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View Full Version : Why do the Dwarves never change?



Hazzardevil
2012-03-04, 03:53 PM
In media there are various kinds of elves and orcs, each Author generally changes them for his/her own world, can anyone tell me why this doesn't seem to be the case for dwarves?

DomaDoma
2012-03-04, 03:57 PM
Well, some time after Tolkien they stopped speaking Semitic languages and started speaking with Scottish accents.

Basically, dwarves aren't pretty like elves, and there's no compulsion to change them up the way there is with villains. I think that's the long and short.

Devonix
2012-03-04, 04:00 PM
Simple you don't mess with perfection.

DomaDoma
2012-03-04, 04:01 PM
Also a good answer, but for that writers can and do mess with perfection, and often.

hamishspence
2012-03-04, 04:02 PM
Our Dwarves Are All The Same (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OurDwarvesAreAllTheSame), indeed. There are the occasional subversion, but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

Spiryt
2012-03-04, 04:03 PM
Same reason they usually don't change skeletons or mountains I guess - they feel that 'standard' archetype fits their story.

If some author would like some different dwarves (s)he would try, I guess.... :smallwink:

Omergideon
2012-03-04, 04:07 PM
Well, some time after Tolkien they stopped speaking Semitic languages and started speaking with Scottish accents.

Basically, dwarves aren't pretty like elves, and there's no compulsion to change them up the way there is with villains. I think that's the long and short.

Pretty much.

As an attractive race, and at times uncomfortably sue-ish in a lot of works, people have a strong incentive to make more varied and interesting varieties of Elves. People can want to be an elf and so seek to make a lot of varieties to cover every type of human we could encounter. Wish fulfillment.

And Orcs, as an antagonist race, are as varied as the kind of enemy you want in your work. If you want your enemy to be chaotic, lawful, noble, fallen, tragic or brutish (depending on what you think evil should be) your orcs will reflect that.

But dwarves are neither a race you would want to be like an elf (being short hurts them there), or an enemy you want to mold to your personal bias. So they get into fantasy based on the prestige of Tolkien (whose dwarves are much more nuanced than most modern ones), but noone can be bothered to do much work on them. Hence the stock dwarf character based on a flanderised notion of Tolkien's versions.

Morty
2012-03-04, 04:16 PM
The thing with the dwarves is that they tend to be just... there. The hardy, respectable folk yadda yadda. You don't see dwarves in the spotlight very often compared to most other races, Discworld being a notable exception - but Discworld dwarves are, while entertaning, not very original either.

Sunken Valley
2012-03-04, 04:17 PM
Well, some time after Tolkien they stopped speaking Semitic languages and started speaking with Scottish accents.

Basically, dwarves aren't pretty like elves, and there's no compulsion to change them up the way there is with villains. I think that's the long and short.

Fixed that for you.

dehro
2012-03-04, 04:24 PM
elves, pixies, fairies and such have a large variety of sources to fish from, literary, mythical and folkloristic. many countries have their own version of elves..
dwarves, not quite as many.. they're pretty specific.. creatures that vary from the standard dwarf tend to be given different names altogether.

Traab
2012-03-04, 04:26 PM
I have read a few variations on the basic dwarven character, but its generally minor changes to the same basic concept. For example, mining. Some dwarves are just miners. They live in mountains, thats where their metals and gems are, so thats that. Others have an actual sense for the earth, they can actually feel where there are mineral deposits, and things like that. Still others can actually manipulate stone as a form of magic. Bottom line though, they are pretty much ALWAYS deeply involved with the earth.

Personalities can change a bit. Gruff is always there, but there have been outright xenophobic dwarves, secretive dwarves, as well as open and friendly dwarves. Dennis Mckiernan for example, writes his dwarves as being heavily honor bound warriors, who treat virtually everything that isnt common knowledge about them as a deep dark secret that only the most loyal friends are allowed to know.

Oh yeah, and they are pretty much always ass kicking warriors. It doesnt matter if the dwarf in question is a miner, a soldier, or a merchant, when a fight breaks out, they yank out some sort of axe of hammer and start killing.

T-O-E
2012-03-04, 04:38 PM
Because they're written by authors who think that giving dwarves Russian accents is the height of originality and wit in fantasy.

dehro
2012-03-04, 04:42 PM
one funny variation that, I figure, is designed specifically to subvert canon, is the dwarf in Artemis Fowl's books

Prime32
2012-03-04, 04:47 PM
one funny variation that, I figure, is designed specifically to subvert canon, is the dwarf in Artemis Fowl's booksYou succeded in ninja'ing me only because of server problems. *shakes fist*

Anyway, yeah, Artemis Fowl dwarves = best dwarves. They're basically Wario as a race. :smalltongue:

T-O-E
2012-03-04, 05:02 PM
Just noticed the ad for the Vodka drinking dwarf... That's odd.

Hiro Protagonest
2012-03-04, 05:07 PM
Because they're written by authors who think that giving dwarves Russian accents is the height of originality and wit in fantasy.


Just noticed the ad for the Vodka drinking dwarf... That's odd.

He's based off a Russian mercenary archetype. But the author admits that the personality type overlaps with the standard dwarf bruiser a lot.

dehro
2012-03-04, 06:04 PM
this is relevant (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iC2oVZS14E)

t209
2012-03-04, 06:09 PM
There's one difference in Elderscrolls, the dwarves are just a translation for "Dwemer" (in ES verse, Mer is elf while dwe is deep). They're just elves with beards and machines.

Terraoblivion
2012-03-04, 06:31 PM
Dwarves. Dwarves never change.

