Could some of the 12 Dwarves have been female?

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Stormcrow
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Re: Could some of the 12 Dwarves have been female?

Post by Stormcrow » Tue Nov 21, 2017 9:52 pm

Earendil wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 7:46 pm
Why would they wear false beards? Eowyn is, as you say, not supposed to be there, but (as I've been arguing) there is no reason to suppose that any dwarf woman who wanted to go travelling or into battle would be prevented. The situations aren't the same.
But as you say, we don't know the situation of dwarf-women. We don't know if they simply choose not to travel or if they're not SUPPOSED to travel (or even if they're actively kept from traveling). If we suppose that dwarves disapprove of their women traveling, then dwarf-women might dress as dwarf-men, false beard and all, as a symbolic "I'm going out into the world as a dwarf-man because I'm not supposed to as a dwarf-woman" gesture. It might not even be a disguise actually meant to fool anyone; it might just be that the public face (literally) of any dwarf is supposed to be bearded, so dwarf-women in public oblige. Dwarf-men would probably even be in on the gig, accepting a dwarf-woman as a peer so long as she kept up the symbolic appearance. But men, elves, and hobbits, not knowing about these customs, would just see a group of dwarves passing by or selling them something and would think they're all men.

I am reminded of accounts of women accompanying men to battles throughout history. So long as they dressed like men and didn't act like women, and took on boys' jobs, everyone could unofficially look the other way and just accept the woman as a boy-soldier.

There are many possibilities, and we don't know which is correct. I'm just looking at the combination of what Tolkien said about few dwarf-women traveling and my own personal belief that Tolkien didn't necessarily mean to have dwarf-women actually growing beards, and finding explanations that fit it.

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Obadiah
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Re: Could some of the 12 Dwarves have been female?

Post by Obadiah » Tue Nov 21, 2017 9:57 pm

Stormcrow wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 9:52 pm
There are many possibilities, and we don't know which is correct. I'm just looking at the combination of what Tolkien said about few dwarf-women traveling and my own personal belief that Tolkien didn't necessarily mean to have dwarf-women actually growing beards, and finding explanations that fit it.
On what do you base your personal belief about them not having beards?

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Re: Could some of the 12 Dwarves have been female?

Post by Stormcrow » Tue Nov 21, 2017 10:00 pm

On my personal belief. No textual reason, it just seems like Tolkien might not have imagined dwarf-women growing beards, because they're women.

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Re: Could some of the 12 Dwarves have been female?

Post by Obadiah » Wed Nov 22, 2017 12:02 am

Fair enough!

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Re: Could some of the 12 Dwarves have been female?

Post by HunterGreen » Wed Nov 22, 2017 12:01 pm

Stormcrow wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 10:00 pm
On my personal belief. No textual reason, it just seems like Tolkien might not have imagined dwarf-women growing beards, because they're women.
Though the fact that he does say that other races can't tell them apart seems like a pretty strong clue that they did have beards -- otherwise, even Pippin would have figured it out.
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Re: Could some of the 12 Dwarves have been female?

Post by Rebali » Wed Nov 22, 2017 12:53 pm

This is a really interesting discussion.

For our One Ring game I'm hoping to run after our World War Cthulhu one raps up I'm getting to run a PC for the first time and I had hoped to run a female dwarf. I looked into the material and couldn't find that much except that which has been quoted. My take on it was that women were seen as something to be protected especially with the reduced numbers. This would tie in with the fact that Dwarf children are rarely seen (the comment about Dwarfs springing up from rocks). My characters Mother left the Lonely Mountain when Smaug took up residence and having spent time out in the world decided that being female didn't mean having to hide away so she promptly shaved herself and her daughters leading them to be treated as outcasts. My character wears a fake beard so as to be able to pass freely among other dwarves but is still treated as somewhat of an outcast.

As I said this is very much my take and is extrapolation from what I had read rather than solid information from Tolkien sources. I think the information we do have allows us to explore it somewhat and put our own meaning with the core details being that there were less female dwarves, they were hard to tell apart and it was rare to see them (to the extent that people believed Dwarves grew from stone). As someone stated previously they wouldn't be happy putting extra detail in as they liked to keep it by the book but to my mind there is scope to explore but to keep it grounded as much as possible.

I don't think any of the original 12 were female however.

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Re: Could some of the 12 Dwarves have been female?

