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[Closed] The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs!  

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twinimage
(@twinimage)
NarniaWeb Regular

I was listening to Prince Caspian from FOTF Radio Theater the other day and was thinking about Nikabrik. I found it interesting how many of the dwarfs in Narnia are only looking out for themselves or their own kind. This is of course even more apparent in The Last Battle.
Most interpretations I've seen of dwarfs, they usually are rather greedy. They dig in the earth looking for riches.
I was just wondering if C.S. Lewis meant for the dwarfs to convey something, maybe not a major theme in the books, but to make a point.
Perhaps Lewis used the dwarfs to show how greed can lead to destructive paths or behavior. They don't follow any king. Their allegiance wavers, to who ever will benefit them.

Obviously, not all dwarfs are this way. Trumpkin is a good example. He keeps his allegiance to the king of Narnia and thinks about the welfare of the whole group.

I'm not trying to apply any religious allegory to this, which is why I didn't post this in the Christianity topic area.
I just wondered what Lewis is trying to say, using the dwarf characters. Is he saying something about greed, selfishness, etc. or am I way off? Is the dwarf's influence in the story supposed to add to the overall theme of the books, such as PC and TLB?

What do you guys think?

Posted : July 6, 2012 7:14 am
Lilygloves
(@lilygloves)
NarniaWeb Junkie

It seemed as if Lewis wanted to establish good creatures, such as centaurs, bad creatures, such as hags, and ambiguous characters, particularly dwarfs. Even further, it seemed as if black dwarfs are more inclined to turn bad than red dwarfs. He probably chose dwarfs because they are very clever and capable creatures. Most animals are associated with being good or bad based on common stories and fables (for example, wolves are seen as bad like in Little Red Riding Hood). It would be very hard to sell a corrupted centaur but dwarfs can be good or bad.

Posted : July 7, 2012 11:35 am
7chronicles
(@7chronicles)
NarniaWeb Guru

I don't think Lewis intended to convey dwarfs alone on the subject of greed, but I think he used them in many cases in those situations because in Mythology Dwarfs are associated with greed and riches and people are aware of Dwarfs personalities.

I agree with Lilygloves when she said:

Most animals are associated with being good or bad based on common stories and fables (for example, wolves are seen as bad like in Little Red Riding Hood). It would be very hard to sell a corrupted centaur but dwarfs can be good or bad.

The Value of myth is that it takes all the things you know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by the veil of familiarity. C.S. Lewis

Posted : July 7, 2012 10:28 pm
Varnafinde
(@varna)
Princess of the Noldor and Royal Overseer of the Talk About Narnia forum Moderator

Perhaps Lewis was also inspired by his friend Tolkien's descriptions of Dwarves (as Tolkien spelt the word). Those could be good or bad - some of them had a fatal fight with an Elven King who wouldn't pay them as much as he had promised for some jewelry he had commissioned from them. (They were not the only greedy part in that transaction, though.)

Lewis' Dwarfs are more likely to be bad if they are Black Dwarfs, and almost always good if they are Red Dwarfs. Perhaps Lewis decided it would be better to split them into easy categories.

The problem for the Dwarfs at the end of LB is not their greed, though - although in some sense you could say it is their materialism. They refuse to believe what they cannot see, although there is other evidence to indicate that it is real. In this case I think Lewis uses the Dwarfs as examples of people.


(avi artwork by Henning Janssen)

Posted : July 8, 2012 2:49 pm
Dernhelm_of_Rohan
(@dernhelm_of_rohan)
NarniaWeb Nut

The problem for the Dwarfs at the end of LB is not their greed, though - although in some sense you could say it is their materialism. They refuse to believe what they cannot see, although there is other evidence to indicate that it is real. In this case I think Lewis uses the Dwarfs as examples of people.

I don't know that it is materialism so much as athiesm. (belief in no higher power) The Dwarfs have abandoned the idea of a real Aslan or anything that they cannot explain. Hence they have to lie to themselves, much like Uncle Andrew in MG, until they actually believe their own lies. The fact that the theme of self-deception is in both the beginnng of Narnia and the end of it seem to me to be pretty intruiging.


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Posted : July 8, 2012 6:02 pm
Menelve
(@menelve)
NarniaWeb Nut

I don't know that it is materialism so much as athiesm. (belief in no higher power) The Dwarfs have abandoned the idea of a real Aslan or anything that they cannot explain.

