Skip to main content

The Dwarves of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth

The dwarves are some of my favorite characters in "The Lord of the Rings." Read on to learn about their vibrant culture.

The dwarves are some of my favorite characters in "The Lord of the Rings." Read on to learn about their vibrant culture.

The Dwarves of Tolkien's Middle Earth

Maybe the single most notable difference between the trilogy known as The Lord of the Rings, and the book that sets the background to it, The Hobbit, is that in The Lord of the Rings, there is not much in the way of dwarves, while The Hobbit is practically dominated by them. Simply put, in The Lord of the Rings, you only have one dwarf character to get to know, but The Hobbit is largely a tale of an entire kingdom of dwarves which has been ruined by a dragon.

Let us not forget the jewelry, and I don't want to provide too much of a spoiler, but in The Hobbit, a bit of jewelry is happened upon, and not just once either. Truth is, The Hobbit is a tale with a huge bit of focus upon jewelry, and that magic ring that keeps getting brought up isn't even the focal point of The Hobbit and isn't thought to be the most precious jewel in the tale either. Imagine that.

Truth be known, all of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth legendarium reveals a world semi-obsessed with precious jewelry, but perhaps that itself is another page worthy of being produced sometime. Within it all, mankind loves power, elves love the earth and skill, and dwarves? Dwarves mostly love precious jewelry, hoard wealth, and practice craftsmanship in all its forms. This page will seek to flesh out exactly who and what these dwarves are to Middle Earth, and then we'll take a good look at a few of the most important ones.

Dwarves of Middle Earth (from Peter Jackson's Film, "The Hobbit," by J.R.R. Tolkien)

Dwarves of Middle Earth (from Peter Jackson's Film, "The Hobbit," by J.R.R. Tolkien)

Where Did the Dwarves Come From?

"Since they were to come in the days of the power of Melkor, Aulë made the dwarves strong to endure. Therefor they are stone-hard, stubborn, fast in friendship and in enmity, and they suffer toil and hunger and hurt of body more hardily than all other speaking peoples; and they live long, far beyond the span of Men, yet not forever."

In The Silmarillion, the creation of the world is laid out in splendid allegory. The creator God created the angelic beings, or "lesser gods," and the most powerful one rebelled. Sound familiar? It should. In Tolkien's fictional universe, however, there were other misdeeds done by the lesser gods, or, shall we say, unapproved deeds? The dwarves of Middle-earth are just that sort of creation. A lesser god created them but wasn't truly able to put the breath of life into them, as only the true creator God could give life to anything, and the Creator God of Middle-earth fully intended for "his" creation, the elves, to be the first fully aware being to walk Arda, or the world.

Obviously, as the tale goes, a kindly compromise had to be reached, and the elves awoke first, followed by the dwarves. If you think there is a lot of potential there for rivalry between these two very different races of beings, well, you are onto something. There were often wars between dwarves and elves, but within the history of Middle-earth, there were also alliances between them towards the end of defeating the forces of evil and darkness.

While it can be said that, in general, the elves of Middle-earth are more noble beings than the dwarves, this is not always true. In fact, there is a sad tale of genocide found within the dark histories of Middle-earth found in The Silmarillion. One race of dwarves, the petty dwarves, were hunted and exterminated as the elves thought them no more than foul animals.

Short and stout, this game-world dwarf could easily fit as one of Tolkien’s dwarves.

Short and stout, this game-world dwarf could easily fit as one of Tolkien’s dwarves.

The dwarves of Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of “The Hobbit”

The dwarves of Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of “The Hobbit”

The Characteristics of Tolkien's Dwarves

The dwarves of Tolkien's Middle-earth are rather unlike the dwarves of European folklore. Tolkien's dwarves are rather a bit more human-like, just short, very stocky, and very tough to fight. The dwarves of Tolkien's legendarium are dedicated to two things, as a rule: hoarding wealth and learning some seriously impressive craftsmanship.

Dwarves, unlike their fellow early Middle Earth inhabitants, the elves, are not immortal. They do, in fact, die from old age; they just don't get into any sort of hurry about it, and their average life span is about two hundred and fifty years, but some of the dwarves had lived far longer lives.

