Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Creation of the Dwarves of Eira

Quick Note: The Dwarves of Eira
The quintessential dwarf does not appear in the folklore and myths of British Isles. There are many “dwarf-like” sidhe and faeries but none are quite like the dwarves of Norse myth or Tolkien high-fantasy. The obvious solution would be to take the dwarf and “re-skin” it as one of the fair-folk of Celtic myth and folklore that are dwarf-like. However, that is just a petty cop-out and one that is blatantly obvious as well because many of the dwarf-like creatures are known and have images in the popular imagination of the western world already.

In other words, what I am saying is that it is rather impossible (although maybe funny) to have a gruff, axe-wielding, ale-loving, Leprechaun running around the game world. It doesn’t suit up right in anyone’s head besides as a joke. So that leaves the problem of introducing dwarves to a mythological environment that was not originally created to suit them. One must wonder if doing so would be like releasing rabbits in Australia, in terms of damage, to the  patera-natural creatures that exist in that mythological environment?

Dwarves, as I’ve just shown have been a thorn in my side since I started work on the Eira setting. The simplest answer would be to just excise them from the material, throw-up my middle finger at the dwarven fanboys and laugh like Nelson in “The Simpsons.” Only problem is I am one of those dwarven fanboys and because of that I feel an itch to include my favorite fantastic race to the Eira setting. I cannot dismiss dwarves or reskin them (for reasons above) like I have elves (see Au-Sidhe), because that would be betraying that 5’3” bearded Wookie (yes, I just compared dwarves with wookies) within me scream for the blood of Orcs!  To accomplish adding dwarves into the Eira setting without causing mythological ripples or giant gaping holes in the time-space of two competing mythological settings I looked back on the father of the high-fantasy genre as we know it: Tolkien! 

Without a doubt, Tolkien’s world is that of the Anglos, the Sexons, the Jutts and the countless other tribes and nations that predominated Northern Europe in the early part of the Common Era (C.E.). There are references and mild transplants from other mythologies of Europe but the Northern European folklores are the main force behind the stories Tolkien writes. With that said however, I must point out a 1971 radio interview that Tolkien took part in (the last according to a quick wiki look), he brings up the idea that the Dwarves are like the Jews of the Middle Ages. A people without a land or home that must adapt (while keeping their heritage) to the norms of whatever society they find themselves.

This is completely true when looking at “The Hobbit” (a section of the story Jackson did beautifully I must add!). The question then was, how to take Tolkien’s idea of who and what the dwarves were and adapt it to Eira? This called for some historical research. Traditionally and mythological speaking, the Isles are a place that is often invaded. One group of invaders come in, conquers and take over and this is followed by another and another. The history of Ireland, Scotland and Wales are full of this cycle of invasion and colonization. However, if you look at the history of some of the invaders (or the proposed history as some invaders like the Milesians are more myth than reality) it is hinted that many were invading because they were fleeing something else back in their own lands.  So now we have two possibilities for dwarves with an overlap, question now is who are the dwarves?

Dwarves in modern fantasy are often portrayed as gruff and ill-tempered, but honorable and loyal to nearly a fault. The best friend a person could ever make in nearly any modern fantasy work is a dwarf. Yes, I know that in recent years video games, novels and even Dungeons & Dragons have attempted to deconstruct and rebuild the dwarf into something contrary to its previous nature. Thanks, however, in part to the mass-media juggernaut that Tolkien’s work has turned into the idea of dwarves as described above persists; and in my opinion gladly so! This then brings us to the dwarves that exist in Eira, in what part they play in the shaping of that land.

~*~

Dwarves arrived on the island of Eira five-hundred years ago. When they arrived in their long ships, they were a bruised and battered people, barely able to muster the energy and willpower to construct a single fortress along the eastern coasts. However, dwarves are a hearty people and not easily defeated. As the days passed into months and the months into years, their coastal fortress grew and expanded. They battered with Chiefs and kings, surrounding their knowledge of metal craft and plate mail in exchange for land and allies. It was to these chiefs and kings that the stories of the dwarves were past.

