Mark Neumayer

author of the Valda & the Valkyries series

Tag: dwarves

5 Artists Rocking it with Dwarfs

You folks know I love Dwarfs and I love art so here’s is a post of 5 artists who are rocking the Dwarven world. They are done in a number of different styles. These just happen to be some of the folks who have posted stuff that has caught my eye lately.  Let’s have at it (in no particular order.)

1. Moh Z. Mukta

This is just a work in progress but it already has a ton of visual impact.  So much going on that just brings the eyes right to the center of the page: the blur on the outer areas; the lighting; the color values. Also has some great use of texture.

2. Alexis Dumortier

Something about this picture was just speaking to me. Maybe it’s because I’d love to have a couple dozen of these printed up in plastic so I could paint them.  It’s interesting how simple shapes can capture so much character.

3. Cwalton73

Check out this artist’s work for a ton of male and female Dwarfs. They have some nice linework and a ton of detail in their work.

Dwarf Guard


4. Conorburkeart

Nice atmospheric work with this one and he made some great choices with the color palette.

Dwarf army


5. Carlos Ancot

Here we have a ton of personality coming through. This is definitely a rugged female Dwarf, yet she still has a feminine quality about her.

Female Dwarf


Do you have any favorite artists you want to share? Give them a shout-out in the comments.


Dwarf on the Wharf

I’ve been seeing entirely too much of those beardless, spying elves all over the place. It is high time we started celebrating the much cooler, less privacy invading hero that we all deserve – The Dwarf on the Wharf!

Retro-Style Dwarf Warrior

UPAstyle_viking I got inspired to do a riff on the old UPA/Mary Blair style animation art this week. (If you’re not familiar with this stuff, check it out here.)There is something about that whole “no neck” school of character design that matches up with Dwarves so well.There was no cable TV when I was a little kid yet I still managed to watch and be influenced by a heck of a lot of cartoons. The other unusual thing about this piece for me is that it started on paper. Most of the stuff I do is born right on the computer, usually in a vector-based program, but I broke out the pencil, paper and marker for this one. After that it was scanned and went into Photoshop for texturing and coloring. I hope you like it.

Sand Dwarves?

sanddwarfLet me say right from the start that I have found no mention of them in the sagas. I want that out upfront so you don’t think I’m feeding you a shaggy dog story. I am sharing this more as a lesson in not believing everything you read, or letting your preconceptions influence what you read.

The headline deserves a question mark because when I first read a mention of Dwarves living in sand I had all sorts of questions running through my head. I’ve read a lot of books on Norse mythology over the years and I can’t remember which one had that first mention of the subject. I do remember having a huge “huh” moment as I read that since I had never read anything else that even came close to mentioning sand Dwarves. I do remember that the book didn’t have another word on the subject. It was kind of a throwaway line showing that Dwarves lived in a range of environments.

I took the information with a grain of salt. If you study Norse mythology for any amount of time you get used to dealing with partial bits of information and  inconsistencies. The records we have are too fragmented to give a complete understanding on many subjects. Still this little snippet stuck with me. I write fiction where a Dwarf is my main character so anything that could open up dramatic possibilities is a very good thing. I couldn’t think of any hot sandy expanses in the North but I knew Vikings had some exposure with Arabs (i.e. Ahmad ibn Fadlan.) Maybe that interaction lead to legends of a Dwarven tribe living in the sandy desert? I wasn’t the first person to have this thought. Dungeons and Dragons has Sand Dwarves. The MapleStory game has them, too. But where did the idea come from?

Recently I was reading through a translation of Saxo Grammaticus’ Danish History. The translator’s notes have a section about Supernatural Beings this contains a subsection entitled Dwarves. (BTW, Saxo refers to Dwarves as Satyrs for some odd reason.) The line that got me excited was this:

The dwarf Miming, who lives in the desert, has a precious sword of sharpness…

Yes! This was it. After years of searching and wondering about the subject I was going to read about desert Dwarves. This is where my warning about preconceptions comes in. I grew up in Florida, not far from the coast. Sand means beaches to me – hot beaches so when I think of the desert I think of a hot, sandy place. But that isn’t the only definition of desert. A desert can also be a barren place, a wasteland, and it is this sense of the word that is being used here. If you go to Saxo’s story about Miming you learn that the road leading to his home is “perpetually beset with extraordinary cold” and the region is “impassable and filled with obstacles.” From all of this it is plain to see that Miming the Dwarf lived in a frigid desert. Different authors over the years must have seized on that simple fragment about a Dwarf living in the desert and extrapolated a new subclass of Dwarf magically teleported to the hot, arid deserts of the world.