Tolkien's dwarves, having a great affinity for living underground or inside of a mountain, were not so fond then of procuring their own food. They excelled at crafting things, and so they used trade to obtain sustenance.

While dwarves and elves had often suffered from very strained relationships, the dwarves of Middle-earth were rather more friendly with humans, but, as those obsessed with wealth always are a bit paranoid of others, well, so were the dwarves sometimes a bit paranoid in regards to Middle-earth's humanity.

The dwarves from The Hobbit were driven out of their homeland and lusted for gold and were going to reclaim them both, said J.R.R. Tolkien concerning his dwarves. In the last interview before his death, Tolkien, after discussing the nature of Elves, briefly says of his Dwarves:

"The dwarves of course are quite obviously, wouldn't you say that in many ways they remind you of the Jews? Their words are Semitic, obviously, constructed to be Semitic"

Now the quote above might seem somewhat unfair, but it is the creator of the legendarium's own words. Strangely, I'd never had the thought or made the connection, but I'm generally looking at Tolkien's work in a different sort of way.

Dwarf Women, Beards, and Magick Rings

Dwarf women are seldom, if ever, "seen" or mentioned in the writing of J.R.R.Tolkien, and in a scene in one of the Peter Jackson LOTR films, Gimli, son of Gloin, explains why it is rumoured that there are no dwarf women; they look about the same as they dwarf men—they're bearded. In fact, all dwarves of Middle Earth are bearded from birth. Of course, the rumour all around Middle-earth was that dwarves were born from stones—they just generated out of the rocks of the mountains. The truth is that only a third of the children born were women, the women looked just like the men, and nobody ever saw them unless they went inside a dwarf mountain kingdom.

Concerning warcraft, the dwarves were thought by some to even surpass the ability of the greatest warriors of the elves or the men of Middle-earth. Such is seen time and again throughout the Peter Jackson films, as dwarves slice through legions of goblins or "orcs" like knives through butter. They can and will endure thousands of injuries that would kill other beings and just keep going.

Concerning Sauron and the dwarves, Sauron was a failure. Folks who have read The Silmarillion all know that Sauron was never an archetype devil; he was merely a chief of demons. Sauron, as we all know, created the magick rings to control the races of free beings within Middle-earth, but in regards to both elves and dwarves, his rings didn't work at all; they only were effective in corrupting mankind. The dwarves, the fiercest five-foot warriors of all, if anything, only became more greedy for their gold for their rings.

Questions & Answers

Question: What are the weapons that the Dwarves use?

Answer: The dwarves tend to prefer battle axes and war hammers. They will absolutely also employ the use of swords, but because they are built short, and with an extremely muscular guild, the axes and war hammers serve them the best, and the dwarves especially excel in close-quarters combat.


Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 05, 2016:

Hi Silva, it has been at least ten years since the last time I read LOTR. This means it is about time for me to read it again!

Silva Hayes from Spicewood, Texas on November 08, 2014:

I'll never forget the first time I read The Hobbit and LOTR. It was wintertime, dark and gloomy, I worked full-time and had a husband and children, but I moved through the days as if in a dream, did what I had to do to keep things going, and then settled in to read, every night and all weekend. My husband finally said, you need to put the book down and let's go outside, you are obsessing. We went for a drive on a Sunday afternoon and everywhere I looked it was dreary, overcast, and the trees were stripped of their leaves and it looked like Mordor to me. I loved the elves, especially Legolas and Haldir.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on April 11, 2014:

Thanks very much! I'm forever interested in Tolkien. I'm also quite a huge fan of George R.R. Martin!

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on April 11, 2014:

Another great fan of Tolkien here - I mean me. Thanks for providing another great hub on the legendary series of books and movies.

Voted up and found informative and interesting.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on July 30, 2013:

Hey thanks, Lisa, I never get tired of Tolkien. Can hardly wait for the next Jackson film, even though he's seriously getting creative with it all.

