Khazâd Part III: Creation

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Ever since I was a child the three dimensions, our perception of them, and our ability to change things within them have fascinated me. Texture, shape, matter, color, shadow, highlight, space, distance! And that is only where the realm of the physical touches two of our five senses.

Stop. Right now.

Wipe your mind of all that you take for granted and try to understand how bizarre and wondrous the material world really is. Consider the possibility that nothing has to be, yet here it is. Think about the space between you and the nearest object and try to feel how strange your perception of that space, and that object would be if your senses had only been awakened this moment.

If you haven’t tried this before, it may be hard at first. We’ve been swimming in the physical from our earliest memories. We are so used to this that anything else would seem strange and exciting to us, but we are capable of realizing how awe-inspiring this world is.

Think about the things you see every day. Your bed, a blanket, a cup of water, a tree with texture so meticulously detailed that it stretches from a forest to the atoms of its inmost ring. Your own body, even with its flaws, so knit together that you live and move, with cells constantly dying and being reborn. How shadows change a surface, and light can make things glow.

Photo by Jubilare. Often it is the simple things that awe.

Photo by Jubilare. Often it is the simple things that awe.

If you think about this too long and too deeply, it can overwhelm you.

It’s best to find a balance where you neither take the physical for granted, nor allow yourself to be overcome by the incomprehensible vastness and detail of it all. I think it is good for us to pause and run our hand over a desk, or breathe in winter air, taking time to feel, taste, smell. So many gifts are wasted on us when we don’t pay attention.

You may be wondering what this has to do with J. R. R. Tolkien’s Dwarves.

I think (and yes, I may be projecting) that the Dwarves, in general, share my instinctual wonder of the world. Tolkien’s words suggest a people who, while rugged and shielded in other regards, are hyper-sensitive when it comes to the properties and beauties of the inanimate part of Arda. Even though they lack my passion for trees and plants, they appreciate them enough to use them as common themes in their works.

From the outside, fascination with the material can look a lot like materialism. Now, some Dwarves from Tolkien’s writing are avaricious and materialistic. There is no denying that. After all, love of matter can become materialism if taken too far. But I believe there is a pure and healthy love of the physical that is not possessive, or hedonistic, or materialistic, and I believe that love is an underlying theme in the character of the Khazâd.

My theory is supported by one of the Dwarves’ most well-known traits.  It is a short step from loving creation, to wishing to create. I find myself compelled, through my awe of matter, to shape small pieces of my world. This is why I identify so strongly with the Dwarven love of craftsmanship.

In the Silmarillion it is clear Aulë and Melkor have a great measure of Eru’s creative spirit.  In Melkor’s case, that spirit becomes grasping and possessive, but Aulë remains free and generous. Even in his clandestine making of the Dwarves his actions stem from a desire to share the wonders of Arda, his knowledge, and joy in existence.

Whether the creative nature of the Dwarves comes from Aulë or from the spirits bestowed on them by Eru, there is no doubt that they posses it. Throughout Tolkien’s work we see the intense and sensitive appreciation for beauty in the Dwarves. None of the other industrial or quasi-industrial races have this eye for beauty or the smoldering desire to carefully enhance it.

Ultimately, the Dwarves are lovers of nature and that love manifests in their works. Many of their number even abandon all other pursuits, devoting themselves to their craft with monk-like singleness of mind.  They are industrious, both from a practical standpoint and from a creative one. It boggles my mind that this focused creativity is sometimes perceived as prosaic and even dull. But then I suppose the makers of illuminated manuscripts of ages past are sometimes seen in a similar light by modern society. Have we lost some of our ability to appreciate that kind of focus?

In my recent delving into Tolkien’s work, I kept a record of the objects and places shaped by the Dwarves. I have chosen a few to mention. Some you may know. Some might surprise you.

