wtf Scottish dwarves?

edited September 2010 in Story Games
So, I was talking (yelling) with (at) somebody about dwarves not being Scottish at all. They're either Germanic (Ring of the Nibelungen), Nordic, or somewhat derived from Medieval stereotypes of Jews (Tolkien, Pratchett).

Despite the fact that I'm clearly right, a huge number of nerds seem to have this idea that dwarves are supposed to talk in Scottish accents. Including Peter Jackson.

Anybody have any idea where this comes from?
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Comments

  • I've always assumed they had a Long Island accent.
  • I'll submit this as a formative influence...

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  • I'm going to guess that dwarves are really just too short for pants/shorts and must therefore resort to wearing kilts. Its all downhill from there...
  • It's an attitude thing.

    ENWorld and TV Tropes has the same thing.

    Dwarves in our games have been Scottish for as long as I can remember (so mid-80s). Perhaps Games Workshop has something to do with it.
  • I've tried to make my dwarves Not Scottish, but it creeps back in, especially as we draw from the same cultural milieu. (If you've played WoW for any length of time, this will be pretty much permanently engrained.)
  • Well, remember what Mike Meyers used to say; "if it's not scottish, it's crrrap!".
  • We sometimes make our dwarves Sardinian. Sardinian is also the accent they used, here in Italy, to dub the Scottish caretaker from the Simpsons.
  • Could it be the penny pincher stereotype?
  • edited September 2010
    Have you all seen The Secret of Kells?

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    Dwarves are totally Vikings and/or Vikings are Dwarves. I'm playing a Dwarf in a Burning Wheel game in a few weeks and he's totally going to be a Norseman. Vikings even have the Greed emotional attribute!
  • I'd always thought that came from Warhammer...are you saying it predates Warhammer, cuz I'm pretty sure that's the first place I encountered Scottish Dwarves.
  • I had a friend who used to consistently play dwarves in Shadowrun as Scottish, where it makes even less sense.
  • i have never encountered this phenomenon in my own gaming. It does seem rather silly. Not that dwarves in any game I've played are particularly Norse, which has always been a shame... not that I want to see short viking substitutes, but dwarves consistent with mythology.
  • Posted By: Marshall BurnsSo, I was talking (yelling) with (at) somebody about dwarves not being Scottish at all. They're either Germanic (Ring of the Nibelungen), Nordic, or somewhat derived from Medieval stereotypes of Jews (Tolkien, Pratchett).

    Despite the fact that I'm clearly right, a huge number of nerds seem to have this idea that dwarves are supposed to talk in Scottish accents. Including Peter Jackson.

    Anybody have any idea where this comes from?
    First off, yeah, that is pretty strange. I mean, John Rhys-Davies as Gimli certainly buoyed this into popular consciousness, but apparently it goes back.

    But I did have one nit to pick. I can't really speak to the Medieval-Jewish stereotype influence on Tolkien's dwarves, since I don't know all that much about Medieval Jewish stereotypes, but thought I'd point out that they're super Germanic/Nordic influenced (I mean, the dwarves in the Hobbit come from a list of dwarf names in one of the eddas, they use runes that are basically Norse, Tolkien's whole area of study was Anglo-Saxon and Germanic stuff, et cetera). Maybe you meant the first few things in your list to include Tolkien as well, and just wanted to draw attention to the Jewish stereotype thing, and if so, I apologize for being a pedantic internet jerk.


    Also, RE: the warhammer link for Scottish dwarves, is that coming from older Warhammer material? I've never been super into Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay/Battle, but all the dwarf stuff I've seen for it in the last 15 years or so has had a pretty strong Nordic character (well, I guess the slayers are pretty Celtic, hmm).
  • It is silly to make all dwarves the same ethnic group. I don't have a problem with some being Scottish, it's easy to use various tropes as short-hand to show cultural differences, but as others have pointed out you can use other ethnicities as well.
  • edited September 2010
    Dwarves as such are nordic/germanic. The language of Tolkien's dwarves is based around Jewish, I believe (much like elven is based around Finnish), that's what Marshall was saying, probably. Plus the whole recluse, kinda "foreign" race, trying to find their ancestral home in the Hobbit.

    Now, I think the whole affair is quite simple. Take Tolkien's reimagining of norse dwarves, fast forward and filter them through the geek culture. Their traits are:
    -bearded, like beards
    -rowdy, like to fight, like to drink
    -"from the north"
    -like gold, stingy
    -in some strange way associated with "industry" one way or another (as opposed to the elven "naturalism")

    The prime language of the nerd world is English. In the USA you have no such cultural stereotyped backgrounds that would fit. So we have to fall back to the UK. Few people can do a nordic accent, it's not stereotypically recognisable. Modern day scandinavians are also regared as clean and civilised, not shaggy dudes with mega beards. Many people can do a German accent, but Germans are, again seen as organised and neat. They have mustaches, not beards, they like to drink but they're not from the north. So who else is "northern", drinks, is seen as "less civilised", has beards and is associated with industry and mining? Especially in the UK?
    image
    Look at that dude, pure dwarf. Except the height, but that can be overlooked.

