The Dvergar constitute another Old Norse race of mythical beings.
The Völuspá, which tells the story of the world from genesis to demise, consists of just 66 verses, which “fly” through this span of time in a series of fast-alternating actions and images. It is striking, therefore, that verses 10 to 16 – occupying a full tenth of the poem – relay not accounts of global events, but the names of 62 Dvergar.
It is clear, in our opinion, that a list of so many Dvergr names in a composition as significant as the Völuspá must signal that the matter is one of significance – one that serves to ensure that the Völuspá’s listenership does not forget the members of this particular race. At one time in our collective past, the mantra-esque repetition of names was regarded as a means of preserving important knowledge, ensuring that it would remain committed to memory. This means that the Dvergar were, at one time, a race of unique importance.
Though the Eddas do not actually offer much information on the Dvergar, some of the race’s more intriguing traits and abilities have not gone unnoted.
The list of names included in the Völuspá suggests that both their numbers, and their names are constant. It would seem that the Dvergar have existed since ancient times and, having no females among them, do not reproduce. They are not, however, sexless, but true males, whose sexual desires are focused on the goddesses.
The Dvergar clearly constitute a separate race, though the exact characteristics that distinguish them from men are never divulged. In modern parlance, the Dvergar are referred to as dwarves, though there is no evidence in the Eddic songs to indicate that they are of diminutive stature or indeed, that their height differs at all from that of the average man.
Like the other mythical beings, the Dvergar, too, change with the passage of time. Later sagas seem to speak of the Dvergar as beings entirely different from those of earlier lore, ones whose contact with humans is more frequent and involves crafting swords and offering counsel.