I think this hits the point. The dwarfs refuse to put their hope and belief in a power which they cannot see or touch. Even Trumpkin doesn't believe in Aslan till he sees him face to face. He only goes to Cair Paravel because it is his duty as a subject pledged to Prince Caspian. He also implies at one point that Aslan, if he had ever existed, may have gone wild, to Lucy's dismay and general outrage.

The difference between good and bad dwarfs seems to be their acceptance or rejection of Aslan when presented before him. Trumpkin chooses to believe in Aslan when presented with the truth. However the dwarfs in LB refuse to acknowledge Aslan's existence even when he stands before them.

~Anna


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Posted : July 8, 2012 7:23 pm
waggawerewolf27
(@waggawerewolf27)
NarniaWeb Zealot

Perhaps Lewis was also inspired by his friend Tolkien's descriptions of Dwarves (as Tolkien spelt the word). Those could be good or bad - ......Lewis' Dwarfs are more likely to be bad if they are Black Dwarfs, and almost always good if they are Red Dwarfs. Perhaps Lewis decided it would be better to split them into easy categories.

I'd agree to a point. Both Lewis and Tolkien stressed that their dwarves were hard workers who were heavily into mining, metallurgy and metalworking. Dwarf-made armour, weaponry, jewellery and decorations were considered superior to anything men could make. Both authors were also influenced by their WW1 and WW2 backgrounds, and possibly the great mining strike of the intervening 1920's.

In the lead up to the Great Depression of the 1930's, these striking miners were faced with loss of wages, more gruelling and dangerous shifts for the little money they received, and loss of much of any improvements in working conditions they had gained prior to that time being stripped away, especially in Wales and Scotland. Many miners at that time were thus persuaded to turn to Nationalism or to the post WW1 Communist party, away from their traditional church beliefs.

As Lewis insists, dwarves were practical people who would fight well for those who treated them well and with fairness. Jadis, who favoured those creatures who were of the most use to her, thus got on relatively well with them, in particular the black dwarves. On the other hand, so appallingly did she treat everyone else, turning them to stone and treating them as slaves, that the better treatment she gave dwarves had to be no more than relative to the way she normally behaved.

Miraz, however, wanted nothing to do with the traditional Narnia, pretended it didn't exist and led persecution of Old Narnians. So that might explain Nikabrik's sour attitude, and willingness to turn to Jadis, when Aslan and the Pevensies failed to materialise. The dwarves of LB were furious at being lied to by their Calormen captors and, having been deceived, were determined to never be taken in again. As Aslan said: being determined not to be taken in, the dwarves could not be taken out. The black dwarves also make me think of miners coming home with faces blackened by coal dust.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1QDQp ... N3dGM/view

Posted : July 8, 2012 8:02 pm
Varnafinde
(@varna)
Princess of the Noldor and Royal Overseer of the Talk About Narnia forum Moderator

I don't know that it is materialism so much as athiesm. (belief in no higher power) The Dwarfs have abandoned the idea of a real Aslan or anything that they cannot explain. Hence they have to lie to themselves, much like Uncle Andrew in MG, until they actually believe their own lies.

I think you're right about that. Their materialism may stem from their atheism, to some extent.
And they have to tell themselves lies to explain away the things they have abandoned.

The fact that the theme of self-deception is in both the beginnng of Narnia and the end of it seem to me to be pretty intruiging.

Interesting point!


(avi artwork by Henning Janssen)

Posted : July 9, 2012 4:47 pm
Narnian_Badger
(@nbadger)
Mushroom mushroom Hospitality Committee

The dwarfs in Narnia are, first and foremost, a highly pragmatic people. You might say they're "grounded." :P This can either make the highly endearing and stalwart, as in Trumpkin's case, or dangerously materialistic (and even atheistic), as in Nikabrik's case.

That being said, I don't think the Dwarfs are meant to convey a certain aspect any more than the Centaurs, who watch the stars, or the Badgers, who remember, or the Fauns, who... dance, I suppose. ;)) It is, first a foremost, and children's story, and a Fantasy story in particular. In such books, most authors choose to make certain distinctions between Good creatures and Bad creatures (with a few characters as notable exceptions). Redwall and LotR are other popular series that take to this standard.