Angrist: the knife Beren used to cut a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown

Narsil: Sword of the Númenórean kings, broken in cutting the One Ring from Sauron’s hand,  later to become Andúril

Menegroth:  a cooperative effort of Dwarves and Elves

The pillars of Meneroth were hewn in the likeness of the beeches of Oromë, stock, bough and leaf, and they were lit with lanterns of gold. The nightingales sang there as in the gardens of Lórien; and there were fountains of silver, and basins of marble, and floors of many-coloured stones. Carven figures of beasts and birds there ran upon the walls, or climbed upon the pillars, or peered among the branches entwined with many flowers. – Quenta Silmarilion, Chapter 10

Nauglamír:

It was a carcanet of gold, and set therin were gems uncounted from Valinor; but it had a power within it so that it rested lightly on its wearer as a strand of flax, and whatsoever neck it clasped it sat always with grace and loveliness.  – Quenta Silmarilion, Chapter 13

Dale:

You should see  the waterways of Dale, Frodo, and the fountains, and the pools! You should see the stone-paved roads of many colours! And the halls and cavernous streets under the earth with arches carved like trees; and the terraces and towers upon the Mountain’s sides!  -Many Meetings, The Fellowship of the Ring

And that is just a smattering. Pay attention as you read and you will find more. I would love to step into these stories, if only briefly, to see and perhaps touch some of the marvels Tolkien imagined.

Last, and perhaps most telling of the hearts and minds of the Khazâd, I mention their own idea of what lies in store for them.  According to the Silmarillion, they believe that when Arda is remade they will work side by side with Aulë in the reshaping of the world. Imagine the beauty and wonder, care, imagination, focus, and labor involved in such a feat. I am glad Tolkien included such a beautiful legend in his tales of Middle Earth.

We are near the end of my ramblings on this subject. I will have worn it, and myself out, I think, but hopefully I will have achieved my goal. One post left.

For the rest of the series, look here:
Of the Free Peoples of Arda
Contrariwise
Khazâd Part I: Aulë
Khazâd Part II: The Deep Places of the World
Khazâd Part IV: The Road Goes On

Photo by Jubilare. Water showing how to carve a rock.

Photo by Jubilare. Water showing how to carve a rock.

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Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

24 responses to “Khazâd Part III: Creation

  • palecorbie

    Dwarves…the original steampunks. Alas that I’ve never been able to develop any particular interest/fondness for them, though not for want of trying. I put it down to the fact they’re just not springy. Ach, I miss my cavern-elves…Sorcerer seems to be another itself last I ‘heard’, it makes me sad that apparently I missed the death of, well, Sorcerer-That-Was, if that’s true.

    May I draw Pleesman Lyss’ attention this way if she doesn’t know? I think she’d like these ramblages.

    • jubilare

      *Happy sigh* steampunk dwarves. It is true, they are not springy. Not very acrobatic, either, as far as I can tell, but I like their solidness.

      They are mighty, your cavern-elves…

      Sure! She would have fun laughing at my rants. :)

      Question: would you like a card with my father’s pre-steampunk steam-fish on it? It’s a tuna (I think) with gears and belts and such inside. He painted it when I was a kid and the original hangs in his house.

      • palecorbie

        Aye…hey, did I ever show you any of my “pretty dwarves”? I like some highly solid things, but it tires me to focus on, I think. Poor dwarves.

        They think so, anyway.

        Righto.

        I would love that! So long as there’s no risk of damage by taking it out of its frame to copy or anything, of course.

        • jubilare

          Hm… I seem to remember a “pretty dwarf,” but you could always send ‘em again in case I am remembering something else. Mm… one of my favorite things on earth is limestone, so there we go. ;)

          I think they are right.

          Oh, no worries there. The cards have been in existence for many, many years. I only recently discovered them upstairs.

          • palecorbie

            I probably sent you the redhead pinup, then, ’cause I finished her first…still, see if you remember these gals. Yeah…limestone is often right at the edge of my detail-comfort threshold, too…

            [snerk] Oh, Falin’s an uncle now, did I tell you that? That and courting a tomb-girl himself, last I knew.

            chouette!

            • jubilare

              Nay, I don’t think I’ve seen any of those before, but they remind me a little of Cheery and her break from Pratchettean Dwarf tradition. :)

              Nay. What is a tomb-girl?

              Owl!

              • palecorbie

                Heheh. Beards can be bonny! [tries to chew texter-smiley] Aungaung.

                Well, he has been for a while now, and is bemused by it. Oh, there’s a small population of renegades living among the dry, near-surface caves and hollowed places the Nerrime have used for tombs and ossuaries, rumoured to be grown from a few light-born escapees…the People keep trying to relocate them back to the City, but since they’d be on the bottom of the task ladder and society and the tombs are utterly labyrinthine after millennia of use they tend to resist.