And with that joke out of the way, I think that it is mostly because they hit the niche appeal perfectly. People who like tough, gruff, manly types pretty much have it all there already, while if you take that away you're left with short people who tend to be hairier than most. Not much to work with outside the archetypes and those who don't like the archetype probably aren't the people who would particularly care to work on developing a species that is defined solely by being short.

Weezer
2012-03-04, 06:42 PM
There's one difference in Elderscrolls, the dwarves are just a translation for "Dwemer" (in ES verse, Mer is elf while dwe is deep). They're just elves with beards and machines.

They turned their dwarves into elves, that's practically sacrilege. :smalltongue:

Selrahc
2012-03-04, 06:45 PM
Little creatures in mythology have a hundred different names. The only way to tell a dwarf is a dwarf is by the archetypes they fulfil. If they don't fulfil a large portion of those archetypes, odds are they'll be called something different.



There's one difference in Elderscrolls, the dwarves are just a translation for "Dwemer" (in ES verse, Mer is elf while dwe is deep). They're just elves with beards and machines.

That's old school Norse stuff. Dwarves used to be Dark Elves. Or at least, when they weren't busy being the maggots that wriggled out of a god corpse.

McStabbington
2012-03-04, 08:39 PM
If I had to guess, I would say that the reason the characteristics of the dwarves rarely change is because the characteristics of your average Hufflepuff faction (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HufflepuffHouse) rarely changes. Basically, in any situation when you have the protagonist's faction facing off against an Evil Empire, any third faction has to fit in that narrow slot where they're combat capable, but no so obviously capable that we stop thinking of the Evil Empire as a threat. So they turn into Hufflepuffs: strong tough budgers in a fight, but stodgy and small-c conservative so they have to get their dander up before they fight.

You'll notice that given the above description, dwarves are basically Hufflepuffs with ranks in Craft (smith) and Craft (stoneworking). Which is precisely how most fantasy writers use them: they're tough budgers who can lay some serious wood when they come out of their mountain halls in numbers and fight, but getting them to do anything is usually pretty tricky to do. I suspect that if more fantasy writers actually used dwarves as the protagonists, it would force them to come up with more varied accounts of dwarves and dwarven societies.

Lord Raziere
2012-03-04, 08:46 PM
This reminds me; I should get around to How I Do Dwarves thread in World-Building….

MammonAzrael
2012-03-04, 10:19 PM
If I had to guess, I would say that the reason the characteristics of the dwarves rarely change is because the characteristics of your average Hufflepuff faction (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HufflepuffHouse) rarely changes. Basically, in any situation when you have the protagonist's faction facing off against an Evil Empire, any third faction has to fit in that narrow slot where they're combat capable, but no so obviously capable that we stop thinking of the Evil Empire as a threat. So they turn into Hufflepuffs: strong tough budgers in a fight, but stodgy and small-c conservative so they have to get their dander up before they fight.

You'll notice that given the above description, dwarves are basically Hufflepuffs with ranks in Craft (smith) and Craft (stoneworking). Which is precisely how most fantasy writers use them: they're tough budgers who can lay some serious wood when they come out of their mountain halls in numbers and fight, but getting them to do anything is usually pretty tricky to do. I suspect that if more fantasy writers actually used dwarves as the protagonists, it would force them to come up with more varied accounts of dwarves and dwarven societies.

I think what you meant to say there was "Hufflepuffs are basically dwarves." :smallsmile:

Pokonic
2012-03-04, 10:50 PM
I think what you meant to say there was "Hufflepuffs are basically dwarves." :smallsmile:

Yeah, Ravenclaws are Elves, Griffondor are humans, and Slitherin are... Drow? :smalltongue:

Traab
2012-03-04, 11:12 PM
Yeah, Ravenclaws are Elves, Griffondor are humans, and Slitherin are... Drow? :smalltongue:

Id say ravenclaws are the tinker gnomes. The ones always inventing and researching everything they can without caring much about the consequences. The most standard type of elf is one that does know a lot, tons of wisdom and such, but I always pictured the stereotypical ravenclaw as the bookworm that learns for no other reason than to learn. No thought about applications of the knowledge, just assimilating every fact they can get their mitts on. Not very elvish really.

But yeah, slytherins are definitely drow. Both the best and the worst. After all, while most drow are evil bastard dedicated to attaining more power and control at whatever the cost, they also have numerous morons in their ranks who trade off family names to get what they want. Plenty of ambition, but no real cunning.

Jaros
2012-03-05, 12:59 AM
One factor I think could be the emphasis for Dwarven cultures on tradition. In most works I can think of with Dwarves in, they tend to have beliefs on duty and How Things Should Be Done, and will tend to be resistant, or even hostile, to change. Two main examples I can think of are Discworld and OotS, can anyone else think of works that look at Dwarven culture where this is the case? I can't remember if the same is true of LotR or not.

Dr.Epic
2012-03-05, 01:16 AM
Basically, dwarves aren't pretty like elves

Speak for yourself.:smallwink:

Ravens_cry
2012-03-05, 02:34 AM
I have a campaign setting I am working on where the dwarves are based on Babylonian culture, or at least Mesopotamian, where most live on the surface with the classic mountain fortresses been just that, fortresses for time of troubles.
On the other hand Semitic influences has some unfortunate implications. Big beards and large, often hooked noses on a people that are often shown as close fisted and greedy?
I seriously doubt this was Tolkiens intentions, it certainly isn't mine, I just think Babylonians had the rockenist beards ever, but it does resemble some rather unfortunate older stereotypes of a certain people.

hamishspence
2012-03-05, 03:01 AM
I have a campaign setting I am working on where the dwarves are based on Babylonian culture, or at least Mesopotamian, where most live on the surface with the classic mountain fortresses been just that, fortresses for time of troubles.

Warhammer's Chaos Dwarfs have a strong element of this- right down to the beard shapes.

