Abridged History of the 10th Age
Dwarves, unlike the elves, grew up without meeting the First Men. While elves share many cultural attributes with men (an alphabet, the ability to use magic, and so forth), dwarves do not. However, since man and dwarf came together to meet during the Fourth Age they have found commonalities between them. There are even some human societies that have more dwarvish inspiration than from the First Men.
It is said that the dwarves developed a different kind of magic from the First Men, and that is certainly true. Their magic is trapped in stones and gems, and can be brought out by the exquisite care and craftsmanship they dedicate themselves to. Dwarf-legends speak of the Mountains of Old (Harnholme, the Grey-Home) in which the whole of the dwarven people lived. They claim fathership from Eiri Earthfather in the same way that elves believe Anunë sired them.
Dwarves are divided into several groups. These categories are only loose definitions, and have more to do with the kind of settlement that a dwarf lives in than with any ancestral definition. For example, a Tól dwarf becomes an Askr when he moves from a mountain-fastness into a colony.
- The Tól, or “tool-dwarves,” who dwell in the mountain-hearts and concentrate on craftswork. Most dwarves would identify as Tól – this is also the general word for dwarf in most dwarven languages.
- The Askr, or “spear-dwarves,” who live in small colonies or fortress-communities. Warrior-dwarves and frontiersmen most often identify as Askr.
- The U∂r, or “water-dwarves,” who live on the islands in the Great Sea and work the foundries.
Dwarves have many peculiar traits, one of which is their secrecy. They have a tendency not to share trade secrets with outsiders. In addition, they develop strong interpersonal bonds, which can be seen in a common dwarf custom of insult-greeting. When two dwarves who have not seen each other in a long time meet they will often attempt to insult one another to the height of their wit and capabilities, delivering blistering critiques of the others’ character. However, were an outsider who did not know these dwarves to join in, it would be considered the height of rudeness.
Dwarven settlements are frequently partially below ground – those in mountains have halls and tunnels (the temples of Eiri Earthfather must be below the earth to be sacred in dwarven theology) but also have terraced cities and farmlands. The same goes for smaller settlements. Some dwarf-towns are actually fully above ground, connected with below-ground tunnels and ringed with defensive walls. These sites are called Ring-towns for that reason, and are always situated on and around a large hill.
Dwarven women fend off the homeland – they are frequently worshipers of Helden Stonemother, and many dwarvish defense forces are strongly biased in favor of women. In the same vein, dwarven men are more likely to leave home to try to found colonies, to become adventurers, or to become great artisans as they most often worship Eiri Earthfather.
Dwarven kinship is understood by means of “clans,” each of which are particular to certain regions. For example, Dwarves of the Vales tend to belong to either the Bjarmyrk clan (the settlement of Hammer Gully, for example, only contains members of the Bjarmyrks who crossed south) or the Rum∂aus – the town of Bracstone contains only Bjarmyrks and Rum∂aus.
The more ancient clans originated back in Harnholme (also known as Mountainholme). There are clans that have been founded more recently (the Rumthaus for example, were founded in the Ninth Age). Dwarven clans are founded when a group of dwarves agrees to sever ties with one of the more ancient clans from which they derive kinship. Of course, clan-ties are not strictly familial. Clans encompass dwarves who live together, work together, and classically share a quarter of one of the large dwarven mountain-cities known as Halls (halr in ordric).
These clans provide justice, law, and support for the dwarves that belong to them. Dwarven justice is most often arbitrated by an Aetroc, or Clan-judge. Clan-halls (aethalr) compose the different districts of the Tolhalr (dwarf-halls) or rather the large dwarven cities.