Fantasy Kindreds of Saynim: Dwarves

We continue on our survey of the fantastical kindreds found in my work in progress Shadow of the King by making a deep dive. Deep as in, under the earth. Yes, we’re going to talk about dwarves.

DWARVES (Homo neanderthalensis nanus)

A while back I summarized five different types of dwarf from world folklore. If you like, go back and read that post before proceeding.

Properly speaking, “dwarves” are a product of Norse mythology, but there are many dwarf-like beings around the world. I would point, for example, to the yakshas of South Asia, the khnumu of Egypt, and the dactyls of Greece as but three examples.

In one way or another, all of these beings might be described as secretive on the one hand and highly skilled on the other. Though in Norse mythology they were generally antagonistic to humankind, this stance isn’t necessarily found in other cultures. By and large, dwarves are not so much warriors, as is usually the case in D&D, but craftspersons, guardians of treasure, and (often begrudging) dispensers of hidden knowledge: magic, the healing arts, etc. They are especially associated with the earth and might even live underground.

When I think of dwarves, I imagine stout, muscular, and large-nosed cave dwellers. In short, I think of Neanderthals. By linking dwarves and Neanderthals, I’m tipping my hat to the now discredited notion that European fairy myths began as dim memories of humans’ interactions with an older, indigenous group, sometimes proposed to be a different ethnic strain of modern humans, occasionally identified with Neanderthals. Whoever they were, the theory goes, these strange beings lived in isolation (perhaps under the earth), competed for resources, and perhaps occasionally abducted women and children—to shore up their own dwindling numbers?

At any rate, in the land of Saynim, dwarves are one of a number of kindreds that I propose to be derived Neanderthal subspecies. Of these, dwarves are closest to the original genetic stock. All of these groups display their Neanderthal heritage in a number of ways:

• They are muscular, big-boned, and generally stocky of build. Their shinbones and forearms are proportionally shorter than the same features on H. sapiens. This makes them slow runners, as they are built for power rather than speed.

• Their upper body musculature specializes in explosive power and side-to-side movement. The attachments for the pectoral muscles are up to twice the size of an average H. sapiens.

• Their broad shoulders lack backward displacement, limiting their ability to throw projectiles long distances. Simply put, they lack the characteristic “throwing arm” found in H. sapiens.

• Their facial features include a larger than average nose, heavy brow ridges, large jaw and teeth, weak chin, and a long, low skull with a rounded brain case.

• I imagine dwarves and their near kin as more linguistically adept than their Neanderthal ancestors. Most can mimic H. sapiens speech patterns almost perfectly. Due to differences in the configuration of their vocal apparatus, however, some individuals have a highly nasalized speech and sometimes have difficulty pronouncing the quantal vowel sounds (the ee in beet, the oo in boot, and the a in father; they tend to substitute the i in bit, the oo in took, and either the a in hat or the u in mud).

It is known that modern humans possess a small amount of Neanderthal DNA, so interbreeding between the two stocks is certainly possible, but not without some difficulties. There is no evidence of Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA, which is passed from mother to daughter, in the human genome. This suggests at least one of the following scenarios:

  1. Neanderthal mDNA carried harmful mutations that led to the extinction of sapiens-Neanderthal offspring from a Neanderthal mother.
  2. Offspring of Neanderthal mothers were exclusively raised in Neanderthal groups and went extinct with them.
  3. Female Neanderthals and male sapiens did not produce fertile offspring.

In other words, genetic problems may have arisen with at least some Neanderthal-sapiens offspring. In Shadow of the King, the same factors figure in when discussing dwarf-human or dwarf-elf interbreeding.

Fantasy “Races,” Again

I’ve previously commented on my aversion to the term “race” in reference to fantastical beings like elves, dwarves, and the like. My preferred term is “kind” or “kindred,” but that’s neither here nor there.

Now I’ve learned via Charlie Hall at Polygon that Eugene Marshall has worked out a way to convert some of my concerns into Dungeons and Dragons terms. Marshall is not only an author and game designer, he’s also a professor of philosophy who knows of which he speaks when he points out the moral and philosophical bankruptcy of the whole construct of “race” as the term has been used in the past few hundred years.

