Y is for Yodelling
I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.
If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.
yodel v sing with abrupt changes between a normal and a falsetto voiceCollins English Dictionary
My first introduction to dwarfs was, of course, the yodeling ones from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” from Disney.
Popular Romances of the West of England collected and edited by Robert Hunt [1903, 3rd edition]
THE FAIRY MINERS–THE KNOCKERS.
AT Ransom Mine the “Knockers” were always very active in their subterranean operations. In every part of the mine their “knockings” were heard, but most especially were they busy in one particular “end.” There was a general impression that great wealth must exist at this part of the “lode.” Yet, notwithstanding the inducements of very high “tribute” were held out to the miners, no pair of men could be found brave enough to venture on the ground of the “Bockles.” An old man and his son, called Trenwith, who lived near Bosprenis, went out one midsummer eve, about midnight, and watched until they saw the “Smae People” bringing up the shining ore. It is said they were possessed of some secret by which they could communicate with the fairy people. Be this as it may, they told the little miners that they would save them all the trouble of breaking down the ore, that they would bring “to grass” for them, one-tenth of the “richest stuff,” and leave it properly dressed, if they would quietly give them up this end. An agreement of some kind was come to. The old man and his son took the “pitch,” and in a short time realised much wealth. The old man never failed to keep to his bargain, and leave the tenth of the ore for his friends. He died. The son was avaricious and selfish. He sought to cheat the Knockers, but he ruined himself by so doing. The “lode” failed; nothing answered with him; disappointed, he took to drink, squandered all the money his father had made, and died a beggar.
The Fairy Mythology by Thomas Keightley 
THESE beings are called Zwerge (Dwarfs), Berg- and Erdmänlein (Hill and Ground-mannikins), the Stille Volk (Still-people), and the Kleine Yolk (Little-people). The following account of the Still-people at Plesse will give the popular idea respecting them.
At Plesse, a castle in the mountains in Hesse, are various springs, wells, clefts and holes in the rocks, in which, according to popular tradition, the Dwarfs, called the Still-people, dwell. They are silent and beneficent, and willingly serve those who have the good fortune to please them, if injured they vent their anger, not on mankind, but on the cattle, which they plague and torment. This subterranean race has no proper communication with mankind, but pass their lives within the earth, where their apartments and chambers are filled with gold and precious stones. Should occasion require their visit to the surface of the earth, they accomplish the business in the night, and not by day. This Hill-people are of flesh and bone, like mankind, they bear children and die, but in addition to the ordinary faculties of humanity, they have the power of making themselves invisible, and of passing through rocks and wails, with the same facility as through the air. They sometimes appear to men, lead them with them into clifts, and if the strangers prove agreeable to them, present them with valuable gifts.
The Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper
Diminutive, humanoid creatures found in the folklore of many cultures around the world, often described as wizened males, dwelling in underground caverns or subterranean palaces. In Teutonic mythology white, brown, and black dwarves inhabited the Isle of Rügen. White dwarves were gentle creatures, skilled in the art of metalwork, brown dwarves were similar in nature to the brownie of British and Scottish folklore, and black dwarves were malicious, using their skill in metalwork to forge deadly weapons.
*More can be read in the book.
Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane
The dwarf is a popular and staple figure in fairy lore. Generally these short but powerfully built beings are beneficent and will assist those who treat them with respect; however if injured or offended they will quickly vent their rage on cattle. They appear to be old, reach maturity at three years of age, and the male of the species will have long, grey beards. Dwarfs who live underground do not involve themselves with humans if they can help it, as they would rather mine for their gold and precious gems. If they venture above ground, the dwarf will do so at night. They have the ability to become invisible and can walk through rocks and walls.
In Cornwall, England, knockers were dwarfs or a species of kobold who lived in caves and mines; they earned their name by knocking noises they made to direct miners where to dig. When danger was near they would knock in rapid successions. Knockers did not like the sound of whistling and would throw handfuls of gravel, harmlessly, at the offender. To keep on their good side, miners would leave a portion of their food for them.
Generally the knocker were described as standing about two foot tall and dressed as if it were a miner carrying a lunch pail and pick.
Filipino fairy lore says the dwende are a type of nature spirit living in caves, old trees, rocks and in the unused, dark areas of the home. They are partial to acacia, balete, caimito, and mango trees. Living in hills, the white dwende are considered to be beneficient while the black dwende are malicious. They enjoy playing with children. Description varies, they are said to be between two and three feet tall, have red skin, hairy bodies, long beards, pointed ears, smell of either damp earth or dried feces, and wear pointed hats and shoes.
