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Dwarves: WHen did they become technologists?

BMonroe

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So, lately I've been on a steady diet of Icelandic Sagas, Norse and Celtic Myths, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

And one thing I've been thinking about is how in the RPG hobby, dwarves are always presented as these little mini-vikings, all stocked up with machinery of various sorts. On the simplest level, things like crossbows. Then you get into Gloranthan dwarves who see the whole world as one vast machine of wheels and cogs, and machinery. You know what I'm talking about.

But, I'm finding myself now wondering where this came from. Obviously the norse dwarves wouldn't have access to crossbows; those were invented long after the end of the viking age. Tolkien has references to them being master crafters, and makers of toys. But it's implied the elven crafters are just as good, if not better.

So, where did the modern archetype of the dwarf as the armor-laden, machine-equipped, mini-viking come from?
 

Random_Interrupt

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I'd probably lay the blame at the feet of Warhammer Fantasy, with it's gun-toting, multibarrel-cannon, gyrocopter-equipped dwarves. Oldest example of technologist dwarves I can think of, anyway.
 

Elvish Lore

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I think Tolkien certainly planted seeds of the idea when he has them building huge stone-cities inside freaking mountains. You kind of need to be 'engineer' types to do something like that. And JRR never implies that the Elves are better at stone-craft.

And of course Warhammer in the 1980s makes them gadgeteers and only increases that as time goes on.

But, yea, JRR on this one for absolute beginning of the modern-era fiction about dwarves.
 

Beyond Reality

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Probably because Dwarven craftsmanship has always had a more "industrial" feel: blazing furnaces, bubbling pits of molten metal, deep-delving mines, thick plumes of smoke, etc. These sort of things feel out of place when applied to elves. Therefore elven craftsmanship tends to be stereotyped along the lines of jewelery-making and artistry, smaller more delicate projects (even when it comes to things like weapons and armor) and Dwarves tend towards big, impressive, metal-studded things.

It's also probably a result of their non-magical nature in many games. When trying to stay competitive against a vast army of humans or orcs, or the magically-armed elves what do dwarves bust out to even the odds? Big, powerful siege weapons and the like, which naturally leads to things like cannons which in turn leads to scaled down tech like guns or auto-crossbows or what have you.
 

BMonroe

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I think Tolkien certainly planted seeds of the idea when he has them building huge stone-cities inside freaking mountains. You kind of need to be 'engineer' types to do something like that. And JRR never implies that the Elves are better at stone-craft.

And of course Warhammer in the 1980s makes them gadgeteers and only increases that as time goes on.

But, yea, JRR on this one for absolute beginning of the modern-era fiction about dwarves.
Sure, but in Middle-earth, elves have big underground halls, too. Thranduil's kingdom in Mirkwood, for example. Moria also seems to be the exception, not the norm. I imagine Moria as, say London, while the Blue Hills are more... beats me... Nottingham? (And I guess that makes the Shire the Cottswolds, or something).
 

BMonroe

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Probably because Dwarven craftsmanship has always had a more "industrial" feel: blazing furnaces, bubbling pits of molten metal, deep-delving mines, thick plumes of smoke, etc. These sort of things feel out of place when applied to elves. Therefore elven craftsmanship tends to be stereotyped along the lines of jewelery-making and artistry, smaller more delicate projects (even when it comes to things like weapons and armor) and Dwarves tend towards big, impressive, metal-studded things.
Can you cite me some non-RPG examples here? I'm not being snarky, I'm genuinely interested. :D

It's also probably a result of their non-magical nature in many games. When trying to stay competitive against a vast army of humans or orcs, or the magically-armed elves what do dwarves bust out to even the odds? Big, powerful siege weapons and the like, which naturally leads to things like cannons which in turn leads to scaled down tech like guns or auto-crossbows or what have you.
Yeah, but that's in games. What I'm trying to figure out is if there's a non-/pre-games influence on this style.
 

Niles

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It's an inevitable result of taking away their magic while leaving their superhuman craftsmanship.
 

Ulzgoroth

Mad Scientist
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They were always craftsmen of course, but I don't know where the gadgeteering came in. You can see it in Warhammer and in Dragonlance, but where it started, no idea.
 

David J Prokopetz

Social Justice Henchman
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They were always craftsmen of course, but I don't know where the gadgeteering came in. You can see it in Warhammer and in Dragonlance, but where it started, no idea.
As Mr. Niles observes, it's likely an outgrowth of the D&Dism that dwarves are inherently non-magical. The idea of dwarves being incredible craftsmen is found both in Norse myth and in Tolkien, but in those sources they can use magic just fine. Once you've got the D&D-inspired notion that dwarves are little ambulatory balls of anti-magic, you need some "non-magical" explanation for their superior craftsmanship - so you get dwarven super-engineers packing anachronistic technology instead.
 

Elvish Lore

Hello!
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Sure, but in Middle-earth, elves have big underground halls, too. Thranduil's kingdom in Mirkwood, for example. Moria also seems to be the exception, not the norm. I imagine Moria as, say London, while the Blue Hills are more... beats me... Nottingham? (And I guess that makes the Shire the Cottswolds, or something).
The elves know how to carve wood. The dwarves hollow out mountain ranges.

The elves never seen like technologists. In Moria, JRR specifically cites such things as pulleys.

I'm going to settle on JRR as my answer to your OP question. You seem to disagree. I guess I'm done with the thread then, sorry that my answer doesn't seem to agree with you.
 
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