The Plural of Dwarf
From whence came Tolkien's original idea for using
"dwarves" as a plural for "dwarf"?
The plural "dwarves" instead of dwarfs
(which is preferred by a number of critics and is correct
is instead used by Tolkien because it went better with "elves". He
later, according to his Letters, that he had used the
for dwarves of "dwarrows". "Dwarves" went into general usage as many
both readers and fellow writers, agreed with Tolkien's ear and logic.
"The real historical plural of 'dwarf' (like teeth of tooth) is dwarrows anyway: rather a nice word, but a bit too archaic. Still I rather wish I had used the word dwarrow."
Reference: The Letters of JRR Tolkien Letter # 17 To
Stanley Unwin, Chairman of Allen and Unwin, p. 23, 24
In Return of the
King, "Appendix F" just before the discussion of the names
Hobbit, Gamgee, and Brandywine, and before the discussion of the Eldar,
the plural of dwarf is addressed:
It may be observed
that in this book as in The
Hobbit the form dwarves
is used, although the dictionaries tell us that the plural of dwarf is dwarfs. It should be dwarrows (or dwerrows), if singular and plural
had each gone its own way down the years, as have man and men, or goose and geese. But we no longer speak of a
dwarf as often as we do of a man, or even of a goose, and memories have
not been fresh enough among Men to keep hold of a special plural for a
race now abandoned to folk-tales, where at least a shadow of truth is
preserved, or at last to nonsense stories in which they have become
mere figures of fun. But in the Third Age something of their old
character and power is still glimpsed, if already a little dimmed;
these are the descendents of the Naugrim of the Elder Days, in whose
hearts still burns ancient fire of Aule the Smith, and the embers
smolder of their long grudge against the Elves; and in whose hands
still lives the skill in work of stone that none have surpassed.
It is to mark this that I have ventured to use the
form dwarves, and remove them
perhaps, from the sillier tales of these latter days. Dwarrows would have been better;
but I have used that form only in the name Dwarrowdelf, to represent the name
of Moria in the Common Speech: Phurunargian.
For that meant 'Dwarf-delving' and yet was already a word of antique
-"Appendix F", Return of the King