About dwarven women and children

Yes, we know, dwarven women have beards… but let’s take the next step and dig a bit deeper.

Without a doubt this topic is draped in mistery… still, here at the Dwarrow Scholar we’ll let you in on our thoughts.

If we look at age difference from known dwarven brothers (and or brother-sister pairs) in Tolkiens works most of these differ 9 or even 10 years in age. The exeptions to the rule are the sons of Thráin II, Thorin II Oakenshield born in 2746 and his younger brother Frerin born in 2751 – meaning these brothers were born “only” 5 years apart. The other exeption to this 9-10 year age gap between brothers are Fíli and Kíli, born “only” 6 years apart. All other brothers are born with a 9 or 10 year age difference, examples: Frerin and Dís (female), Dwalin and Balin, Fundin and Groin, Oin and Gloin, Fror and Gror, Thror and Fror. Not one case are any of these brothers (or brother-sister pairs) born more then 10 years apart.

Now this doesn’t tell us anything about a gestation period directly, but gives us a fair idea that it was common to wait several years before giving birth to your second or third born.

Considering the following facts and founded assumptions:

1) Dwarves usually take only one spouse in their lives (unless their spouse died) having two sons of different mothers would be extremely rare, in the case of Fíli and Kíli we can be sure they had the same mother simply considering the age difference.

2) It apperently is considered perfectly normal by the other dwarven companions that Fíli and Kíli differ “only” 6 years, as no mention is made otherwise in The Hobbit or other works. Which leads to believe the difference could have been even less (like Thorin and Frerin).

3) Tolkien wrote that dwarven women were fiercly guarded by the males and rarely seen in the outside world, one reason for this could have been due to them having an extended gestation period, which made them vulnerable. The risk of losing an unborn child in a multi-year-pregnancy would be to great a risk to take, hence the men guarded their women inside their halls, away from danger.

4) Dís, the only dwarven female ever named by Tolkien gave birth to her first son Fíli at the age of 99. So like dwarven males who come of age at 40, adult hood is reached at the age of 65-75. So like the male they have children between the age of 75 and 120, as the example of Dís proves.

5) Tolkien often used Jewish custom and traits when writing about dwarves, if we follow this rule too for dwarven pregrancy and customs surrounding it, it would be possible that dwarven women also held a period of purity after giving birth (or even after having their monthly cycle). In Judaism this is only 14 or 7 days after birth (depending on the gender of the new born), with dwarves this could have been considerably longer, due to the fact that they age slower then men and due to the fact that they do not have the same reproduction drive as men. In old judaic custom it was considered proper to wait for longer then 9 months to be pregnant again (could still be the case even not sure about that). So if we copy this to dwarves, we would be looking at a period of non-pregnancy of 5 years and pregnancy of 4 years – giving us the 9 year gap between most siblings.

So with all of the above in mind, my thoughts on the matter are this:
* Most dwarven women have children between the age of 75 and 120
* They consider a period of at least 2 months as a period of purity after each birth – in which they cleanse themselves and do not have relations with their husband.
* A dwarven gestation is 48 months – or 4 years.
* The minimum age difference between two dwarven siblings would be 50 months (just over 4 years).
* Most dwarves are born 9 or 10 years apart from any of their siblings. Meaning most female dwarves respected a period of 5 years in which they were not pregnant, before being pregnant of their next child.
* dwarven twins are almost none existant (none were ever written in Tolkiens words, so we can assume they were as rare or perhaps rarer then with the race of men).
* only 1 out of 3 dwarves would have children and they feel no pressure to have more than 1 child. As we can see from Tolkiens writings that less then half of those that had children, had more then one (Thrain II and Dáin I were rare exceptions with 3 children). Though it must be said that this is likely something typical of the third age, or the Royal House of Durin, as otherwise the dwarves as a race could not have possibly existed passed the first age.  The early Dwarves would have had 6 children on average (to account for the numbers we see in later stories).
* like the women, any son under the battle ready age of 40 was fiercly guarded by their father and family. Merely to protect them from an early death. Daughters we fiercly guarded regardless of their age, untill they married at the adult age of 75-120, at which time they become part of the family of their husband and fell under his protection.

The above is mainly theory offcourse, be it based on all the Tolkien sources available. But from my point of view the above would fit nicely and break none of Tolkiens writings.

