From time to time – and at the risk of ridicule from my friends, who are rapidly becoming no fun to play D&D with – I find myself playing a dwarf in a fantasy based role-playing game. This is not necessarily a choice – the ridicule thing, as I mentioned – but when handed a dwarf character I always run into the same sort of crap.
Perhaps I should further preface this by saying that I tend to play female characters because it’s weird having a girl play a male character and vice versa. Trust me, I’ve tried it. I’ve also played with people who have played the opposite gender. It’s okay on an online forum, but in real life it’s hard to mesh the big hairy guy sitting on the other side of the table with the svelte and gorgeous female elf in the game.
Despite this, every time I even start with a female dwarf, I have to open with the remark, “She does not have a beard.”
Where did this idea crop up that all dwarves are either a) male or b) appear to be male? Terry Pratchett I know contributed a lot to the idea, but who started it? Why can’t a female dwarf just be female?
This is a situation I’m having trouble seeing the other side of. Usually, I can get glimpses of the reasoning behind it all, but not this time. Oh, I understand why Pratchett did it – because there don’t seem to be any female dwarves and he was trying to come up with an explanation. “The Discworld is not created by great imagination, rather a carefully applied lack of it,” is what he once said, or close enough that nobody is going to fuss to much about.
But beyond Pratchett’s reasoning, I’m stumped. For some reason, all dwarves must be short, ill-tempered, brave as lions, and look male. I really can’t figure out why.
This is not a fault with the entire genre – Willow, which, in spite of everything that may have been said about it, was not a bad film, had female dwarves. Other books, I’m told, have them as well, though in a couple they are still bearded – they just shave. D&D, in an attempt to appeal to their female players, I imagine, have flexed a lot on the subject and a remarkable number of their dwarf illustrations in it’s 4th edition are female.
I once saw a neanderthal skeleton next to a human on in the Field Museum in Chicago. It was shorter, stouter, and had a broader ribcage. I wonder if this is where some of those original fantasy notions sprung from. Probably not, but it’s an interesting idea.
Nevermind. I’d say “back on topic,” but there’s not much left of the topic to discuss. Female dwarves are all transvestites and I don’t know why. And I can’t seem to make my male friends understand that it isn’t funny.
Clearly, I’m missing something here.