Marshall is the author of Ancestry and Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e. He replaces the longstanding template of “choosing a race” in D&D with a choice of both a culture and an ancestry. Your culture might give you a stat bonus in intelligence or constitution, but your biological ancestry determines things like height, life span, and special abilities like dark vision. His system allows for a multiplicity of diverse ancestries, and even provides perks for characters with a diverse cultural heritage.

As Hall writes,

With Ancestry & Culture, diversity is no longer a bludgeon that Dungeon Masters beat their players over the head with. Marshall’s system is permissive, rather than restrictive. Diversity ascends from being merely a tool to cast orcs and drow as the “other.” Instead, it becomes a boon from which players can draw their own strength.

Hear, hear!

For ten bucks, I expect I’ll be picking this up at Drive-Thru RPG. The excerpt from the introduction that Hall provides is nearly enough to sell me on the product.

For what it’s worth, Marshall’s approach is similar, but not identical, to what I’ve been doing in my fantasy novels. Characters have a “kindred,” a biological ancestry (elf or dwarf or whatever); a “chaos,” an elemental affinity that shapes their magical potential (air, water, etc.); and a “culture,” the nuts and bolts of the languages they speak, the customs they observe, the technology they use, and so forth.

Unlike Marshall, I’m imagining a situation somewhat like the prehistoric real-world earth, with various members of genus Homo interacting with one another in various ways. (And the situation here is looking more complicated all the time.) Not all of these populations are interfertile, so not all mixed ancestries are possible, and I’ve tried to put a little bit of science into the implications for those that are (cf. the nature of sapiens-Neanderthal interbreeding in the lower Paleolithic). Still, I expect I will thoroughly enjoy Marshall’s supplement.

What Is the Greek Word for “Elf”?

I’ve recently found myself in a writing critique group that has made me think about medieval/D&D-type fantasy kindreds in the context of the classical world. Specifically, what would you call such beings if you were discussing them not in English (or any other northern European language) but in Greek?

The short answer: It isn’t as easy as it looks, but there are some options.

Steven A. Guglich’s Veil Saga is shaping up to be a centuries-spanning tale of magic and intrigue. The bit of it that I’ve been reading/critiquing lately takes place in the fourth century AD, which means the characters are discussing elves, goblins, etc., in the language of that time and place: namely, Koine Greek. (Koine Greek is halfway between the Classical Greek of Socrates and the Byzantine Greek of the Middle Ages.) I’m thoroughly enjoying the tale, but the language nerd in me wants to know: How does one say “elf” (or goblin, or whatever) in Greek?

Here are my thoughts.


Let’s start with the easiest one. A dwarf is a νᾶνος (nanos). That term can be applied both to someone with the physical condition of dwarfism as well as to the mythological creature. If you wanted a term that exclusively referred to a mythological creature, I’d vote for δάκτυλος (daktylos), a race of rustic nature spirits who were skilled in metal-working.


The closest I can get is μορμώ (mormo, plural mormones), meaning “fearful ones” or “hideous ones.” This is the term for a Greek bogey-woman. A more fearful version might be a μορμολυκεῖον (mormolykeion) or “wolf-bogey.”

There are a couple of other options here, though. A κόβαλος (kobalos, whence we get “kobold”), for example, is a roguish, gnomish sort of being, a shapeshifting companion of the god Dionysus. If you’re looking for a good Greek word for “kobold” or “gnome,” you can scarcely go wrong with kobalos.

A bit further afield, a κέρκωψ (kerkops) is a thieving, monkey-like creature. In mythology, there were only two of them, but the image might fit the bill depending on what your goblins are like.


This is where I started my musing, and it is in some ways the most difficult to pin down, mainly because people have different ideas about what elves actually are (mythologically speaking).

If you imagine elves as faery woodland creatures cavorting in a meadow, then you can’t go wrong with either σάτυρος (satyros) or πάν (pan) for a male and νύμφη (nymphe) for a female. (And yes, Greeks would use pan, plural panes, as a common noun.)

