The fantastical world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is a classic and everlasting story that has enchanted readers of the book and later watchers of the movies. With marvelous story-telling, beautiful scenery, and descriptions of the lands, and a variety of stand-out characters and creatures, it’s no wonder The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings remain some of the most famous and successful fantasy stories to date.
Along with the book and unforgettable characters like Bilbo Baggins, Frodo and Sam, who are Hobbits, Gandalf the Wizard, royalty like Aragorn and Arwen, a cast of creatures like Gollum, elves, it’s the dwarves of this epic story we will be focusing on today. Despite being small, they play a big role in the story as well as the creation of the Middle Earth landscape. The Dwarves who are friendly with the Hobbits, but suspicious of the Elves, are a race of blacksmiths and stoneworkers that are short in stature but massive in spirit. But how did these dwarves come about and where do they reside in Middle Earth in one of the greatest stories ever told?
The central dwarves reside in and seem to have continued to inhabit the Iron Hills and Grey Mountain area, specifically the city of Khazad Dum. Although the dwarves actually originate from several different clans.
Middle earth is the central area of the story and the main focus where the characters must traverse during their journey. Populated with men, wizards, elves, hobbits, and Orcs, the dwarves are surrounded by the battles and drama that ensues in this legendary setting.
Before getting deeper into the roots of where the dwarves came from and where they live in Middle Earth, first, it would be a good idea to understand more about the dwarf race.
Who are Dwarfs?
According to Tolkien, dwarves are a “tough, Thrawn race for the most part, secretive, laborious, retentive of the memory of injuries (and of benefits), lovers of stone, of gems, of things that take shape under the hands of the craftsmen rather than things that live by their own life. But are not evil by nature, and few ever served the Enemy of free will, whatever the tales of Men alleged.“
They are a working-class race of creatures that along with mining and cultivating the land and precious stones, tend to live harmoniously and in the pursuit of excellence. They are not very violent, don’t seem to be concerned with power, or controlling other races, but can be fierce warriors and are excellent in the production of weaponry used in war.
Dwarves also have an average life span of 250 years and the population is predominantly male with only a third of dwarves being female. Their height ranges from 4 to 5 feet and they all have beards from birth, even the females.
Another interesting characteristic of dwarves is their fear of bodies of water and their tendency to avoid being on boats or living near the sea.
Besides being the best at masonry and smithing skills, they are also highly skilled warriors who prefer the battle-ax as their weapon of choice but also use bow and arrows, swords, and shields.
They have a very strong resistance to fire and they are immune to human disease so are a very robust race. However, their populations sometimes had difficulty flourishing, especially at times of war as male dwarves either perished in the war or didn’t have an opportunity to start a family as female dwarves were rare.
Where did the dwarves come from in Middle Earth?
Originally, dwarves came about after the Elves during the First Age. They were actually created by Aule and not Iluvatar, and so were not technically permitted as Children of Iluvatar or the Gods. They had been created so Aule could teach them crafts and knowledge and even gave them a special dwarf language called Khuzdul. But instead of being destroyed, Iluvatar allowed them to come to and become the Adopted Children of Iluvatar after the Elves had been created. The dwarves, which started with the Seven Fathers of the dwarves, were separated and spread around Middle Earth intended to be awakened after the Elves had been born.
These Seven Fathers, as they were awakened one by one, became the leaders of seven dwarf clans spread across Middle Earth.
Dwarf Kingdoms over the Ages
The first dwarf to awake, Durin I, founded the Longbeards in the area of Mount Gundabad. These Longbeards founded the city under the Misty Mountains and later the Grey Mountains and Erebor which became the central and most important concentration of the dwarf population.
The Firebeards and Broadbeams flourished in the Blue Mountains, Ironfists and Stiffbeards as well as the Blacklocks and Stonefoots settled in the East of Middle Earth.
Although there was a scattering of dwarves across Middle Earth, their strongholds were the major city of Khazuddum, which flourished. But the Blue Mountains area of the dwarf kingdoms initially had the biggest impact during the First Age as they were the ones that created some of the breakthroughs in weaponry. For example, in the city of Nogrod in the Blue Mountains, the dwarves created two of the most crucial weapons, Narsil and Angrist. However, at the end of the First Age, with the War of Wrath, the dwarf cities in these areas were predominantly destroyed with survivors settling in Khazad Dum.
After the wars, in the Second Age, most of the Firebeards and Broadbeams, joined the Longbeards in Khazad Dum and strengthened their relationship with Elves.
During the Second Age and with the strengthening of enemies like the Orcs, dwarves were displaced and sometimes had to retreat to the Blue Mountains and cities near the Grey Mountains and then to Erebor or the Iron Hills.
Eventually, in the Third Age, this began the War of the Dwarfs and Orcs which had all the clans of the dwarves unite for one of the biggest battles in dwarf history. They were successful but instead of repopulating Khazaddum, which was renamed Moria, decided to settle in Erebor.
The most popular and exciting part of this age in relation to the elves involves the support of Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins. The Wizard Gandalf was instrumental in helping Thorin in reclaiming the Kingdom of Erebor. Thorin gathered around him twelve dwarves, mostly from his own line, and was joined by Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins. The Quest of Erebor ended with the death of Smaug. After a quarrel with the Men and Elves over the unguarded hoard, the Dwarves – assisted by those from the Iron Hills – united with the Men and Elves to fight the attacking Goblins and Wargs, in what was called the Battle of Five Armies, where Thorin was killed.“
Dwarves were integral parts of the Battle of Five Armies.
Fourth Age and Where do dwarves live in Middle-Earth
Despite the Third Age ending with Khazad Dum becoming Moria and ending in disaster and dwarves becoming a central race in Erebor, the last known area for dwarves seems to be Khazaddum.
In the Fourth Age, despite little information about the dwarf civilization, Durin VII is said to have retaken Moria, renamed it Khazaddum, and brought it back to its glory days where dwarves once flourished.
Despite Tolkien focusing on the Rings made by Sauron, and the main conflict being between the Hobbits and the War of the Ring, it is without a doubt that the dwarves are highly central to the story and the outcome of the battles. The Dwarves were the only race to not be completely overtaken by the power of the rings and therefore caused a rift between them and the other races who were easily enslaved by the power of the ring.
Whether you are a fan of Hobbits, Elves, humans, or wizards, you have to give credit to the Dwarves who not only are fierce in battle but are strong in spirit and loyalty. Often overlooked or considered small characters in the great story of the Rings, despite their size they are giant contributors to the successful defeat and destruction of the One Ring.
Dwarves, although don’t serve as the central characters at the end of the story, seem to continue their existence and their way of life long after the battle ends. Their loyalty, love for work, and community as well as strength and resolution have forever blazened them a part of Middle Earth history.