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.)


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..."

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