Barbara Ninde Byfield's Post-Tolkienian Dwarves

The Glass Harmonica (1967) -- also published as The Book of the Weird -- is a marvelous tome. Not only because it codifies many elements of Medieval fantasy and folklore, but also because it anticipates the codification of the same elements found in Dungeons & Dragons.

The author, Barbara Ninde Byfield, was obviously aware of Tolkien when she wrote the following section on Dwarves. There are multiple clues found in the text that suggest her familiarity with JRRT's work, but none so obvious as the fact that she uses the plural ending "-ves" -- before Tolkien these little bearded fellows were referred to as "Dwarfs" in plural. The altered ending is something that the Oxford don introduced to the English language. See if you can find the other hints.

One of the things I really enjoy about Byfield's take here is that she essentially riffs on both Tolkien's interpretation of Dwarf-kind as well as the character of the Dwarfs found in the folktales collected by the Brothers Grimm. She strikes some deeply mythopoeic notes -- notes that give off a pleasing resonance. If you feel that dwarves have gone stale within the D&D milieu -- and sometimes I do -- reading these pages might inspire you to see some new possibilities.


  1. Easily one of my favorite books I own. Grodog showed me his copy at a convention and I had toget my own.

  2. I had seen this book years ago but didn't buy it. It is now on my Amazon Wish List. Thanks for the post.

  3. I wrote about this book on my blog some time back, and I'm glad to see someone else giving it the attention it so richly deserves.

  4. Happy to help spread the word, Zachary (and I heard about the book from Jeff "Col. Hardisson" Black)! :D ....allan

  5. I just got a 1st edition copy and I'm utterly entranced. This delightful tome belongs on every gamer's bookshelf. Thanks for the recommendation!

    1. My pleasure -- and I totally agree. It's like the Dead Sea Scrolls of D&D.