Gandalf is Actually a Dwarf

I come here today to spread some of my utter nerdiness and knowledge acquired through my fun but painful PhD. Part of my research of course involves looking into Tolkien and his effect in medievalism; the vast majority of the time from the perspective of the Vikings. And as Alex has gone all high brow lately with his etymology, I decided; “hell, isn’t that what I do anyway?!”.

So, you probably would be thinking: “what is she going on about? How can Gandalf be a Dwarf?!”. Well, I mean he isn’t exactly a dwarf, but then, the terminology is confusing. As you may know, Tolkien took a lot of inspiration from Norse mythology whilst creating Middle-earth…In fact, the very name Middle-earth is what Midgard means in English: the land in the middle which isn’t Asgard, Nilfheim, or any of the others. Norse cosmology includes nine realms, and Midgard is just where the humans live. It gets its name from the fact that it is somewhere in the middle of Yggdrasil – The tree of life. Okay, so that was some easy trivia which you probably knew already. Same if I ask you the name of the dwarves from the Hobbit right? Okay let’s see if this list rings a bell:

“Nyi, Nidi,

Nordri, Sudri,

Austri, Vestri,

Althjolf, Dvalin,

Nar, Nain,

Niping, Dain,

Bifur, Bafur,

Bombor, Nori,

Ori, Onar,

Oin, Modvitnir,

Vig and Gandalf,

Vindalf, Thorin,

Fili, Kili,

Fundin, Vali,

Thror, Throin,

Thekk, Lit, Vitr,

Nyr, Nyrad,

Rekk, Radsvinn”

Yeah, if you cannot recall all the names, do not panic, because what you have just read is the list provided by Snorri Sutrluson in the Prose Edda, regarding the names of the dwarves as listed by the Volva. Sure enough though, you may notice that a few of those are such popular little characters, they even appear in movies these days. You can also see where the spelling has been tweaked and anglicised – Dvalin, Bombor. These are only the dwarves that live underground though, unlike others who live in the rocks (Gloin and Dori perhaps would be ones you recognise). So what does Gandalf have to do with all this? Well, we get another little clue from the Poetic Edda – or the Elder Edda, depending which way you rock n roll, as to what is his beef. If you have your hands on a copy in English of the Elder, you may be cluelessly trying to look for dwarven names in Voluspa and just getting lists of words or adjectives. Well, that is because in essence, that is their name: they are refered to by their name meaning or function. And our dear Gandalf seems to be, in fact, a Mr “Wand Elf”. Which essentially sums up what our beloved Mithrandir is: a mystical spirit with a magical wand.

Now, I am sure you have picked up on the fact I have used the words dwarf and elf in the same context here. Wweeeelll, the thing is that, in Old Norse mythology the difference between the two is blurry and often you find that elves and dwarves are in essence the same: otherworldly creatures that can be both good and dangerous. Which, if we think about it, makes even more sense, right? Because, okay good, you all know who the Grey Pilgrim is, but do you know what he is? Are you familiar with the Maiar known as Olorin? I hope so, cause that was Gandalf’s original name whilst in Valinor at the service of Manwe. I could quite happily ask you, what is a Maiar, but I know already you’d have a hell of a lot of trouble trying to pin point exactly what Maiar are. So, you know, a bit like the dwarves and the elves…Divine like beings that are not human…with some cool special abilities…

So, are you flipping out a bit less now that you understand what I mean when I say Gandalf is actually a dwarf? I hope so, but in case you were struggling with this, let me make it worse for you. He is also a God. In fact: The God, the one and only: Odin. Yeah, I know, but the thing is, you know what Mithrandir means, right? The Grey Pilgrim or Wanderer? Well, funny story this, that the All-father often came down from Asgard (a place kinda similar to Valinor now if I think about it…), to visit humans and help them in their time of need…Granted, he does not do this on a boat or receives a power ring of doom from the badass Cirdan. However, Odin’s name whilst travelling through Midgard often was Vegtam, which means ‘the wanderer’. If you need more evidence as to how Tolkien used Odin as an influence for our dwarven-not-dwarven-Istari, let’s check the facts. Olorin is a servant of Manwe: highest member of the Valar, lord of the skies…Sounds a bit allfathery like, you know, knowing how important the connection between Odin and his 2 ravens, and eagles is…What else? Well, you all know the episode with the Balrog and how we make the transition from “the grey” to “the white”? Interesting this supreme act of self-sacrifice through which Gandalf acquires new power and wisdom, much like when Odin hangs for 7 days from a tree to learn the runes, and magic…

Interestingly enough, one of the graphic novels I use for my thesis even depicts Odin looking a bit like Gandalf. If you care to know, just look up Gods of Asgard by the wonderful Erik Evensen, and this way you can find out for yourselves. And, if for whatever reason reading bits from the Eddas have woken up your curiosity, I’d recommend the comic a read anyway because it is written as an adaptation of the Norse myths into sequential art.

So, you know, next time you are thinking of dwarves and wizards, take a moment to think about the somewhat unlikely yet plausible connection between the two :p


4 Tiny RPGs Good for a One-shot

There are a lot of RPGs out there that contain a lot of words and rules and stuff.  I know that a good system of rules and setting info can really structure a game and give you something to sink your teeth into, but it can sometimes be freeing to get rid of everything but the bare essentials; the DM, the players, and the premise. This is especially true when you just want a quick game at short notice, or a one shot.