Xondoure
2012-03-05, 03:17 AM
I have a campaign setting I am working on where the dwarves are based on Babylonian culture, or at least Mesopotamian, where most live on the surface with the classic mountain fortresses been just that, fortresses for time of troubles.
On the other hand Semitic influences has some unfortunate implications. Big beards and large, often hooked noses on a people that are often shown as close fisted and greedy?
I seriously doubt this was Tolkiens intentions, it certainly isn't mine, I just think Babylonians had the rockenist beards ever, but it does resemble some rather unfortunate older stereotypes of a certain people.

Actually, that was exactly his intentions. He has mentioned explicitly in interviews that Dwarves are supposed to be Jewish. A sad but true thing that lost me one of my heroes...

Ravens_cry
2012-03-05, 03:30 AM
Warhammer's Chaos Dwarfs have a strong element of this- right down to the beard shapes.
Yeah, I recently got from a friend an old Warhammer world book, not exactly a codex as there was little actual rules, and it is indeed the case, but I did come up with the idea independently.

Dallas-Dakota
2012-03-05, 03:47 AM
I will really recommend the book The Dwarves by Markus Heitz.

While it does use a lot of basic stereotyping, the main protagonist is a Dwarf with a lot of subcultures and character growth(Not only for him!). It's a awesome book.

Ravens_cry
2012-03-05, 03:58 AM
The Dwarves of the Guilded Age webcomic are fairly atypical. The protagonist example may be grave and taciturn, but he's can be described as a druidic necromancer (in an etymologically literal sense) magical archer.

Dienekes
2012-03-05, 07:09 AM
Actually, that was exactly his intentions. He has mentioned explicitly in interviews that Dwarves are supposed to be Jewish. A sad but true thing that lost me one of my heroes...

He did describe them as his love letter to Jewish culture, and made them the most resilient race against mind control, noble, and tough to boot. Yeah, it's not very pc for our time but really that made you lose a hero?

NinjaStylerobot
2012-03-05, 07:18 AM
Well there ARE poopy farty smelly mole Dwarves in artimis foul (dont read that book).

NinjaStylerobot
2012-03-05, 07:20 AM
Well there ARE poopy farty smelly mole Dwarves in artimis foul (dont read that book).

Wardog
2012-03-05, 07:20 AM
They turned their dwarves into elves, that's practically sacrilege.


Bearded subterranean steampunk elves who were at war with the other elves and (depending on which theory you accept) accidently destroyed themselves when trying to use the heart of a god to create a super-weapon / create a god / become gods.

I think that's sufficiently dwarfy.



I will really recommend the book The Dwarves by Markus Heitz.

While it does use a lot of basic stereotyping, the main protagonist is a Dwarf with a lot of subcultures and character growth(Not only for him!). It's a awesome book.

The main dwarven folks fit the standard concept of a dwarf (but with each folk specializing in one aspect). The Freelings (I can't remember if they feature in the first book, or if they don't appear until the second) play with or overturn a number of the traditional dwarven stereotypes.

And then there's the Undergroundlings from the third book, who completely avert overturn all the stereotypes.

H Birchgrove
2012-03-05, 09:04 AM
He did describe them as his love letter to Jewish culture, and made them the most resilient race against mind control, noble, and tough to boot. Yeah, it's not very pc for our time but really that made you lose a hero?

So when Peter Jackson made Gimli the comic relief, he was just trying to show his love for Jewish comedy and sense of humour? :smallamused:

dehro
2012-03-05, 09:37 AM
So when Peter Jackson made Gimli the comic relief, he was just trying to show his love for Jewish comedy and sense of humour? :smallamused:

nope..he seriously blundered there..poor Gimli being made the but of jokes is almost as bad as having legolas surf down the stairs.

that said, if being jewish and beardy gets me put in the same class as Gimli (other than for being a shortarse), I'm good...though I am somewhat lacking in the hooknose department

SlyGuyMcFly
2012-03-05, 09:56 AM
Well there ARE poopy farty smelly mole Dwarves in artimis foul (dont read that book).

Hey now, the Artemis Fowl series is pretty awesome.

And the dwarves in it are verydifferent from the usual depictions, while maintaining the basic notions of short, bearded folks that like gold and digging.

Raimun
2012-03-05, 10:52 AM
There's always Gotrek from Warhammer-setting.

While he fits in some ways to the classic dwarven archetype, there are lots of things where he doesn't.

First of all he's dynamic, rather than reactive. He doesn't sit inside a mountain hall, crafting and mining. He's a Slayer so he travels the world in search of a monster that could finally slay him... of course he doesn't go down without a fight.

Second, materialism isn't one of his defining characteristics. While I don't think slayers are required to be ascetic, they are solely occupied with finding a honorable death. That is why he doesn't wear an armor and doesn't live in/own a mountain fortress with a personal hoard of gold, finely crafted items, etc..

Third, it's been several years since I read a Gotrek-book but he certainly wasn't a comic relief sidekick (though he did throw some amusing insults here and there). Instead, he was a tragic protagonist who was walking towards his death... at least so they say. Dwarfs really do have a low Movement-value. :smalltongue:

Coidzor
2012-03-05, 11:00 AM
nope..he seriously blundered there..poor Gimli being made the but of jokes is almost as bad as having legolas surf down the stairs.

that said, if being jewish and beardy gets me put in the same class as Gimli (other than for being a shortarse), I'm good...though I am somewhat lacking in the hooknose department

With the right beard, no one could tell.

Most of the dwarves from the hobbit had rather long, thing noses, as I recall, which meant they had the advantage of being able to breath a bit better while they were tied up by the spiders, and the few that didn't were rather dazed and needed help from the others in getting away.

