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Author Topic: Images of dwarfs/dwarves; how do you visualise them?  (Read 23476 times)

Mikademus

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Images of dwarfs/dwarves; how do you visualise them?
« on: February 11, 2009, 07:13:07 am »

With the beards thread etc, there seems to be an interest in discussing how we all perceive of dwarves. So I researched a bit what the popular conception of them is and have been in various times and settings.

Images speak more than words. Actually, they don't speak at all, unless you hear voices in you head, and then you need consultation, but whatever. Here are images of typical conceptions of Dwarves. Do you share these, or do you have your own image in mind?


Proportions
These are the proportions most of us have in mind when conceptualising Dwarves. These are notably shorter than the size 6 (vs the Human size 7) that are in the raws:


Modern take on Norse Mythology
In Norse mythology, Dwarves inhabit Niđavellir, the 5th world of the nine, where they forge rare metals, among others for the Aesir. Here is a Norse dwarf (from Warhammer, and a reference figure of a Valkyrie-ish shield maiden to set the ambience it goes with). This is probably the image most historically and mythologically inclined people have of dwarves (I will call this the "classical" dwarf form).


Reference shots of aesthetics and culture generally associated with Norse Scandinavian/Germanic dwarves:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)


18th and 19th Centuries images of Norse dwarves
The above images are however modern "refinements" of a romantic conception of Teutonic/Germanic/Norse mythology in the vein of Wagner and others. This 1895 illustration of a book of Norse Edda may be more representative of the 18th and 19th centuries' images of the race:



Dwarves in Scandinavian Folklore
Dwarves as conceived in Scandinavian and German folklore tend more to what in RPG parlour would be recognised as gnomes or halflings, or even gremlins (and in fact are the origin of the modern image of Santa Claus), and actually differ in image from that of Norse mythology, even though occupying the same regions and times. John Bauer is an 19th century Swedish artist that has made many images of Scandinavian dwarves/gnomes and trolls:


And an image by Brian Froud and Alan Lee:



Dwarves in AD&D
These are Dwarves as typically represented in AD&D media. Note the anthropomorphising almost-preformationistic representation. Dwarves are short stocky humans with braided beards and a penchant for axes and hammers. The females can be considered attractive by human standards.




Dwarves in Tolkien
Basically, these conform to Norse dwarves but inhabiting the same world as the other races. Their community also bears more resemblance to Teutonic romanticism á la Beowolf (as do some other societies in Middle-Earth, the Rohirrim and Gondor f.i.). The known illustrators generally also borrow that stereotype, for instance John Howe's depictation of Gimli and Legolas at the walls or Horn's Keep and a profile study of GImli:


Anopthe Alan Lee image, of Thorin at the Lonely Mountain, a study of Gimli, and Thorin laid to rest. Note that Lee perceives of Dwarves as smaller humans:



Dwarfs in Warhammer
Spelled with an "f", in typical Warhammer style, Games Workshop transforms the stereotype into a caricature, then latches on to a few characteristics and inflates them beyond all reason, which creates a very distinctive conception. Warhammer dwarFs are divided into specialised roles (Trollslayers, Ironbreakers) and allegiances (vanilla and Chaos), creating a complex mythos. The different types have very distinctive styles, but are all generally more Gothic than the classical (Germanic/Teutonic) representation. Images of Troll Slayer, Ironbreakers from Warhammer Online, a Rune Smith figurine, and a heap of 'em.
.

Battle scene with several types of dwarfs:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Bonus image not in typical Warhammer style (more Celtic), but a damn spiffy picture:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Chaos dwarfs, for some reason, are heavily inspired by medieval Russian art styles, only with extra skulls everywhere.


Mainstream "eclectic" adoptations
Another dwarf figurine, this one clearly influenced by the classical form, yet adjusted to go well with the streamlines vanilla-RPG mainstream fantasy style:


A dwarf with exaggerated "viking" attributes and parodical emphasis of belly:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

A dwarf in style apparently inspired by US cartoon art, with attributes emphasised and exaggerated beyond practical use in typical style for present (first decade of the 21th century) fantasy art (it menaces with spikes):
Spoiler (click to show/hide)


Some interesting resources
For the entire cliché, here is a typical AD&D adventurer party, showing off the stereotypes and "roles" quite well:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Here's a blog post somewhere about the development of Dwarves in computer games:
http://chaosmoon.gameriot.com/blogs/WAAAGH/Dwarfs-Are-Cool-Since-When

Comparative blog post about dwarves and other mythological creatures in Scandinavian folklore:
http://users.skynet.be/fa023784/trollmoon/TrollBlog/files/category-6.html
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Aqizzar

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Re: Images of dwarfs/dwarves; how do you visualise them?
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2009, 07:47:26 am »

That's a mighty post there friend.  A good rundown of major dwarf images over time, except you forgot one of the most important-



You do know why embark always includes seven dwarves, right?