Because this games don’t have a lot of structure to work around and build on, they could potentially be a bit difficult for an inexperienced DM to run, especially if they aren’t fairly confident with their improvisation skills. However, with the right DM I think these games can show off the silly fun that can be had with an RPG in a far more easy to digest way for newer players. Rather than giving someone the impression that RPGs are all about numbers, loot, and killing things, these games show off the side of RPGs that are about teamwork, inventive problem solving, and just having fun by telling stories with friends!  Continue reading “4 Tiny RPGs Good for a One-shot”

To Bard or Not to Bard? 121 Guide on How to be The Cool Kid with thyne Lute

This is something that bothers me endlessly, and lately there has been a few conversations or situations where the topic has come up and I’ve really decided to put my foot down for once and for all. It is no surprise in the geek circles I move, bards always get all the crap thrown down their way – ALL the memes in the internet are about bards did or didn’t. Bards are useless characters. Bards can’t fight. They can’t think either, cause you know, apparently the only stat they know how to use is something charisma related and sometimes not even that. Bards are no good in social situations, they certainly are not made for politics, or war…God damn it, so What Are Bards Good For?! :0

Well, guess what?! The true answer is EverythingIF you know how to use them.

It all comes down with how people play games, and how many, many people choose to play bards cause they think it would be cool and adventurous…or that is what they tell their mates. In reality these people ain’t got a clue and would just try to see if they can get away with the rock star behaviour, cause that seems like a legit enough connection to reality. This is the way everyone’s idea of a bard in an RPG looks a bit like Assurancetourix (which for some bizarre reason in the UK is called Cacofonix?! missing the joke btw, cause in French the name sounds like assurance tout risque o assurance tous risques – an all risk cover on your insurance policy…But hey…).

Admit it: you are the kind of horrible human being that just laughed and thought of a friend because of the many, many times something like that has happened in-game. Well let me tell you, if that how you think this works, you don’t know how to rock n roll – which for sure means you immediately do not qualify for the job!

Continue reading “To Bard or Not to Bard? 121 Guide on How to be The Cool Kid with thyne Lute”

How to make your own Pokémon game!


Right off the bat, this was a tutorial I wish existed back when I was eight. Or eighteen. I’m almost twenty-eight and I’m still pretty hype to see it. Today we’re going to plough through how to make your own Pokémon title in the most convenient way possible!

Some of the gamer-savvy folk out there might remember a lot of hype last year surrounding a fan-game called Pokémon Uranium said to contain all new monsters, regions and storylines. People got pretty pumped for its eventual release after NINE years in development! And once it hit the web it took less than an week for Nintendo to send the Mushroom Kingdom’s legal department to shut it down. Of course, once it’s on the internet, it’s always on the internet…


So what exactly was Uranium if it wasn’t an official Nintendo release? Continue reading “How to make your own Pokémon game!”

Geek Etymology – Mana

Today I bring you the next post of Geek Etymology! If you missed my first steps into the past of our favourite geeky terminology then take a look here!

This time I will be tackling the mysterious origins of the word that we give to the power source of wizards and spellcasters, the very essence of magic: Mana! It’s in our name so I thought it was the obvious next choice. Unlike with the Paladin last time, there is far less actual etymology to follow with the evolution of the word, so I won’t be going down much of a rabbit hole this time. The origins of this word are however still rather interesting and maybe unexpected.

mana_potions_by_isaac77598-d6pxj8c Continue reading “Geek Etymology – Mana”

Divines Amongst Us: American Gods, and Fantasy Beyond Fantasy

Just this Sunday gone was the season finale of American Gods, and oh boy, did I enjoy that!!

I have noticed, however, that the series is still a bit low-key in the audience markets I am familiar with: the UK and Spain – and actually, from what I hear, it has not really made much of an impact in Europe yet. This has got me wondering and coming back to something I talked to you guys a while back, about modern fantasy and the certain decline we are experiencing these days. I wonder if perhaps American Gods has fallen a bit out of the radar because of that. But of course, here we have another problem to factor in, which is the network that distributes the show: STARZ. STARZ are the fellas that brought us the wonderful Black Sails, and I feel American Gods is having the same distribution issues. We do not get this network here in the UK, so it may become more popular when probably Sky decides to strike a deal for its consumption. Nevertheless, at the moment the only place where you can watch it in the UK is through Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime have been very clever about their deals particularly in what regards high budget TV shows of a geeky content: Vikings, Black Sails, Gotham, Lucifer, etc…So, we are having some of the coolest TV shows one can have these days, but thanks to network shenanigans, some of you folks are, sadly, missing them.

Continue reading “Divines Amongst Us: American Gods, and Fantasy Beyond Fantasy”

Geek Etymology – The Paladin

Have you ever noticed a recurring word that’s used commonly among various geeky things? It could be a piece of terminology you see only in roleplaying games, or perhaps a word that has been appropriated and changed for use in fantasy or sci-fi settings. I come across a few of these, and I always wonder where they come from, so here I’m going to explore them with Geek Etymology!


To start with I thought it would be appropriate for me to look into the origins and evolution of the word ‘Paladin’. As most of my friends will tell you, I usually end up playing a paladin or similar character in RPGs, and I also go for a paladin style in other games such as Magic: The Gathering. To be honest it is probably this word alone that got me to think of looking into the origins of words used in RPGs and other geeky stuff, but once I started to look around I found many others that warrant some research.

Before we look into the past of the paladin, let’s see what it means to us today. Although there are some other minor uses, the primary way we see the term used is to describe a fantasy character, either in a narrative sense, or a mechanical sense as the character’s ‘class’. They are usually characterized as a holy warrior who fights for the forces of good against evil, usually heavily armoured, wielding a shield and some holy magic and healing ability. As of today you’ll find the word most closely linked to Dungeons & Dragons, but also plenty of other RPGs which were influenced by D&D, as well as many Videogames. Continue reading “Geek Etymology – The Paladin”