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About The Dwarrow Scholar

The Dwarrow Scholar first experienced the brilliance of Tolkien when he received a copy of The Hobbit from his uncle as a kid, reading it feverishly again and again. Some years on, when he got his very own walk-man (aye forget about tiny iPods, this thing was a brick and played cassette tapes) he made his own little audiotape of The Hobbit, so he could listen to it on his bike on his way to school. Between reenacting the Battle of Five armies with 4 of his school friends (still feel sorry for the kid that had to be the Orc) and before the days of internet, you would find Roy frequently in libraries trying to find all he could about Tolkien and his beloved dwarves. When Roy isn’t delving into Neo-Khuzdul or searching for lost dwarven treasures on the net he’s enjoying time with his wife and son, re-reading his tormented Tolkien paperbacks, watching a good movie, learning new languages or playing a game of LoTRO on Laurelin as Kandral Strongbeard.
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18 Responses to About dwarven women and children

  1. Tora says:

    Great article,
    Will use this info to update my bio,
    thank you Kandral!

    Like

  2. lcapplewood says:

    Your site is so interesting, and I learned a lot (not that I retain all that I learn! lol), but I think this little article about gestation and birth was incredibly interesting and seems very plausible to me. Thank you!

    Like

  3. J says:

    Holy hell, I can’t magine anyone carrying a child for 4 years! O.o lawd.

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  4. Saraleee says:

    I’ve been thinking about the place of dwarf women in Tolkien’s dwarven society. Do you think it’s logical to assume that elements of ancient Welsh and Jewish culture might apply to the dwarves? For instance, it might be that women were the heads of households. Or that matrilineal bloodlines might have been followed (I’m thinking of Fili and Kili, who might have always been Thorin’s heirs under such a system, even if Frerin had survived the Battle of Azanulbizar and had sons of his own).
    Anyway, I’d be interested to hear your take on these ideas. Thanks!

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    • That is surely a strong theory, that the women ran the households. I would not base myself on Welsh, but rather on (ancient) Hebrew traditions, which we know Tolkien often used as a base for his dwarves. In Hebrew, “ba’alat ha-bayith”, means “the woman of the house”, and traditionally had the connotation of a strong, even dominant, woman, who maintains the household in an effective and result-oriented manner (some might have heard of the Yiddish version of the term being “baalabusta”). As the men within dwarvish culture focused on keeping their Halls safe and increasing their wealth (be it through mining, craftmanship or trade) the role of the female dwarf would have surely been to manage the affairs within those Halls. I would however not go so far to state that matrilineal bloodlines would be followed, as Tolkien clearly indicated a patrilineal succesion in dwarven culture. However, with Thorin’s death Fíli (being the eldest of the two) would have become King under the Mountain (as he would have been next in line) – it is believed to be the reason that Tolkien let the brothers die at the Battle of 5 Armies, so the throne would go to the elder (and more battle seasoned) Dáin.

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  5. knowfere says:

    That long gestation period would certainly allow for dwarves to be born with full beards 🙂

    Like

  6. Kristine McBride says:

    Your article is excellent. It shed a lot of light on several questions a friend and I were tossing back and forth regarding Dwarf-pregnancy, gestation, and basically everything you touched on here. Thanks for a great article. You always do terrific work, BTW.

    Like

  7. Katie says:

    This was really cool. Four years for a dwarf pregnancy? Jeez, I feel bad for Dis.

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  8. Nikikeya says:

    I think it is far more likely that Dwarrow gestation was 1-2 years, and then they would wait 2-3 years till that baby was weaned before attempting to have another child, as most mothers tend to loose their milk when they become pregnant again.

    Really its simple; Children are precious, and so they would want to focus souly on insuring that the child they already had survived its first few years when it was most vulnerable, before once again becoming pregnant.

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    • This indeed is a possibility, though we must consider that all the Dwarven siblings recorded in Tolkien’s works are either 9 or 10 years apart, with the exception of Fili and Kili.
      I do not believe this is a mere coincidence myself.
      But indeed, your suggestion is as valid as any and could indeed have been what Tolkien had in mind.
      In this case however it seems most Dwarven women would have waited about 8 years to have another child.
      The fact that dwarves are literally born with beards is another reason I believe the gestation period would be longer than that seen with Men.

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  9. Nikikeya says:

    There is also the fact that Dwarrows age slower than Humans. An 8-10 year old Dwarrow child is about the equivalent of a 4-5 year old human. Who would of course be fully weaned and potty trained, as well as walking and talking. A child that old would be some what self reliant, and not need the constant care that a toddler or infant would; thus freeing the mother to be able to focus more on younger siblings.

    As for Dis and her husband’s odd act of not waiting. They were in exile when they had their children. And life was harsh and the fatality rate high, in that situation, wanting to provide heirs to the line, but also aware that either they or the children could die in and instant its sort of understandable.

