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Bard Judith
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« on: 02 December 2004, 00:05:00 »

Now that I've gotten your attention in one way or another... :lol  

Yes, this entry is actually labeled "Dwarven Marriage, Mating, and Reproduction".  It is part of a massive rework of the Thergerim Race Overview, and you may find parts of it familiar - or not!  At any rate, I guarantee it's not boring.  Well, ok, so it's pretty discreet.  That's just the way dwarves are!

Comments welcome!

Dwarven Marriage, Mating, and Reproduction
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We should begin by saying that 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 cavern 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 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!

Dwarves have a fairly long adolescence before sexual maturity (known as "Huregozar" for females, "Baregozar" for males), which is indicated by various subtle external and internal physical changes, and a new emotional steadiness and decisiveness (compared to adolescence, that is…).   This takes place at approximately eighty-five to ninety years of age.  

Once a group of dwarven adolescents have achieved Hu/Baregozar, as determined by the Denirim of the clan, there is a significant ceremony which takes place to recognize them as adults.  The “Wirrutharoon” is held fairly frequently by dwarven standards,  roughly every ten years, so that there is always a group of youngsters who will go through 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 preceding 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 has 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 Urtengor (TrumBarol to the dwarves) 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.

Dwarven 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.  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 for the privacy of the newly-wed couple and their clan!

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“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…”

“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 two.  (The groom) 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) 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 (her 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) 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 (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) ale and imported human wines…”

“At some point during our festivities (the bride and groom) hammered on the table for 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… (omitted)…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…”

“After having given this extensive blessing (omitted above) 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…”

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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!

Although dwarves are somewhat reticent on this subject as well, dwarfmaids do not appear to have a monthly issue of bleeding; as far as we are able to determine, around the time of Huregozar their wombs begin to build up a cluster of nutrient rich cells around a double ovum which will store energy and nutrients throughout their reproductive years, until they have their single pregnancy (see below) or until old age.  A time roughly equivalent to 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.

In their reproductive years they are able to have one pregnancy, 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 second 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.

It is clear that this has contributed to the equality of their society, in that each dwarfmatron is only out of the workcycle for one short period in her life.  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....  .  
       

"You should never wear your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth."

Henrik Ibsen, AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE

Edited by: Artimidor Federkiel at: 12/5/04 17:22
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