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Gather 'round the campfire
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Urban legends

A dwarf is a mythological creature. Dwarves are humanoid, but shorter and uglier. They are frequently depicted with extremely large and bushy beards. In some stories, either dwarves have no women at all, or dwarf-women just happen to look exactly like the men (complete with beards), with all of their feminine features hidden under twelve layers of armour. Dwarves are usually depicted as very skilled craftsmen, known for their cunning inventions and fine metalwork.[note 1] They are also miners, constantly looking for precious materials.[note 2] Dwarves sometimes use magic, but usually don't cast flashy magical spells; instead, they create magical weapons, armour, and charms.

Mythology and fantasy literature[edit]

In Norse mythology, four dwarves hold up the four corners of the sky. Dwarves overlap somewhat with the drow "black elves" that in the Prose Edda are listed as the inhabitants one of the Nine Worlds, Svartalfheim.

Dwarves are also a staple in modern fantasy literature, due in large part to the influence of J.R.R. Tolkien, who began his literary depictions of dwarves by directly ripping off Norse mythology — going so far as to take almost all of the dwarf names in The Hobbit straight out of a long list in the Eddaic poem Voluspa. In modern fantasy media, they are almost always portrayed as Scottish, Nordic or Russian as well as both tough and brawny in usually stark contrast with the slender and nimble but fragile elves, having also often beers of Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster levels and a more or less strong disliking of the former.

In the popular trading card game Magic: the Gathering (MTG) and related spin-off material, dwarves appear in a variety of manners from the stereotypical, deformed miner type[1] to sexy, intelligent machinist man.[2] Of note is the fact that dwarves in MTG are not solely depicted as white men; they presumably do not have only Scottish accents either.

Crossing over into a realistic depiction of dwarfism in a fantastical world would be Tyrion Lannister of the Game of Thrones series (A Song of Fire and Ice to bookworms). Tyrion is called a dwarf in the sense of being part mythological creature,[citation needed] but is really a Human who is rumor-milled by the masses who do not know him. Tyrion also seems to carry a reputation for an extraordinary amount of sexual conquests.


Note: this is not how dwarfism works.

In real life, dwarfism is a catch-all for a number of health conditions resulting in extremely short stature. Historically, people with some of these health conditions were called "dwarfs" (distinct from the dwarves of modern fantasy), but nowadays the polite term is "little people." And no, contrary to claims made by young earth creationist Jim Pinkoski, the existence of very short people nowadays does not prove that Adam was 15 feet tall.[3] Human height is affected by conditions experienced during childhood, with people generally getting taller in recent generations due to factors such as better nutrition.[4][5]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. For instance, a dwarf created Thor's hammer, Mjolnir.
  2. This can be seen in even the Disney version of Snow White, which along with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien were predated by Norse and other Germanic mythology.