In English lore, elves, fairies, and nymphs and satyrs were all pretty much the same thing. Loads of Old English translations of Greek and Roman classics translated Greek σάτυρος or Latin faunus as aelf, “elf.”

At the same time, when Greek-speakers became more aware of the legends of their northern neighbors, they coined a new term for these fairy beings to distinguish them from those in their own mythology. In Byzantine Greek, such a being was called a χοτικό (xotiko), from earlier ἐχοτικόν (exotikon), literally “outlandish thing.” If the characters in Steven’s story are using this word in the fourth century, they are among the very first to do so.

If, however, you think of elves as more like friendly toymakers than eldritch wonders, you’ll probably have to default to nanos. If the most important distinguishing characteristic of elves in your mind is their diminutive size, you might want to consider…


The Greeks did have a word for a very small humanoid: πυγμαῖος (pygmaios) or “pygmy.” This comes from the word for cubit, a length of about 18″—although pygmies weren’t always that short in mythology. As I noted in a previous post, the term “pygmy” has some unfortunate baggage that makes it largely unusable in modern English. But for Greek-speakers in the ancient world, you might be able to get away with it.

So, if elves or goblins ever use their magic to send you back to ancient times, you can use this handy cheatsheet to explain your predicament to bystanders. You’re welcome.

Why Do Dwarves Have Scottish Accents?

Eric Grundhauser of Atlas Obscura ponders why we associate certain (English) accents with fantasy creatures such as dwarves, elves, and trolls:

As radio and film adaptations of Tolkien’s works were released in later decades, you can see the slow evolution of the dwarven accent from the low British of 1977’s cartoon version of The Hobbit, to the more stylized accents of the pair of dwarves in 1985’s Legend, to the Welsh-by-way-of-Scotland grumblings of John Rhys Davies’ Gimli from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, right into the aggressive rolled R’s of Hearthstone’s dwarven Innkeeper.

“What you get is a sense of Celticness,” says Dominic Watt, Senior Lecturer in Forensic Speech Science at the University of York. Watt explains that many of the virtues associated with the stereotypical fantasy dwarf are also associated with the Scottish accent. “Scottish accents tend to be evaluated pretty positively,” he says. “Shrewdness, honesty, straight-forward speaking. Those are the sorts of ideas that the accent tends to evoke.” Watt also says that there are similar cultural stereotypes surrounding the drinking habits of dwarves and Scots.

He goes on to discuss the “culturally sophisticated” high-born accent of Tolkienesque elves, West Country hobbits, and Cockney orcs and trolls—which came about almost by accident:

Maybe the fantasy accent that can be most directly tied to Tolkien’s text is the working-class Cockney accent so often given to orcs and other sentient brutes in modern fantasy. Here we can look directly at the depiction of the trio of trolls in The Hobbit, which are written in a strangely modern dialect—a technique Tolkien rarely used, and later regretted. “In particular, he regretted making their language so recognizably modern. They wouldn’t say words like ‘blimey,’ for instance,” says Olsen.

In the later Lord of the Rings books, Tolkien’s orcs would speak in harsh, but basically correct common parlance, but in the larger view of the fantasy genre, the damage was done.

When you read a novel featuring elves, dwarves, or other fantastic races, what sort of accent do you hear in your head?

A Field Guide to Mythological Humanoids

In order to avoid having loads and loads of races in the Into the Wonder series, I’ve devised the following system to evaluate and categorize the entities found in various world mythologies. Mind you, this system won’t work in every fictional universe, so caveat lector!

