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Dwarfs live deep under the ground in mines, or in the hearts of mountains. They dig for gold and precious stones, and some of them are very rich.

Dwarfs usually look like grave old men, with grey, flowing beards and hunched backs. They are much shorter than humans - some may be only 18 inches high, while the taller ones are usually the height of a two year old child.

Mountain dwarfs live in huge underground halls, full of glittering jewels and piles of gold. They have their own kings and kingdoms, chieftains and tribes. Mountain dwarfs are skilled in the working of all kinds of metals, and in the forging of magical rings and swords. J.R.R Tolkien writes about mountain dwarfs in The Hobbit and again in the Lord of the Rings.

Dwarfs are also believed to be very wise. They can foresee the future, change their shape, and make themselves invisible.

Dwarfs form an important part of the folklore of Germany and Scandinavia. In these countries, dwarfs are considered friendly beings, though they sometimes steal grain and carry away children and young girls. Those who help dwarfs often get repaid with treasure from their hoard. But those who steal their treasure have bad luck, or find that the stolen gold has turned into worthless dry leaves.

In Switzerland, dwarfs help farmers in their work, find lost animals, and put out firewood and fruit for poor children to find.

Dwarfs who live in mines are usually less friendly or helpful than mountain dwarfs. They can be mean and spiteful, and miners are always careful to keep them happy by leaving them gifts of food.

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Last updated: April 2010. Copyright © Rohini Chowdhury 2002. All rights reserved.

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