Finn Solomon
2012-03-05, 11:27 AM
Having returned from a short trip to Perth I have an idea for making a new tribe of seagoing dwarves based heavily on the Australians. Still drunken, still hairy, still strong as an ox, still excellent miners and metal smiths, but with new surfing racial abilities as well as an affinity with nature and outdoors living. Plus having a tribe of dwarves with broad Australian accents and strings of corks around their helmets would be fantastic.

NinjaStylerobot
2012-03-05, 11:28 AM
And the dwarves in it are verydifferent from the usual depictions, while maintaining the basic notions of short, bearded folks that like gold and digging.

I always hated the books. The smug ******* character, the somewhat pointless race changes, the cliches.

All around bad time for me.

dehro
2012-03-05, 11:39 AM
Having returned from a short trip to Perth I have an idea for making a new tribe of seagoing dwarves based heavily on the Australians. Still drunken, still hairy, still strong as an ox, still excellent miners and metal smiths, but with new surfing racial abilities as well as an affinity with nature and outdoors living. Plus having a tribe of dwarves with broad Australian accents and strings of corks around their helmets would be fantastic.

ha...I had a NPC I was moving around a few years ago, by the name Kruk.. a washed up sailor dwarf

Psyren
2012-03-05, 11:48 AM
I think part of the reason is that there are so many other "short races" for the other personality archetypes. Say, you want to change up your dwarves by making them outgoing and friendly? You start out doing that and before you know it, you've ended up with Gnomes. Or you want your Dwarves to be outdoorsy and woodsy instead of subterranean miners? You start out and then you end up with Halflings. So then you say "fine, let's make them rustic and parochial" - then you end up with Hobbits. Or you say "I'll make them even more dour, downright xenophobic and suspicious - you do that and finish up with Duergar. And so on.

GenericGuy
2012-03-05, 01:32 PM
My homebrew setting Dwarves are Chinese (is that different or racist?).

A lot of fantasy writers seem too enamored with their "spin" on Elves to give Dwarves more than two thoughts.:smallconfused:

Xondoure
2012-03-05, 01:43 PM
He did describe them as his love letter to Jewish culture, and made them the most resilient race against mind control, noble, and tough to boot. Yeah, it's not very pc for our time but really that made you lose a hero?

It's the fact that their weakness is avarice and they are set up in contrast to the elves who represent Tolkien's ideal figure of culture, beauty, and sophistication. Yes it is not all bad, but think to yourself if dwarves represent semetic culture, what exactly are the men of the east and the orcs a representation of? It doesn't paint a pretty picture.

Edit: ah! grabbed the wrong quote, following the chain of conversation. Sorry Dehro. :smallredface:

Tiki Snakes
2012-03-05, 01:49 PM
As I understand it, the Dwarves were originally intended to be significantly more negatively described and portrayed. It was only after he got carried away with the Hobbit and accidentally made it part of the rest of his setting that he ended up changing the way he was going to portray them to the remotely positive depicition we ended up with, as I understand it.

Also, Dweomer. I mean, the game itself stresses that they weren't really dwarves in any sense and that it was entirely a mistranslation as I recal.
Which is to say, they were Dwarves In Name Only (But not even that, really.)
Stupid Dinos.

dehro
2012-03-05, 01:58 PM
It's the fact that their weakness is avarice and they are set up in contrast to the elves who represent Tolkien's ideal figure of culture, beauty, and sophistication. Yes it is not all bad, but think to yourself if dwarves represent semetic culture, what exactly are the men of the east and the orcs a representation of? It doesn't paint a pretty picture.

yeah..I don't really want to take my analysis of Tolkien, and my liking of his writing into much of a social commentary/psychological troubleshooting direction. I am happy to just to take it for what it is, fantasy, a work of literature and a fun read.
also, I am happy to report that jewish women don't have beards..(well..most of them don't)

Orzel
2012-03-05, 02:39 PM
My settting's dwarves live in swamps and speak with the local Jamaican-like Halfling accents.

I was forced to move them as I filled every mountain with bigger creatures. I wanted mountain climbing to be a dungeon crawling option. The dwarves had to go. . So I made the dragons and giants kicked them out the mountains and into the halfling controlled swamp valleys. So I actually had a reason to change them.

Dienekes
2012-03-05, 04:13 PM
It's the fact that their weakness is avarice and they are set up in contrast to the elves who represent Tolkien's ideal figure of culture, beauty, and sophistication. Yes it is not all bad, but think to yourself if dwarves represent semetic culture, what exactly are the men of the east and the orcs a representation of? It doesn't paint a pretty picture.

Edit: ah! grabbed the wrong quote, following the chain of conversation. Sorry Dehro. :smallredface:

So, avarice is also called out as being a vice of men, as well as pride, and general all around moral weakness. In fact looking at how the dwarves handled the temptation of evil in the series, they fair much better than man, being able to turn back Sauron's gifts. While both human leaders become corrupted in some way (admittedly Theoden was just misguided, a lot). Elves more or less appear to be angelic, or pseudo-angelic creatures with no direct parallel and have their whole grand pot of problems as well (though admittedly they're all in the Sil). As for beauty, the dwarves are often shown displaying crafts of equal or greater beauty to that of elves. As far as I'm aware, Orcs don't actually represent anything. Now men of the East you definitely have me. But they're barely mentioned, and it's all rather vague what they represented. I've heard everything from Germans (a take that to the Nazi regime that Tolkien despised), to the Middle East.

turkishproverb
2012-03-05, 04:39 PM
Try Discworld Dwarves. Their racial subplots involve change IE Gender differences admitted, Religious rifts and reformations, etc...