Contrasted with a run-of-the-mill, plain vanilla human…

  • Does this humanoid display vast magical powers?
    It’s probably a fae (sídhe, elf, jinni, nunnehi, etc.)
    Is it unusually good-looking?
    Definitely a fae!
  • Is this humanoid secretive and crafty?
    It’s probably a dwarf (dvergr, dactyl, etc.).
    Does it live underground?
    Definitely a dwarf!
  • Is this humanoid unusually short?
    It’s probably one of the little people (brownie, kobold, yunwi tsunsdi, etc.).
    Does it try to play tricks on you?
    Could be a little person if the tricks aren’t too mean.
    Does it try to clean your house or do your chores?
    Definitely a little person!
  • Is this humanoid unusually tall?
    It’s probably a giant (slant-eye, stonecoat, ispolini, etc.).
    No other distinctive features like powerful magic or a taste for human flesh?
    Definitely a giant!
  • Does this humanoid want to eat you?
    It’s probably an ogre (Laestrygonian, zimwi, water cannibal, etc.).
    But it’s no bigger than an ordinary human!
    Doesn’t matter, it’s probably an ogre!
  • Does this humanoid want to scare you?
    It’s probably a bogeyman (boggart, hey-hey man, nalusa falaya, etc.).
    There’s no such thing as a bogeyman.
    Tell that to him!
  • Is this humanoid just plain weird?
    It’s probably a troll (jaettertroll, fomor, stallos, etc).
    But I thought trolls were…
    You thought wrong. Trolls are just plain weird.

Five Dwarfish Varieties from Around the World

Properly speaking, dwarves are a feature of Norse mythology. They are a tribe of subterranean smiths and craftsmen noted for their arcane knowledge and especially their skill in fashioning powerful magical items.

But these aren’t the only wise and secretive earth-spirits in world mythology, although they are probably the most frequently encountered in fantasy fiction. Here is a list of five fantastic beings that combine (in various proportions) affinities for (1) the underground world, including associations with mining, metals, and precious stones and (2) secret skills or knowledge—craftsmanship, magic, the healing arts, etc.—which they may or may not share with mortals.


Alberich the dwarf and the Nibelungs

Alberich the dwarf and the Nibelungs

Let’s proceed roughly from the north and west to the south and east. We begin, therefore, with the dwarves of Scandinavia and their cousins in other Germanic cultures. The dwarves of northern England’s Simonside Hills, for example, are of this sort. These dwarves formed the basis for J. R. R. Tolkien’s depiction of dwarves. In fact, the dwarves in The Hobbit all have names drawn from Norse mythology. They are also seen in characters such as Alberich the dwarf in the Middle High German Nibelungenlied. As already stated, these dwarves are renowned metalworkers and blacksmiths. In Norse mythology, they fashioned many of the magical items used by gods and heroes, including Thor’s magic hammer Mjölnir and the chain that bound the great wolf Fenrir. In some later legends, they are also accomplished healers. They can, however, be highly distrusting of outsiders. They also have a reputation for being greedy.

Dvergar are ill-tempered, greedy, miserly, and grudging. They are known to curse objects they are forced to make or that are stolen from them. They almost never willingly teach their magical knowledge. At the same time, they can be surprisingly friendly and loyal to those who treat them kindly. Contrary to popular misconceptions, dvergar are not particularly illustrious warriors—although their strength and overall hardiness suggest they would generally be able to hold their own in a fight.

Like trolls, Norse dwarves are sometimes depicted as turning to stone if exposed to direct sunlight.


Wrocław Krasnal, photo by Wikimedia user Puchatech K.

Wrocław Krasnal, photo by Wikimedia user Puchatech K. / GFDL

Karliki (singular, karlik) are fiendish dwarves from eastern Europe, inhabitants of the lowest recesses of the underground world. In Polish, the appropriate terms are krasnal, karzeł, or karzełek, although they are sometimes called Skarbnik, “the Treasurer.” These beings are very similar to dvergar, living in mines and guarding hoards of metals, gems, and crystals. Apparently they are even more prone to malicious behavior than their Nordic cousins. According to Slavic Christian folk beliefs, these beings are, in fact demonic. One source relates, “When Satan and all his hosts were expelled from heaven, says a popular legenda, some of the exiled spirits fell into the lowest recesses of the underground world, where they remain in the shape of Karliki or dwarfs” (see Ralston, The Songs of the Russian People, 106–107).

Karliki can be helpful toward miners, willing to lead them to rich veins of ore and protect them from danger. To those who offend them, however, they can be deadly, sending tunnels crashing down upon them or pushing them into dark chasms.


dactylThe daktyloi or dactyls are the dwarves of Greece and the Aegean. They are renowned smiths and healing magicians. In some legends, they taught metalworking, mathematics, and the alphabet to humans. The sisters of the dactyls are called hekaterides (singular, hekateris).

