Dwarf sketch by Paul Bonner.

DWARVES, dwarfs, halflings (old Icelandic dvergar; singular dvergr)

micro-anthropomorphic beings in Germanic (Scandinavian) mythology. The oldest of them, Modsognir (old Icelandic Módhsognir ”Strength Drainer”) and Durin (old Icelandic Durinn) were created by ➚ Aesir from the blood and bones (bonelets) of ➚ Ymir. Following the human example, the first dwarfs molded more of their kin from clay – Völuspa mentions 68 dwarven names [1]. According to later versions halflings were primarily the vermin in Ymir’s body. Sometimes they were identified with dark ➚ alfar.

Dwarves were characterized by wisdom (see KVASIR; ALVISS) and knowledge of blacksmithing (see BROKK; compare with Sons of ➚ Ivaldi); brothers ➚ Fjalar and Galar prepared the Mead of Poetry ➚ Skaldamjöd; Thjodrörir (old ice. Thjodhrørir) in his song prophesied strength to the Aesir, prosperity to the alfs and clear mind to ➚ Odin [2].

Dwarves dwelled underground, where they guarded treasures, and sunlight was lethal for them (see ALVISS). Four dwarfs: Austri (Austri “Eastern”), Vestri (Vestri “Western”), Nordri (Nordhri “Northern”) and Sudri (Sudhri “Southern”) personified the geographical directions; they were considered supporting heaven on its four ends.



[1] Völuspá 11 ff.; [2] Hávamál 100.