DWARVEN MARRIAGE, MATING AND REPRODUCTION

GENDER ROLES - MATURITY - ENGAGEMENT & MARRIAGE RITUALS
REPRODUCTION - THE ENNKAFER

Gender Roles. We should begin by saying that physical gender issues are non-issues among the Thergerim: that is, the secondary sexual characteristics are not as immediately evident, and while jobs are indeed divided according to gender, there is no bias (training children is as prestigious as hunting, digging up gems as worthwhile as providing food for the community). All occupations are recognized as contributing to the well being of the clan as a whole, and accepted matter of factly.
Although dwarves can tell instantly which gender is which, humans have a more difficult time distinguishing upon first acquaintance. This may be the basis for the old belief that female dwarves never came above ground... or even more ludicrous, that there WERE no female dwarves! Since both sexes are bearded and long-haired, and young dwarves (pre-maturity) look very similar when clothed, our human confusion was understandable, if not particularly sensitive. However, now that some of the more ‘liberal’ clans are beginning to favour depilation for their women, it is becoming more obvious which gender is which. And of course, even in the more traditional clans, if you are favoured enough to visit among the dwarven caverns, you have only to observe what task a dwarf is performing to know his or her gender!
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Maturity. Dwarves have a fairly long adolescence, approximately eighty-five to ninety years of age before sexual maturity. This time of passage into adulthood is known as "Huregozar" for females, "Baregozar" for males, and is indicated by various subtle external and internal physical changes, and a new emotional steadiness and decisiveness (compared to adolescence, that is…). We may only guess at the qualifications for Hu/Baregozar, as they are determined individually in consultation with each young adult by the Denirim of the clan. The root words of this expression appear to come from the dwarven for ‘female’ and ‘male’ - Hut and Bar respectively - plus the archaic word for ‘hand’ - Goz - or possibly the word Regonz, meaning ‘achieved’ (literally, ‘no longer waiting’).

Once a group of dwarven adolescents have achieved Hu/Baregozar, there is a significant ceremony which takes place to recognize them as adults. The “Wirrutharoon” (roughly translatable as ‘Well-Made-Thing-Time’) is held fairly frequently by dwarven standards, roughly every ten years, so that there is always a group of youngsters who will go through the experience together. Each individual must prepare a “Wirrurt” or ‘showpiece’ – a presentation of their chosen craft or profession. For some it is simple; the apprentice smith sets forth his best sword or beautifully crafted necklace, the young baker slices a huge savory pastry and shares it out, the lass who has been learning under the Weavemistress is decked in her finest cloths. For others, their skill is demonstrated in less tangible forms; the Singspeaker apprentice must call down a pre-trained bat, ‘translate’ its vibrations, and successfully encode a responding message. (See the Mitharim Clans entry for a list of other typical dwarven occupations.)

The male and female elders of the clan will inspect every Wirrurt in detail and test it to capacity. They will also take the time to call each aspirant aside and speak with him about the chosen profession and about how he hopes to fill a place in clan life as an adult. This is mostly a token discussion, as in the months preceeding the ceremony the elders have been particularly observant of their youth, encouraging and guiding them as necessary to develop the physical, emotional, and social maturity required as Thergerim adults. Again, the Denirim have quite a bit of responsibility to assist the elders in determining this, and his spiritual authority is such that he may recommend that a certain individual be held back from the Wirrutharoon till the next decade - though this is rare - and the elders will uphold his suggestion.

It is at this point that no Thergerim, even Compendium authors, will speak further on the events of the Wirrutharoon except to say that each individual is ‘marked’ in some way to confirm her transition. It has been suggested that this ‘mark’ is physical, in the nature of a tattoo, brand, or scar, while other scholars claim that it is set magically in the mind, or through the direct involvement of TrumBarol (the dwarven deity, similar to our Urtengor) as a spiritual transition. However that may be, we have no confirmation of these theories, and can only say that at the conclusion of the ceremony each young dwarf is considered irrevocably an adult who has the right to participate in all of the duties and privileges of the community – and the responsibility to find a mate.
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Engagement & Marriage Rituals. As you might expect in a society where there are three males to every two females, there is some competition for the dwarfmaidens’ favours, and until the Time of Choosing is over (about two years after the Wirrutharoon) there is a lot of activity, high feeling, and disruption in the clan.