  • Cretan dactyls are especially adept at healing magic, but they are also known for working in copper and iron.
  • Idean  (or Phrygian) dactyls may be the oldest tribe of dwarves in the Mediterranean region. They are rustic creatures from around Mount Ida in Phrygia and perhaps have their origin in earlier Hittite or Pelasgian earth-spirits. They claim to have invented the art of metalworking and even to have discovered iron.
  • Kabeiroi are an offshoot of the Idean tribe that settled at Lemnos, Samothrace, and Thebes. They are divine craftsmen said to be descended from the god Hephaestus. They have an association with the sea and sailors that is quite unusual for dwarfkind. In some accounts, they are raucous wine-drinkers.
  • Rhodian dactyls are dangerous underworld smiths and magicians sometimes called telkhines.


Bes (Egyptian dwarf-god), photo by Wikimedia user Archeologo / GFDL

Bes, photo by Wikimedia user Archeologo / GFDL

Dwarves have an esteemed place in Egyptian mythology. Mundane dwarfs or little people apparently suffered little or no prejudice in ancient Egypt. Some gods, most notably Bes, were depicted as dwarfs. These gods were originally protectors of households.

In addition to Bes, there were the khnumu (singular, khnum), subterranean earth-spirits who were helpers of the god Ptah, the creator of the world. Their name means “the modellers.” They are represented with muscular bodies, bent legs, long arms, large broad heads, and intelligent faces. Some wear long mustaches; others have bushy beards. By some accounts, they have the power to reconstruct the decaying bodies of the dead. Other accounts say they were the ones who first taught humans the magical arts. 

In later times, khnumu might be called pataikoi (singular, pataikos), “little Ptahs” in Greek. Phoenicians carved images of pataikoi on the prows of their ships. The Greek historian Herodotus compared them to the seafaring kabeiroi.

A similar figure occurs on early Babylonian seal cylinders, where it is given the Sumerian name “the god Nugidda” or “the dwarf.” This figure is sometimes depicted dancing before the goddess Ishtar. It is a matter of speculation whether this Mesopotamian dwarf-figure was the inspiration for the Egyptians and Phoenicians or whether it was the other way around.


Yaksha, photo by Wikimedia user Shakti / GFDL

Yaksha, photo by Wikimedia user Shakti / GFDL

Yakshas hail from India. They are found in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist literature. They are a broad class of nature-spirits and caretakers of treasures hidden in the earth and in tree-roots. Their king is Kubera, the god of wealth and protector of the world. He is often depicted as a fat man holding a money-bag and adorned with jewels.

Yakshas function as stewards of the earth and of the wealth buried beneath it. Depending on the story, yakshas may be either benign nature-spirits associated with woods and mountains or foreboding monsters that ambush travelers.

Male yakshas are portrayed either as warriors or as stout, dwarf-like beings. Female yakshas, called yakshis or yakshinis, are often depicted as young, beautiful, and voluptuous.

Like the Egyptian dwarf-god Bes, yakshas are often protector figures. In Thai Buddhism, yakshas often feature in architecture as guardians of temples. These fearsome yakshas are depicted as green-skinned with bulging eyes and fangs. In Thai folklore, yakshas often figure alongside ogres and giants.

In Jainism, yakshas are often propitiated to bring fertility, health, and prosperity.

Dwarves: Cantankerous Norse Craftsmen

Freyja_in_the_Cave_of_the_Dwarfs_by_H._L._MThe best known dwarves are the dvergar of Norse myth, although cognate beings are found in all Germanic cultures. Norse dwarves are associated with rocks, earth, metalworking, and mining. They are subterranean and nocturnal beings. The are sometimes depicted as having pale, chalky skin. At other times, they are said to be blue-skinned, suggestive of a dead body. Death and decay seem to be prominent themes in dwarf-lore. It is even said that they made from the maggots in the body of Ymir, the world-giant.

