Bearded Ladies and Life Before Life (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p44)

Though we’re technically moving onto the next page in the Silmarillion, this post is basically a continuation of the previous, concluding the Dwarf-section of the “Of Aulë and Yavanna” chapter.

When we last left Aulë, he had made the Dwarves, given them speech, but could not give them wills of their own. Ilúvatar, who knew what Aulë was up to, told him as much. When Aulë offered to destroy the newly-made Dwarves, he lifted up his hammer and the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves were afraid and begged for mercy.

This was a dead giveaway that they actually did have wills of their own. “Else they would not have flinched from thy blow, nor from any command of thy will,” Ilúvatar explained to him. As I read it, Ilúvatar had already given being to the Dwarves before Aulë asked them to be blessed.

But though Ilúvatar had adopted them, they could not be awakened before the Elves and Men, so Aulë “laid them to rest in far-sundered places” and waited for that day to come.

Returning to the History
We last left off the writing history with Lord of the Rings. So far, we’ve seen the origin evolve from simple unknowing on the Elves’ part, to Dwarves having no indwelling spirits, and finally to the introduction of Aulë’s role. What we’ve not seen thus far is the introduction of Ilúvatar and the “far-sundered” sleep of the Dwarves.

In 1950, After writing Lord of the Rings, during which Tolkien must have mulled some of this over, he dipped back into Quenta. Over the next two years, he explored the entire legendarium with the new material carried over from Lord of the Rings, which wouldn’t be published until 1954. For a long time, he worked on the Turin Turambar story, but returned again to the Quenta proper in 1958.

This was when he created a new chapter called “Of the Naugrim and the Edain” with two sections – “Concerning the Dwarves” and “Of the Edain.” While the latter became the “Of Men” chapter in the published Silmarillion, the former was used as the basis for the first part of “Of Aulë and Yavanna.”

But it’s still not here where we get our story. In this iteration, we get only a brief glimpse of Aulë’s role – that of maker. Their actual origin isn’t discussed, but their fate was given through two points of view. The Elves held that the Dwarves simply returned to stone (an idea we’ve heard before), while the Dwarves believed “that Aulë cares for them and gathered them in Mandos in halls set apart from them, and there they wait, not in idleness but in the practice of crafts and the learning of yet deeper lore.” Their ultimate fate is to help Aulë in the remaking of Arda after the Last Battle. (War of the Jewels, p204)

Here’s to Swimmin’ with Bowlegged Women
According to Lord of the Rings, there aren’t many Dwarvish women, and you can’t really tell them from the men anyway. Tolkien wrote that in the early 1950s, and returned to that idea after its publication in the Appendices.

While this is stated in the aforementioned “Concerning the Dwarves” draft, we also learn that the womenfolk “go not to war, and seldom save at direst need issue from their deep bowers and halls. It is said, also, that their womenkind are few, and that save their kings and chieftains few Dwarves ever wed; wherefore their race multiplied slowly, and now is dwindling.”

It was explained in a one-off note that since Aulë could not finish his work, the Dwarvish women looked the same as the men. In another version, he made the Seven Fathers, and then six of the female forms, “and then he wearied.” Still another included mates for all seven. Yet still another, all have mates except the eldest male. (War of the Jewels, p211)

Tolkien abandoned the idea of an origin for the female Dwarves, as can be seen in the published Silmarillion.

Camera: Imperial Savoy Film: Konica VX100 (x - 4/2001)

Camera: Imperial Savoy
Film: Konica VX100 (x – 4/2001)

Back to the Silmarillion
To compile the Dwarvish bits of the “Of Aulë and Yavanna” chapter, Christopher Tolkien pieced the story together from a few sources. The first three paragraphs came from notes somewhat attached to the Quenta drafts, copy and pasting much of it. For the rest, he turned to the same 1958 Quenta draft, as well as a line or two from the “Grey Annals,” and updated version of the Annals of Beleriand, from the early 1950s.

Curiously enough, the “Grey Annals” draft, fully an Elvish text, maintains that the origin of the Dwarves was unknown, and gives the Dwarvish version as a sort of aside. (War of the Jewels, p203-4, 10)

Aulë is Totally Not Melkor
It’s been suggested by others that the Dwarves had being and wills of their own before Ilúvatar stepped in. They’ll use this to say that since Aulë could create life, Melkor could create it too! And they use that to say that things like Balrogs and Orcs were fully Melkor’s own creation with wills of their own.

But a careful(ish) reading tells us that Ilúvatar was speaking as if he had already given “being to the thoughts” of the Dwarves before telling Aulë that he had done so. This also makes the argument that at least some of the monsters made by Melkor were creatures without being (without a “soul”) who could live only by Melkor’s being and will. And while Aulë “did not desire such lordship,” Melkor certainly did.


Some Notes:

  • Tolkien would return to the Dwarves in 1968ish, but would mostly focus upon the language and interactions with Men. (Peoples, p295-330)
  • Next up – The Ents! And another crazy-ass writing history.

Pages & Text

  • Page 44 (and a sliver of 43)
  • Chapter: Of Aulë and Yavanna, Paragraphs 4-7
  • Starting with:
    “Then Aulë took up a great hammer to smite the Dwarves…”
  • Ending with:
    “…whose mansions were at Khazad-dûm.”

11 thoughts on “Bearded Ladies and Life Before Life (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p44)

  1. …Whose Mansions Were At Khazad-dum is my metal album title. We rock. Our opening number is “The Axes of the Dwarves Are Upon You!”

    I just love the dwarves. I love the creation- Aule seems so sweet and misguided and unique. I love that they were spared despite not being really in the plan. There’s room in the music for improv!

    Plus as a bearded short guy with big muscles who would wield an axe himself with aplomb I can really relate to the children of Durin.

    • This whole thing really endears Aule to me. He meant well, which often means he’s going to fuck it up. But still, his heart was in the right place. Mostly. He *did* feel guilty enough to hide it from (almost) everyone.

    • And as we see, he *did* do better. He just didn’t like it. He could have made mates for all Seven Fathers, but really didn’t. The eventual appearance of female Dwarves makes about as much sense as where Cain and Able’s wives came from in the Bible. It makes little sense, but it’s still a good story.

      I don’t know enough about Germanic Dwarivish myths to know if he was playing off of that, though. I could look it up. I mean, I have a book right here… it’s literally 2.5 feet away from me. I wouldn’t even have to lean over to check it out. But it’s time for pizza and I’ll have to get back to you about that if I find anything. 🙂

      • Ha! I’m guessing you’re right, that the Germanic myths play a part. And yeah, I have a lot of problems with guys writing origin stories and realizing “Oh shit! We need some wimmens!”

        • Too true. But in this case, they did need some of them wimmens! As a kid, the Cain and Abel story just confused me. And all this Southern Baptist boy was told was that God must have created other humans at some point. So I kind of hate it when Tolkien, who is otherwise so thorough, dips into that icky pool of bullshit. Weee!

          • Well, they always do. But usually just for the babies.

            Yeah, the Cain and Abel story is perplexing to say the least! Wait, other humans? Which neighborhood of Eden were they hanging out in?!

      • As far as I know, there are no female dwarfs in the Eddas. There are some male dwarfs who have daughters, but the idea of a “dwarven race” isn’t really a thing in Old Norse literature, so the daughter of a dwarf doesn’t have to be a dwarf herself. It’s more of a ‘class’ of supernatural spirits.

        • Thanks for this. I know basically nothing at all about Old Norse anything. I guess this could explain why Tolkien didn’t seem too concerned about female Dwarves.

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