The Dwarves of J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional universe of Middle-earth are beings of short stature, often friendly with Hobbits although long suspicious of Elves. They are typically blacksmiths and stoneworkers by profession, unrivaled in some of their arts even by the Elves. For Dwarves in other legends and fantasy works see: Dwarf.
The enduring popularity of Tolkien's books, especially The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, has led to the popular use of the term dwarves to describe this race in fantasy literature. Before Tolkien, the term dwarfs (with a different spelling) was used, as seen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In fact, the latter spelling was so common that the original editor of The Lord of the Rings "corrected" Tolkien's dwarves to dwarfs (The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, 138).
According to Tolkien, the "real 'historical'" plural of dwarf is dwarrows or dwerrows. He once referred to dwarves as "a piece of private bad grammar" (Letters, 17), but in Appendix F to The Lord of the Rings he explains that if we still spoke of dwarves regularly, English might have retained a special plural for the word dwarf as with man. The form dwarrow only appears in the word Dwarrowdelf, a name for Moria. Tolkien used Dwarves, instead, which corresponds with Elf and Elves, making its meaning more apparent. The use of a different term also serves to set Tolkien's Dwarves apart from the similarly-named creatures in mythology and fairy-tales.
Unlike Elves and Men, the Dwarves are not counted among the Children of Ilúvatar. They were created by Aulë the Smith. They were kept asleep until the creation of the Elves. Aulë created the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves, from whom all other Dwarves are descended. Aulë's work was doomed, though, because he did not have the power to grant independent life to his creations - that power belonged to Ilúvatar alone. Aulë later repented and confessed to Ilúvatar. When the Dwarves were completed, though, the voice of Ilúvatar spoke to Aulë and agreed to grant them true life, and include them in His plan for Arda. Ilúvatar granted the Dwarves life, and therefore they are known as the Adopted Children of Ilúvatar.
They mined and worked precious metals throughout the mountains of Middle-earth. In many ways, they were in between the Elves and Men. They were not immortal, but lived to two hundred and fifty years or more. They were generally less corruptible than Men, but committed their share of rash and greedy acts. (Among these are the slaying of Elu Thingol and the dispute over the Nauglamír.)
The Dwarven language was created by Aulë, and was known as Khuzdul. It was a strange language to Elves and Men, and few non-Dwarves learned it, also because they kept it secret. However, one Dwarven phrase is well known: the ancient battle cry, going back to at least the First Age: "Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!", which means "Axes of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you!"
Most Dwarves mentioned in Tolkien's works are of Durin's folk, the clan founded by Durin I of Khazad-dûm, called the Longbeards. (A notable exception are the inhabitants of the dwarf-cities of Nogrod and Belegost in the Blue Mountains, spoken of in The Silmarillion). The seven different groups of Dwarf-folk originated in the locations where the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves first awoke before the First Age. There were three pairs of Dwarf Fathers that awoke together, and their Folk would build their halls near each other, though Durin himself had awoken alone. (In his letters, Tolkien adds that all the Dwarf Fathers except for Durin also had wives who awoke with them). Therefore the halls of the Longbeards at Khazad-dum were not located near the halls of another Dwarf-kingdom. The seven clans of the Dwarves were:
- 1. Longbeards. Durin's Folk, originally from Khazad-dum.
- 2. Firebeards. Originally from Nogrod. Paired with the;
- 3. Broadbeams. Originally from Belegost.
- 4. Ironfists. Originated somewhere far in the East. Located paired with the;
- 5. Stiffbeards.
- 6. Blacklocks. Originated somewhere far in the East. Located paired with the;
- 7. Stonefoots.
There was also an eigth group of Dwarves that was not a separate member from these seven kindreds, but composed of exiles from each: the Petty-dwarves, who were hunted like animals to the point of extinction by the Elves in the First Age.
The Dwarves called themselves the Khazad, the name Aule gave them; this translates as the Hadhodrim in Sindarin, and the Casari in Quenya. Casari was the common word for Dwarves among the Noldor, but the Sindar usually called them the Naugrim or Nogothrim, the Stunted People.
Almost all the names of the dwarves of Middle-earth are taken from the Icelandic saga of Völuspá.