Post by Timmity Took » Wed Nov 22, 2017 1:54 pm

Are any of you familiar with Barthes and "the death of the author"? After a work is written by the author, there are as many versions of the story as there are readers...
Not to mention all the versions Tolkien wrote and rewrote of his own work, even before andre after publishing them.
It is Tolkien's Word, yes! But it is ours too.
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Re: Could some of the 12 Dwarves have been female?

Post by Earendil » Wed Nov 22, 2017 2:25 pm

Timmity Took wrote:
Wed Nov 22, 2017 1:54 pm
Are any of you familiar with Barthes and "the death of the author"? After a work is written by the author, there are as many versions of the story as there are readers...
Not to mention all the versions Tolkien wrote and rewrote of his own work, even before andre after publishing them.
It is Tolkien's Word, yes! But it is ours too.
:)
I think we all realise that. In gaming terms, I would express it as "do whatever you want in your own game". :)

But some of us would like to remain as true to Tolkien as is practical, or at least know what Tolkien had in mind so we can decide if we want to stick to that or not. I like feeling that the world in my game is an extension of Tolkien's world (not necessarily entirely consistent, but I have his own precedent for that!) rather than a "re-imagining" of it.

So I went Googling and found that in some of his writings for The Silmarillion, Tolkien said:
no Man nor Elf has ever seen a beardless Dwarf - unless he were shaven in mockery, and would then be more like to die of shame... For the Naugrim have beards from the beginning of their lives, male and female alike..."
Apparently there was also something similar in an early version of Appendix A. None of this is conclusive, of course, because neither of the books as published include such an explicit statement. But it's good enough for me!
Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima!

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Re: Could some of the 12 Dwarves have been female?

Post by Stormcrow » Wed Nov 22, 2017 2:27 pm

HunterGreen wrote:
Wed Nov 22, 2017 12:01 pm
Though the fact that he does say that other races can't tell them apart seems like a pretty strong clue that they did have beards -- otherwise, even Pippin would have figured it out.
I don't think that has any effect. If dwarf-women dress as dwarf-men and wear false beards, and other peoples don't even realize it, then they're never going to try to tell them apart: they think they're looking at dwarf-men and think nothing further about it. Even if someone was told that a particular dwarf was female, he would say he couldn't tell them apart, hence the reputation that dwarf-women look exactly like dwarf-men.

I'm not saying my idea is right; I'm just saying that, given everything Tolkien ever wrote about dwarves, even if you assume that some of them were female, you couldn't distinguish whether they were wearing false beards or had grown their own beards. The hypotheses are equally possible.

I was wrong about one thing above, though. I said Tolkien didn't explain why dwarf-women don't travel much. In fact, he hints at the reason in The Lord of the Rings: "It is because of the fewness of women among them that the kind of the Dwarves increases slowly, and is in peril when they have no secure dwellings." Dwarf-women must be protected for the survival of the race, it seems, though it doesn't say whether dwarf-women approve of this arrangement. I suspect they do, by and large.

I'm also thinking about those circumstances in which dwarf-women would travel. I'm starting to think that, in Tolkien's mind, they don't travel for trade or adventuring AT ALL. Those times that they have come in contact with others and in which dwarf-women would be seen and be mistaken for dwarf-men would be during population migrations. When dwarves moved to and escaped from the Lonely Mountain. When dwarves moved to the Glittering Caves of Aglarond. If this is the case, if dwarf-women don't leave home except when migrating to a new home, then it's less likely they'd don false beards in a wink-wink-nudge-nudge kind of way, which means they DO grow beards.

This last hypothesis is bad news for female dwarf-adventurers, though, as it means they're not just queer and irresponsible folk, as other cultures deem adventurers; it means they're outright deviants and social rebels.

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Re: Could some of the 12 Dwarves have been female?

Post by Stormcrow » Wed Nov 22, 2017 2:34 pm

Earendil wrote:
Wed Nov 22, 2017 2:25 pm
So I went Googling and found that in some of his writings for The Silmarillion, Tolkien said:
no Man nor Elf has ever seen a beardless Dwarf - unless he were shaven in mockery, and would then be more like to die of shame... For the Naugrim have beards from the beginning of their lives, male and female alike..."
Oh, he said that? Then that resolves the question to my satisfaction: dwarf-women did, in fact, grow beards. As with so much of Tolkien, just because something wasn't published doesn't mean it wasn't what Tolkien had in mind. Much of the published Silmarillion is compressed simply for narrative brevity. The Appendices to The Lord of the Rings had to be cut significantly because they were too long. Tolkien was clearly envisioning bearded dwarf-women, and the fact that saying so didn't make the cut doesn't mean it's not true.

That means dwarf-babies have beards, too!

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