    There's also the whole celtic element, I guess. Scotland was the last place where the fey, the "little folk" went as they retreated from the advancing civilisation.

    I hope I don't offend anyone with this, it's not that I believe this, it's that I believe that's how we got "scottish dwarves". I studied imagology for a short while so I know how strongly stereotypes influence our perception, even when we don't want to. Stereotypes are super-effective, because that's how our brain is wired. Once they stick, they are hard to get rid off.
  • In Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions, the cantankerous dwarf Hugi has a pronounced Scottish brogue.

    The novel predates LoTR by a year or so, and it was purportedly one of the major influences on (A)D&D, so it might've had a strong bearing on the association of Scottishness with dwarves.
  • OTOH, our WHFRP dwarves, back in the day, were markedly norse, at least in their names (Thorfin and Thorgrim)... but no funny accents involved (especially since we are not english native speakers).
  • I think I read somewhere that Tolkien's dwarves were linguistically closest to Russian.
  • I would like to play a Sicilian dwarf for a change. What do you mean by pleonasm?
  • Tolkien was pretty explicit in that writing Lord of the Rings was an attempt to create an English mythology, which he felt England had largely lost at the time of the industrial revolution. Given that that was his stated goal, I think it is a valid approach to map the accents of Middle Earth to different regions of the United Kingdom while also using other cultures to define the visual appearance of those cultures - at least as far as the movies go.

    Granted, it's a bit sad that the Tolkien vision of dwarves has become the dominant one. I'd love to see more of the Norse version of dwarves. But a lot of lazy fantasy authors like to just rip off Tolkien whenever possible.
  • I think the environment in which they live has a strong influence on what cultures they emulate. I have to admit that I don't see them being from warmer climes as they just seem too thick to be in hot areas. If they are living on or at the surface (e.g. hill dwarves) I have no trouble seeing them as Scottish as Scotland seems cool and hilly. If they're living underground, all bets are off. Especially Tolkeins dwarfs who seem to have cut themselves off. Surely the social isolation would make their culture quite unrecognizable. I would think they would be anachronistic in that they have a very outdated worldview that assumes the world of long ago albeit with a distinctly separate set of technological advances.
  • Gregor, that's frightfully smart! Thank you!

    Anna, that is true, but he also wanted his English mythology to be a *Germanic* English mythology (rather than the mostly Celtic and later French influenced Arthurian myths), and one of his goals was to extrapolate an "ur-myth" that surviving Germanic myth was a vague memory of (if you're familiar with historical linguistics, when they hypothesize what a word from a proto-language would be, they put an asterisk in front of it, like the ancestor word of father, pater, vader, and so forth is proposed to be something like *pater. He was going for an "Asterisk Myth", in some ways). Sorry to be nitpicky!

    You know what has two thumbs and has spent way too much time reading about Tolkien?
  • Internet nerd-pedantry about Tolkien? And dwarves? COUNT ME IN.

    The idea that the dwarves are thinly-veiled anti-Semitic metaphors bothers me. Reading critically is important, and deconstructionism is good. But that idea (Tolkien dwarves = European Jews) is a tool a reader can use to think about the politics of the real world of the 1930s and how they informed Tolkien's writing.

    To say "Oh the dwarves are the Jews" is reductionist and it de-values the Lord of the Rings as imaginative literature.

    Tolkien's dwarves aren't Jews, or Vikings, or any other real-world analogue. They are dwarves. Because they are made-up, they necessarily draw from archetypes and myths in the real world, but they are not those things.

    (Jeff, you weren't saying this in such stark terms, but one sees it in Tolkien criticism, so my apologies for tying my rant to your perfectlyt reasonable comment).

    * * *

    As for the Scottish thing, it beats me. I honestly don't see that in Tolkien at all - I see the Norse flavor. In the actual books, there is very little to suggest a Scottish culture, I think.

    I think World of Warcraft should get a lot of credit/blame for cementing the idea, if not creating it.
  • Err, why do people get worked up about this? It's some simple method acting that people can get into. They play a dwarf, it gives them an excuse to use an accent they think is cool and otherwise couldn't get away with.
  • Posted By: Brian Minter
    As for the Scottish thing, it beats me. I honestly don't see that in Tolkien at all - I see the Norse flavor. In the actual books, there is very little to suggest a Scottish culture, I think.
    Well, there's the golf bit from the Hobbit, which to me always seemed a bit forced...
  • Scottish is way better than the D&D movie dwarf, who apparently came from a people who shagged goats, belt sanders, and laundry baskets. I gathered the goats didn't have to be the living kind.

