Playing a female dwarf in LOTRO takes imagination, patience, and a certain resistance to prejudiced attitude. I’d like to explore one common issue which often comes up in discussions of playing and roleplaying dwarf women in LOTRO, i.e. beards.
Also, stay for the rest of the post for a feminist dwarf manifesto aka Why It Is Interesting To Play Female Dwarves 🙂
In many MMOs players are offered an opportunity to play female dwarves. But in Lineage, RIFT, WoW, etc. female dwarves are beardless. In LOTRO there is no specified gender for Dwarves (though it is assumed they are male), but quite enough people on forum discussions said they would like to have a chance to play a female dwarf – but some also added they would want female dwarves to be beardless as in other games.
However, Turbine respects Professor’s canon and lore, which says that “no Man nor Elf has ever seen a beardless Dwarf – unless he were shaven in mockery, and would then be more like to die of shame… For the Naugrim have beards from the beginning of their lives, male and female alike” (“Of the Naugrim and the Edain” from “The History of Middle-Earth“; volume 11: “The War of the Jewels“; part II: “The Later Quenta Silmarillion”).
Behind the screen we are all human beings (well, most of us 🙂 ) and I cannot recall any human culture which considered facial hair an attractive trait in a woman. And as for that wish for beardless dwarf-ladies – well, it seems to stand to reason, because who would like to play an “ugly” character, right? For example, many became disenchanted by the animation of elven characters. Nevertheless, another part of gaming community was willing to ignore the visualization drawbacks in favour of incredibly rich and beautiful lore which Tolkien gave to Elves.
Now, back to the Dwarf – well, after a short cultural retour.
The concept of beauty differs even from one human culture to another, what to say from one race in Middle-Earth to another. Personally, I doubt that an Ent will find an Elven lady appealing, and vice versa. We know that dwarves lead a fairly secluded life in Middle-Earth: they have few visitors in their realms, keep their language and their actual names secret, devising alias-names for the times when they travel among other races. It stands to reason that their culture will not be influenced much from outside.
Let’s try to look at the world from their angle (from deep inside the tunnel :).
Both males and females have beards. It would be very self-loathing to consider only beardless girls to be beautiful in such tough circumstances, especially if you remember that only about one-third of all dwarves are female. So, if a beard for a dwarf is as natural as hair to us (as readers and players), it would be subject to its own conventions of beauty.
A short-bearded dwarf girl could be viewed as less conventionally pretty – for example, as “flat” girls back in our society. It could be extra fun and enjoyable for an RP gamer to play a female character who treats her beard the same way some girls treat their hair – picking good combs for it, hairpins, beauty products…you get the idea=)
“This White-Hand Firethrower singed my beautiful beard! The hairs will be breaking off now! I REALLY need one of those hair-healing potions. I can’t walk around as some short-beardy, now, can I?!”
And what would happen if this girl, proud of her shiny and long beard and pined after under her home mountain, came into the upper-ground world? Her beard there is not considered attractive nor is she actually recognized as a female! What a shock. She can try to conceal her gender, especially if she was met with mockery after pointing it out, and later might even choose not to leave the mountain altogether. Perhaps, it is the very reason why dwarf women stayed indoors – instead of the usual explanation that they were kept at home by their domestic duties or their overprotective male relatives.
Another point of interest is how the travelling dwarves might find their perception of beauty changed. Male dwarves on the journeys are exposed to external influences – for example, elven and human concepts of beauty. We know for sure that Gimli was mesmerized by the beauty of Galadriel and probably fell in love with her. True, she was quite an exceptional elven lady, to put it mildly, but still.
Can it cause cultural conflicts with their kin who stayed at home – and who might view such new perception of beauty as betrayal of their race and culture?
But let’s put the issue of looks aside for now.
If all the talk about cultural differences has not swayed your view on ‘ugliness’ of bearded dwarf women, think for a moment: do you always judge women by how they look, including your mother, aunts, sisters and friends when they age or get a scar? No, I guess (and hope) that you love them for being the interesting and good people that they are.
So, let’s turn to the personal traits of dwarven women. As I already mentioned, there were very few female dwarves, so we would expect a high pressure on them to marry for the continuation of the race. But we read the opposite: “not all dwarf-women take husbands, as they may not have an interest in marriage, or some desire dwarf-men they cannot have and will settle for no other” (From Return of the King, “Appendix A”). Since they are not pressured to marry and procreate, they must be considered equal to their males – certainly in craft, and probably in might too, as dwarf men and women are rumored to be very much alike in appearance. And that is exactly what dwarves are praised for among other races: their craft, and their might in battle.
So, would you still stay by your decision not to play a female dwarf in LOTRO – a strong warrior, talented artisan, independent woman equal to men of her race – just because our culture tends to have an issue with female facial hair?
In any case, at least be civil and friendly when you meet a female dwarf in game – and do not slap her, call her names or otherwise harass. Thanks in advance (and I’ll practice my good faith into the gamer-kind in return).
Stay tuned for the next post – with pictures! – and personal stories of two lovely dwarf girls.