I remember reading somewhere that in Norse mythology dwarves and dark elves are the same thing. Then I started reading Gylfaginning and it sounded like they were different, but then later on they send someone to get help from the dwarves in Svartalfheim, which I'm pretty sure is probably 'dark elf home.'

So, are dwarves and dark elves the same thing? Or are they different beings that happen to live in the same place? Something else?

(Note: I haven't finished Gylfaginning yet, I'm finding it a bit of a tough read.)

5 Answers 5


Norse mythology often alludes to nine worlds. Eight of these are known with relative certainty:

  • Asgard, realm of the Aesir
  • Vanaheim, realm of the Vanir
  • Alfheim, realm of the (light) elves
  • Midgard, realm of men
  • Jotunheim, realm of the Jotun (giants)
  • Muspell, realm of fire
  • Niflheim, realm of ice
  • Hel, real of the dishonorable dead

The missing ninth world depends on the source. The two most frequently cited are Svartalfheim, realm of the dark elves, and Nidavellir, realm of the dwarves. As there are supposed to be exactly nine worlds, not ten, the logical conclusion is that Svartalfheim and Nidavellir are the same. Thus dark elves and dwarves refer to the same creature.


The thirteenth-century writings of Snorri Sturluson are remarkable, but they must be placed in context. He wrote long after conversion, and his work was likely affected by the fogging of the lens caused by time and the shift in beliefs caused by the arrival of Christianity. In addition, Snorri's Iceland was far removed from Scandinavia, so anything that one might say about Iceland might not apply to Norway, Denmark, or Sweden, regardless of the period.

Classifying supernatural beings is always problematic since it depends on the fluid testimonies of informants who might not agree with one another and whose observations can change from time to time. Since people might disagree with the use terms and designations, it is absurd to attach too much importance to these sorts of classifications if one is attempting to understand the folk's belief system.

Regardless of how Snorri intended his terms of various supernatural beings, his specific categories would probably have meant very little to the folk themselves who would have likely argued with one another about the merits of Snorri's work. We encounter problems with attempts at rigid taxonomy organized by the early folklorists of the nineteenth century. Although their work is of interest and is always a starting point, we generally move past their attempts at classification with an understanding that the folk did not always "follow the rules" established by the early scholars who attempted to understand folk traditions.

In short, I suggest you not over think what Snorri has to say about these categories.


The issue with figuring the answer to this is to know that Norse mythology now has been convoluted by old Christianity. This was done to make people who follow the Norse mythology to be easier to lead into Christianity. As Helheim was made after Christianity helped change it. The original realms were as so

  1. Asgard
  2. Vanaheim
  3. Alfheim
  4. Midgard
  5. Jotunheim
  6. Nimvilier
  7. Svartlehime
  8. Muspell
  9. Niflheim

This was the original list of the realms but as stated it was later changed to make it easier to convert Nordics to Christianity. As it was easy to link Ragnarok meaning the end of gods with Christianity. As the world will be born again from the fires of Surtur. Christians of old used this to convert many Vikings or Nordics into their faith as they could use this for how Adam and Eve started as only 2 humans are to survive Ragnarok.

Another thing that contributed to this was that Hel daughter of Loki whom watched over the dead was doing this in the realm of Niflheim. But in order to link the bible and Norse mythology more. They changed a little in order to add the realm Hel where the dead are that are not taken to Valhalla or . when originally they went to Niflheim as Hel resided there. others who died in battle or not of age or sickness went to Valhalla located in Asgard or Folkvang in Vanaheim. So other then the changes do to different religions leaking in these were the original nine realms.

So in turn the answer is no Dwarves and Dark Elves are not the same. they were mixed together to be able to add in the realm of Hel.


In Tolkien's Silmarillion the Dark Elves (Moriquendi) are definitely elves and distinct from dwarves.

Tom Shippey, a professor of Old and Middle English, believed that Tolkien took the concept from the ljósálfar (light-elves) and dökkálfar (dark-elves) of the Prose Edda.

Sturluson seems to contradict himself by stating that the dark elves are dwarves, and this inconsistency has been investigated since at least the 19th century. Shippey suggests that "one of [Tolkien's] starting points of his whole developed mythology was this problem in nomenclature, this apparent contradiction in ancient texts..."


These lists of the nine worlds are modern speculations/generalisations. I would like to see elder literature or source material support this.

