In Norse mythology, dwarfs were skilled craftsmen who created many precious and magical objects for the gods. They are frequently mentioned in the poems. According to Völuspá, stanza 9, they were raised
out of Brimir's blood and the legs of Bláin, apparently in response to the three all-powerful maidens who came from Jötunheimr. The greatest of them was Mötsognir, with Durinn second. In man's likeness they created many dwarfs from the earth.
Völuspá lists several dwarfs, although the names are not the same in all manuscripts: Nýi, Niði, Norðri, Suðri, Austri, Vestri, Alþjófr, Dvalinn, Nár and Náinn, Nípingr, Dáinn, Bívurr, Bávurr, Bömburr, Nóri, Ánn and Ánarr, Óinn, Mjöðvitnir, Veggr and Gandalfr, Vindalfr, Þorinn, Þrár and Þráinn, Þekkr, Litr and Vitr, Nýr and Nýráðr, Reginn and Ráðsviðr, Fíli, Kíli, Fundinn, Náli, Hefti, Víli, Hannar, Svíurr, Billingr, Brúni, Bíldr and Buri, Frár, Hornbori, Frægr and Lóni, Aurvangr, Jari, Eikinskjaldi. In Lofar's time, the dwarfs in Dvalinn's band left the rocks, the earth's foundation, and sought a home in Iörovellir and Aurvangar. The location has variously been translated as Juravale's marsh, as the Fields of Sand, as Iora's plains, and Vale of the Fight. Among that group were: Draupnir and Dolgþrasir, Hár, Haugspori, Hlévangr, Glóinn, Dóri, Óri, Dúfr, Andvari, Skirfir, Virfir, Skáfiðr, Ái, Alfr and Yngvi, Eikinskjaldi, Fjalarr and Frosti, Finnr and Ginnarr.
In Gylfaginning, chapter 14, Snorri Sturluson writes that after the gods had made Ásgarðr and their dwellings, they enthroned themselves in their seats and
called to mind whence the dwarves had quickened in the mould and underneath in the earth, even as do maggots in flesh. The dwarves had first received shape and life in the flesh of Ymir, and were then maggots; but by decree of the gods had become conscious with the intelligence of men, and had human shape. And nevertheless they dwell in the earth and in stones.
The sons of Borr, after they had made the earth from the body of the proto-giant Ymir, took the giant's skull and made of it the heaven, and set it up over the earth with four corners. Under each corner they set a dwarf: their names are Norðri, Suðri, Austri, and Vestri.
Dwarfs have been traditionally known as the craftsmen of gold and silver. The ones called Ívaldi's sons made various precious objects for the Æsir, among which Odin's spear Gungnir, Thor's hammer Mjöllnir, the boar Gullinbursti, and the ship Skíðblaðnir. The short narrative Sörla þáttr names Álfrigg, Dvalinn, Berlingr, and Grérr as the dwarfs who gave a gold necklace to Freyja in exchange for her spending the night with each one of them. Dwarfs also made Gleipnir, the unbreakable fetter used to bind the wolf Fenrir. Two other dwarfs, Dáinn and Nabbi, fashioned Freyja's golden-bristled hog Hildisvíni. The sons of Sólblindi made the gate Þrymgjöll for Menglöð's home, and nine other dwarfs helped Loki build her hall Hyrr.
The dwarfs Fjalarr and Galarr made the mead of poetry out of the blood of Kvasir, whom they had murdered. The dwarf Andvari provided Loki with the gold needed to pay the blood-debt for the death of Ótr. Another dwarf, called Þjóðrœrir, sang strength to the Æsir, wealth to the álfar, and wisdom to Odin.
Dwarfs appear to be vulnerable to the rays of the sun. In Alvísmál, the dwarf Alvíss shows up at Thor's home to claim his daughter as his bride, but Thor makes their contest last until sunrise whereupon the dwarf is turned into stone. In the same poem the sun is called "Deceiver of Dvalinn," since Dvalinn, like other dwarfs living underground, cannot live in its light.
In Ynglinga saga, king Svegðir saw a stone with a dwarf sitting under it. The dwarf stood in the door and invited Svegðir to come in. Svegðir ran into the stone, which instantly closed behind him, and he was never seen again.
- Alvísmál, 17.
- Fjölsvinnsmál, 11, 35.
- Gylfaginning, 8, 14.
- Hrafnagaldr Óðins,
- Hyndluljóð, 9.
- Hávamál, 162.
- Sörla þáttr, 1.
- Völuspá, 9-16, 52.
- Ynglinga saga, 15.