Emotions become more obvious (that is, for the normally steady dwarves), young bachelors lock horns at every opportunity, with plenty of display and male pride. Beards are curried to a reflective gloss and weapons honed to shaving-sharpness – vests are embroidered with plenty of grimacing and eye-strain – the oresacks are never filled closer to bursting, and the rock-barrows are laden so full that one can hear their rivets crackling as the young males charge along the tunnels with them. New cavelets, or individual homes, are excavated by the bachelors, with all the furniture and hearthplaces carved carefully and artistically from the living rock, and when the maidens are beginning to be ready to make their choices, they traipse round the new homes in a merry group, taking meticulous mental notes, critiquing the décor, airily commenting on the mens’ grooming, and keeping their true counsel to themselves. If dwarfmaids could ever be accused of giggling, it might be during this time, when every word and glance between the sexes is laden with innuendo and suggestion, every unattached male eye is rife with hopeful passion, and every lass is wooed by a variety of suitors.

Although there is plenty of competition (for the young men are opportunists who will gladly court more than one dwarfmaid at a time, to broaden their chances of mating at all), the elders of the clan keep a sharp eye on the youngsters and provide numerous options to channel their energy into non-confrontational pursuits. Games of strength and speed are often organised at this time; dwarven wrestling, weightlifting, barrowraces, bellows-pumping, and so on are all excellent ways for the dwarflads to flex their muscles and compete without harm. The bachelors from previous seasons may or may not be resigned to their state, either, and the field is free for them if they wish to woo a girl who has just come of age, at least for the next two or three Wirrutharoonerons! After that time they have generally poured their energies into their work or gone aboveground. Denirims of the various clans that live close enough may sometimes send out messages to each other so that a few young adults of both genders can be ‘exchanged’, thus bringing new blood into the clan. The ratio must remain the same, however, so tradition dictates that a group of five is always sent – three males and two females.

Eventually the women make their choice – and almost always that choice is respected. It has been known for a parent or elder-of-authority to intervene in certain matches, usually with the argument that the two personalities will ‘clash’, or ‘strike sparks from each other’, as the Thergerim put it. There is also the possibility that the rejected suitor or suitors will continue to press their respective claims, making it difficult for the girl, or that she is unable/unwilling to decide. In either case, the council of elders usually imposes their will, either by choosing the mating they believe to be the most suitable, or by ‘trading’ the girl to another clan if necessary to bring peace to the cavern!

The few males who remain unmated often take the title of “Kavoninn Yabarrah”. They leave their caverns in order to sublimate their unmet sexual energies in their craftsmanship and dedication to another cause. They may join one of the famous dwarven mercenary troops, or settle in a human town and set up a business, sending much of their profits back to their home clan. This title is sometimes mistranslated as ‘Exile’ by humans who do not understand the complexity of dwarven relationships, or as ‘Thwarted Lover’ by sentimental poets. However, according to our Thergerim sources, it simply means ‘Travelling Bachelor’ – an unwed male who goes out from the clan…

A selection of dwarven trothspoons

View picture in full size Picture description. A selection of trothspoons, part of the dwarven troth pledge. Image by Bard Judith.

Once the couples are ‘safely’ paired off and officially betrothed, things settle down and everyone can get back to work again. An understanding established, a troth pledge given, and trothspoons traded are all the mark of a settled bargain which will be followed shortly by a wedding.

It has, in the last few decades, become fashionable for dwarven couples to exchange various precious stones and jewelry pieces as betrothal gifts, rather than the traditional utensils and tools, and quite frequently Trumvil's Rune has appeared as a common decorative motif on these betrothal pieces. Some more liberal dwarven priests currently name Trumvil as the Wedding Presider, who aids in the joining of man and wife, but this is a fairly recent belief…

One of our Compendium authors was recently privileged to be present at a dwarven wedding - the first such case of a human in attendance which we have been able to record - and we give her notes verbatim below for your interest. Please note that this may or may not be typical of all clans and places, and specific details such as the names and the location have been removed from her notes for the privacy of the newly-wed couple and their clan! This has been indicated, where necessary, by brackets enclosing a section of changed or omitted text, thus: {omitted}
 

