Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dwarves and Elves

This is something that's been fascinating me for a while. I wonder if anyone would like to discuss the relationship between Dwarves and Elves. The animosity and vague class snobbery present is a little fascinating, particularly on the part of the Elves. I mean, a race that's supposed to be wise and immortal and ever-sage or whatever should have grown out of such prejudices by now. Yet they haven't. Now, I already know the reasons behind their initial distrust, but I wonder what Tolkien meant to do with that point. It probably ties into the sociopolitical issues that we discussed in the Council of Elrond exercise last class, but I would be interested in hearing what everyone else thought

5 comments:

Elwing said...

I think the main point Tolkien was trying to make with the division between draves and elves is that racial stereotypes are simply stupid. Each race mistrusts the other when they should be allies in the force against evil. Legolas and Gimli become really good friends, and this just serves to show that prejudices and old fueds are ridiculous.

Aredhel said...

I agree with Elwing. But I also think that Tolkien uses the relationship between the two people groups to make a point about the Elves. As Elendil said the Elves are "wise and immortal and ever-sage" so that makes them perfect right? Wrong. It would be so easy to have the Elves be these perfect beings: all-knowing, gracious, and powerful. But their ongoing feud with the dwarves just goes to show that they are "simply human" (as the saying goes...they're not really human obviously!). I think Tolkien may be trying to say that every people group on Middle Earth has its downfalls and weaknesses. The Elves are proud and the Dwarves are stubborn. But like Elwing said, through the friendship between Legolas and Gimli, the old feud heals somewhat.

Diamond Took said...

I've always been puzzled about the relationship between the two. On the one hand it makes perfect sense the the two races aren't the best of friends. They have vastly different cultures. However, I agree that the leaders of the Elves we come across (in The Lord of the Rings at least) seem much too wise in all other aspects to maintain this feud. I get the feeling that it is maintained by "lesser" Elves, such as the Wood Elves in Mirkwood. Elrond, for example, may not be perfect but it would be very odd if he held this prejudice given his characterization in the books.

Miriel said...

There is a bit of a hierarchical way that Tolkien presents the different races in LOTR... I mean, it isn't that obvious but it is there. And it is cool that Gandalf, (wizards, it seems are the highest order... perhaps it talks about this class structure in the Simerilion?) really opens up to the hobbits, starting in the Hobbit, who are viewed at a lower level than wizards. This is probably taken from the Medieval times, when the caste system was the whole structure of the society.

Idril said...

I completely agree with Aredhel's description of Elves as "proud" and Dwarves as "stubborn." It couldn't be any more accurate! In LOTR, Tolkien's consistent use of the "clashing cultures" theme emphasizes that not all conflicts are simply the good versus the evil. This is another Tolkien tool that adds incredible depth and reality to his completely fictional world. Throughout the saga, the disunity and eventual rebirth of friendship between the Elves and Dwarves highlights the power bleak times and circumstances have on bringing cultures together.