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Is it dwarfs? or dwarves?

The Shire

Nov 28 2013, 4:36am

Post #1 of 6 (363 views)
Is it dwarfs? or dwarves? Can't Post

I seem to see it both ways although I thought Tolkien wanted it to be dwarfs.


Nov 28 2013, 4:42am

Post #2 of 6 (275 views)
Other way around. [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien preferred "dwarves" and resisted editors' attempts to "correct" the spelling. He didn't invent that usage, and had linguistic explanations of why it was better.

In contemporary usage, "dwarves" seems to be generally used in fantasy (following Tolkien, apparently), but "dwarf" is the preferred term elsewhere.

Endor Dweller

Nov 28 2013, 7:57am

Post #3 of 6 (258 views)
The use of 'dwarves' is explained by Tolkien [In reply to] Can't Post

in LOTR, Appendix F, Chapter II, "On Translation".
And in his letter to Stanley Unwin (Letter 17):


No reviewer (that I have seen), although all have carefully used the correct dwarfs themselves,
has commented on the fact (which I only became conscious of through reviews) that I use

throughout the 'incorrect' plural dwarves. I am afraid it is just a piece of private bad grammar, rather
shocking in a philologist; but I shall have to go on with it. Perhaps my dwarf since he and the
Gnome2 are only translations into approximate equivalents of creatures with different names and
rather different functions in their own world may be allowed a peculiar plural. The real 'historical'

plural of dwarf (like teeth of tooth) is dwarrows, anyway: rather a nice word, but a bit too archaic.
Still I rather wish I had used the word dwarrow.

( The form 'dwarrow' is used only in the name Dwarrowdelf.)

In other words, if we talk about Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Dopey etc., we use 'dwarfs' but if we talk about the descendants of the Naugrim of the Elder Days, we use 'dwarves'. Smile

- Good morning.
- What do you mean? Do you mean to wish me a good morning, or do you mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not? Or perhaps you mean to say that you feel good on this particular morning...or are you simply stating that this is a morning to be good on?

- Good evening.
- Yes, yes it is. Though I think it might rain later.


Nov 30 2013, 11:25am

Post #4 of 6 (149 views)
but... [In reply to] Can't Post

...we don't say "Elfs". Whatever the difference in derivation, Tolkien's use of "Dwarves" makes sense in terms of the sounds.


Nov 30 2013, 3:49pm

Post #5 of 6 (143 views)
Yes, true, but whatever else the English language may be... [In reply to] Can't Post

...it's very rarely logical!


Nov 30 2013, 8:29pm

Post #6 of 6 (171 views)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
In other words, if we talk about Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Dopey etc., we use 'dwarfs' but if we talk about the descendants of the Naugrim of the Elder Days, we use 'dwarves'. Smile

I can't help thinking of Snow White's protectors as dwarves as well; they are the fantastical beings of myth and folktale rather than a bunch of short humans. Besides, it sounds much better than Snow White and the Seven Dwarrows.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Nov 30 2013, 8:30pm)


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