Sunday, 30 January 2011

Female of the Dwarvish Race

"Chjurat - A female of the Dwarvish race"

"This young Dwarvish woman has only come to the surface colony of Garthvanitborgoch in the last few days. Most Dwarvish women find they do not like the surface, and prefer the security of the deep Dwarvish Queendoms.  They are, however, generally very fine craftswomen and the surface is home to a few masters of certain crafts  that are so skilled that apprentice women may come up to study under them.  Female Dwarves on the surface (with a few exceptions) are generally quiet and subdued, though it is said this is not the case in the deep caverns, where their complicated society can often lapse into entire weeks of wild song and dance, and heavy drinking is the norm.

"Young female Dwarvish apprentice"
Th young woman pictured - called Chjurat - was reluctant to talk to me - I think I was the first non-dwarf she had seen.  However after the consumption of some of her Fjoar (algal beer) she told me a little of the role of women in a Nazouralian Dwarvish hive. Apparently they hold a lower (and thus more important) place in the society, being the roots of the culture. Only certain males permitted to dwell  in the lower Queendoms - namely children who have yet to reach adulthood; 'fathers' (sort of communal uncles for the hive children); apprentices learning a trade from skilled artisan women; and the elderly Dwarvish men who can retire there.  The next level up, the Kingdom, is mainly male, with only apprentices, merchants and artisan crafts women being frequent visitors from below. Most long term courting is done as apprentices. Between the two places is a tangled maze of public drinking halls, frequented by Dwarves of both genders. The surface (where Chjurat and I where) is pretty much considered a wild and uncivilized frontier, only useful for trading for exotic surface materials, such as wood. 

Chjurat was pleasant company, with a much louder voice when drunk, and a wicked laugh. Her beard (female Dwarves posses finer quality beard hair than their male counterparts) was platted in loops, the latest fashion amongst the young women of the deep, and wore a long leather apron over a fine spider-silk tunic and decorated iron boots.  Behind her , built into the apron, was two iron candlestick holders, designed so that they where behind the head, preventing blinding, yet being double cast no impenetrable shadows. She professed no particular love of the adventure or romance of the surface but had great respect for her craft, and it was only with certain surface masons that she could perfect some of the finer points of a mason.  Male Dwarves where uncustomarily polite around her and she treated them with the same respect if they where elder, or regal benevolence if they where younger. However there was some disapproval of her behind her back amongst certain traditionalists for having talked for so long to a surface stranger.  

The day after our meeting I found Chjurat had been directed to undertake some masonry in the deeper caverns while I was given a tour of the merchant quarter of the surface and was persuaded to part with both spices and gold in return for a collection of fine paints and stains.  I never met with her again."


  1. Having studied Anthrapology and Archaeology at degree level I now realize the concept of race is hugely problematic and subjective. I also realize that for people with dwarfism all this fatasy stereotyping about Dwarves could be pretty unhelpful... I hope it could also be in some way be good for the self image, by including difference and diversity in stories. Fantasy is after all an exploration of 'What If?'.

    I realise I am pretty bad at creating gender divides (in the outside world I find them patronizing generalizations on the whole) - This is why I am making a special effort in Dwarvish society to impose gender and age division. It is not easy!

    Next thing to tackle - religion!

    If anyone does have any thoughts on this I would love to discus it here. In the mean time, I wont let any of these things get in the way of a good story...

  2. Many writers have contemplated a society which doesn't have gender divides (marge piercy 'woman on the edge of time' especially, but Le Guin and probably many others). I think it's harder to create a gender divide that doesn't just reflect those of our own society or obviously present only a reaction/opposite to it.

    I wonder what you would get if you created an 'intellegent' (quotations for fear of suggesting animals are not intelligent) race that worked like wolves for example, so that the relevant divide was not male and female really but breeder and non breeder. It sounds like there's an element of this within the dwarvish culture.

  3. You are good! Fantastic - comments straight out of university brain stimulation land!

    I think you are right about the difficulty of not reflecting your own society (although this is part satire as well as thought experiment), and not getting caught up in your own ethnocentric reactions to gender divisions is hard as well. I don't think Faadon tends to take much of a moral view in his writing - he is too independent and self centered!

    The idea of breeder / non breeder works very well for Dwarvish society, although i had it as more age related.

    I had envisaged everyone of a certain age taking a certain direction in life, but maybe it could be more complex than that. How about an artisan / miner divide which incorporates a breeder / non-breeder divide and an age structure? Only those who produced fine finished goods, where the right age, and in the right place where breeders, and being a 'breeder' was linked to prestige and social position. Miners and merchants could then never be breeders, and might explain why Dwarvish crafts(wo)manship was so high. This could be linked to gender as well, with the above being the case for female Dwarves, who generally where considered slightly more important than their male contemporaries, while the male section had generally lower prestige, but less direct hierarchical stratification relating to when they could become a 'breeder' (all breeding being a result of liaisons in the public drinking halls between the Kingdom and the Queendom of the hive). This would be one of the reasons why there was more male Dwarves on the surface.

    Hmm... I shall have to think about it...

    Thanks Anonymous!

  4. glad you liked it, and I like your ideas. I'm doing a whole module on women writers this term so i'm sure i'll come up with some more.

    By the way I haven't worked out how to post anytthing but anonymously, do i have to create some kind of profile somewhere
    love cara

  5. Hmm... Maybe you need a Google account... Try the Comment As drop down menu and then Name/Url. I will try it with this post.

    I am thinking of posting a version of the Griffin/boy story I gave to you all those years back, and the map. They might need a bit of editing. What do you think?

  6. You should do...although I don't see quite how it fits into this world. P's reading of it was great, it would be awesome to have audio posts....ahh dreams

  7. It fits - it is an island up in the north and away from everything a bit. The Mage is a genuine Mage and the reason it has similarities with Celtic British and Irish stuff is because of a cross over point between worlds (in the form of a stone circle!)

    I had to re-write a lot of the first chapter - I haven't looked at the rest yet.

    I was just thinking about Audio posts today - I should see if Faadon Naano had any wax cylinders in his basket!