*Read more in the book.
- Dwarf (folklore)
- Dwarfs and Elves
- Elves & Dwarves in Norse Mythology
- The Legend of Snorro the Dwarf
Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel
I’ve looked at the more violent dwarves of folklore in a previous post, Duergar, but this is about the dwarfs who enjoy playing with their trinkets dug from the earth.
Dwarfs from Scandinavian and Teutonic folklore are a species of faery that inhabit the interiors of mountains and the deepest parts of mines. They are of small stature, ranging from 45cm high to about the size of a two-year-old child. They usually look like little old men with long beards. Dwarfs live in tribes with their own chieftains. They have grand halls filled with precious stones and gold. They are quite skilled at metalwork and forging grand treasures. In some myths, they have the power to foresee the future and make themselves invisible.
Dwarfs are connected to the Earth and are often portrayed as miners and craftsmen. In Norse mythology, they are expert craftsmen who made Thor’s hammer (among other things). They are also known for their moral ambiguity – stories like the one about Fjalar and Galar who killed the god Kvasir to make an extraordinary mead, comes to mind.
There are famous dwarfs in ancient Germany, including Alberich who had the strength of twelve men and was defeated by the hero Siegfried, and the dwarf king, Laurin, who fights against the hero Dietrich in his rose garden when the hero comes to free a woman Laurin had abducted.
They are part of the hidden people, yet living quite openly in the mortal realm, still producing exquisite objects valued by gods, fae and mortals.
Dwarfs in Modern Culture
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs film
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a 1937 American animated musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by RKO Radio Pictures. Based on the 1812 German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, it is the first full-length traditionally animated feature film and the first Disney animated feature film.Learn more here
Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett
Dwarfs are one of the many races in Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld series. They are similar to the dwarves of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, which they largely started out as a homage to, and dwarfs/dwarves in other fantasy novels. They are short, stocky, bearded metal-workers, generally seen wearing chain mail and brandishing axes. However, they have many unique qualities.
Incidentally, Pratchett uses the plural “dwarfs”, not Tolkien’s “dwarves”, and “dwarfish” instead of “dwarven”.
As Tolkien implied of his dwarves, Discworld dwarfs of both sexes have beards. However, while Tolkien stated that female dwarves are rare, and disguise themselves as male when they must travel, female Discworld dwarfs are common, but are traditionally indistinguishable from males at all times. Dwarfs prefer not to spend much time on the subject; the dwarfish language has a gender neutral pronoun, usually rendered as “he” when speaking human languages. Dwarfish courtship is an incredibly tactful affair, primarily concerned with finding out which gender the other dwarf is. Despite the awkwardness that comes of this, it is traditionally considered rude to discuss female dwarfs in conversation.Learn more here
Artemis Fowl book series by Eoin Colfer
Dwarfs are one of The People.
In a rather more creative reworking, the Artemis Fowl series’ dwarfs act as a sort of earthworm, tunneling through soil and loose rocks and getting nutrition thereby, excreting it just as fast as they eat it except when they need to build up pressure to break through a layer of solid rock.
They are short, round, hairy, have large tombstone teeth, and unhinging jaws. Most also grow long, thick, furry beards.
They are very intelligent and have tendencies for becoming criminals. Dwarfs are also known for loving gold and gems, tunneling, and the dark. They are very sensitive to light (even artificial) and have a burn time of three minutes, thus their uniform hatred toward the sun.
It is well known that dwarfs unhinge their jaws and ingest earth, ejecting the recycled dirt and air through ‘the other end’. They use this method to excavate tunnels. They also have extremely sensitive beard hair which acts as an antenna, able to pick up minute vibrations when tunneling and detect different types of the surrounding soil.Learn more here
Dwarfs in My Writing
Origin of the Fae: Dwarfs
Dwarfs are diminutive in size compared to humans and high fae, and prefer it that way. They are shorter than the Galno, if only by a bit. In some clans, anyone too tall, is thrown out. They live in mountains and dig their own mines – far below that of humans. There are ways to travel between Mines – which includes the treacherous Labyrinth. Their children play with uncut gems. Their skin is tough enough to withstand fire, lava and molten gems. Having shiny things from the earth around them is a way of life. They do make marvellous trinkets that they sell to other fae. They take on the ethnicity of the local humans.
Translation of Dwarfs in Afrikaans: Dwergies.
See them in action:
Solitary Fae (Origin of the Fae #6)
What do you think of this kind of dwarf? Which dwarf do you prefer: the duergar or the dwarf from this article? Any folklore about dwarfs you’d like to share? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.
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No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.