Creation of the Dwarves

It’s only fitting to celebrate the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey by providing you with Tolkien’s source both for the nature of the Dwarves and their names: the Old Norse Poetic Edda. There are a couple different versions of the text with different numbers of Dwarves, so you’ll notice that the ON version I’ve copied has more names than the MnE. I duplicated the ON names were necessary so the lines would match each other. The titles link to the websites for more. I’m not able to translate ON yet, which is why I linked, but I took the liberty of changing one name. The MnE translation listed only “Eikinskjaldi”—I translated this into its MnE as I’ve seen it translated elsewhere: “Oakenshield.”

Völuspá The Seeress’s Prophecy
Þar var Móðsognir
mæztr of orðinn
dverga allra,
en Durinn annarr;
þeir mannlíkun
mörg of gerðu
dvergar í jörðu,
sem Durinn sagði.
There was Motsognir
the mightiest made
Of all the dwarfs,
and Durin next;
Many a likeness
of men they made,
The dwarfs in the earth,
as Durin said.
Nýi, Niði,
Norðri, Suðri,
Austri, Vestri,
Alþjófr, Dvalinn,
Nár ok Náinn
Nípingr, Dáinn
Bívurr, Bávurr,
Bömburr, Nóri,
Ánn ok Ánarr,
Óinn, Mjöðvitnir.
Nyi and Nithi,
Northri and Suthri,
Austri and Vestri,
Althjof, Dvalin,
Nar and Nain,
Niping, Dain,
Bifur, Bofur,
Bombur, Nori,
An and Onar,
Oinn, Mjothvitnir.
Veggr ok Gandalfr,
Vindalfr, Þorinn,
Þrár ok Þráinn,
Þekkr, Litr ok Vitr,
Nýr ok Nýráðr,
nú hefi ek dverga,
Reginn ok Ráðsviðr,
rétt of talða.
Vigg and Gandalf
Vindalf, Thrain,
Thekk and Thorin,
Thror, Vit and Lit,
Nyr and Nyrath,—
now have I told—
Regin and Rathsvith—
the list aright.
Fíli, Kíli,
Fundinn, Náli,
Hefti, Víli,
Hannar, Svíurr,
Billingr, Brúni,
Bíldr ok Buri,
Frár, Hornbori,
Frægr ok Lóni,
Aurvangr, Jari,
Fili, Kili,
Fundin, Nali,
Hannar, Sviur,
Billingr, Brúni,
Bíldr ok Buri,
Frar, Hornbori,
Fræg and Loni,
Aurvang, Jari,
Mál er dverga
í Dvalins liði
ljóna kindum
til Lofars telja,
þeir er sóttu
frá salar steini
Aurvanga sjöt
til Jöruvalla.
The race of the dwarfs
in Dvalin’s throng
Down to Lofar
the list must I tell;
The rocks they left,
and through wet lands
They sought a home
in the fields of sand.
Þar var Draupnir
ok Dolgþrasir,
Hár, Haugspori,
Hlévangr, Glóinn,
Dóri, Óri
Dúfr, Andvari
Skirfir, Virfir,
Skáfiðr, Ái.
There were Draupnir
and Dolgthrasir,
Hor, Haugspori,
Hlevang, Gloin,
Dori, Ori,
Duf, Andvari,
Skirfir, Virfir,
Skafith, Ai.
Alfr ok Yngvi,
Fjalarr ok Frosti,
Finnr ok Ginnarr;
þat mun æ uppi
meðan öld lifir,
langniðja tal
Lofars hafat.
Alf and Yngvi,
Fjalar and Frosti,
Fith and Ginnar;
So for all time
shall the tale be known,
The list of all
the forbears of Lofar.


Creation of the Dwarves — 8 Comments

  1. You need to meet me on campus one day so I can introduce you to the professor who taught my Chaucer class. He also teaches one on icelandic epics, as well as one for two on Medieval literature. I think you two would get along quite well, plus he reminds me of Alton Brown.

  2. Those are Dwarf names derived from the cardinal directions norðr, suðr, austr, and vestr – the Prose Edda relates a myth that the sky was made from the skull of the giant Ymir:

    They also took [Ymir’s] skull and made out of it the sky and set it up over the earth with four points, and under each corner they set a dwarf. Their names are Austri, Vestri, Norðri, Suðri.
    -The Prose Edda, trans. Anthony Faulkes, p. 12

    Faulkes’s edition of the original is freely available through the Viking Society: (general page: ).

    • Do you have any recommendations on bilingual editions of the Eddas? I’ve heard good things about Ursula Dronke’s edition, but it’s either out of print or terribly expensive.

      • For the Poetic Edda, the only recent bilingual edition I know of is Dronke’s, which as you say is very good but truly outrageously expensive. The normal scholarly edition (Neckel’s, or the revised Neckel-Kuhn) is framed in German and doesn’t include a translation anyway. There’s also a rather old fashioned bilingual edition by Olive Bray from 1908, which is available on the Viking Society page I linked to in my last comment.

        For the first two poems in the collection (Vǫluspá and Hávamál), Jackson Crawford of ‘Star Wars in Old Norse’ fame has done up an interesting sort-of edition plus facing page translation. On the original text, it’s kind of a linguistic exercise, and he’s put the Norse into the form it would have had around the time of the poems’ compositions (c. 1000 AD) rather than their writings (c. 1270). The reconstruction is well-done, but it’s not the MS spellings (he’s only dealing with phonology, ‘restoring’ older pronunciations, and doesn’t alter the syntax or word choices in any way). The edition itself is in some ways closer to the MS though, as he doesn’t always emend where most critical editions do. The translation is good. That’s on his website:

        For the Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, I don’t know of any bilingual editions off hand, but you can get on pretty well using Anthony Faulkes’ work – he’s done both a standard edition of the original and a translation for Penguin, and you can link the two fairly easily using paragraph numbers. The edition is available as PDF on the Viking Society page, and the Penguin translation should be pretty cheaply available at the usual places.

  3. Are Norðri, Suðri, Austri, and Vestri names or cardinal directions? I only ask because the first two look like cognates to MnE and Austri is remarkably similar to east in the name of the eastern Frankish territory Austrasia

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