    When assessing whether a character is Scottish, I look for two things: bagpipes and plaid. If they ain't there, we're Scot-free.
  • edited September 2010
    Obvious question: Why should how other people's dwarves talk have any bearing on how yours do? The last "trad fantasy" game I ran had dwarves that were amphibious and lived in underwater holds.

    I think some of the recent idea may have come from Warhammer or maybe Warcraft. I mean, dwarves are kinda Scotch and Orks are more than a little Cockney, as I understand it. When Warcraft II had the Dwarf sappers using that accent it just seemed right.

    As to their being German, it is important to note that Odin had to leave home to find them. They could have been in France for all we know.

    "I spit on you, so-called Aragorn King - you and your silly Gondorian K-nig-its!" [Sorry about the Python ref - please know the people responsible have been sacked.]
  • edited September 2010
    We don't have Tolkien dwarves but we have Korrigans
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  • This bears repeating --
    Posted By: PeteIn Poul Anderson'sThree Hearts and Three Lions, the cantankerous dwarf Hugi has a pronounced Scottish brogue.

    The novel predates LoTR by a year or so, and it was purportedly one of the major influences on (A)D&D, so it might've had a strong bearing on the association of Scottishness with dwarves.
    I just wanted to reiterate Pete's post to make sure it doesn't get ignored. Now, I'll admit up front, it's probably not just Three Hearts and Three Lions. But seriously, folks, Three Hearts and Three Lions (1953). Anderson's dwarf Hugi is a major character in the novel and has a ridiculous faux Scottish accent. This is an influential book on early D&D: it is the single source responsible for the D&D paladin, the D&D version of the troll (regenerates, must kill it with fire, etc.), and probably more of the vision of Law and Chaos in D&D than Moorcock's version (which it predates). This novel is also listed in Appendix N in the 1st edition AD&D DMG as an influence on D&D, which has acted as a reading list for some subset of folks introduced to gaming via the DMG. Now, the book isn't as popular as Tolkien these days, but it's at least as good or better as a candidate for the origin of the "Scottish dwarf" than the LotR books, which don't even have Scottish dwarves. Anderson is also a fairly well recognized and influential fantasy and science fiction author from before the modern "fantasy" genre (i.e., Tolkien pastiche) formed and fossilized, so he would be a figure who earlier generations of fantasy and sci fi writers, nerd culture leaders, and gamers could well have read and been influenced by. I don't know where he got the idea, of course -- precursors may be out there -- but his book seems to me to be a likely part of the story of the "Scottish" dwarf concept.
  • As far as Tolkien goes, somehow Thorin, Thrain, Thror, Gimli, Oin, Bifour et al, do not strike me as particularly Scottish-biased names. I guess faux Scottish accents are easier to come up with than doing what Peter Jurasik did in Babylon 5 for his character Londo Mollari and make up an accent for it and keep it consistent through 5 seasons and movies for Babylon 5, and being a major character at that. Hmm, wonder what ppl would say if someone did a Russian dwarf.
  • Nicholas - Apparently, gnomes are Russian. Who knew?
  • Hmm, wonder what ppl would say if someone did a Russian dwarf

    "Oppulance, I has it. But I also likes savings the monies. So when bunch of adventurers tolds me they has best deal on mining equipments...I jumps in it..."
  • Posted By: PeteIn Poul Anderson'sThree Hearts and Three Lions, the cantankerous dwarf Hugi has a pronounced Scottish brogue.

    The novel predates LoTR by a year or so, and it was purportedly one of the major influences on (A)D&D, so it might've had a strong bearing on the association of Scottishness with dwarves.
    THAT's really interesting. I'll have to check that out.

    Regarding the Dwarves/Jews thing, before anyone throws a fit about it: I didn't mean that Tolkien's (and Pratchett's) dwarves are Jews, or that they are metaphors for Jews. I meant that they exhibit traits that are derived from Medieval stereotypes of Jews. Frex: bearded, insular, traditional, conservative, crafty, good with money, even greedy. None of which is actually necessarily saying anything about Jews; it's just latching onto certain character traits that are very useful and interesting to throw into a fantasy story.

    Now, another thing: WTF, drunk dwarves? The idea of dwarves as constantly drunk or drinking -- where does that one come from?
  • Posted By: Marshall BurnsWTF, drunk dwarves? The idea of dwarves as constantly drunk or drinking -- where doesthatone come from?
    Doesn't it follow naturally from dwarves being Scottish / Norse? :)
  • edited September 2010
    Posted By: Marshall BurnsNow, another thing: WTF, drunk dwarves? The idea of dwarves as constantly drunk or drinking -- where doesthatone come from?
    Haven't seen that one. Possibly it comes from specific people's games.