                Owl kewl!

                • jubilare

                  Aigh! Sorry! Sorry!

                  Niece or nephew?
                  Oh… I remember someone telling me of them. Is intermarrying between the renegades and those from the City acceptable to both/either group? Or does it depend on where they choose to live?

                  Because there are very few things cooler than an owl.

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  • bekindrewrite

    Ah, I’m loving this series of posts. Part of that is imagining Tolkien discovering his own love for the Dwarves. Like the minor character who, in a few random lines just meant to transition to the next scene, suddenly winks at you with a soul. Next thing you know, you’re finding out his whole history and thinking up stories you know happened to him, whether or not you’ll ever write them. Those are some of the best characters. So with the race of Dwarves.

    Speaking of hand-illuminated manuscripts, have you heard of the St. John’s Bible? This famous British calligrapher had always dreamed of doing a modern-day, hand-written, illuminated Bible, so he went to the monks of St. John’s Abbey with the idea and a few years later, a whole team of artists and scholars started work on this thing: http://www.saintjohnsbible.org/see/
    Actually, I’m not sure if they’ve finished it yet. They only started in the nineties. I think it’s rather awesome of them to do it.

    • jubilare

      ! I am glad you are enjoying them! I’ve enjoyed the exploration of Tolkien’s works and the organizing of my thoughts, but it’s doubly gratifying to find out that someone else enjoys reading the results.
      Yes. That is exactly it. It is easy to see and appreciate the bright gems in the sunlight, the heroes and heroines on which a story focuses, but some of us enjoy taking a lantern and seeing what unknown gems are waiting to flash in the shadows and at the edges of sight. :) Too often I find myself attached to secondary (sometimes even tertiary) characters in a book, and there is something about the Dwarves in particular.

      Oh my. I had not heard about this that I remember. Beautiful!

      • bekindrewrite

        There are so many layers in Tolkien’s work, it seems almost impossible to even perceive them all – it helps to read someone else’s thoughts on the subject. You’ve expressed a lot of things I think I noticed subconsciously, but didn’t consciously appreciate until now.

        I learned about St. John’s because a few pages of it were in the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition I had the insane luck to work on the marketing for – alas, it ends Sunday!

        • jubilare

          Very true. He is one that rewards those who dig deep. I was explaining that to my mother who recently finished the trilogy for the first time. The exercise of writing these posts was great for me because it helped me solidify and support my feelings regarding the Dwarves as well as share them. For the first time, I’ve been able to see my own thoughts, and trace their roots.

          Wow. Go you!

  • Liss

    I always loved the idea of the dwarven afterlife too. DIY heaven! (Kind of the opposite of the useless, apathetic bloody Vanyar, whose universal contribution to the world before & after is Absolutely Nothing Whatsoever …)

    I would like to think that Tolkien began to see some of those qualities you describe and attribute to the dwarves as he got better acquainted with his wonderful Gimli ;) … but really, based on the representations and in The Hobbit, it seems in the main that they were very dismissively and generically categorised as overproud, greedy & self-interested (I was always particularly annoyed that when dwarves minded their own affairs it was self-interest, and when elves did it, it was ‘self-protection’). Whether it was the generational view of racial/country stereotypes being applicable, or the mythological tendency to make sweeping generalisations about beasts and nations, or both, I don’t think Tolkien ever fully escaped that thought-trap.

    I vastly prefer your version ;)

    • jubilare

      Oh, indeed! I, for one, would go stir-crazy with an inactive life or afterlife. Recreating the world sounds like a lot of fun. ;)

      I would like to ask Tolkien about that. The more I read him, the more I think it was a process in which he started seeing the Dwarves as a literary device, and then came to think of them as people. I don’t think we got much more from him after he really made that realization, but there are places in his writing where I see a view of them that is very similar to mine. I also wonder how much things like the Silmarillion are intentionally slanted because he was writing them from the point of view of other races. He is easier on the Dwarves in the Appendices and even seems to say that what others write about them is slanted. Because the Khazad are so insular, we don’t really get their take on things. It’s a puzzling question.

  • I Love Dwarves: a recap | jubilare

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