I never really finished this hub...I think I got sick or something, and just ended it :/

Lisa from WA on July 30, 2013:

I'm a huge fan of Tolkien, but haven't read much besides LOTR and The Hobbit. Well, I tried reading The Simarillion but just couldn't hack it, unfortunately. I greatly appreciate such an informative hub. Well done!

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on January 20, 2013:

Interesting about the stone giants. There's a legend about two giants in North Yorkshire (near Whitby) who had a disagreement. The one giant scooped up a great chunk of land to throw at his enemy. The area that 'suffered land loss' became known as 'The Hole of Horcum' near Fylingdales. There's a great viewing area next to the Whitby Pickering road above the 'hole', where you can see right across to Wheeldale past Goathland and the NYMR.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 19, 2013:


I'm halfway scared to ever become involved with those terrific know why? I'd hardly be able to anything else!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 19, 2013:

Thanks very very much, RBJ33 ! One can only produce so many guitar articles on the web before he starts to lose his mind....but Tolkien brings me back to a happy place!

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 19, 2013:

Thanks very very much, Eddy! I'm a never ending fan of J.R.R.T. too, and intend to get around to nattering up some more of it :)

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on January 19, 2013:

Alan, you are an encyclopedic one stop cornucopia of Nordic mythology!

No, Tolkien's stuff is...entirely different, but in "The Hobbit," there are some rock giants, or stone giants....and they hurl stones the size of mansions at each other for sport!

FitnezzJim from Fredericksburg, Virginia on January 12, 2013:

This is extremely interesting and well-done.

As a long time medieval fantasy game role-player, most game systems seem to follow the Tolkien image of dwarves. They are hardy, stout, gifted at craftsmanship, and fierce in non-magical battle. I've found that those that seem to find most acceptance in gaming communities are stubborn, hard-headed, mulish in demeanor, and dedicate an equal amount of time between fighting, hard-work, drinking, and eating and sleeping.

RBJ33 on January 11, 2013:

Good stuff Wes - well done!

Eiddwen from Wales on January 11, 2013:

I am a great fan of The Lord Of The Rings and thoroughly enjoyed your hub.

I vote up,across and share all around.


Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on January 10, 2013:

In the Norse story of the 'Creation' the first being is Ymir, a Frost Giant. While he slept he sweated, and from the sweat under his left armpit came a man and a woman, and (wait for this) one of his legs fathered a son on the other. Ymir was forefather of all the Frost Giants. As the ice from Ginnungagap melted the water took the shape of a cow, Audumla. Whilst Ymir fed off the four rivers of milk that flowed from Audumla's teats, she fed herself from the salty ice (sea ice?). As she licked she exposed first the hair , the head and by the third day a whole man emerged from the rime. He was Buri... And so it goes.

Very graphic and no miracles, just plain ice, sweat and flesh. There's a lot of slaying and strife as Odin, the Aesir god and his son Thor and the Vanir gods like Frey struggle for supremacy and subsequently agree a truce to join forces against the Dark Elves, the scheming Dwarves and the Frost Giants. Loki, the Vanir god of mischief sows the seeds of dissatisfaction and flits between the worlds, Asgard, Midgard and Muspellheim. And the three Norns, Urd (Fate), Skuld (Being) and Verdandi (Necessity) dwell by the pool of knowledge at the roots of Yggdrasil (the World Ash Tree), weaving men's fates...

Ravens, squirrels, stags and otherworld beings abound; Hel the goddess of the underworld, Fenrir the wolf and Jormungand the world serpent are Loki's offspring, fathered by him on the giantess Angrboda and play their part in his slaying (through blind Hoder, by mistletoe) of Baldur the White God and the onset of Ragnarok, the end of the world as they knew it (we know a song about that, don't we).

By the way the death of Baldur ushered in not only Ragnarok, but foretold the advent of Christianity in Scandinavia. Effectively Baldur/Baldr, the youngest of Odin's offspring was Christ. It wasn't necessarily meant to be, but the signs were right... Is this where Tolkien comes in?

Any of this in Tolkien's books?