Personally, I usually don't think of dwarves much differently that the same way everyone is supposed to.  But I promised that once the new version breaks out, I'll be modding my dwarves into truly alien little creatures.  Blue skin, gastroliths, etc.

Bah, I just see it all as one more reason why fantasy culture desperately needs to move beyond pseudo-Nordic imagery.  Modern fantasy works can be divided into 1) shamelessly aping Tolkein; 2)Tolkein-like but lying to itself that it's not; or 3) absolute insanity.  And it's all getting really stale.
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Re: Images of dwarfs/dwarves; how do you visualise them?
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2009, 08:23:05 am »

I think that Tolkien's Dwarves & AD&D Dwarves are the most proper looking...well it's kinda nonsensical to say something like that, but you know what I meant.  :)
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Mikademus

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Re: Images of dwarfs/dwarves; how do you visualise them?
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2009, 08:37:39 am »

Personally, I usually don't think of dwarves much differently that the same way everyone is supposed to.  ...
Bah, I just see it all as one more reason why fantasy culture desperately needs to move beyond pseudo-Nordic imagery.  Modern fantasy works can be divided into 1) shamelessly aping Tolkein; 2)Tolkein-like but lying to itself that it's not; or 3) absolute insanity.  And it's all getting really stale.

You know, I utterly forgot about Disney's dwarves, and they ARE important! And no, I am shamed to admit the "seven dwarves" connection escaped me *blush*

Still, the TV Tropes page was so awesome I have to quote the intro from it:

Quote from: TV Tropes
Now Dwarves, Sire, are like angry beards on legs. Angry, beer-soaked beards on legs.

Cleric: Does he have any distinguishing features?
Haley: Well...he's short.
Celia: He has a beard.
Haley: He wears heavy armor.
Cleric: Ummm, OK... how about any unusual personality traits?
Celia: He has an accent.
Haley: He likes beer.
Celia: And hates trees!
Haley: He worships Thor.
Cleric: Can you tell me anything about him that differentiates him from every other dwarf?
— Order Of The Stick, strip 602

You know them. Gruff, gold-loving, blunt-speaking, Scottish-accented, Viking-helmed, alcohol-swilling, Elf-hating, ax-swinging, long-bearded, stolid and unimaginative, boastful of their battle prowess and their vast echoing underground halls and mainly just the fact that they are Dwarves.

Yeah, this captures the common (AD&D) image of dwarves well. And I agree with you, it IS a poorly nuanced and restrictive image. I like DF because it allows me to inject much more individuality into my dorfs, they can range from stoic to neurotic (and beyond!), and vary in interests and takes on life. So I think it is important to make conscious the conception we all have so as not to be caught in it. Many of the suggestions in the suggestions forum are of the kind to make DF conform to the AD&D shape. I see nothing wrong in taking a firm origin in the conventional form, but I do not want to se DF being restricted by or mired down in it.
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Quote from: Silverionmox
Quote from: bjlong
If I wanted to recreate the world of one of my favorite stories, I should be able to specify that there is a civilization called Groan, ruled by Earls from a castle called Gormanghast.
You won't have trouble supplying the Countess with cats, or producing the annual idols to be offerred to the castle. Every fortress is a pale reflection of Ghormenghast..

woose1

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Re: Images of dwarfs/dwarves; how do you visualise them?
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2009, 11:26:07 am »

I imagine them as maniacal mechanical geniuses bent on bending the entire world to their will.
...
Well SOME of them anyway. The others I imagine as more of a "ostrich" look. (Sticking their heads into the sand?)

And of course, they all hate trees, elves, and loooooooooooooooooooooove beer any kind of booze.
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Re: Images of dwarfs/dwarves; how do you visualise them?
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2009, 11:46:56 am »

I imagine them as maniacal mechanical geniuses bent on bending the entire world to their will.
...
Well SOME of them anyway. The others I imagine as more of a "ostrich" look. (Sticking their heads into the sand?)

