Mythical Monday: Dwarves, Dragons and Danes by Mae Clair

I finally had a chance to catch up with the second part of The Hobbit last night, The Desolation of Smaug. I’ve been a fan of Tolkien ever since my tenth grade English teacher gave me his copy of The Fellowship of the Ring. That’s when my love of fantasy really took off. Tolkien’s books are loaded with all things mythical and marvelous—elves, dwarves, enchanted forests and lakes, wizards, and walking trees—just to name a few.  After watching The Desolation of Smaug, I thought it was an appropriate time to shine a spotlight on dwarves. Admittedly, Thorin and Kili might have had something to do with that. 😀

Not all dwarves were heroic warriors. Some were simple folk, concerned with agriculture and common tasks like smithing, baking and spinning. The Danes tell a folktale about a human farmer who leased a homestead that had seen numerous ill-fated owners before him. None had any luck tilling the land or raising a profit from livestock. Drought had struck the crops repeatedly, and disease thinned every herd. This farmer—a man, with a wife and two young children—hoped for better luck.

Summer rural scene with old wooden abandoned barn in green mountain meadowOn the night he arrived—a fine balmy summer evening—he addressed the farm with what he hoped was a respectful greeting. “Good evening, farm.”

“Good evening,” a voice immediately returned. Sounding much like the croak of a toad, the voice came from the direction of the cowshed.

The farmer peered through the twilight, searching for the source, but saw no one about. Unsure if he had imagined the reply, he shrugged and added, “Well, whoever you are, come to the cottage at Christmas and show yourself.”

The next day he set to work, patching walls and re-thatching the roof, for the farm had fallen into a horrible state of disrepair. He stabled his herd in the cowshed, but not long afterward, one of his best cows mysterious went dry. In the back of his mind, he feared the curse of the farm would plague him as well.

Still, when Christmas Eve arrived there was a fat goose for the family feast, and plenty of ale. In the middle of dinner, as the family enjoyed their holiday fare, the door suddenly burst open with a gust of cold air.

A small gnarled man dressed in gray stood on the threshold. He surveyed them for a moment, taking in the shocked faces of the children, then called out a Christmas greeting. The farmer instantly recognized the croaking-toad voice he had heard the evening of his arrival, and invited his strange visitor inside. He offered the dwarf a plate of goose, and a mug of ale.

“You must come to the cowshed on New Year’s Eve so I may return the favor in kind,” the dwarf informed his anxious host after he had feasted.

The farmer was wary, but feared insulting a supernatural being. When New Year’s Eve arrived, he went to the cowshed as promised. The dwarf pointed out a hole in the earth ringed with loose soil, then vanished into the dark passageway. Growing ever more fearful, and not seeing how he could ever fit through such a small opening, the farmer nonetheless stuck his foot into the hole. He immediately dropped into a low chamber composed of clay walls and gnarled roots. Furnished with oil lamps and a table, the small space was cozy and inviting. The dwarf bade the farmer to sit, then gave him a steaming bowl of porridge. Before the farmer could take a bite, a fat drop of foul-smelling brown moisture plopped onto the table from the ceiling.

“You see why I curse the land now?” the dwarf asked. “The first owner built his cowshed directly over my home, and ever since the muddy floor has oozed through my ceiling and ruined my food. I bear no malice to mortals, but have blighted crops and cursed cattle as a result of my spoiled porridge. ‘Twould be better if we lived in peace. Move the shed at first thaw, so that we both may prosper.”

Beautiful old farmstead surrounded by lush greeneryThe farmer did as the dwarf requested, moving the cowshed as soon as the weather permitted. In return, his crops flourished and his dry cow gave an abundance of milk. Not only did he prosper, but his harvests where plentiful and his herds enjoyed good health and long days. The dwarf’s animosity became rich blessings instead, allowing the farmer and his family to thrive on the farmstead where all others had failed.

It’s interesting that there aren’t that many tales about dwarfs out there. I think some tales where imps are involved (like Rumplestiltskin) could also be interpreted with dwarves. Can you think of any fairy tales or myths that include dwarves? Do you have a favorite?

And the most important question—what do you think of Thorin and Kili? 😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

14 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: Dwarves, Dragons and Danes by Mae Clair

  1. I love your posts, Mae! Well, there is always the classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I haven’t had the opportunity to watch the Hobbit movies, boo! In fact, I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to the theatre to watch an “adult” movie. But if you were to ask me about the latest kid’s flick, I’m there! I like this message though, that there’s always another side to the story if we take the time to listen. Poor dwarf and the poo! LOL

    • HI, Cd. I’d wager when you do watch the Hobbit movies you become overly fond of a few of the dwarves. Believe it or not, I love a lot of kids movies too, mostly the animated ones, though I’ve yet to see Frozen. Good call about Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Can you believe I forgot that one – – and I’m a rabid Once Upon a Time fan, LOL!

      I do feel awful for the dwarf in this tale. I’d be cursing a lot of farmers too! 🙂

  2. What an interesting story! I love myths involving earthy supernatural beings who caretake a specific location. My favorite tale involving a dwarf, one of my all time favorite tales as a matter of fact, is Snow White and Rose Red, where the sisters trick the dwarf into letting them cut his beard. The action reduces his malevolent powers of course, lifting the curse from the handsome prince / bear.

  3. I do like Thorin and Kili, although I can’t remember exactly who is who. One is the leader and the other is the one who had the crush on the elf, I think. Both very cute, and I only stand 5’2″ so height is not that much of an issue.

    The Time Bandit movie I believe was full of dwarfs. Love your post.

    Mary E. Merrell

    • Hi, Mary. Yep, Thorin is Thorin Oakenshield, heir to the throne belonging to the King Under the Mountain and Kili is the archer dwarf who crushes on the female elf. Those guys sure looked good! Oh – – and Time Bandit. It’s been years (probably decades) since I’ve seen that. Another great choice!

  4. I loved this legend with the very brave farmer. I don’t find dwarves half as interesting as elves or fairies, perhaps its the asthetics of appearance or the skill set. I think the film makes the dwarves far less grumpy than they were in the book.

    • I’ve always been much more fascinated by elves and faeries too, Daisy. And definitely, the film puts more spin on the characters, that aren’t there in the book, but I guess that goes with entertainment. It will be interesting to see if they stay true to the ending.

      Soon, I have to do a fairy or elf post. Spring and early summer are the perfect time for them! 🙂

      • Oh, yeah, the elves. I’m such a juvenile. I put a poster of Legolas up in the garage, drawing on is bow. (Is that the right term?) The things that make you go hmmm. If I had my way, I’d put a post of Daryl from Walking dead in my office. Now, I have to be happy with my “I Love Daryl ” t-shirt. And to think I’ll be 52 next month.

  5. I’m so jealous Mae! We were supposed to sit and watch Smaug as a family after Easter supper Friday night but my bro was watching hockey playoffs and wouldn’t come watch TV with us girls so we ended up watching Frozen. Which was quite good and I also had wanted to see it – the songs were the best part.

    But I really wanted to see me some hot dwarves and a DRAGON! 😦

    • Looks like we need to swap movies, Heather. I still need to see Frozen (I love the animated stuff). You’re going to love Smaug. Just. So. Good.

      And Thorin and Kili are a nice addition too 😉

I love comments, so please scribble a thought or two!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s