Don't forget that the bardic and scholarly tradition peculiar, somehow, to the Northern Islands (Orkneyar etc.) and Iceland, left Norway, and Scandinavia because of resistance against the novel feudalism of King Harald of the House of Ynglings, in alliance with the House of Wessex, King Athelstan, in England, and the Liudolfings, who will become known as the Imperial Ottonian dynasty. Snorre Sturlasson defend the particular intercultural syncretism of the Norse. He explains the relationships between the Norse scaldic tradition with that of Vergil's Aeneid, in particular, yet also the Iliad. He claim that Oðinn's son Viðarø is Aeneas. Of course Snorre is familiar with the Pythagorean practice of metempsychosis that Vergil teaches. Oðinn may thus be avatar of both King Priam, as he claim, and of Angxises, as well as King Memnon of Ethiopia, as he reckognizes the Prince Tror of Ethiopia as Þor, the guy with the hammer. Wonder why this attestations of Snorre is ridiculed and regarded vicarous?! At first I thought that Snorre's claim that Oðinn is (the avatar/metempsychosis of) King Priam, was conflicting with him identifying Viðareu with Aeneas of the Aeneid, the epic poem, because Aeneas' father is Angxises. Oðinn is father of Viðareu. Now I find it plausible that Snorre is very well aware of how Angxises and Aeneas is an intended mirroring of Priam and Hector, expressed in the Iliad: Poseidon, God of the Sea, while observes the fatal situation Aeneas is in (while fighting with Achilles, who next will slay Hector), urges the other gods that they should rescue Aeneas, "For", he says, "it is appointed to Aeneas to escape... thus shall mighty Aeneas, be born in the afterlife of his children's children, rule over the Trojans once again... the Romans. Vergil indicate, interestingly, that Aeneas was born again as Marcus Claudius Marcellus, who might have become the first emperor, had he not died of the pestilence that his uncle Octavian survived from, who became Emperor Augustus son of God.

Other stratas of the Norse Sagas, makes it even more evident that supernatural figures are figures of speech relating certain peoples and their manners. Youthunns and Elves and Goðs are like the Vanir and Asians, people who are practicing different kinds of avatarism. They are not either mundane or cosmic. What brings them all together, is the secret of Amphictyonia. In the Norse Skaldskaparmál, it is the Youþunn Ægir, aka King Lear, who fascilitates the symposium that brings peace, at least the Greet, between the Greek Achae, aka Danoii, who is the Vanii, and the Hittite Trojans, who is the Æsian. Prechalchedonian Christianity was pro-actively syncretistic. That changes dramatically with feudalism, and the totalitarian monopolisation of sanctified life, making the Benedictine Rule the only rule. This only comes about with the emergence of Charlemagne as Emperor. The Norse culture flourish, from the Black Sea to Iceland. The fall of Rome is about western Europe, not Eastern Europe. The Salian Franks, through their Merovingian anchestors, claim the true inheritors of the Roman Empire, at the moment the true Roman Empire in Constantinople is more and more ruled by empresses and evenuchs, caring more for philosophy and art than war, nourishing increasingly cordial relations with the golden era Khalifat centered on Bagdad, and the Jewish Khaganate of Khazaria. The too high status of women in Byzants is the reason why the Salian Empire emerges! It is very sad that it is the spread of this rather strange and perverted form of christianity most people tend to think is christianization; not that the Benedictine Rule was in any way constructed in order to become the instrument of oppression that it became. Snorre Sturlason is quite clear, the scholarly skalds of his lineage are not pagan, although he admits that peoples in remote places resort to pagan customs as they forget the bigger picture, how it all connects to the Greek and Semittic, as well as the to the shamans of the Hunic confederates.

Dwarves is to me a huge mystery. Our culturally dependent default notions of them must be wiped out. I think they, as much as Joþunns and Elves, presents a certain sphere of existance in the cyrcle of becomings conferring both the Hebrew concept of Gilgul, the metempsychosis of Pythagoras, or the Tibetan Srid pa'i 'khor lo. The etymology of dwarves has made me see them as protector spirits, possibly particularly related to oracular practices (as that of Delphi); more specifically I relate them to Time. The hours of the night are conceived of as Watchers, their etymology runs in that direction. Thus I see them as the biblical Egregors - ἐγρήγοροι (koine Greek), and Aírs - עִיר(Hebrew). That's why they are dark-elves. In the Norse corpus some Dwarves' names are reckognized in the names of mythological animals,like the harts Durethrough, Dwellinn, Duneaíreu and Dóinn and even items, like Draupnir. I find it significant.

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