One of the first things I noticed when looking into this topic is that there seem to be 5 important “age-marks” in a dwarven life.
BATTLE READY (30)
The first at the age of 30, when dwarves are considered to be “battle ready”.
Note that, “battle ready” doesn’t equal adult… . (Compare it to 14-year old soldiers giving their lives in WWI fields). The idea behind this seems to be clear, when you are tall enough to carry armour and strong enough to hold a heavy double handed axe or hammer, you are “battle ready”. Dwarves remained young – e.g. regarded as too tender for really hard work or for fighting – until they were 30 or nearly that (Dain II was very young in 2799 (32) and his slaying of Azog was a great feat). There are a few remarkable exceptions though, such as Gloín, who fought in the war of Dwarves and Orcs – in the Battle of Azanulbizar at the very tender dwarven age of 19, so Gloín must have been very tall and strong for his age.
COMING OF AGE (40)
The second age-mark is at the age of 40, by which time dwarves haven take on the appearance of age (by human standards). This metamorphoses takes place somewhere between the age of 30 and 40, and happens very quickly (in a few years). By forty all Dwarves looked much alike in age, until they reached what they regarded as old age, about 240. Note however, that a dwarf at the age of 40 is still not considered an adult.
ADULT HOOD (65-75)
This takes place at the third age-mark, between the age of 65 and 75. The age at which dwarves take on the role of adult. Meaning that they move from their fathers home into that of their own (or their own halls if they are regal or heavy with gold). This age allows them to adventure completely on their own, under their own name (meaning they can earn riches in expeditions without having to give these to their father). This explains why Gimli could not join into the expedition of Erebor (as he was only 62 at the time), but Kili could (who was 77 at the time). It is also the age some dwarves (that have an interest in doing so) start to think about taking a wife (no earlier than when they are 90 in most cases). Most dwarves however do not marry and from what we see, most that do have no more then 4 children, in most cases one or two. The rare cases dwarves have 4 children is because the first born were girls, so the couple continues to have children until a male heir is born. Dwarves can have children until their old age, but most no longer do however after the age of 120 or so. If a son is seen to be 110 or so years younger than his father, this usually indicates an elder daughter.
OLD AGE (240)
The 4th age mark is that of old age, which happened at the age of 240 for most dwarves. They then underwent a new transformation and began to age greatly and wrinkle and go white quickly (baldness being unknown among them), unless they were going to be long-lived, in which case the process was delayed. So unlike with men, physically dwarves of 40 and dwarves of 240 can look almost identical. Otherwise ‘old age’ lasted not much more than ten years, and from say 40 or a little before to near 240 the capacity for toil (and for fighting) of most Dwarves was equally great.
The last age mark is that of death. Dwarves of different ‘breeds’ vary in their longevity. Durin’s race were originally long-lived (especially those named Durin),
but like most other peoples they had become less so during the Third Age. Their average age (unless they met a violent death) was about 250 years, which they seldom fell far short of, but could occasionally far exceed (up to 300). A Dwarf of 300 was about as rare and aged as a Man of 100. Dwalin lived to be 340, a extremely rare age, even for a dwarf. Dwarves either died in combat, of old age, or (in times of riches) due to corpulence. Corpulence being the only physical disorder they suffered from (they were singularly immune from diseases such as affected Men, and Halflings). In times or great riches many grew very fat, and could not do much (save eat) afterwards.
* The History of Middle Earth, The Making of Appendix A (IV Durin’s Folk) /p 284.
* Unfinished Tales – The Quest of Erebor
Please tell where did the adulthood come from.
Is this an attempt to reconcile the “Gimli too you for Quest” remark, or is there more behind it?
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Hello there Borys!
Indeed, the age mentioned for “adulthood” is linked with Gimli’s age, him being “too young” to go on the Quest of Erebor at the time.
Another comment – the number of children.
With a 50:50 sex mix the Race of Man needs 2 babies per female to sustain population size. Specifically 2,1 babies per woman in childbearing years. Or 21 babies per 10 women, if one doesn’t like fractions of babies.
If the mix among dwarrow is 2:1, then the requeriment to maintain population size is something like 3 – two boys and one girl. Probably 3,2 or something like that. For the dwarrow population to increase you need an AVERAGE of 4 baby dwarrow per dwarrodam in childbearing years, and preferably with no.4 being a girl.
Yes, I’ve made similar calculations on other posts (concerning dwarven population numbers). You need 5 babies per dwarrow female that has children to increase the population.
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Hi, there! I am a huge admirer of your work, as I am working on a few very serious AU fanfictions where everyone lives after Bofa and I take the details of my work very seriously, so all your information has really helped me with my writing and credibility.
I am only curious, it may not be realistic, but I read somewhere that one of the reasons that dwarves treasure their children, as well as why children are so rare (beside the fact that most dwarves dont marry or father children) is that dwarven newborns are prone to illnesses that may or may not kill them the first few years of their life. I think it’s a fascinating theory, as I would imagine dwarves taking very good care of their children and then if they do survise the illness they would treasure them even more.
What are your thoughts on this? Is it likely? Im only asking because I’m concidering having it in my fanfiction, and I really want it to be realistic. But as you write here grown dwarves are very resistant to illnesses, I’m thinking that could be because they go through a strenghtening process when they are young? So the ones that dies are not strong enough but the ones that lives become the sturdyness that are the usual dwarf? I’m sorry I’m rambling.