“The great cavern was brightly lit, with tiny metal lamps burning in every cranny as high as a stout dwarf could reach from the top of his climbing ladder. Huge sheets of some trailing, richly green moss were hung here and there like tapestries, while a silvery, glowing moss had obviously just been transplanted into a semicircular area in front of the Main Hearth. The hearth itself, shaped like the face and muzzle area of a gigantic cave drell with jaws agape, was polished to brazen glory and the lights reflected from its hammered surface. Inside its maw a bonfire leaped and roared, burning scented fruitwoods…” {other specific descriptions of cave ornamentation omitted}

“A group of dwarfmaids, their hair loose and glossy about their sturdy shoulders, began a low humming which at first I thought came from the fantastically-designed brass instruments in the consort behind them. The VweenHuun, a complex spiral of brass tubing, almost enclosed the musician playing it, while the Mezusil, a glossy aurate pipe, seemed almost tiny in the vast, calloused hands of its owner. When the musicians did join, it was a deep and sonorous sound with a very repetitive, insistent beat.” (See Dwarven Music for more on these and other specifically dwarven instruments…)

“The couple stood on the crescent of glowing moss with the hearth at their backs, facing outwards into the ring of watching dwarves. A plump toddler giggled in excitement as the fire spat sparks and the Denirim moved to stand behind the couple. The groom {name omitted} was dressed in his finest; breeches stitched of digger-skin, a Lu’ansilk vest embroidered with {clan designs}, and what appeared to be mithril beardbeads dotted through his facial hair. His weaponry was much in evidence and ‘polished to Foiros’s standards’, as our gnomes say; a belt knife on one hip, a hand axe on the other, a shortsword riding high on the back… In contrast, the bride {name omitted} wore a simple grey tunic, almost crude in design, nothing more than a folded cloth with a neck aperture that had been stitched up the sides until about a fore from the top, leaving the gaps as armholes.”

“…I was told later by {the bride’s mother-in-law}, chuckling over her horn of dwarf ale, that this was “so’s they could get it off the more easily” but I suspect, given both later events (see below) and what we know of Ennkafer (see below) that this was a mere legpull….other enquiry produced blank looks and answers along the lines of “Always been that way…‘s tradition…that’s been the {clan name} wedd-dress for two centuries now…” and so on. Whether they meant that the same tunic had been worn by bride after bride for the last two hundred years worth of ceremonies, or that the style was unchanged, I could not determine….”

“The feast was of course marvellous by both dwarven and human standards – although for those who prefer their food blandly textured and mildly spiced, it would have been a difficult digestive experience. At (my table) we were served grilled Sulcho with Ummadon, pompion soup – served in the freshly-hollowed and carved shell of the pompion itself – eyren-cloud (a sort of fluffy omelette flavoured with weeproot and lichens), smoked Mithanjor, Koeken slices marinated in kraggi and lythebel sauce, a young roast {name of animal considered to be a regional specialty} trimmed with baby tuberroots/ carrots/bloodfists, and a selection of sweets ranging from Meldarapple pie and melted Kaokao dips to honey-roasted Dalór larvae! Of course this was lubricated with plenty of {clan name omitted} ale and imported human wines…”

“At some point during our festivities {the bride and groom} hammered on the table for everyone’s attention, and having gotten it surprisingly easily, rose and walked back to the still-glowing moss ‘hearthrug’. The musicians struck up an insinuating tune with a chuckling melody line and a rich hum of harmony beneath, simple but swaying… to this accompaniment the two disrobed completely, handing each piece of clothing unselfconsciously to attendants at the edge of the moss… {specific religious details and liturgy omitted here}…despite my apprehension, there was no further public display…having turned with spread arms as if to demonstrate any lack of disability or inhibition, they merely took each other’s hands and waited for the Denirim…” {long untranslated blessing in ThergerimTaal omitted here}