While I was disappointed to arrive at this conclusion, I do think it serves a valuable lesson in checking your sources and not letting your own biases get in the way when looking at an ancient text.

The Dwarf King

Dwarf_KingI have been playing around with some ideas for a project I have on the back burner. While I have produced a whole lot of artwork that I hate, I did manage to put this piece together. While I think it still has some weaknesses and needs a lot more work on the knots, it feels like I’m at long last heading in a good direction. What do you all think?

Dwarven Valkyries

Forgotten Realms female Dwarf concept art

Usually when I write about mythology on the blog I am using the sagas as my source material (the Prose and Poetic Eddas, most often.) So I can understand how people might get a bit confused after reading the promo copy for my book Valda & the Valkyries. The book is about the adventures of a 15 year old Dwarf girl who becomes a Valkyrie. I want to be upfront about this – the book is fiction. While it is based on Norse mythology and uses characters from the myths, I made up the story. Also, I have not read any sagas that mention Dwarves being Valkyries. And yet the idea that a Dwarf could become a Valkyrie is not as crazy as it seems at first.

Bear with me for a bit as I first talk about the Norns. The Norns were the magical entities who ruled over the destinies of god and man. We know the names of the three most prominent ones: Urd, Verdandi and Skuld. Their names roughly translate to “that which happened,” “that which is happening” and “that which should occur” or, to be more blunt: past, present and future. Henry Adams Bellows writes

In Vafthruthnismol, 49, the Norns (this time “three throngs” instead of simply “three”) are spoken of as giant-maidens.

This, and one of the passages in Voluspa, could lead us to believe that the Norns are Jotun, or giantesses. However that may be, we are also told specifically that there are more than three Norns. The three chief ones we have already mentioned determine the destinies of mankind, the others watch over an individual throughout their life in a role similar to the Christian concept of the guardian angel.

Going to Voluspa again we can read:

‘Methinks the Norns were born far asunder, for they are not of the same race. Some belong to the Æsir, some to the Elves, and some are Dvalin’s daughters.”

Dvalin was a famous dwarf, so Dvalin’s daughters would be a kenning for dvergar, or dwarves. So in this passage we learn that the lesser Norns could be any of several races, including the Dwarves.

Back to the Valkyries – as I wrote about in this article, human maidens could, under the right conditions,  become Valkyries. We also know that Skuld was a Valkyrie and a Norn and that she might have been a giantess. So while my conclusion is not official in any way, shape or form, it seems to me it isn’t that far-fetched to assume that a Dwarf, who we know could be a lesser Norn, could also become a Valkyrie. What do you think?

Posted by Mark Neumayer

5 Odd Things in Norse Mythology

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Norse Mythology Quick Hits

A painting by Norwegian artist Peter Nicolai Arbo

Norse mythology makes for some great reading but every now and then you can run across something that makes you scratch your head for a minute. This week I’ll be sharing some of the odder things I ran across.

Heimdal’s teeth
According to the Eddas “He also bears the appellation of the Gold-toothed, on account of his teeth being of pure gold…” I can understand his super hearing and extraordinary sight (Heimdal can hear the grass grow and can see for a hundred miles, day or night.) Those senses help Heimdal fulfill his role as the guardian of the rainbow bridge. I’m not as clear on the purpose of the golden teeth.

The Norse sagas are filled with mentions of all kinds of mighty creatures. There is the Fenris Wolf, there is the Midgard Serpent, and there is Ratatoskr, the Squirrel? Yes, a squirrel. Now, granted, he isn’t a creature of might and doesn’t serve the role of a monster. Ratatoskr’s sole purpose is to run up and down Yggdrasil the World Tree. He does this so he can serve as a messenger between the unnamed eagle who lives at the top and Nidhoggr, the wyrm who is chained at the bottom of the tree. If a squirrel carrying messages isn’t odd enough, the messages are said to consist of “slanderous gossip.”

Mimir’s Head
The problem with Mimir’s head is that it isn’t attached to his body. After the war between the Aesir and the Vanir gods was over, hostages were exchanged. Mimir was one of them. The Vanir became angry at the other hostage but instead of hurting him they cut off Mimir’s head and sent it to Odin as a sign of their displeasure. Odin preserved the head using herbs and set it up as the guardian of the Well of Knowledge.

The Four Corners of the World
Greek mythology gives us the myth of Atlas, a Titan who bore the weight of the sky on his mighty shoulders. The only other person who could master that task was Heracles, the mighty son of Zeus. So it required some serious strength to hold up the sky. Who did the Norse myths assign to this serious task? Was it Magni, son of Thor, whose name actually means “strong?” No, in Norse myths the sky is held up by four Dwarves. Norðri, Suðri, Austri and Vestri serve in this important role. Their names mean North, South, East and West. It is a rare instance of the Dwarves getting a mention outside of their role as master craftsmen.