The dwarves were refugees, the only survivors of their kind to flee the lands across the Eastern Seas during a time of rage and darkness. They left everything behind, their great works, their mountain halls, and sadly twelve of the original twenty-five clans. They sailed not knowing to where they went, believing they would die at sea from thirst and starvation. Eira, to them was a miracle broken from the sea by their singular God.

They wanted to build fortresses along the coasts, places to watch the sea and wait for the darkness form their own lands. They feared that darkness would eventually spread to Eira, and they promised their new allies that they would not run again. The land they bartered for was granted and soon seven great fortresses lined the eastern coasts of Eira. There the dwarves trained and waited and sold their works of metal and jewels to the native peoples of Eira. Always they were friends; always they granted aid and bartered in good faith. However, not all on Eira were welcoming to them.

Where ever the dwarves travelled in Eira they were met with hatred from some and greed from others. Some where beaten, some were robbed some where murdered. Still, the dwarves were friends and soon most of the Eira excepted the; at least to their face. To this day, dwarves are considered to be greedy and dishonest in business.

With the wealth and security of the coastal fortresses, the dwarves moved inland, and with the permission of the Kings and Chiefs of Eira settled the Barrier Range of mountains that ranged the north of Eira. To these mountains six of the thirteen remaining clans went and there founded the great mountain halls of the Dwarves of Eira. They built roadways (dwarves are often blamed with the creation of Padfoots) and canals, to move the ore mined from the mountains to the Coastal Fortresses and made friends and allies of the hard semi-barbaric humans that occupied the northern wastes and highlands of Eira.

Today the thirteen clans of the dwarven refugees are still a small percentage of the population of Eira, but they are growing and have prospered. They have split themselves into two sects, the Mountain Dwarves and the Coastal Dwarves, and while they consider themselves brothers and extended family, even outsiders can see differences now between the two groups. The Coastal Dwarves are slightly taller and wear their beards close to their face. Their skin is darker hued and they prefer heavy defensive armor. The dwarves of the mountain are closer in look and nature to their forbearers shorter and barreled-chested; they have long braided beards marked with precious-stones and ornaments of rare metals. They have retained the light; almost pure white eyes that allow them to see in utter darkness. And the Mountain Dwarves much prefer lighter chain armors that allow them to move in combat.  

As a race the dwarves are some of the longest lived of the mortal races. The oldest dwarf alive is well over six-hundred, although the average age of a dwarf when he dies is closer to five-hundred. They are a people of history and honor, passing their knowledge and culture down to newer generations through song, dance and ceremony. Despite this the younger generations of dwarf are beginning to feel the pull of Eira, and being so far removed from the darkness and war of their homeland, care little of keeping watch. This wanderlust, while more an issue with Coastal Dwarves, affect all the younger dwarves to some degree and as such more and more dwarves are being seen in the towns, inns, and roadways of Eira.

~*~

Right now, Dwarves have the longest write-up of all the races of available (and currently in Alpha form. Damn you Changlings!) in Eira. Part of this is due to their nature as not being a “natural” part of the land and needing a good explanation for why they exist in the world. What you’re reading is also probably the furthest along of all the racial write-ups as with the dwarves I decided to creat the back-ground first and the game stuff second. As if stands dwarves will be the second most populous race in terms of class as, like the Au-Sidhe, they will have three available classes, unlike the Pixie and Cat-Sith which have two each.

Now then as I am always wanting feedback to not only stroke my ego but to improve and reorganize my work, I ask: Opinions?  

1 comment:

  1. Do they work on foe-specific weapons, against the Eastern enemy? Are there any such? Do they patrol the ocean to the east, as well? Do they have a wide range of hair color, or are they restricted to certain shades? Are they capable of mingling their blood with any races (this may be a setting rather than race question)?

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