What Caused Hatred Between Dwarves & Elves:
There are several opinions as to how the two of the most prominent and oldest races of Middle Earth became such mortal enemies. Dwarves are short and proud warriors while Elves are a nimble and elegant race. Both despise each other to the core and cannot stand each other’s sights. The Lord of the Rings movies never told us why there is so much distrust between the two races. We all know that Legolas and Gimli, the company that follows Frodo to battle Sauron were not the best of friends when the two first met. Their races were already hostile to each other. The Fellowship would soon turn Legolas and Gimli into allies who could trust each other to watch their backs. But the question of the Dwarves and Elves hostility remains unanswered to this date. It is time we get an answer to that question.
The reason for the rivalry can be traced to the Books of Tolkien. In the Council of Elrond segment of The Fellowship of the Ring, Legolas tells a story of how Gollum was taken from his elven pals at Mirkwood.
‘…But Gandalf bade us hope still for his cure, and we had not the heart to keep him ever in dungeons under the earth, where he would fall back into his old black thoughts. You were less tender to me,’ said Glóin with a flash of his eyes as old memories were stirred of his imprisonment in the deep places of the Elven-king’s halls. Now come!’ said Gandalf. `Pray do not interrupt, my good Glóin. That was a regrettable misunderstanding, long set right. If all the grievances that stand between Elves and Dwarves are to be brought up here, we may as well abandon this Council.’
The words of Legolas are taken quite literally by some ardent fans of the series. They claim that the dwarves and elves were victims of their own past when they waged wars against each other and thus the hostility between the two grew. It tells specifically of the animosity between Dwarves and Elves even though Dwarves generally do not have a cordial relationship with other races like the humans. Elves, Men, and Dwarves all played crucial roles in JRR Tolkien’s stories. In The Hobbit, Tolkien finally explains to us the reason for the conflict between the Wood Elves and the Dwarves that are trying to scale Mount Erebor aka the Lonely Mountain led by Thorin Oakenshield, who intends to retrieve the Arkenstone.
It was also the dungeon of his prisoners. So to the cave, they dragged Thorin-not too gently, for they did not love dwarves, and thought he was an enemy. In ancient days they [MY NOTE: “they” = “the Elves”] had had wars with some of the dwarves, whom they accused of stealing their treasure. It is only fair to say that the dwarves gave a different account, and said that they only took what was their due, for the elf-king [MY NOTE: Thingol Greycloak of Beleriand] had bargained with them to shape his raw gold and silver, and had afterward refused to give them their pay. If the elf-king had a weakness it was for treasure, especially for silver and white gems; and though his hoard was rich, he was ever eager for more, since he had not yet as great a treasure as other elf-lords of old. His people neither mined nor worked metals or jewels, nor did they bother much with trade or with tilling the earth. All this was well known to every dwarf, though Thorin’s family had had nothing to do with the old quarrel I have spoken of. Consequently, Thorin was angry at their treatment of him, when they took their spell off him and he came to his senses, and also he was determined that no word of gold or jewels should be dragged out of him.
Before the final tale of Thingol and his people was cemented in stone when the Silmarillion came in 1977, there was a 1930’s version of that story. A lot of irregularities and inconsistencies exist but the bottom line of that story is that, as explained by The Book of Lost Tales, the story of Nauglafring tells that King Tilwenint was guilty of joining hands with a greedy and evil faction of dwarves. Tolkien’s stories thrived in the element of betrayal and conspiracies. Elves conspired against men. Men conspired against dwarves. The Dwarves conspired against Elves. It was all a vicious cycle. Tolkien then wrote the First Age, and after its composition, the History of the Dwarves relationship with Thingol became clear. They were no longer enemies. They had a pretty friendly attitude towards each other.
And yet it is also clear that Thingol did wage a war against the Dwarves. There has to be a reason for that war as well. Thingol led his elven army of Doriath to battle the Dwarves of Nogrod. But in Middle Earth, there are seven different houses of Dwarves. Apart from Nogrod, there are the Dwarves of Khazad-dum and the Dwarves of Belegost amongst others. The rest of the six houses of Dwarves did not participate in that Elven-Dwarf War. So the great animosity should have remained contained between the Dwarves with Nogrod ancestry and the Elves of Doriath heritage. How did it spill to the other regions? And more importantly, why?!
After the year of 1950, Tolkien started to drastically change the history of the race of Dwarves to fit the overall plotline. The Hobbit could be seen telling a different story now. On the gates of Moria are written several grand puzzles and riddles which when solved tell the story of the friendship and camaraderie of the Elves and Dwarves, which is set thousands of years after the Doriath-Nogrod War. So there has to be another reason behind the age-old hostility. Thingol was not the one who can be blamed for this.
The confusion gripped the fans and they started scouring through the books looking for all possible clues for an explanation. The explanation finally came when the essay “Quendi and Eldar” was published within the annals of The War of the Jewels. The real reason for the hostility dates back to the Age of the Elf-Nogotheg War.
The Dwarves have a strict caste-like social system in place. Any dwarf born with a deformity or showing signs of rebelliousness and treason will be cast out of their community. These dwarves were called the Nogotheg or the Petty Dwarves. They then settled the caves at Beleriand, where they lived in pitch-black darkness and had adapted themselves to that environment. When the Eldars occupied the land above, the Nogotheg attacked and killed a lot of them. In retaliation, the Eldars started cleansing the lands of Beleriand of Nogotheg blood. Soon, what was left of the Nogotheg took to the deep caverns in the mountains, too scared to come out in fear of the Elven murderers.
The Dwarves did not consider the Nogotheg as part of their community but they were still considered their Kin. When word spread that the Eldars had declared war against the Nogotheg – kins of the Dwarves, the hostility between the Elves and the Dwarves reached sky-high. Even though several peace treaties and accords were signed between the Sindar Elves and the Dwarves, the wounds were too deep to heal with the Nogotheg dwarves being almost extinct. The dwarves never forgave the Elves for wiping out an entire Dwarf community. And that is where the majority of the animosity between the Elves and the Dwarves stems from.
This could be a vital piece of information to know since a Lord of the Rings TV series is coming to the small screens in the near future. The hostility between the Elves and the Dwarves might be a topic that could be explored since it will allegedly take leaves from the stories of the Silmarillion.