In a message dated 10/24/99 1:26:47 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
> I found (I believe it was in Humphrey Carpenter's JRRT Bio.) that the
> names of Gandalf and Thorin and Co. were originally names of
> Dwarves (Dwarfs?) in Norse myth.
Yes. Incidentally, this was known well before Carpenter's biography. (I
realize that 1977 seems like the Jurassic Era to some of you, but there's a
lot of Tolkien scholarship from before that year.)
You bring up the interesting subject of what we should use for the plural of
"dwarf". Before the publication of Tolkien's books, there was no question.
"Dwarfs" was the standard plural, and "dwarves" was an obsolete form. The
OED still does not list anything other than "dwarfs". The American Heritage
Dictionary list "dwarves" as an alternate form. Tolkien used 'dwarves"
because he thought it sounded better. "Dwarves" has returned to occasional
use purely because of Tolkien's choice. (He also used "dwarvish" instead of
"dwarfish", "elvish" instead of "elfish", and "elven" instead of "elfin")
I have a suggestion. I think we should use "dwarves", "dwarvish", "elvish",
and "elven" for literary and mythological uses and "dwarfs", "dwarfish",
"elfish", and "elfin" for human beings and metaphorical uses (like a "white
dwarf" in astronomy).