In Germanic mythology, a dwarf or dwerrow (Old English: dweorg; Old Norse: dvergr; Old High German: twerc, twerg; among other forms; plural "dwarves" or "dwarfs") is a being that dwells in mountains and in the earth, and is associated with wisdom, smithing, mining, and crafting. Dwarves are also described as short and ugly, although some scholars have questioned whether this is a later development stemming from comical portrayals of the beings.
The etymology of the word dwarf is contested, and scholars have proposed varying theories about the origins of the being, including that dwarves may have originated as nature spirits or beings associated with death, or as a mixture of concepts. Competing etymologies include a basis in the Indo-European root *dheur- (meaning "damage"), the Indo-European root *dhreugh (whence modern German Traum/English dream and trug "deception"), and comparisons have been made with Sanskrit dhvaras (a type of demonic being).
Norse mythology, as recorded in the Poetic Edda (compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources) and the Prose Edda (written by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century) provide different mythical origins for the beings. The Poetic Edda poem Völuspá details that the dwarves were the product of the primordial blood of the being Brimir and the bones of Bláinn. The Prose Edda, however, describes dwarves as beings similar to maggots that festered in the flesh of the primal being Ymir before being gifted with reason by the gods. The Poetic Edda and Prose Edda contain over 100 dwarf names, while the Prose Edda gives the four dwarves Norðri, Suðri, Austri and Vestri a cosmological role – they hold up the sky. In addition, scholars have noted that the Svartálfar, who, like dwarves, are said in the Prose Edda to dwell in Svartálfaheimr, appear to be the same beings as dwarves. Very few actual dwarf characters appear in the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda and have quite diverse roles: murderous creators of the mead of poetry, 'reluctant donors' of important artifacts with magical qualities, or sexual predators who lust after goddesses.
Some scholars have proposed that the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá may contain an account of the first human beings, Ask and Embla, as having been created by dwarves. A preceding stanza to the account of the creation of Ask and Embla in Völuspá provides a catalog of dwarf names, and stanza 10 has been read as describing the creation of human forms from the earth. This may potentially mean that dwarves formed humans, and that the three gods gave them life.
After the Christianization of the Germanic peoples, tales of dwarves continued to be told in the folklore of areas of Europe where Germanic languages were (and are) spoken.
See also 
- Hafstein, Valdimir Tr. (2002). "Dwarfs" as collected in Lindahl, Carl. McNamara, John. Lindow, John. (2002). Medieval Folklore. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-514772-8
- Jakobsson, Ármann (2005): "The Hole: Problems in Medieval Dwarfology," Arv 61 (2005), 53–76.
- Lindow, John (2001). Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515382-0
- Orchard, Andy (1997). Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend. Cassell. ISBN 0-304-34520-2
- Simek, Rudolf (2007) translated by Angela Hall. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S. Brewer ISBN 0-85991-513-1
External links