Tolkien’s Dwarves Are Not “Jews”
*This week, a break from WW3 and the usual madness. Herein, I smash up a little religious and literary misconception.
My titular opinion comes in response both to old rumors I’ve heard as well as more recent suggestions in line with the old rumors that, contrary to my position, the Dwarves are Jewish. The counterpoints are based on artificially-narrow stereotyping and, in my estimation, a lack of understanding of concepts both Biblical and those related to Professor Tolkien’s whole legend and mythology.
The following presupposes that the reader has read The Holy Bible, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, The Book of Lost Tales, and more. Much more. R-E-A-D. I do not care what one saw in a Peter Jackson atrocity.
I also assume that the rumor spreaders conflate anything “Jewish” with “bad,” and that they make absolutely no differentiation between the classification and labeling of Karaim, Reform, Orthodox, Rabbinical, Talmudic, secular, Ashkenazi, Sephardic, atheist, Elect, Chosen, Jewish, Hebrew, Israelite, Judean, any other division, or any subdivision within any division. They probably know little to nothing about any of these divisions and do not care. They come off just a little monomaniacal: “the Jooooos is bad!”
Tolkien, by the way, did not suffer such misunderstandings, nor did he dislike “Jewish” people. To the latter point, see his 1938 response to Joseph Goebbels via Rutten & Loening, Berlin. Furthermore, Tolkien repeatedly asserted that his works were not a Christian allegory. They were deeply steeped in his own Christianity and Christian worldview and many a reader is tempted to gainsay the great author (but really, how smart is that?). It stands to reason that the works are similarly not allegorical in a Jewish sense either. Rather, many of his themes, many of his developed situations, and many of his created peoples were influenced by his ardent Catholicism. They were also influenced by this being English, a father, a genius, a poet, a soldier, etc. His Dwarves have the characteristics are various types of peoples, real, fictional, and mythological. With a few specific exceptions, most of which do lean allegorical, I do not think he intended any of his contrived races or beings to represent certain exactly-identifiable groups. The possible non-allegorical exception would be the subset of Men who, by default, were destined to become the fictional, mythical predecessors of the English People.
The truth is, like Anglo-Saxons and all people, some Jews – however one defines the term – are bad and some are good. But, as the rumors address a monolithic Jewish People in the worst light possible, for the sake of argument, I will examine the allegedly Jewish People of Durin in accordance with the harshest interpretation of John 8:44 (NJB, 1985):
You [Jewish Dwarves] are from your father, the devil, and you prefer to do what your father wants. He was a murderer from the start; he was never grounded in the truth; there is no truth in him at all. When he lies he is speaking true to his nature, because he is a liar, and the father of lies.
I’ll leave aside that, in keeping with the monomania, the gossipers would not read that passage in pari materia. Not a lot of reading, period.
The slanders, against good Jews and good Dwarves, derive from the assertions that the Dwarves are: 1) a wandering people, and 2) in love gold and jewels.
Without going any further, both of these libels describe the Dwarves … and, to one degree or another, just about all the other races of Arda. The Valar themselves wandered down to earth at the beginning of time. Dwarves, Elves, Men, Hobbits, Orcs, the Istari, and the Ents roamed far and wide at various intervals for various reasons. We’re reliably informed that one Elf is still wandering around the world’s coastlines, mumbling to himself, to this very day! Dwarves did value gold and other precious things. So did many Elves and Men. This trait was shared by even some of the Valar and Ainur. Elves, Men, a few of the Angelic beings, and even a few Hobbits went murderously insane at times over trivial things like, say, rings, necklaces, and artificial stones. Much like our real people, these literary creations all had their bad (or misguided) apples.
There are other negative attributes that could also be falsely, solely applied to the would-be-Jewish Dwarves. Assuming they are Thirteenth Tribe, Kazarian, satanic, fake Jews – that’s how the gossipers think of them, even as most gossipers are probably unable to define those necessary terms – then shouldn’t there be other evidence of more “nation-wrecking” behavior among Dwarves? There is, here and there, but none of it is exclusive to the Dwarves. In fact, it’s arguable that the Dwarves were far less given to subversion, inversion, theft, murder, lying, and malicious conquest than Men or Elves.
Back to the Dwarves, exclusively, as the children of the devil: Christopher Tolkien tells us in no uncertain terms that originally the Dwarves were “always portrayed as an evil people.” Lost Tales, Ch. 10, “Gilfanon’s Tale…” That was the original sketch. Originally. Things changed; the same page (236 of 1st American HMC Ed. (1984)) that relates the original evil of the Dwarves also speaks of “evil fays” and “ogres.” How many fays and ogres made it into the final narrative publications?
And, most importantly for the Gospel of John analysis, who is the Dwarves father? Is he Melkor / Morgoth, the cautiously-analogized Lucifer character of the Legendarium? No. Movie-goers will be mystified by this revelation, but the Dwarves were literally carved and hammered into existence by Aule, the Vulcan / Hephaestus figure of the Valar (Tolkien’s gods or Angelics). Their spontaneous creation was a technical violation of the established natural law but, because Aule’s reasons were innocent, Eru Iluvtar (“God”) not only allowed their continued existence but blessed their being (subject to a certain timing). See: Silmarillion, Ch. 2, “Of Aule and Yavanna”, 43-45, 1st American HMC Ed. (1977).
The Dwarves were created by a good guy and sanctified by THE good guy. And, while they were at times the subject of suspicion and curses, nobody ever de-sanctified or super-bedeviled the Dwarves. While those Dwarves given the Seven Rings did succumb to partly ruinous gold lust, the hard, fair, and decent nature of the Dwarves thwarted Sauron’s ultimate gifting goals: he found Dwarves ultimately indomitable and spiritually incorruptible. Durin’s folk were also fanatically loyal to their friends even if the friends were not Dwarves.
In summary, shining the harshest light possible on the Dwarves, as suggested by those who understand neither the light, the Dwarves, nor the Jews, it is patently and literarily obvious that Dwarves are not stereotypical, bad “Jews.” Certainly, some Dwarves held both good and bad characteristics. It is possible that some Dwarves could inadvertently represent good “Jews.” How to put this in plain terms? Not all who occasionally wander with gold are Shylocks?
Now, to stoke further learned discussion, I posit that it is possible (if unlikely) that there is a better divergent two-race fit in Tolkien’s world for the ancient “real” Jew v. more modern “fake” Jew conundrum. Lakeside under the stars or something. Go ask Orome, advised that he’ll probably say something against blanket universal judgments.
BONUS: Speaking of really, really modern and really, really, REALLY good Jews! To dispel an even dumber rumor! I understand that circular whispers about nothing are presently bandied about by nameless “sources,” so say the nameless “admins” of an essentially nameless entertainment news site, the popularity of which is known only to Google AI. Bullshit, I say! I know what and who is behind this wicked idiocy. It can’t even be a lie, because it simply does not exist. My sources, and my own eyes, know the truth. Gal and Jaron have never been stronger; they’ll still be together when Melko is finally undone and Maglor gives up the wandering.