    If dwarves were actually Scottish they'd probably be brownies instead.
  • In my experience, it's less a dwarves-are-Scottish thing, and more a "Scottish is the accent used to indicate 'Viking' in English-language media, dwarves are Norse, ergo, dwarves have a Scottish accent." The real "whuh?" in there, for me, is why a Scottish language gets used to indicate 'Viking'. Find movies (Hollywood or otherwise) with Vikings in them, and you stand a good chance of hearing them speak with Scottish accents.
  • If you roll your Rs in English it starts sounding Scottish.
  • Dwarves as drunks is definitely a standard trope of fantasy RPGs. Just look at Burning Wheel dwarves. (Who are very Tolkien, but not at all Scottish. I think.)
  • Train of logic:

    * Highlanders are people who live in the mountains.
    * Highlanders are Scottish.
    * Dwarves live "IN" the mountains.

    Therefore Dwarves are Scottish.
  • Posted By: kobutsuIn my experience, it's less a dwarves-are-Scottish thing, and more a "Scottish is the accent used to indicate 'Viking' in English-language media, dwarves are Norse, ergo, dwarves have a Scottish accent." The real "whuh?" in there, for me, is why a Scottish language gets used to indicate 'Viking'. Find movies (Hollywood or otherwise) with Vikings in them, and you stand a good chance of hearing them speak with Scottish accents.
    English spoken with a Norse accent (or what the common denominator thinks is a Norse accent) got pegged as a comedic trope ages ago. Points of reference: the Swedish Chef, blond sex-symbol girls saying "Ya, ya!" However, English-with-a-Scottish twist has associations like sword-swinging barbarians, rugged seacoasts and beligerent attitudes. So its much better for giving on-screen vikings the aura the filmmakers want.
  • Russians invented everything from gnomes to Cinderella, Marshall. So I'm not really surprised. ;)
  • I'm sure Koreans would try to tell you they invented gnomes.
  • Posted By: kobutsuIn my experience, it's less a dwarves-are-Scottish thing, and more a "Scottish is the accent used to indicate 'Viking' in English-language media, dwarves are Norse, ergo, dwarves have a Scottish accent." The real "whuh?" in there, for me, is why a Scottish language gets used to indicate 'Viking'. Find movies (Hollywood or otherwise) with Vikings in them, and you stand a good chance of hearing them speak with Scottish accents.
    Good point! There are less strange associations to make, though, given the long years of Scots vs Vikings sea-raiding and correspondent intercultural and genetic exchange.
  • Lula said:
    given the long years of Scots vs Vikings sea-raiding and correspondent intercultural and genetic exchange.
    This makes me think of Kate Beaton's excellent comic about the Viking settlers at Newfoundland. Not quite Scottish, but it definitely feels like a mashup of Scots and Vikings.
  • There's a thing. A swedish accent is very different from an icelandic one, which would presumably be closest to a "norse" accent. And they're probably wildly different according to dialect too - at least that's the case in norway.

    I've always thought icelandic english sounds kind of nice. Guess that's years and years of hearing Bjørk having an effect. Eastern norwegian english used to be vaguely annoying to me. Maybe it was just a kind of second-hand embarrassment at politicians sounding ridiculous in front of foreign audiences. Got over it eventually, but it does sound very weird. Somehow out of tune, which is strange, since the eastern dialects in themselves sounds pretty nice.

    Sample:
    And actual dialect, a poet reading:

    And sample of icelandic-accented english:

    Maybe a norse accent actually works better for elves? :)
  • Elves, by defenition, are supposed to be tall, slender and white, which describes Scandinavians to a T, so Icelandic, Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian accents would fit them the best.

    Dwarves, if you follow the etymology, which probably goes to Duerg/Zwerg, would suggest German, and if you do a low German twist on English, you get something that rather matches a fake Scottish accent.
  • What grinds my balls accent-wise is West Country pirates.

    Pirates or Privateers are a much broader church than that. Arrrrrrr!!!!!
  • I have a sense Scottish dwarves wouldn't fly in our group. One of our players is from Scotland. (Not that that's extraordinary for you folks in the UK.)

    Heck, I feel self conscious making the old standby fantasy RPG faux Brittish or Cockney accents around her.
  • edited September 2010
    Probably just as well, as American English* is closer to Middle and Old English than any of the current British Dialects.

    *Incidentally, I'd have to do some research to figure out exactly which region of American English that is, as there's quite a bit of variance.
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