Dwarfs get a bad rap– chthonic whistling hoarders, pathologically sneezing, sleeping or grumpy, these homunculi have never been able to compete with the glamour of elves. But what if I told you they really were elves?
When I first started cold forging, it was a magical process. As I have become more masterful, something else guides my hands, something older and wiser than myself, but who or what is helping me?
According to Norse myth, dwarfs were born from the maggots swarming the dead body of Ymir, the primordial giant birthed from melting ice in the great void. Their beginnings were less than auspicious, it’s true. Dwarves have made some of the most powerful artifacts of Norse legend– Thor’s hammer, Freya’s necklace, the magic ring Draupir, the fetter to bind the apocalytpic wolf Fenrir and Odin’s spear as well as the replacement for Siv’s golden hair.
The delicacy of my wire work, the fluidity of the copper and vine-like qualities of the metal come from hands that have begun to ache with arthritis, that are cut and calloused. It is a common theme in mythology that the smiths that create great beauty are wounded, misshapen, as if their bodies are a foil to their creations. I’m no different.
But in the words of the Völva in the Völuspá, what of the elves?
In Norse mythology, dwarfs live in Nidvallir, or Dark Fields, which is also called Svartalhiem or dark-elf-land. Dwarfs are dark elves. I have named my recent collection after their ancestor Sindri. Adornment was a powerful force in Norse myth, and beauty forged of metal and stone was an essential part of Old Norse life. The power to make such things was seen as magical, something which originated with the beginnings of the universe. When the gods made their first temples they also made forges alongside them. They smelted ore and created tongs and tools for smithing before even creating human beings. The dark elves are the keepers of these first secrets, and they have shared them with me.