It's a bit like aliens in Science Fiction--there's almost always only one people/nation per planet, for the most excellent reason that it's simpler, and any more would make plotting more difficult.

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Posted : July 9, 2012 5:04 pm
Narnian_Archer
(@narnian_archer)
NarniaWeb Junkie

Dernhelm_of_Rohan, That is a very good point, and precisely what I believe Lewis was trying to convey. I don't think the Dwarves' fate rested so much on their greed as their unbelief - their "atheism", so to speak. I think Lewis was trying to show the, dare I say, stupidity of people who claim to believe in no higher power, whether good or bad. The dwarves were for the dwarves, just like some people are for themselves and don't care about anything else beyond what they can see and feel. It's as idiotic for them to claim there is no higher power because they do not see it as it was for the dwarves to deny the presence of Aslan because they chose not to see or believe in him. It's pathetic, and I think that's what Lewis was trying to portray, or, at least show something parallel to it.


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Posted : July 10, 2012 5:49 am
waggawerewolf27
(@waggawerewolf27)
NarniaWeb Zealot

No, I don't think that in depicting the dwarves that C.S.Lewis was trying to show "the, dare I say, stupidity of people". More likely the unimaginative side of people. Think about it! And the dwarves weren't the only ones lacking imagination. Uncle Andrew, the self-serving and pro-industrialisation elder brother of Digory's mum did have imagination enough to meddle with rings and things. But when he found out about Narnia, what did he want to do? Make money, pure and simple. Maybe he was lacking in emotional intelligence, or family feeling rather than imagination.

He was not the only one in the series who thought that money and progress was the only things that counted, who was so locked into his own selfish needs and wants that he couldn't imagine anything else beyond those preoccupations. If they had lotteries in Narnia, Nikabrik would also have queued up to see if he got lucky, even if Miraz organised them. Except of course that, unlike Jadis, Miraz discriminated against dwarves, who in the series are no more greedy than their human "betters". ;)

The dwarfs in Narnia are, first and foremost, a highly pragmatic people. You might say they're "grounded." This can either make the highly endearing and stalwart, as in Trumpkin's case, or dangerously materialistic (and even aitheistic), as in Nikabrik's case.

Yes, you are right. But Trumpkin was even more atheistic than was disillusioned Nikabrik who had given up on the forces of good. It was Trumpkin that thought lions and Aslan were all moonshine etc. Being a dwarf, Trumpkin only believed in what he could see and touch, sort of like Thomas the Apostle, who needed to examine Christ's wounds before he could believe.

What redeemed Trumpkin was that he did have a system of ethics that transcended the 'dwarves are for the dwarves' mantra. And though the LB dwarves behaved quite despicably, Poggin disagreed with them and sided with Tirian. Are we ever told whether Poggin was a black or a red dwarf? Or didn't it matter by that time?

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1QDQp ... N3dGM/view

Posted : July 12, 2012 12:07 am
Varnafinde
(@varna)
Princess of the Noldor and Royal Overseer of the Talk About Narnia forum Moderator

And the dwarves weren't the only ones lacking imagination. Uncle Andrew, the self-serving and pro-industrialisation elder brother of Digory's mum did have imagination enough to meddle with rings and things. But when he found out about Narnia, what did he want to do? Make money, pure and simple. Maybe he was lacking in emotional intelligence, or family feeling rather than imagination.

He was not the only one in the series who thought that money and progress was the only things that counted, who was so locked into his own selfish needs and wants that he couldn't imagine anything else beyond those preoccupations.

Eustace was another. Even back in our world, he cared not so much about his school subjects as about whether he got more or less marks for them than his fellow pupils did.

Even treasure is something that doesn't excite him other than when he sees its usefulness.

Eustace (unlike most boys) had never thought much of treasure but he saw at once the use it would be in this new world which he had so foolishly stumbled into through the picture in Lucy's bedroom at home. "They don't have any tax here," he said, "And you don't have to give treasure to the government. With some of this stuff I could have quite a decent time here - perhaps in Calormen. It sounds the least phoney of these countries.

He even decides that he will take diamonds rather than gold, just because they are easier to carry ...


(avi artwork by Henning Janssen)

Posted : July 12, 2012 5:44 am
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