Xondoure
2012-03-05, 04:50 PM
So, avarice is also called out as being a vice of men, as well as pride, and general all around moral weakness. In fact looking at how the dwarves handled the temptation of evil in the series, they fair much better than man, being able to turn back Sauron's gifts. While both human leaders become corrupted in some way (admittedly Theoden was just misguided, a lot). Elves more or less appear to be angelic, or pseudo-angelic creatures with no direct parallel and have their whole grand pot of problems as well (though admittedly they're all in the Sil). As for beauty, the dwarves are often shown displaying crafts of equal or greater beauty to that of elves. As far as I'm aware, Orcs don't actually represent anything. Now men of the East you definitely have me. But they're barely mentioned, and it's all rather vague what they represented. I've heard everything from Germans (a take that to the Nazi regime that Tolkien despised), to the Middle East.

Up until the hobbit every dwarven kingdom outside of the iron hills had met a terrible fate brought upon them by their own greed, from Moria to the Lonely Mountain (Smaug came a treasure hunting.) And while it has been a while since I read the Silmarillion I thought both of those tragedies and more were at least influenced by the seven rings given to them by Sauron. (please correct me if I'm wrong, but still: Moria.)

The whole issue with Sauron's forces versus the west is really more of an issue of black and white morality being tied to references to our considerably less black and white world. Edit: but the implications are nonetheless highly unsavory.

Which is odd because for a man who hated allegory, every single one of his races represented something he found good or bad about humanity.

Ravens_cry
2012-03-05, 04:56 PM
If you read The Similarion, you'll find the elves had enough their own moments of pig headed idiocy to do a human proud, and even in The Hobbit the king of the Mirkwood Elves is portrayed as being more than a little greedy and distrustful.

Xondoure
2012-03-05, 05:40 PM
Reading all of this has caused me to hop back into google and delve deeper into the issues behind the man, and indeed things seem less bad than I remember them being, (probably because I wasn't expecting it the first time.)

While his remarks still show a general attitude that is not exactly correct, it is well within what one would expect from the time period he lived in, and I've found a quote where he defends jewish culture (when retorting to a german who wrote asking him if he was Aryan.)

Now that said, look at what happens to Thorin at the end of the Hobbit. While greed is a common fallacy of all of Tolkien's races I don't think monetary greed is ever so clearly and blindly on display as it is there.

Gwyn chan 'r Gwyll
2012-03-05, 05:53 PM
Dwarves are also noted as having been on BOTH sides of the war that lead to Sauron's downfall the first time, just as men were.

Generally, I think Tolkien's view on Dwarves was pretty balanced. Yes, he had the unfortunate greed and stuff, but he also made them very skilled and literate, just as Jewish communities were, and they failed to fall to the rings of power, and instead had their rings stolen through alternate methods, unlike men, rather than being fully turned against civilization like the Ringwraiths were.

Edit: Wikipedia says that the Legolas-Gimli relationship was "Tolkien's reply toward "Gentile anti-Semitism and Jewish exclusiveness".". Basically, a reply to the alienation of the two groups. I think that that is INCREDIBLY telling as to Tolkien's own views: why must we be divided into two groups? Why cannot we just be "people"? Why must we be divided into "Jew" and "Gentile"?

Dienekes
2012-03-05, 06:05 PM
Up until the hobbit every dwarven kingdom outside of the iron hills had met a terrible fate brought upon them by their own greed, from Moria to the Lonely Mountain (Smaug came a treasure hunting.) And while it has been a while since I read the Silmarillion I thought both of those tragedies and more were at least influenced by the seven rings given to them by Sauron. (please correct me if I'm wrong, but still: Moria.)

The whole issue with Sauron's forces versus the west is really more of an issue of black and white morality being tied to references to our considerably less black and white world. Edit: but the implications are nonetheless highly unsavory.

Which is odd because for a man who hated allegory, every single one of his races represented something he found good or bad about humanity.

Moria was lost due to their greed, definitely, they dug past safety and unleashed evil. The Lonely Mountain hardly related to their greed, it was because of their success. Smaug saw gold, wanted gold, and took gold. The dwarves there could have been the most charitable buggers in the world and it didn't matter. The gold mines were too successful and they couldn't defend them.

As to the rings, hell Sauron tricked freaking everyone with the rings, hardly a fault of dwarven greed. Elves barely got out of having their entire race mind raped and again the dwarves proved un-mind rape-able, it did just make them greedy. But hell, greedy instead of mind raped, I'd take being greedy any day.

Hawriel
2012-03-05, 06:18 PM
Because it's tradition damn it! Ya be respectin yer ancensers pup! Yer father had bear chugging, mountan livin, gem hording, metal smithing, gruff dwarves! So did his father, and his father befor him. And we like it!!

also dwarves are stubborn not very prone to change.

BRC
2012-03-05, 06:19 PM
I think Part of the reason Dwarves have stayed so constant since Tolkien is that their preferred lifestyle, living underground in vast mines, has little in the way of a parellell with an human cultures. Yes Elves may live in trees, but "Living in Trees" is an easy step to "Living in Forests".

Plus, "Fantasy Dwarf" is almost as much a character as it is a race or culture. Built right into the archetype you have a Look (Beard, armor), a Profession (Miner/Blacksmith/Soldier), a home (Underground), and a Personality (Somber, focused, drunk). Put all that together, and you've got a Dwarf, take it away, and you've got a short human.

Discworld explored this with the idea of Dwarven Cultural Orthodoxy, and any dwarf that strayed away from the traditional dwarven stereotype being considered "Not really a dwarf".

Dragon Age is an interesting example of this. In the first game, your Dwarven companion was Oghren, the Dwarfiest Dwarf ever to Dwarf. He drank too much, Lived underground, had a beard, and fought with an axe and heavy armor. They dropped the obligatory scottish accent, but kept plenty of Gruffness.

