Nobody tosses a dwarf. – Gimli – Fellowship of the Rings
Now, first things first, I am not speaking of people with dwarfism, Little People or any other version of common people that are differently abled. I am speaking of those mystical beings that have fallen under the term dwarf for centuries. First we are going to dig into the origins of the word and where dwarves appeared in real world mythology.
In German mythology, Dwarves take on the aspects of the land they live in. They dwell in the mountains or under the earth and they are connected to wisdom, smithing, mining and crafting. In other words, the dwarf is another of those races that lives outside of humankind, working and toiling at there own tasks all the while helping humans along when they when they encounter them. Whether dwarves have always had a shorter stature is up fro grabs but it does seem that they are depicted as smaller then humans in most cases.
Norse mythology also has its faire share of dwarves. Much like the germanic tradition, the dwarves in Norse mythology are short in stature and seem otherworldly. In most cases the dwarves are known to be master craftsmen. In fact, Sindri, one of the Svartalfar (dwarves), made the hammer Mjolnir. He was in a competition with Loik to see who could make the most useful item in all of Asgard. This hammer, of course, becomes the weapon and symbol of the Norse god Thor.
Tolkien – Once again, our friend JRR Tolkien makes an appearance with a mystical race. Tolkien’s dwarves are very typical of our ideas of dwarves. The dwarves in Lord of the Rings and in the Hobbit are adventures. They are cunning craftsmen and they are fearless in the face of danger. Especially in the Hobbit, dwarves are some of the main characters as they make up the majority of the adventuring party that picks up Bilbo at the beginning of the book. Gimli, from the movie version of the Lord of the Rings books has probably become the best known dwarf on the face of the planet. His bantering with Legolas, the elf, moves the movie along and also gives it a bit of humor to some of the more grim scenes. Tolkien also gives the dwarf the stiff upper lip and haughty nature that you have come to expect from them. Gimli offering to lend his axe to the cause after Legolas offers his bow to protect the hobbit is a good example of this.
World of Warcraft – World of Warcraft takes the idea of dwarves to the extreme. Being able to play a dwarf, fulfilling those dream sof your youth while you played a table top game is fun and exciting. The dwarves in the game get special bonuses toward smithing professions and they are of course, one of the most hardy races in the game.