Dwarves are master craftsmen. In Norse mythology, they fashioned many of the magical items used by gods and heroes, including Thor’s magic hammer Mjölnir and the chain that bound the great wolf Fenrir. They are also ill-tempered, greedy, miserly, and grudging. They are known to curse objects they are forced to make or that are stolen from them. They almost never willingly teach their magical knowledge. They can be highly distrusting of outsiders.

At the same time, these beings can be surprisingly friendly and loyal to those who treat them kindly. Contrary to popular misconceptions, dwarves are not particularly illustrious warriors in the original mythology.

Dwarves are by nature subterranean and nocturnal creatures. According to some accounts, sunlight even has an adverse effect on them. One legend has it that the god Thor entered into a riddle contest with Alvíss, a dwarf, which lasted until dawn. Exposed to direct sunlight, the dwarf was promptly turned to stone.

It is not at all certain that dwarves were originally conceived as being any shorter than humans. This detail only arises in the 1200s and later, and usually adds a note of humor to their depiction. Another later development is that, in later legends, dwarves are sometimes depicted as accomplished healers as well as smiths and craftsmen.

The Simonside Dwarves

The Fairytale Traveler gives us the run-down on the dwarves of England’s Simonside Hills. There have been legends—strongly influenced by Norse mythology, apparently—of nocturnal, not-very-nice dwarves in this northern part of England since at least the thirteenth century, and some believe they played a role in Tolkien’s depiction of the wicked dwarves of the Iron Hills.

The Darkling Diet?

I’ll admit, this article about goblins, trolls, and vitamin D deficiency has got me thinking. I really like it when fantasy fiction interacts with modern scientific knowledge, like when Harry Dresden comments about the law of conservation of energy and how it can effect the spell he is trying to cast. I even wrote a scene into Children of Pride that discusses the implications of the square-cube law to size-shifting faeries. I’m also kind of a fan of Food Network, so what follows might have been predicted.

In short, I’m wondering what sunlight-avoiding humanoids might eat on a regular basis.

Now, “sunlight-avoiding humanoids” (let’s call them “heliophobes”) is a pretty big, broad category. Many cultures have legends about creatures that live underground, only come out at night, or are in some way harmed by exposure to direct sunlight. For my purposes, I’ll eliminate vampires from consideration, as we all know what they’re having for dinner!

Let me, then, consider one small slice of the heliophobe population: the dwarves and trolls of Norse mythology. Both of these classes of beings are averse to sunlight. Various legends claim that both of them are turned to stone by the sun’s rays. Whether this is permanent or temporary—or whether this affects all members of these classes or only an unlucky few—are interesting questions, but not entirely relevant.

By narrowing my focus, maybe I can make some educated guesses about what the well-fed Scandinavian heliophobe is having for dinner. I expect it will be (1) some variation of a traditional Viking or later Scandinavian cuisine that is (2) altered where possible to provide increased consumption of foods rich in vitamin D.

So, what might a health-conscious Scandinavian denizen of the dark be eating? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Fish, and lots of it. Freshwater salmon would be readily accessible through night-time fishing expeditions in mountain streams and lakes, and it is a vitamin D goldmine with over twice the recommended daily dose in a 100g (~3.5-ounce) serving—assuming dwarves and trolls have the same nutritional needs as humans. Typically, raw fish contains more vitamin D than cooked, and fatty cuts more than lean cuts. I would imagine that salmon appears on the average troll’s menu nearly as often as chicken appears on the menu for North Americans.

Other freshwater fish would also be available, but most of the other oily fishes that are such a great source of vitamin D are ocean-going species like herring, mackerel, and tuna. I’m not sure trolls or dwarves are the deep-sea fishing types, but who knows? And of course, there may be underground lakes and streams in which light-averse creatures might fish. Gollum seemed to do all right in that regard.

Furthermore, our heliophobes are not likely to let any protein go to waste. Whatever is not consumed immediately would likely be preserved via drying, smoking, or pickling in salt water. Dried “stockfish” (the ancestor of lutefisk) is rock-hard, but can be pounded to break up the fibers and then served with butter. Pickled herring might be a delicacy if these heliophobes have access to the sea.

