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The Viking Gods: Mythology of the Norsemen by Alessandro Revan

The Viking Gods: Mythology of the Norsemen by Alessandro Revan

Author:Alessandro Revan [Revan, Alessandro]
Language: eng
Format: azw3
Published: 2017-04-01T04:00:00+00:00


The dwarves (Old Norse dvergar, singular dvergr) are supernatural beings often recorded for their sublime crafting abilities. Although they are generally defined in later folklore as small in stature, there is no indication in our sources that this physical connotation had anything to do with the dwarves, but as for their usual ugliness, this characteristic trait is probably generally correct.

Contrary to the elves that never play any crucial role in Norse mythology, the dwarves are rather present in many myths, where they exercise their talents in crafting objects of incomparable value.

The Völuspá details that the dwarves were the product of the primordial blood of the being Brimir and the bones of Bláinn (generally considered to be different names for the primordial being Ymir). However, Snorri describes dwarves as beings similar to maggots that festered in the flesh of Ymir before being gifted with reason by the gods.

This indeed is a far less noble connotation of the dwarves’ born, and the Icelandic author even refers to them as “dark elves” in contrast with the “light elves”, considered “more beautiful than the sun”.

Dwarves dwell in dark cavern and live underground in Svartalfheim, a place which was probably imagined as a labyrinth of mines and forges. The creatures crawl in their subterranean halls and sometimes they come out in the surface at night, since it is said that sunlight turns them to stone, exactly as it happens to trolls.

Among the many peculiar supernatural beings throughout Norse mythology and folklore, the trolls are sometimes those who resemble most the dwarves: both of them live in dark secluded places distant from inhabited centers, they cannot bear the light, and they are considered ugly. But differently from the trolls, the dwarves are smart enough to produce the most precious and valuable objects of all the Nine Worlds.

There are plenty of references of their exceptional crafting skills.

According to Snorri, in his Skáldskaparmál, the dwarves Fjalar and Galar made the mead of poetry out of the corpse of Kvasir, the divine being who was created by the gods as a pledge of peace when the Aesir Vanir war ended (myth no. 8).

In another occasion, after Loki cuts Sif’s golden hair, Thor threatens him to death and the trickster promises he will find a remedy to his mischief. He ventures to the dark caverns of the dwarves and there he finds a way to get new hair for the thunder god’s wife (myth no. 7).

When he comes back, he offers to the gods plenty of other astonishing objects as gift: Odin gets his spear Gungnir, a weapon that never misses the mark, and a ring that duplicates into multiple copies; Thor, in addition to the new hair for his wife, receives the mighty hammer Mjöllnir, the bane of the giants; the god Freyr obtains Skídbladnir, the best of all ships, that can be taken into a pocket and, when used, it always has a favorable wind, and Gullinbursti, a golden boar that can run faster than any horse and even in the sky.


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