A simple Google seach will show that many people use “dwarven” as an adjective meaning “of or related to dwarves”. People can say things like “very dwarven”. But not many dictionaries list this adjective, and the ones I found that do don’t explain its etymology.
Some people might think of “The Lord of the Rings” (published 1954) but LOTRproject indicates that dwarven actually does not appear in The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, or The Lord of the Rings. [Edit: apparently, when I first wrote this question, I missed the fact that dwarven does occur in some of Tolkien's other writings that were published later on!]
These works do contain elven, although as far as I can tell, Tolkien uses elven only in compound words, not as an adjective (so it might be more accurate for me to say it contains "elven-"). So my current theory is that Tolkien’s elven- was reinterpreted by later authors as an adjective, and then dwarven (adj) was formed by analogy with this.
Could anyone tell me when this happened? What are the earliest cases we know of where dwarven is used as an adjective?
I tried to research this with Google Ngrams and Google Books. My results:
A case-insensitive Ngram for “dwarven, dwarvish, dwarfish” shows “dwarven” as having 0% use until 1976. This doesn’t prove it wasn’t used earlier since Google hasn’t indexed everything and the Ngram database can have errors. Nonetheless, it suggests that “dwarven” was not used much soon after the Lord of the Rings was published.
On Google Books, the first examples of attributive "dwarven" that I found are from 1979, 1980 and 1981.
1979: The Middle-earth Quiz Book, by Suzanne Buchholz, p. 144 "The rings caused their Dwarven bearers to lust after gold and other precious materials."
1980: The following blog post, a reproduction of "Fantasy Genetics: Humanoid Races In Review", by Gregory G. H. Rihn, December 1980. It uses “dwarven” as a non-hyphenated attributive word in various phrases. There are no predicative uses of “dwarven”, and it is never modified by an adjective-only word like “more” or “very”, so technically it could be either a noun or an adjective in this article. Also, it uses the compound word “dwarvenkind”, which if compared to “mankind” suggests “dwarven” is a noun rather than an adjective. Still, I’d say it is an example of the usage I'm interested in.
1981: 2 examples from books, Trek to Kraggen-Cor by Dennis L. McKiernan and Fantasy Role Playing Games: Dungeons, Dragons, and Adventures in Fantasy Gaming by John Eric Holmes
So far, it looks to me like Dungeons and Dragons-related writing might have been an important influence, but I don’t know if it can be said to be the source of dwarven (adj) or if some authors of fantasy literature had already derived it before D&D.
Wikipedia says Dungeons and Dragons was “first published in 1974” so it fits timeline-wise with the Ngram Viewer for it to be the originator of dwarven (adj.).
The earlier plural noun “dwarven”: not what I’m interested in
I did find 2 results on Google Books for “dwarven” from before Tolkien, but both of them are unrelated to the adjective I am interested in: they seem to be (pseudo-archaic) plurals of the noun “dwarf”.
1861: The cloister and the hearth, by Charles Reade
The duke hath need of him; sore need; we are clean out o’ dwarven; and tiger-cats, which may not be, whiles earth them yielded.
1911: The poetical works of Heinrich Heine : now first completely rendered into English verse, in accordance with the original forms, translated by John Payne
And when men depart, the lordship / Will devolve upon the dwarven, / On the weeny witsome people, / In the mountain's womb... ("Atta Troll", vol. 2 p. 108)
This also seems to be a plural noun, as the original is "Nach dem Untergang der Menschen / Kommt die Herrschaft an die Zwerge [plural noun], / An die winzig klugen Leutchen, / Die im Schoß der Berge hausen."
There dwarven drum and fiddle / and horns and trumpets blow. (p. 166, “From the Harz Tour: The Ilse”, vol. 1 p. 166)
(Again, looking at the original indicates that “dwarven” should be interpreted as a noun and “drum” and “fiddle” as verbs: “Die Zwerge [plural noun] trompeten und pauken / Und fiedeln und blasen das Horn.”)
Summary and my ideas of possible other places to look (or not)
To reiterate, I'm interested in the earliest uses of "dwarven" as an adjective. The earliest example I found using Google Books is from 1979 (Buchholz); tchrist's answer provides an even earlier example from 1976 ( Greyhawk).
I doubt there will be examples from before Tolkien, so I would say the relevant time period is 1954-1976.
Fiction with dwarfs that I know of from this era: Three Hearts and Three Lions (which seems to use the plural "dwarfs", so it probably doesn't have "dwarven") and the Narnia books (which also use "dwarfs").
War games rules: I have checked PDFs of the following fantasy rule-sets, and they don't seem to contain "dwarven":
- the original edition of Dungeons and Dragons (which does have “dwarves”), 1974
- the Chainmail fantasy supplement, 1971
- Len Patt’s Tolkien-based fantasy precursor to the Chainmail/D&D rules in the NEWA magazine The Courier, 1970
- the WRG 4th edition “ancient” fantasy rules (which do have “dwarves”), 1973
“Dwarven” also doesn’t seem to appear in the texts associated with the following LOTR-based boardgames: 1970 Conquest of the Ring, 1973 Quest of the Magic Ring, 1974 Battle at Helms Deep (Richard Jordison)
I did find some hints to a few possible future avenues of research, but I haven’t been able to pursue them currently.
Typically one would note here Tony Bath's article "Campaigning with the aid of Fantasy Fiction" in Slingshot #9 (Jan 1967), in which he mentions that a Colin Rowbotham had drawn up a rules for a Tolkien-based wargame "to include all these odd creatures". If Tony Bath was aware of Mr. Rowbotham's efforts at this time, then the rules themselves must have been conceived no later than 1966. I'm not aware that they were published anywhere. Over the next several years, fantasy games were revisited now and again.
(posted Wed Oct 24, 2007 11:22 pm by increment in Early Fantasy Games? - Tome of Treasures Forum)
In addition to the article mentioned here, another article from Slingshot, the official journal of the Society of Ancients, seems like it might be relevant. I haven’t been able to access either of them, so I would appreciate it if anyone who is able to check them would tell me if they do or don't use the word “dwarven”:
- “Campaigning with the Aid of Fantasy Fiction” by Tony Bath in Slingshot #9, pp. 10-13 (Jan 1967)
- “From Khazad-Dum to Cormallen” by D J Walker-Smith in Slingshot #47, pp. 24-27