I’m eager for your answer anyways, have a nice day! 🙂
Hello there Iggy,
Thank you for your kind words.
As for your question, I do not think it to be very likely.
If fact, dwarves are immune to illness (there is a recent article of mine that touches on that subject, might be worth a read) and only suffer from obesity in times of riches.
Other then that, they can be poisoned, but won’t get ill like you or I would.
Which sources are you referring to in the Histories of Middle Earth? Also, does Tolkien himself explicitly delineate the ages of as you have defined them, or are these educated conjectures? I’m specifically curious about the source for the idea that Gimli had not yet come of age at 62. Does Tolkien tell us this is true, or are we inferring this from the ages we are told for Fili and Kili, the youngest members of Thorin and Co.?
Incidentally, I tend to think that Kili and Fili, as portrayed in the movies, are probably somewhat younger than they would be in the books. In the movies, they strike me as being just of age, though not fully experienced adults (as I would argue they are in the book). I don’t mind the change; I think it creates somewhat more unique and interesting characters, which is important when you need the audience to be able to differentiate among a large cast of characters onscreen. Fili and Kili are clearly identifiable as the young ones.
Thanks for indulging my curiosity; I’ve spent far more time with the elvish lore for Middle Earth, and have been interested in tracking down the places Tolkien says anything about the dwarves.
Firstly, my apologies for not responding sooner.
The majority of the ages listed here comes from The History of Middle Earth, The Making of Appendix A (IV Durin’s Folk) /p 284. Where it states that:
A) “Their average age (unless they met a violent death) was about 250 years, which they seldom fell far short of, but could occasionally far exceed (up to 300)”
B) “Dwarves remained young – e.g. regarded as too tender for really hard work or for fighting – until they were 30 or nearly that.”
C) “By forty all Dwarves looked much alike in age, until they reached what they regarded as old age, about 240. They then began to age and wrinkle and go white quickly (baldness being unknown among them), unless they were going to be long-lived, in which case the process was delayed.”
D) “…’old age’ lasted not much more than ten years, and from say 40 or a little before to near 240 (two hundred years) the capacity for toil (and for fighting) of most Dwarves was equally great.”
As for the age marker 65-75 this was derived from the statement Gimli makes in Unfinished Tales (The Quest of Erebor) and the age of the youngest of the company (Kili, being 77):
“And I was not allowed to go on the quest: too young, they said, though at sixty-two I thought myself fit for anything.”
Sounds exactly like the words of an eager and confident adolescent to me 🙂
C) The notable exception (at least in the book) being Balin, who is about 20 years younger than Thorin, yet has white hair already. Then again he may have been born with it, or have acquired it in his service as King Thrain’s councillor (he went on the quest with Thorin’s father, so he seems to have been reasonably important to the King, but there may be divers reasons for that). I know Dori has grey hair in the film, but I can’t remember his hair-colour ever being mentioned in the book – and I’m reading it at the moment.
Also – at least according to the wiki – Ori was born the year after Kili, so he would have been the youngest. They got that right in the film, when they’re in the goblin cave and Dori steps in to protect his brother.
In fact Thorin and Balin are the only ones of the company to actually remember Erebor from personal experience, so does Dis, Thorin’s sister, but she’s not part of the expedition. Everyone else, even Dwalin, was born in exile – or didn’t originate from Erebor (or Moria) in the first place.
But anyway thanks for the age-line. I was looking for it for something I’m writing as well.
Hello! Thank you for this wonderful site! 🙂
You wrote in this article that dwarves become adults in 65-75 and married and made kids between ages 75-120. Where dis you find this information?
They marry (if they do, which is far from the norm) around the age of 90.
This is information is attributed to Gimli concerning the Dwarf-women, which was preserved in Appendix A (RK p. 360).
“It is then said that Dwarves marry late, seldom before they are ninety or more, that they have few children (so many as four being
As for the age mark 65-75, that is derived from Unfinished Tales – The Quest of Erebor, where Gimli (according to his own account) says he was too young to go on the journey:
“And I was not allowed to go on the quest: too young, they said, though at sixty-two I thought myself fit for anything.”
As for the age of having children, this is derived from the birth years of all dwarves and the age of their respective parents, J.R.R. Tolkien included in his line of Durin.
I think in Gimli’s case rather than just his age the consideration might have been – on his parent’s side, at least – that he was an only child. Or maybe his mother had the foresight and knew that he was to go on a more important journey, in the bigger scheme of things…
Though I think had they been younger – and given that they were his heirs – Thorin might have refused to take Fili and Kili along as well. But as they were of age, and as far as I know didn’t have a father, there was nothing he could do, even if he might have preferred one of them staying back (though I see little chance for that, given how close they seem to be).
I read your other post “Who’s the bride?” In that post you mentioned following “Dwarves marry late, seldom before they are ninety or more.” I undestand this sentence like the dwarves marry after the age of 90. But then in this article here, you write that dwarves marry and have children between the 75 and 120 years. Is there an error in these or am I missing somerhing? 🙂
There is no error. It is not a “rule” that “all” dwarves that marry chose to marry after 90, yet most do. Hence I’ve taken a broad scale of when children would likely be born.
Seeing that a dwarf would need to be seen as a full adult, it is likely this could only be at the earliest 75. And judging by the records of birth year of known dwarves and the age of their parents at the time, 120 seems a fair limit on the other end of that scale.