In Dragon Age II you have Varrick, who is about as far from Oghren as you can get. Where Oghren was gruff and crude, Varrick is a silver-tonged storyteller. He wears leather armor, wields a crossbow, lives in a port city, isn't particularly focused on mining, Smithing, or Killing Things. Varrick is totally clean-shaven, eschewing the idea that all dwarves have beards.
But the thing is, is Varrick really a dwarf? We know he's a dwarf because he is short and says he's a dwarf. But since our cultural perception of the "Fantasy Dwarf" basically consists of one character: A Somber, Alchoholic, Bearded Miner/Blacksmith/Axe-wielding warrior, can we really deviate from that before making Dwarves just another flavor of Human.

Xondoure
2012-03-05, 06:28 PM
DA dwarves are a different species, so yes, yes you can. That said, there isn't much about DA that is very original. Well put together sure, but original not so much.

Ravens_cry
2012-03-05, 06:37 PM
The dwarves of the Hollow World Basic D&D setting break the mold pretty badly, been surface dwelling (for a given value of surface) sheep herders in lederhosen.
Whether it's a good portrayal or not I leave as a question for the reader.

Grey_Wolf_c
2012-03-05, 11:44 PM
My favorite almost-dwarfs that aren't dwarves in some major way:

M. Weiss & T. Hickmann had an exercise on "coming up with alt interpretation of dwarves" thing going on in the Death Gate series. Out of four possible worlds, only the magma world sounds like regular dwarves (and they're extinct). In Floating islands world, they're more like gnomes than dwarves (which isn't much of a change, admittedly), but in the water world, they are the voice of reason, and as such while still feeling dwarfish, they are also distinctly different.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is the Belgariad series. Yes, technically there aren't any dwarves, but there is a race of people living inside a mountain that are shorter than everyone else and massively strong (when they work at it). Their most gifted people can walk through solid rock (but not other substances like, say, sand) and detect caves at a distance. They are also deeply religious. YMMV, but I'd say the are the most dwarfishly undwarfish non-dwarves I've ever read about.

Other than that, I have to say that DA dwarves did feel un-dwarf-like in their lip-service to honor being just that, lip-service. The rigid caste system and utter heartlessness made for a very different kind of dwarf. There is something about their backstabbing culture that felt very alien to me. But, again, YMMV.

Grey Wolf

Solaris
2012-03-06, 12:01 AM
Edit: Wikipedia says that the Legolas-Gimli relationship was "Tolkien's reply toward "Gentile anti-Semitism and Jewish exclusiveness".". Basically, a reply to the alienation of the two groups. I think that that is INCREDIBLY telling as to Tolkien's own views: why must we be divided into two groups? Why cannot we just be "people"? Why must we be divided into "Jew" and "Gentile"?

I think that was the whole point he was trying to make.

dehro
2012-03-06, 01:30 AM
Discworld explored this with the idea of Dwarven Cultural Orthodoxy, and any dwarf that strayed away from the traditional dwarven stereotype being considered "Not really a dwarf".


then again, you don't need to be born a dwarf to be a dwarf, apparently

Ravens_cry
2012-03-06, 02:11 AM
Then again, you don't need to be born a dwarf to be a dwarf, apparently.
The first Discowrld novel I read was Night Watch and while it is still a favourite, Captain Carrot was very confusing at the time as they kept referring to him as a dwarf yet also referred to his great height, even compared to human characters.

t209
2012-03-06, 02:29 AM
My homebrew setting Dwarves are Chinese (is that different or racist?).:
Are they short, craftsman, likes to hit things with axe, or have beards?

Dogmantra
2012-03-06, 06:57 PM
Also, Dweomer. I mean, the game itself stresses that they weren't really dwarves in any sense and that it was entirely a mistranslation as I recal.
Which is to say, they were Dwarves In Name Only (But not even that, really.)
Stupid Dinos.
One of the two explanations is that Dwe (deep) was mistranslated as short, so they were the short folk. The other is that a race of giants were the first to encounter the Dwemer and named them Dwarves because they seemed so small in comparison.

Eldan
2012-03-06, 08:25 PM
And, of course, going by real world etymology, Dwemer and Dwergr sounds very alike.

Velaryon
2012-03-06, 11:05 PM
Although not normally known for originality, Terry Brooks's Shannara series scores a few points here. Dwarves in that world are usually claustrophobic, meaning the whole "live underground and do lots of mining" that you usually have with typical fantasy dwarves goes right out the window. Unfortunately, dwarves rarely if ever play much an important role in the Shannara stories, because Brooks prefers to focus on his elves, which are much more stereotypical elf.

t209
2012-03-07, 12:52 AM
How about Elderscrolls Orcs? They're dwarf expy (Smithy, heavy armor and rank-and-file soldiers). I still count them as "Dwarves)

Feytalist
2012-03-07, 02:26 AM
R.A. Salvatore makes use of powries, or redcaps, in his Demonwars Saga. He treats them as dwarves, almost, but they're vastly different from his other depictions of dwarves. His powries are seafaring, savage, and strong, but wiry, not bulky. Redcaps are so named because they dye their caps with their victims' blood.


Michael Scott Rohan has a series, The Winter of the World, with dwarves that are more akin to duergar, only not generally evil. Actually, they're explicitly mentioned to be a bit Neanderthalean, which is an interesting spin to put on it.

Weezer
2012-03-07, 09:36 AM
R.A. Salvatore makes use of powries, or redcaps, in his Demonwars Saga. He treats them as dwarves, almost, but they're vastly different from his other depictions of dwarves. His powries are seafaring, savage, and strong, but wiry, not bulky. Redcaps are so named because they dye their caps with their victims' blood.

