“They Were Such Skilled Craftsmen”. How to Manipulate a Dwarf
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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OriginalversjonStudia Universitatis Babeş-Bolyai Philologia. 2023, 68 (2/2023), 101-120. 10.24193/subbphilo.2023.2.06
In Old Norse literature, dwarfs are first and foremost known as remarkable smiths and producers of weapons and other valuable, magic objects. Both gods and human protagonists need those products. However, dwarfs do not usually sell their products, neither to gods nor to humans. The closest thing to a sale contract is found in Sǫrla þáttr eða Heðins saga ok Hǫgna, a short narrative found in the Flateyjarbók manuscript. Here, Freyja intended to buy an exceptionally beautiful necklace, from the dwarfs, and offered them gold and silver in exchange for it. However, the dwarfs would only sell it to her in exchange for one night spent together and Freyja accepted the trade. But how can you make sure you get what you need from a dwarf if you do not happen to be Freyja? In this paper, I provide some case studies that seem to indicate a pattern. The most powerful gods, such as Óðinn, may issue a direct order, while less powerful beings, as Loki or Freyja, need to manipulate the dwarf into wanting to provide them the desired item. Human protagonists are able to manipulate dwarfs by exploiting the fact that the dwarfs reciprocate help and generosity. However, if someone attempts to treat dwarfs as servants, when, in reality, they do not have the same power over them as the mighty gods do, they risk severe retribution from the dwarf.