Dwarves: stereotyped?

Discussion in 'Every Day Debating' started by Jingojolene, Aug 12, 2010.

  1. Jingojolene

    Jingojolene Wayfarer, heartlander

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    I wanted to stary a fantasy related debate and this is something that I had been wondering.
    Dwarves: Are they stereotyped because of what Tolkeins started with LOTR and because they were taken from mythology's idea of the Scottish Vikings, or are they stereotyped because we just can't imagine them to be any other way?

    Everyone knows what I mean - when we're talking fantasy and we're talking dwarf, it's a short, stout, armoured little fellow with a long beard [his pride and joy] and he's got a hearty scottish accent and a love for beer and being underground.

    Why does this have to be so?

    I'd like to point out some movements away from the stereotype - in Dragonlance there are Gully dwarves, and Kender with whom you'll find no relation to the stereotype other than how small they are, because that's necessary due to the meaning of the word 'dwarf' - and yet these creatures are only related to the dwarves, there are still versions of the stereotype in the story.

    Can anyone else name versions of a dwarf that aren't like the stereotype? and also point out the stereotypes that exist. I know WoW has a version of the dwarf that has a god awful accent and all the other features of a typical fantasy dwarf.

    Also does anyone think that this is done similarly with elves in fantasy?
     
  2. Jorick

    Jorick Well-Known Member

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    Oh yeah, dwarves and elves are ridiculously stereotyped. It's so bad that even people who have never read/watched anything with a dwarf could tell you they're short dudes with beards that live underground, or that an elf is an effeminate thing that loves nature and lives in the forest.

    As for things that break the stereotypes, I've yet to see any. Sure, I've seen minor tweaks done, but taking the elf out of the forest whilst keeping the effeminate hippy persona isn't anything really new. I'd like to see someone do it well though.

    That said, I think the stereotypes became stereotypical for good reason: they fit nice niches in fantasy worlds. I can't imagine a fantasy world without SOME kind of group that's gung-ho for fighting and another that wants peace and loves nature. Dwarves and elves fill those niches perfectly, along with giving some sentient creatures to make live in the vast mountain ranges and forests; you could leave them just monster infested areas, but that's kind of boring.

    So, they're stereotyped, but I don't see a big problem with it. It'd be neat to see a radical change, but not necessary.
     
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  3. rosa

    rosa New Member

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    I know i have seen other interpretations of elves and dwarfs (not to many anyway...) but rigth now i can only think on the elves from Hellboy 2 , i mean they are elves and related to nature but i find the interpretation rather original and prinsses Nuala and prince Nuada to be a cool version of elves that kind of breaks the stereotypes.
     
  4. Turambar

    Turambar Harebrained Staff Member

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    hmmm.... isn't this the exact function of races like elves and dwarves? To be a stereotype?

    Typically, races in fantasy are introduced to differentiate from humans. And, this being a fantasy forum, I could name a few. There's probably dozens, if not hundreds of creatures or archetypes which get moulded into stories and fantasy worlds. It just so happens to be that the dwarves and elves are most prevalent.

    And, to differentiate between all the other creatures, we tend to stick to the stereotypes we know. Otherwise, or so I think, the label would be deemed erronous.

    I don't particularly see any problem with that - other than that it might limit the progress of fantasy in accepted literature, as everyone seems to build on collective memory and a particular canon.

    I don't see any reason why fantasy can't experiment with these races either. Serious writers do need to wonder what exactly they are writing down and in what way they can give new lease to old clichés. But truth is, there's harldy a niche in the market for writers like that...
     
  5. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    Another reason I suspect is the fact that most fantasy authors who want to be published had to stick to some sort of space limits with regard to the size of their book(s). Write a story too long and it might be harder to get a publisher to pick you up.
    This also excludes the buildup to the story - few authors have such a slow starting as something like Lord of the Rings.

    Add this all together and it means that an author has less space to explain their worldset to the reader whilst also telling a captivating story along side. This means that many will rely upon stereo types within fantasy - the idea of a dwarf or elf is something that most people have a similar idea of - for example all elves have pointy ears and look mostly human - a quick reference that an author can use to help cut out a chunk of infodump.

    Of course there are those that do break the models and make their own new characters/creatures - either using the same names (elf and dwarf) or inventing their own to fit the new rolls. Consider Dragons - these have 100s of remakings from metal machines through to gene enhanced lizards (Pern - at least technically) that eat rocks to fire flame - to mighty creatures made and living off magic (Discworld).
     
  6. Foinikas

    Foinikas Playing backgammon!

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    I say "Who cares?They're both cool and we love them!" :p

    I mean Fantasy Elves and Dwarves.
     
  7. Jingojolene

    Jingojolene Wayfarer, heartlander

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    I 100% agree with this. Nicely said :p
    I don't want people to get the wrong idea - I personally don't see a problem, I just think that it isn't necessary for fantasy to include these stereotypes, like Steven Erikson's Malazan books for example.

    Just an interesting thing to talk about :p
     
  8. insideout

    insideout New Member

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    The elves in the Wicked series elves are portrayed as small green figures who are stupid, fall out of trees and crush their heads, and fall into hysterics at anything.

    lol

    That was the only real stereotype breaker I've seen, but there's gotta be a few others. Neil Gaiman does a pretty good job at breaking stereotypes, but I haven't read anything by him that involves dwarves or elves.
     
  9. azuren82

    azuren82 Berserk got banned...

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    tbh while Tolkien created the mold for stereotypes in the standard high fantasy, it's worthy to note that whole effeminate bs about elves actually came from the D&D settings due to their standard slight built. But even then, the whole concept was only created by random people who nothing up in their hands to do. In fact I don't remember any explicit references to that apart from the fact that they are the fairest beings in standard fantasy. But then again, how do we interpret the term fairest? I think this is basically something up to the views of the individual. Granted that this term was used in literature in connection to women, but then again how did the whole definition goes for the Tolkien and D&D molds to say the least? And it doesn't help that Hollywood just decided to pussify elves just for shit and giggles as has been proven by the LOTR movies. You don't get a metrosexual to play Legolas and expect to get away with it. -.-

    P.S: One interesting idea on anti-stereotypes. One of my online friends actually ended up creating a fantasy story at Fictionpress where he just threw the entire dwarven stereotype into the sewer. Simply put in that story, dwarves=nature loving, vegan+ pacifism. On an interesting note, the elves ended up being a bunch of technology freaks.