious, crafting mighty weapons for despicable acts. Apparently there is alos a Red Dwarf from Native American folklore, but I don't know a great deal about him and he's a one off.

From what I have learnt from norse folklore white and black dwarves were elves. Svatalfar, black elves, and Ljosalfar, being light elves. Dwarfs according to the norse were master smiths, and miners. Also one became a dragon.
Also as a note to William the Conquerer, he was a norseman, also called William the (B word that implies your birth lacks legitimacy).

#13 Captn Morgrim

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 09:53 PM

Having bored anyone reading this to death I shall return to my studies as we have just begun to read all the Arthurian legends in detail at school. As a literature major going for his doctorate in Anglo-Saxon and medieval literature, I have backed my opinion with many texts and appreciate any discussion, support, or contradictions.


Those being bored by yer expertise be d*mned, Wendersnaven, fer it was a mighty interesting read. I gotta admit that some things were new to me as well, regarding the Danes' tactics and such.
Regarding celt influence, apart from the Slayers, the only direct celtic influence I can think off is the knotwork on so many items and in the artwork, but methinks that 's a little anachronistic, more akin to the Dwarves of the 4th and 5th edition armybook.

Also, the Viking origin PLUS black powder weaponry proves that true Dwarves should be Pirates!

As far as I know, mythologically Dwarfs were a type of fairy/elf as has been stated above. Originally these labels were the latin equivilant of Nightmares or Deamons. It wasn't until the popularity of Arthurian Legend in the late middle ages that these Horrors began to be classified as distinct beings.


In fact, when you take a look outside the Fantasy Genre, many if not most people don't use these distinctions and perceive Dwarves, Gnomes and Elves as being part of the same bleedin' Fairy breed. Most prevalent is this view among the particularly hare-brained parts of the New Agey Crowd. Oh, the stories I could tell, but common decency and this very forum's filters stops me from doing so.

Tolkien actually said his Dwarfs were highly influenced by Jewish people. Warhammer dwarfs seem predominantly viking based on armor motifs, god similarities and monster/dragon slaying themes. They also have a scottish feel to them namely in slayers and terms such as 'clansmen'.


On a totally unrelated note, Terry Pratchett saif that many Jewish fans of Discworld link the Discworld Dwarves with Jewish Ancestry as well.

Cheers,

Captn Morgrim

#14 GrudgeBringer

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 09:55 PM

From what I have learnt from norse folklore white and black dwarves were elves. Svatalfar, black elves, and Ljosalfar, being light elves. Dwarfs according to the norse were master smiths, and miners. Also one became a dragon.


Are you certain of this i thought in norse mythology the dvergar were the dwarves and the svartalfar being the black elves were different worlds in the nine realms Nioavellir for the dwarves and svartalfhein for the black elves though its been a few years since read any of it

#15 kera foehunter

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 10:14 PM

Well we have always had little people living in the hill country
But if you sit and wait and you may get a chance to see one ..

The same goes for Sasquatch but most people are in to much of a hurry to wait eather one out..
but here they are trickster
they have been here since the beginning of time

#16 Alrik Ogregrudge

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 10:45 PM

I found that the Kelts had "huge" (for their time) stonework fortresses. Mostly build on already defendable points like hills or cliffsides. Walls going up to 4 meters (about 12 feet), with outer walls, and other very defendable points (like stone pillars, jutted into the ground at intervals to divert or slow down enemy cavalry)
I find these "untakable" strongholds very like Dawi fortresses, high in the mountains with our backs to the wall. Although Dawi forts are a bit more romanticized than those found through Europe.
Dwarves having huge tunneling networks, with tunnels in which a giant (or an even bigger being) could walk upright and three a-breast. I have yet to find lore or history in which tunnels like these excist or are resembled with a more humble and realistic aproach.
Also, the Kelts were quite the master smiths of their time, creating very finely detailed jewelry and usable trinkets more than weapons. Resembling the Dwarfs/Dwarves/Dawi mastery of the forge.

#17 Alrik Ogregrudge

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 10:51 PM

In Viking history (most commonly referred to as myth), dwarfs were the first beings to walk this planet, a bit likely to Dawi being on of the first humanoids on the world of Warhammer.