Well redcaps and powries are mythological creatures (actually same creature, just different names) in their own right, so I don't think they count as 'different' dwarves.

Feytalist
2012-03-08, 02:31 AM
Well redcaps and powries are mythological creatures (actually same creature, just different names) in their own right, so I don't think they count as 'different' dwarves.

I'm aware that they're the same thing. That's why I said "or redcaps". Otherwise I would have said "and redcaps".

I also mentioned he "treats them as dwarves, almost". My point was that he treats them as an actual race, with dwarfish tendencies and habits (without making them out to be stereotypical dwarves), rather than portraying them as discrete and "elusive" magical creatures, as fairies, brownies, and other such mythological creatures usually are. Which is relevant to this discussion, I think.

Gnoman
2012-03-08, 07:40 PM
He actually calls the "evil dwarves."

Kinslayer
2012-03-09, 08:38 AM
How about Elderscrolls Orcs? They're dwarf expy (Smithy, heavy armor and rank-and-file soldiers). I still count them as "Dwarves)

TES Orcs are also Elves. :smallamused:

(Orsimer)

t209
2012-03-09, 10:32 AM
TES Orcs are also Elves. :smallamused:

(Orsimer)

They're elves but their traits (minus the beserker and outcast before Daggerfall) are similar to dwarves. They have axe, Lawful Society (follow the rule), and respected black smiths (Orcish armor considered the best).

Selrahc
2012-03-09, 01:44 PM
They're elves but their traits (minus the beserker and outcast before Daggerfall) are similar to dwarves. They have axe, Lawful Society (follow the rule), and respected black smiths (Orcish armor considered the best).

Of course! And the bears from the Golden Compass? Totally Dwarves. :smalltongue:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_XdP6Lp2ceqY/SzBZQBylO5I/AAAAAAAAFgU/4YRvseqoUUY/s400/iorek.jpg

cnsvnc
2012-03-09, 03:54 PM
I think part of the reason is that there are so many other "short races" for the other personality archetypes. Say, you want to change up your dwarves by making them outgoing and friendly? You start out doing that and before you know it, you've ended up with Gnomes. Or you want your Dwarves to be outdoorsy and woodsy instead of subterranean miners? You start out and then you end up with Halflings. So then you say "fine, let's make them rustic and parochial" - then you end up with Hobbits. Or you say "I'll make them even more dour, downright xenophobic and suspicious - you do that and finish up with Duergar. And so on.

This is the correct answer. The concept of "fantasy dwarf" itself has somehow got ingrained into popcultural subconsciousness as beard+axe+drunk+gruff+underground. Whenever people try to stray from it, the end result becomes "not really a dwarf". Conversely, if you happen to build a world where centaurs are the hard working, hard drinking, dour, suspicious miners and optionally berserk warriors with hidden hearts of gold, merely saying "Centaurs are the dwarves of this world" to anyone will instantly make them know all of that.

Ravens_cry
2012-03-09, 04:13 PM
Anthropomorphic Wombats combine traits of Hobbits and Dwarves in the excellent, but now ended, webcomic Digger.

Man on Fire
2012-03-11, 07:32 AM
In media there are various kinds of elves and orcs, each Author generally changes them for his/her own world, can anyone tell me why this doesn't seem to be the case for dwarves?

If it helps a little, in The Witcher dwarves are basically a mix of standard dwarves and Jews and Gnomes are Dwarven-Elven hybrids.

MLai
2012-03-11, 10:56 AM
I have to say that DA dwarves did feel un-dwarf-like in their lip-service to honor being just that, lip-service. The rigid caste system and utter heartlessness made for a very different kind of dwarf. There is something about their backstabbing culture that felt very alien to me. But, again, YMMV.
Yeah, my mileage varies here. I think the DAO Orzhammar dwarves are indeed one of the best "changed dwarves," in that they're not the typical Gimlis, but they're still very recognizeable as dwarves.

Their lip-service to honor is akin to Worf's culture shock when he saw the fabled traditions of his ppl that he had used as his own existential pillar since childhood, hardly ever taken seriously by Klingons IRL. "That's not what I read in books!!" Same deal with DAO dwarves. Same deal with major religious institutions of Earth. It is the natural progression of a rigid social structure.

Partysan
2012-03-16, 02:52 PM
I will really recommend the book The Dwarves by Markus Heitz.

While it does use a lot of basic stereotyping, the main protagonist is a Dwarf with a lot of subcultures and character growth(Not only for him!). It's a awesome book.

The actually interesting part of the Dwarves series by Heitz is how he sets up a very traditional fantasy world scenario in the first book and then book for book mercilessly deconstructs it.

Alchemistmerlin
2012-03-16, 02:54 PM
Half the dwarves in my world are Sea-faring...granted half of them are also standard mining and smithing underground dwarves, but I'm halfway different! :smalltongue:

They're also communists and subsist primarily on fungus, the gnomes do not approve of this.

Creed
2012-03-16, 03:49 PM
Because people can make fun of elves for being green and spindley, but the dwarf with a mug of ale, an axe, and plate mail just... sticks.
Maybe it's because many franchises use "elf" as another word for "fey creature that could be a pixie, fairy, eladrin, elf, tree-spirit, hippie, or elf".:smalltongue:

Sotharsyl
2012-03-22, 05:48 AM
The dwarves of the Hollow World Basic D&D setting break the mold pretty badly, been surface dwelling (for a given value of surface) sheep herders in lederhosen.
Whether it's a good portrayal or not I leave as a question for the reader.

Well it gets a thumbs up from me, although I'd preffer they wouldn't wear the lederhosen.