UPDATE: Wild-caught salmon, sardines, and herring are also an excellent source of DHA, the fatty acid that is a crucial component of the retina’s photoreceptors. They thus contribute to improved night vision.

2. Other proteins. It isn’t difficult to imagine trolls as nocturnal hunters, and some stories even describe them keeping livestock the way humans do. A health-conscious heliophobe will likely consider wild boar an especially valuable quarry. A 100g (3.5) ounce serving of pork ribs contains about 16% of the daily recommended value of vitamin D, although other cuts vary considerably. There is hardly any vitamin D in ham, for example. If pork isn’t their thing, beef liver is about half as rich in vitamin D as pork ribs. Venison of all types (red deer, elk, etc.) would also be a likely protein, though not a significant vitamin D source.

Trolls and dwarves might prepare sausages made with pork, beef liver, or other proteins mixed with herbs and spices. If they have access to grains (see below), they might bake their meat into meat pies or even serve it on an open-faced sandwich. The most common preparation for meat among the Vikings, however, was simply to boil it in a pot.

If folklore is to be believed, at least some of these creatures supplement their protein needs with human captives and/or each other.

3. Dairy products. If heliophobes either raise their own cattle or raid the cattle of their human neighbors, the milk may be more precious to them than the meat. A quarter-liter (~1 cup) of grass-fed cow’s milk contains nearly 40% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin D. I haven’t been able to track down the vitamin D content of reindeer milk, but it is definitely worth considering for inhabitants of northern Scandinavia!

Milk might be consumed raw, but would more likely be processed in various ways, creating other dairy foods that would last longer. Scandinavian heliophobes would certainly use butter as their primary cooking fat. Curds and cheese would likely be prominent in their diet. They might drink buttermilk or whey (which can also be used as a preservative to pickle meats). They might even let the whey ferment until it becomes blaand, a beverage similar to wine in alcohol content. Finally, they might enjoy a bit of skyr, similar to strained yoghurt, as a treat. 

4. Mushrooms and such. This one should really go without saying, as it is probably the food most famous for growing without sunlight. Some species, such as the white bottom and the shiitake, are excellent sources of vitamin D. Scandinavian heliophobes might also gather other cave-dwelling organisms like cave-dwelling snails, salamanders, and insects.

5. Cereals. Like the Inuit and other human populations from the far north, cereals are not likely to form a significant part of a heliophobe’s diet. Unless we assume dwarves and trolls maintain above-ground farms, such items will have to be acquired through trade with others. This would also include products made from cereals such as ale made from barley.

6. Fruits and vegetables. Once again, we probably have to assume trade with others to account for many fruits and vegetables in a dwarfish or trollish diet. But there is no reason these beings couldn’t forage for wild plants at night. Wild apples and berries of many sorts could be found in abundance and dried for storage. Wild leeks, onions, and radishes might be prized as seasonings for otherwise bland foods. Wild cabbage, carrots, or turnips would likely be common fare.

UPDATE: Fennel and bilberries both contribute to enhanced night vision.

7. Other ingredients. Trade with non-heliophobic populations would likely be necessary for items beyond those mentioned above. Eggs, another good source of vitamin D, would be high on this list (unless we assume trolls and dwarves keep their own livestock). Unless these heliophobes have access to the sea, oysters would also be a desirable commodity.

UPDATE: Not only are they high in vitamin D, oysters and other shellfish are high in zinc, which works in concert with vitamin A to enhance night vision. (Dark chocolate is also high in zinc, though obviously not part of a traditional Norse diet.)

Dwarves and trolls would also likely trade for herbs and spices with which to season their food: garlic, dill, coriander, poppyseed, horseradish, etc., and even more exotic (from a Viking point of view) ingredients such as ginger, cinnamon, and bay leaves.

I can imagine a number of dietary scenarios for the heliophobes of Scandinavian folklore based on such factors as (1) the severity of their sunlight-aversion, (2) their access to seafaring technology, (3) the nature of their relations with non-heliophobes. One could definitely conceive of these creatures as malnourished, at best barely surviving in a food-poor environment. With the right set of circumstances, however, they might eat very well indeed in their underground domains.