The name of this event has been interpreted to mean either Fate of the Gods or Twilight of the Gods. It is often compared to the Christian vision of the Apocalypse but there is a big difference in that Ragnarok is not the end of everything. It is a time when brothers will fight and it is referred to as “an axe-age, a sword-age.” But after Ragnarok is done and the battles are over, a new golden age dawns upon the face of the earth. So it is about total warfare and the end of the world. But Ragnarok is also about the birth of a new and better time.

I hope you’re enjoying this series on Norse mythology. If there’s any subject you’d like to hear about, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. You can also check out the other entries in this series.


This entry is part 1 of 8 in the series Norse Mythology Quick Hits

Concept art of a female Dwarf

As you can tell by the book I’ve written, I am a fan of the Dwarves. I’ve always been fascinated with them and enjoyed reading their stories in the sagas and in popular culture. But these guys and gals don’t always get the respect that they deserve. We’re not even going to go into the many times Loki cheated them out of their pay or messed with them while they were creating their masterpieces. Even skipping all of that, here are five times the Dwarves got the proverbial short-end of the stick.

The Beard Thing
While not Norse mythology,  I just felt we had to address this one. None other than JRR Tolkien himself served as the catalyst for this. In the notes to the Lord of the Rings he wrote that the Dwarf women looked just like the men. Some people interpreted this to mean that the women have beards just like the men. In the movie version of LOTR we have Aragorn out and out saying this. (Something he never did in the books.) Terry Pratchett took the ball and ran it even further in his Discworld novels with Dwarf females every bit as bearded as the men. I prefer to stick with the sagas. When the Dwarves construct the magical chain Gleipnir they make it from “six impossible things.” One of those things is “the beard of a woman.” So the sagas say it is impossible for women to have beards. With all due respect to Tolkien and Pratchett, I’m going with the saga’s version.

Toasted at Baldur’s Funeral
The gods were heartbroken over the death of Baldur, it shook them to the very core. Baldur’s widow, Nanna, was so upset that she died of a broken heart right there at the funeral. So we can imagine that Thor was not in the best of moods, either. But does that excuse this behavior?

 Thor then stood up and hallowed the pile with Mjolnir, and during the ceremony kicked a dwarf named Litur, who was running before his feet, into the fire.

We have no idea what Litur was doing there. Maybe he was running around when he was supposed to be quiet, but it still seems like a harsh reaction.

The Origin of the Dwarves
Although there are passing references to the dwarves being made of the blood and bones of a sea-giant, the main reference to the origin of the dwarves reads like this:

“Then the gods, seating themselves upon their thrones, distributed justice, and bethought them how the dwarves had been bred in the mould of the earth, just as worms are in a dead body. It was, in fact, in Ymir’s flesh that the dwarves were engendered, and began to move and live. At first they were only maggots, but by the will of the gods they at length partook both of human shape and understanding, although they always dwell in rocks and caverns.

The four corners of the world are each held up by a single dwarf. This is a powerful race renowned for being master-craftsmen, but we’re told they started out as maggots.

The Stoning of the Bridegroom
Poor Alvis, all the dwarf wanted was a beautiful bride and he had one, too. Unfortunately she was the daughter of Thor. The father of the bride didn’t want his daughter running off with this pale-nosed fellow. What is interesting here is that, instead of bashing him with Mjollnir, Thor says Alviss can marry his daughter if the dwarf can answer all of Thor’s questions about the world. We then get a long exchange between the two where Thor asks what the various races of the Nine Worlds call different things. For instance, we learn that the giants call the sun Ever-Bright, while the Elves call it Fair Wheel. This goes on through the night until finally the sun rises and turns Alvis into stone. Looking for love, he ended up looking like a statue.

Short-changed, Big-time
Dwarves are little people, right? The word has come down to us to mean someone of smaller stature. Well, the sagas say they were created “in man’s likeness.” You think that means they looked human – just smaller? Not quite. When Thor sees Alvis he says “What man is this?” Not what short creature, but what man. Check out this article on Wikipedia for more arguments on the subject. There are other references indicating that a dwarf is just like a man except he lives beneath the ground. Somewhere along the line the word dwarf was changed to mean shorter than normal and the entire race got tagged.

I hope you’re enjoying this series on Norse mythology. If there’s any subject you’d like to hear about, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. You can also check out the other entries in this series.

Five Magical Weapons from Norse Mythology

Loki’s Five Biggest Tricks

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