Id say ravenclaws are the tinker gnomes. The ones always inventing and researching everything they can without caring much about the consequences. The most standard type of elf is one that does know a lot, tons of wisdom and such, but I always pictured the stereotypical ravenclaw as the bookworm that learns for no other reason than to learn. No thought about applications of the knowledge, just assimilating every fact they can get their mitts on. Not very elvish really.

But yeah, slytherins are definitely drow. Both the best and the worst. After all, while most drow are evil bastard dedicated to attaining more power and control at whatever the cost, they also have numerous morons in their ranks who trade off family names to get what they want. Plenty of ambition, but no real cunning.

Brb writting a Draco Malfoy fic where he dual wields scimitars, which also act as wands !!! , and has a pet panther :smallbiggrin:

Yes Slitherin are Drow but I can make a case for Ravenclaws as elves, firstly there is a very strong trend to have a type of elves Eladrin Blood Elves who only care about magical knowledge separate from their more wise eartly brethren, secondly the Ravenclaws secondary attributes i.e outside of being nerds are if I remember my HP fanfic being aloof and being the girls you date before your True Love tm revels herself again very elfish and thridly when people try to rwrite Good! slitherin they generaly come up with a more anti heroish Ravenclaw which swaped out some of his academic smarts for more street smarts.

Tenchu
2012-03-22, 07:10 AM
People never seem to want to change the "core personality" of dwarves. They are always stubborn, wealthy, greedy, miners, smiths, and warriors.

Even in works of fiction where they appear to be different than normal, such as the Elder Scrolls with their Dwemer, these core traits are apparent. I guess it's just hard to picture dwarves as anything but those traits.

t209
2012-03-22, 11:08 AM
Warhammer's Chaos Dwarfs have a strong element of this- right down to the beard shapes.

Don't forget Elderscrolls Dwemers (More like underground dwelling elves). THey have babylonian culture too. (Their beard remind me of carvings in Babylonian buildings.)

Talya
2012-03-22, 12:40 PM
I'm in the process of creating a campaign setting for E6. In it, the Dwarven thane was overthrown several decades earlier. The blacksmith guild united and took control of the production of the new Dwarves' Republic of Understone. Their new flag is charcoal grey with a red hammer and pickaxe crossed at the center. Most clerics are now exiled because the DRU doesn't recognize the bourgeoisie authority of the Gods.

Also, Ale has disappeared in favor of Mushroom Vodka.

TheEmerged
2012-03-22, 06:53 PM
When designing my last fantasy campaign world (for a 4th Ed campaign), I restricted myself to 3 from each racial archetype -- so there would only be 3 'human' races, 3 'dwarf' races, and... 3 elven races. I will admit to being almost as bad as Erfworld when it comes to elven variants, so this turned into a challenge.

Bottom line was, I found myself missing my usual sea elves. In a fit of pique, I decided that instead of having hill\surface dwarves I would create the Sea Dwarves. I jokingly decided they had Canadian accents instead of scottish, were lumberjacks/carpenters instead of miners/smiths, and venerated "The Sea" the way the Wood Elves did "Mother Nature".

What started as a joke ended up working better than expected. Yes, there was an element of "Our Elves Are Different" trope in effect. They were never the focus of an adventure and none of the PC's played one (our race\class mix was actually rather boring) but they ended up turning out up at some key points as something other than laughs.

Tiktakkat
2012-03-22, 07:25 PM
If we are going to compare Dwarves to Elves perhaps we should note that Dwarves are Elves, or at least the line between the two in basic Germanic and Celtic mythology is so variable and subjective as to make the terms somewhere between synonymous and references to subtypes with dialectical variation and linguistic drift thrown in for good measure.
As such, perhaps a better question would be why are Dwarves and Elves regarded as so different in the first place.

Lord Raziere
2012-03-22, 08:34 PM
because people don't research their mythology, looked at Tolkien and thought that Dwarves were completely different from elves and not just another form of elf…..

yea….but to be fair, who could blame them? they are basically the opposites in every way possible.

Ravens_cry
2012-03-22, 08:46 PM
And since there is plenty of other small races out there, changing the general dwarvish character around too much basically makes them . . .not dwarves but something else.

Lord Raziere
2012-03-22, 08:59 PM
why not sailors? dwarven sailors sound dwarvish to me, and I don't think there are any pre-existing little people who sail.

Tiktakkat
2012-03-22, 10:27 PM
because people don't research their mythology, looked at Tolkien and thought that Dwarves were completely different from elves and not just another form of elf…..

yea….but to be fair, who could blame them? they are basically the opposites in every way possible.

And yet oddly enough, even Tolkien had Elves that were rather Dwarven as it were. Feanor and his craftwork is clearly derived from the magic item creating Dwarves of the sagas, while many Elves lived underground in Middle Earth.

We would also then have to understand that Elves, whether Dwarves or Elves, were generally part of a larger Faerie or Fey group. As such, a lot of the variations of both already exist in many systems, from Leprechauns to Sprites to whatever. Of course since they are separated out as non-player races, nobody much considers them as variations on the base Dwarf or Elf theme, and we wind up with multiple versions of the same creature.

Once you start looking at some of those other creatures for inspiration, modifying the basic Dwarf as people like to modify basic Elves to serve other roles should come easy enough.

hamishspence
2012-03-23, 01:37 AM
And yet oddly enough, even Tolkien had Elves that were rather Dwarven as it were. Feanor and his craftwork is clearly derived from the magic item creating Dwarves of the sagas, while many Elves lived underground in Middle Earth.

In his early writings, before the name change to "Noldor" those Elves were actually called Gnomes.

dehro
2012-03-23, 07:56 AM
why not sailors? dwarven sailors sound dwarvish to me, and I don't think there are any pre-existing little people who sail.

I seem to remember a flying ship with a dwarven crew.
can't remember if it's from a book or a game though