    Another thought is that that particular phenomenon was the result of a century long baby boom that could have followed the sacking of Erebor by Smaug(2770/1170) and the Azanulbizar war (2793-2799/1193-1199) where many Dwarrows were killed. I believe such a large loss of life could have triggered a survival instinct much like in 1950’s America, where there were people having multiple children one after the other for over a decade after the end of world war II. (Though then, also maybe Dis was just exceptional fertile and highly impatient. She did grow up from age 10 on in a very unstable environment… Which takes us back to the first scenario…)

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  10. Kicollette says:

    Elephant gestation is two years, with four to five year intervals between birth. I would seriously cap Dwarf gestation at two years. The slower maturation of young Dwarves (Dwarflings) would mean that they would begin to wean after three or four years instead of one year like humans. Though not a perfect method of birth control, nursing women tend not to ovulate. There may have been additional family planning to keep the number of young, helpless children at a manageable level, making 9-10 years ideal. I think the spacing between Kili and Fili is atypical but within the natural cycle based on nursing rather than a four-year gestation.

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    • Hi Kicolette, thank you for your insightful theory. It is off course a possibility and one that could indeed have been in the mind of Tolkien, if indeed he ever worked out that detail. I personally remain persuaded it would be longer. As, if it were less, perhaps we would have seen at least one sibling pair born with an interbirth interval that was shorter. I’m no expert on Elephants, but I do believe that interbirth intervals may be shorter or longer depending upon habitat conditions and population densities. Calving intervals vary from population to population, and in a nutritionally stable environments could be even less than three years. Not sure to what extent that applies dwarves off course, as they aren’t exactly in the same group of mammals. 🙂 The facts that dwarves do not become ill could also be an additional reason why the long wait between siblings is not an absolute requirement. Your argument is a valid one however and should not be tossed away. Yet, who knows, it might be the beard that takes more time to develop. 🙂

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  11. G says:

    Alright, just a thought here on the whole beard arguement. Most babies aren’t born bare skinned. There is usually at least some hair on the head, and if a baby is born early they may even be covered in a coat of hair. It’s called “lanugo”. It lasts until the seventh or eighth month of pregnancy then is shed and consumed. That is a human example, but it might be something even more simple. Genetics. Much like hair color the whole beard at birth thing could be due to just the nature of dwarven genetics.

    As there are few or no recorded cases I’ve heard about of dwarves crossing with anything other than dwarves its really hard to say how the beard factors in with dwarven infants and whether that is due to the length of the pregnancy, or the genetics of the dwarves themselves.

    As they age slower and live longer I think a pregnancy may be more along the lines of somewhere of 2-3 years based on the fact of when they usually considered mature and how it at least usually calculates for many mammals, then tying it in with average lifespan.

    The rest of the wait could be due to anything from tradition, to the possible fact that maybe dwarf children just need the attention due to the fact that they do grow so much more slowly. Those born soon after may have required a lot of help to maintain which is why it doesn’t happen often. Fili and Kili, Thorin and his brother, are just the two recorded cases of it we have to work with.

    Just my thoughts on the whole thing.

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  12. Negav Kalanaga says:

    Two comments:

    Living underground, where space had to literally be dug out for an expanding population, I suspect that the Dwarves, regardless of gestation periods, had some form of contraception. They’d have to limit their growth to fit the space available, unlike Elves and Men, who could simply move to the next open field. It may have been customary to wait between pregnancies, even if it wasn’t biologically “natural”.

    As G says, there seem to be no cases of of a Dwarf-Elf/Man cross, which I suspect is due to Dwarrows not being derived from primate ancestors. Elves and Men are related, and apparently related to other species of primates, but Dwarrows were a separate creation. Their biochemistry had to match other life, or they couldn’t eat “normal” foods, but genetically they probably aren’t related to, or cross-fertile with, anything else in Middle Earth.

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    • Well, Tolkien did say Moria was vast, so I wouldn’t say they had a shortage of room down there. But yes, perhaps they did have some contraception, though I think for dwarves it is hardly an issue really as (according to me) they don’t have that same sexual drive as other races. Hence some of them hardly interested in the other sex at all.
      Indeed very possible that Dwarves could not cross breed.

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      • Negav Kalanaga says:

        True, with their low birthrate, and probably high fatalities, both from warfare and industrial accidents, they may not have needed contraceptives. At least in the Second and Third Ages they seem to have had trouble keeping their cities full. I was thinking along the lines of humans, who could go from one pair to the current world population in less than 500 years without really trying.

        In the First Age, when everyone seems to have been more fertile, and the cities were being dug, they might have had more of a problem, but you’re probably right that it wasn’t an issue in later ages.

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