“After having given this extensive blessing, the Thergerim priest held out a beautifully-made pair of necklaces, or ‘neckchains’ as the dwarves would say, and let the still-naked couple place one around each other’s neck…as soon as this had been performed the avid silence of the audience dissolved into cheers, laughing, jests, and a general return to the food and drink in front of them. Re-robed and dressed by their attendant friends, the two came around the cavern to stop at each diner’s place and exchange a few words. {The bride} knows me too well; she forestalled my hesitant question with the smiling explanation “It signifies a pure heart and body brought to the (wedding bed), and reaffirms our full (adulthood).” Here she used archaic ThergerimTaal terms which I have translated to Tharian equivalents… Upon their leaving there was a loud shout again set up, and laughter that was more pleasant than mocking, before we again turned our attention to the rest of the feast…” {further description of food, drink, and the rest of the evening’s entertainment has been omitted as irrelevant here}
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Reproduction. In the dwarfmatron’s reproductive years she is able to have two pregnancies, almost always of two children - sometimes identical twins, but not always. (A passage from the writings of a respected female dwarf healer, roughly translated, says, "StoneFather gave us two hands, two feet, two eyes, two ears, and two milkfalls that we might increase the race of Thergerim two babes at a time.") It has happened that a dwarfmatron has had a third pregnancy, though it is very unusual – about as often as a human might give birth to triplets. The gestation period is roughly four to five human years. It is not obvious that a female is pregnant until her third year, and sometimes not even then, as dwarves are a deep-chested, full-bellied race and their women carry deep and low.

Although dwarves are somewhat reticent on this subject as well, dwarfmaids do not appear to have their ‘courses’ (a monthly issue of bleeding) as human females do; as far as we are able to determine, around the time of Huregozar their wombs begin to store up energy and nutrients for two double ‘ovuum’ (the gnomish way of naming the female egg), one on either side of the double horns of the womb. Our dwarven authors claim that the ceremony of marriage, the subsequent Ennkafer (see below), and the consummation of the marriage are somehow all necessary to stimulate the release of one of these double eggs.

At some point thereafter the dwarf female becomes impregnated just as in the human woman, and carries her twins for the four to five year gestational period until her due time. (Side note: A time roughly equivalent to human menopause does exist, called "Huar Voka", when this ovum is no longer viable and is ejected from the reproductive system. However, since this only occurs in females who have never had intercourse, or at least never conceived - and recall that males outnumber females by almost two-thirds - it is rare, to say the least…)

Exactly what stimulates the release of the second egg is not clear, but since it appears that dwarves consider the Ennkafer time of seclusion essential to conception, and dwarven women nurse communally, we may theorize that it has something to do with the weaning of the first two dwarfbabes, just as it does in human women. The optimum time is apparently from between four to ten years after the first birth, and again, two children are almost always the result. A female can usually count on having one daughter in her reproductive lifetime (one out of four children ), sometimes two. This is so consistent that it can be calculated, as the male-female ratio almost always hovers around two to one.

It is clear that this method of reproduction has contributed to the equality of their society, in that each dwarfmatron is only out of the workcycle for two relatively short periods in her life - and she and her mate have some control over exactly when those are, as well. She may then go on to care for her own as well as others' children (childcare, like cooking, is a communal duty in dwarf caverns) or return to her previous employment. Corunvil the GraniteLord, an arch-ancestor or demi-god (see the entry on the UnSthommerons) is invoked during pregnancy and labour to ensure healthy children and a short and painless delivery.

Very few birth mishaps, deformities, miscarriages and the like are recorded among dwarves. Human healers who have been lucky enough to form close friendships with a dwarven community are still uncertain as to why this is. They postulate that the enclosed, communal areas of the caverns which keep females around the hearth and away from the more dangerous mining environments (with its attendant foul airs, ores which radiate strange energies, rockfalls, coaldust, and the like) may help protect the pregnancy; and there is also the sturdy, wide-hipped build of the female dwarf to consider. Finally, the Ennkafer seems a very sensible innovation which might well be adopted among humans... if only they could figure out WHY it works....
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The Ennkafer. There is a period of seclusion ("Ennkafer", Love Time Away) rather like an intensive pre natal course, in which both the husband and wife remove themselves from society for a predetermined time, eating only the foods thought to be the healthiest, refraining from dwarf ale and other alcoholic imports, spending time in meditation, discussion, and various intimacies eventually leading up to union. This is believed to be the only way to ensure pregnancy, although the occasional three year baby has been known to occur (three years from the time of the wedding ceremony, that is, invariably causing ancient dwarf grannies to click their fingernails together knowingly and mutter numbers under their breath).

Generally, however, the consummation of the marriage does not take place on the wedding night, as is commonly supposed to be the human custom. From our point of view this may seem to simply prolong sexual tension and frustration, but according to the few dwarves who have been forthright enough to speak with our recorders on the matter, it instead relieves any anxieties that either male or female may have and allows them to deepen their intimacy without pressure. A sensible custom, though perhaps only feasible for the patient and longlived Thergerim!
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