And of course, they all hate trees, elves, and loooooooooooooooooooooove beer any kind of booze.

those tech geniuses are gnomes ...

I prefer that Celtic Warhamer dwarves. Especialy because of that habit of decorating with menacing spikes, hanging rings and both abstract pictures and historical sceneries.
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Re: Images of dwarfs/dwarves; how do you visualise them?
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2009, 02:47:49 pm »

"Standard" dwarves, if but a little stubbier. It's hard to imagine relative height of any kind in ASCII, where dragons occupy the same space as vermin.
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Re: Images of dwarfs/dwarves; how do you visualise them?
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2009, 03:01:10 pm »

"Standard" dwarves, if but a little stubbier. It's hard to imagine relative height of any kind in ASCII, where dragons occupy the same space as vermin.
"Size 7" is about the same height as a Z-level.
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Mikademus

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Re: Images of dwarfs/dwarves; how do you visualise them?
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2009, 04:36:53 pm »

I imagine them as maniacal mechanical geniuses bent on bending the entire world to their will.

those tech geniuses are gnomes ... I prefer that Celtic Warhamer dwarves.

Well, there has been a tendency in fantasy to make dwarves into a proto-steam-punk race. Warhammer dwarves f.i. have gyrocopers, flame cannons, and other crazy mechanical stuff that likes to crash or explode intermittently.

But yeah, the Celtic mythos is a nice alternative setting for dwarves. It is martial enough, with distinctive aesthetics, and the fey setting fits like a (not narrow) glove.
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Quote from: Silverionmox
Quote from: bjlong
If I wanted to recreate the world of one of my favorite stories, I should be able to specify that there is a civilization called Groan, ruled by Earls from a castle called Gormanghast.
You won't have trouble supplying the Countess with cats, or producing the annual idols to be offerred to the castle. Every fortress is a pale reflection of Ghormenghast..

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Re: Images of dwarfs/dwarves; how do you visualise them?
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2009, 05:11:30 pm »

"Standard" dwarves, if but a little stubbier. It's hard to imagine relative height of any kind in ASCII, where dragons occupy the same space as vermin.
"Size 7" is about the same height as a Z-level.

According to what, or who, where?
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Re: Images of dwarfs/dwarves; how do you visualise them?
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2009, 05:21:04 pm »

"Standard" dwarves, if but a little stubbier. It's hard to imagine relative height of any kind in ASCII, where dragons occupy the same space as vermin.
"Size 7" is about the same height as a Z-level.
According to what, or who, where?
ACOOOOOOOORDING TO MEEEEEEHHHHHHH!

Think aboot it. A Elf (who is size 7) drowns in 7 deep water.
See?
I
I I
I I I
I I I
I I I
I I I
I I I
From left to right: Elf, Human, Dwarf.
And a Dragon would sort of look like this.
I
I
I
I
I
I
I
As in, same as a Elf.
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Re: Images of dwarfs/dwarves; how do you visualise them?
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2009, 07:23:11 pm »



I believe that dwarves look kinda like that, only not all of them wear armor.
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woose1

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Re: Images of dwarfs/dwarves; how do you visualise them?
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2009, 08:14:48 pm »



I believe that dwarves look kinda like that, only not all of them wear armor.
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Re: Images of dwarfs/dwarves; how do you visualise them?
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2009, 11:56:58 pm »

Oh, let's see...

I imagine the Dwarf Fortress dwarves to be not as extreme in LOOK as Warhammer, but with that same general personality. Modified, of course, to fit in the Dwarf Fortress quirks (Cat killing, immoral, lethal fasination with overly complex constructs, something bugs them, kill it)

For looks, more casual like. Average dwarves wear cloth shirt, pants, smock. None of the intricate armour, huge winged helmets or giant banners. Unless of course the armours an artifact, then it can be as intricate as I think it should be.

It's mostly since we're seeing the dwarves at home, working through the days, not while they're out for war which is really all you see of them in Warhammer.
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Re: Images of dwarfs/dwarves; how do you visualise them?
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2009, 02:01:01 am »

dont forget your all mostly talking about embarking dwarfs. the real fun is once your five or so years in and you have all the fun dwarfs running around with 8 differents socks on and nothing else.
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