Alrik

#18 Dr. Cheesesteak

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 01:43 AM

They also have a scottish feel to them namely in slayers and terms such as 'clansmen'.

And their accents in WAR! (if that counts...)

#19 Wendersnaven

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 05:42 AM

In the German Books, he has an Bavarian accent :D

Bavarian is so cool! You don't just 'sit down,' you fell your stump. I love the proverbial speech.

Regarding celt influence, apart from the Slayers, the only direct celtic influence I can think off is the knotwork on so many items and in the artwork, but methinks that 's a little anachronistic, more akin to the Dwarves of the 4th and 5th edition armybook.

Good call Cap'm, <knuckles forehead> I retract the artwork portion of my comment. We definately have some knotworkings, which I may have noticed if I actually got around to painting my models... :blush: and the ability to work fine jewelry as Alrik suggests is good too. LMAO at the rest of your commentary.

From what I have learnt from norse folklore white and black dwarves were elves. Svatalfar, black elves, and Ljosalfar, being light elves. Dwarfs according to the norse were master smiths, and miners. Also one became a dragon.


Are you certain of this i thought in norse mythology the dvergar were the dwarves and the svartalfar being the black elves were different worlds in the nine realms Nioavellir for the dwarves and svartalfhein for the black elves though its been a few years since read any of it

Are there any texts you cold reference on these. My school doesn't have a Greek Mythology course so I have to do a lot of studying myself, and it appears you guys know a lot more about the Norse mythology specifics than I do- Anglo-Saxon being my focus. On a nerdy note, A.Sax. poems will directly praise God and christianity (a possible result of the monks who re-recorded them into latin) but they have all these hidden references to the Norse Gods that indicate they hadn't totally given up on their traditional pagan beliefs. The more I can learn about Norse Mythology, the more I will be able to recognize it in my texts.

I found that the Kelts had "huge" (for their time) stonework fortresses. Mostly build on already defendable points like hills or cliffsides. Walls going up to 4 meters (about 12 feet), with outer walls, and other very defendable points (like stone pillars, jutted into the ground at intervals to divert or slow down enemy cavalry)
I find these "untakable" strongholds very like Dawi fortresses, high in the mountains with our backs to the wall. Although Dawi forts are a bit more romanticized than those found through Europe.
Dwarves having huge tunneling networks, with tunnels in which a giant (or an even bigger being) could walk upright and three a-breast. I have yet to find lore or history in which tunnels like these excist or are resembled with a more humble and realistic aproach.
Also, the Kelts were quite the master smiths of their time, creating very finely detailed jewelry and usable trinkets more than weapons. Resembling the Dwarfs/Dwarves/Dawi mastery of the forge.

Are you sure the Celts built them Alrik? The strategic points and foundations were most likely Roman, and later taken by the Celts and Picts. :umnik2: (Go Boudica and Merlin.) The earliest non-Roman accounts describe the Roman ruins as being the mysterious work of Giants as they couldn't fathmn the feats of engineering involved. I hate to quote wikipedia but it was the best link I could find for this 8th century elegy called The Ruin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ruin Good point about the jewelry. :yes:

#20 GrudgeBringer

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 09:36 AM

Are there any texts you cold reference on these. My school doesn't have a Greek Mythology course so I have to do a lot of studying myself, and it appears you guys know a lot more about the Norse mythology specifics than I do- Anglo-Saxon being my focus. On a nerdy note, A.Sax. poems will directly praise God and christianity (a possible result of the monks who re-recorded them into latin) but they have all these hidden references to the Norse Gods that indicate they hadn't totally given up on their traditional pagan beliefs. The more I can learn about Norse Mythology, the more I will be able to recognize it in my texts.


I have never directly studied any of it, i just loved the stories when i was younger so most of my knowledge comes from novelisations. i particularly like the the tale of when loki bet his head that he could craft better items for the gods than the dwarves could, he lost as the dwarves crafted thors hammer mjolnir but came out alive by saying he bet his head only so the dwarves could have it aslong as they didnt harm his neck

Edited by GrudgeBringer, 24 March 2012 - 09:38 AM.





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