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In Norse mythology, fairy tales, and sword and sorcery fiction and role-playing games, a dwarf is a member of a humanoid race, much like humans, but generally living underground or in mountainous areas. They are famed miners and smiths, though, like humans, specialize in any number of trades. Generally shorter than humans, they are on average stockier and hairier, usually sporting a full beard.
Traditionally the plural of dwarf is dwarfs, though J.R.R. Tolkien used dwarves in his fantasy-epic Lord of the Rings. Nowadays dwarfs and dwarves are used interchangeably, though strictly speaking the latter should only be used when discussing Tolkien's universe.
Dwarfs are long lived, living at least four times the age of man, but are not prolific breeders having children rarely and spaced far apart. Dwarfish children are cherished by their parents, and are defended at all costs from their traditional enemies, such as giantss, goblins and orcs. A longstanding enmity between dwarves and elves is also a staple of the racial conception.
Dwarfs are famed smiths, creating some of the greatest and most powerful items of power in the distant past, such as in Norse mythology the chain which bound the Fenris wolf. In some stories the dwarves were cursed as a result of these works, and they now have few or no mages within their ranks. Dwarfs are implacable foes, with terrific endurance, strength and determination. They tend to use heavy armour, large axes, and rarely give up. In some tales, for example those of J. R. R. Tolkien, dwarves are also especially resistant to fire. See also: Dwarves (Middle-earth)
A dwarf is an abnormally small human being. See dwarfism.
There are also dwarf plants. Dwarfing is considered a desirable characteristic in modern orchards, where genetic dwarfs may be selected and propagated, or more often, scions are grafted on to dwarfing rootstocks. Almost all modern apples in commercial use are propagated as dwarf or semidwarf trees for ease of picking and spraying, and higher productivity per unit of land.
There are also stars classed as dwarfs: see black dwarf, brown dwarf, red dwarf, white dwarf.
In the field of computers, DWARF stands for Debug With Arbitrary Record Format.
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