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The Dwarven Twists

Facial and head hair are a staple in most Dwarfish societies. The Irreans use it as their social classing system. For some branches of Te Akoranga, the hair and its colour have specific meaning. In a few traditional Dwarfish clans, the beard shows the power of the individual, whether that dwarf is male or female.   However, there is more to the beard and head hair for dwarfs than just for expressing themselves. Multiple cultural traditions include or give unique interpretation to it, making the hair even more important to dwarfs.   With hair woven through society, the Dwarfish Grooming Industry has surged over the past few thousand years. However, with all developments come illegal activities as well. Examples of these illicit activities, but foremost dangerous, are selling poisonous concoctions as medicine to "cure" hair illnesses or producing and auctioning counterfeit beard wigs to boost a dwarf to the top of the social ladder.  
"My little gem, I'm home!" Vostog entered the house cheerfully.
"You're awfully hap~ what is that?"
"Oh this?" Vostog stoked his beard and his wife nodded profusely. "Don't you like it? It's my new wig."
"You're not entitled to a wig. You tried it last time and were unsuccessful. How did you manage to get your permission slip?"
The dwarf shuffled closer to his wife and whispered, "I got a counterfeit beard."
"You got a what?!" Vostog's wife took a step backwards in shock. "Do you have any idea what kind of trouble awaits you when they find out?"
 

Irrean Social Status

The Irreans have two parallel social status types: the ladder and the mark. The average dwarf will always find themselves on the ladder, while a significantly smaller portion of the population will bear a mark. It is impossible to have both types at the same time, since that would conflict with the meaning of the mark.  

The Social Ladder

The elaborateness of the facial and head hair of a man or women determines a dwarfs status on the ladder. A more extravagant design will land them in a higher position in the community.   Within the Irrean social ladder, there are three primary social stairs. These are the working, middle, and high class. To outsiders, these social stairs are black and white with nothing in between. For dwarfs, however, there is an unspoken rule that the large grey areas exist between the positions such as lower middle class and upper higher class.   Most dwarfs receive their starting status the moment they become of service to the community. That happens when they have reached adolescence and have chosen a profession. Depending on their profession, the government assigns them a status in writing as many dwarfs do not have the means or the hair to correspond with the social status linked to it.   By growing and grooming the beard and hair, a dwarf can climb the social ladder. However, there are few dwarfs that strive to become part of the highest class. While reaching the top depends on the dwarf's profession, most believe that they should first and foremost enjoy themselves and their work.  

The Marks

The dwarfs bearing a mark have a special place in Irrean society. They represent either a temporary social class or the position of the bearer in the community.  

Outcast

Outcast dwarfs receive this status in a public shaming event where they get all their facial and head hair shaved off. Naturally, outcast is a bad social class to be in, since it clearly shows that a dwarf is not accepted by the general community.

They also receive the Mark of the Outcast in their neck that prevents all of their hair from growing back. That way, everyone can see that they are not welcome or that they have to redeem themselves. The latter is the only method to become accepted into society again, but it has not happened frequently.

One surefire way to receive this status, is by partaking in illegal activities. In many cases, these activities often hurt the grooming industry or a dwarf directly. When a dwarf is caught wearing a beard wig without permission from the government, they will receive the status as well including a punishment.

Mark of the Outcast by ShadowPhoenix

Traveller

Travellers in Irrean society are the dwarfs that are not contributing to the community yet, because they are in search of enlightenment. Therefore, Irreans deem it fitting that these dwarfs are not entitled to a social status until they do so. Since the search of these dwarfs often requires journeying all over Vallahir, society has given them the name Traveller.

However, there is no shame in being a Traveller. Dwarfs believe firmly that everyone has the right to discover their passion; no matter how long it takes. Especially the two primary undertakings of a Traveller are very important. These are the pilgrimage to Dunfaern for Te Akoranga and the search for a fitting profession. These will decide the path a dwarf will walk for most of their life. Hence, they deserve the right to take their time for it, as it is not a decision taken lightly.

A dwarf becomes a Traveller when they receive the Mark of the Traveller from the government. For that, they have to submit their travel plans. Once the government approves of it, they send the dwarf a set of the mark. These are small wooden slabs that can be integrated in the beard or hair easily, so everyone can clearly see that they are a Traveller.

Mark of the Traveller by ShadowPhoenix

Imperial

The imperial social status speaks for itself. People of the imperial family receive this status along with the Imperial Mark upon their birth or when marrying into it. Unfortunately, the beard nor hair cannot help any dwarf in their quest to become imperial.

The Imperial Mark allows dwarfs to recognise those who are of Imperial status. This mark is a magical spell placed upon the right forearm of a member. The mark seemingly does nothing when touched.

However, everyone would love to be Imperial or be seen as such. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that there are fake Imperial Marks circling through Irrean society. For those unaware of the powers of the true Imperial Mark, there seems to be no difference. Yet, there are many people around that can recognise the fakes. Those wearing a fake mark will receive the Mark of the Outcast the following day.

Akorani

The Akorani are the dwarfs that work in service of the temples and monasteries connected to Te Akoranga. Some branches require the dwarfs in its service to be shaven clean, others demand they wear a specific style of hair and beard. These dwarfs are the only ones allowed to dye their hair on a regular basis if Te Akoranga demands it. All other dwarfs are never allowed to dye their hair, except for a few religious festivals and holidays. Even during those events, the Akorani are the ones actually dyeing the hair of fellow dwarfs to keep the ritual behind it sacred.

 

The Female Dwarven Twists

If there is one controversial topic when it comes to this, it is the dwarven twists on female dwarfs. However, the message has become much clearer over the past few decades.   Dwarfs in the cities where the Irrean influence is strongest frown upon females having beards. They prefer them to be shaven clean and to focus just on their hair. Rumours go around that the high class dwarfs got this idea from the humans, whose females cannot grow a beard. According to these upper class dwarfs, it looks aesthetically better so they have taken that idea back home with them.   However, old dwarfish clans that are not heavily influenced by the Irreans have kept many of their older traditions and beliefs. They believe that any female who is proud to keep their beard, is bound to become a strong and powerful individual. By embracing their traits and who they are, they show true determination and no fear towards what others think of them.  

Beard and Hair Care

Dwarfs take meticulous care of their beloved beards and hair. Many spend much time on grooming and maintaining their works of art. It is customary to try and create intriguing designs that stand out from the crowd. However, even a simple beard that is well groomed and maintained will be received much better than a failed design. After all, the hair and the care that goes into it is a way for dwarfs to express themselves to the world.   To make their beards and head hair as elaborate as possible, dwarfs take three primary factors into consideration:  
  • Length
  • Braiding
  • Decoration

Length

Dwarfs use the length of the beard to easily distinguish who works with their hands the most. The longer the hair, the more elaborate designs dwarfs can create with it. In many cases, the beard can get in the way of work such as mining and blacksmithing. Dwarfs in these professions often cut their beards very short to avoid accidentally hurting themselves. It wouldn't be the first time a dwarf would stumble into one of Duran's monasteries with an axe in the beard or a burned chin accompanied with burned facial hair.  
"Watch out!" A young dwarf shouts, but it was too late. The clinging of the hammer smashing into the anvil echoed through the workshop.
"Argh!" The blacksmith roared. "Hawt, hawt, hawt!"
The young dwarf quickly got a wet towel and put it around the old dwarf's beard.
"You really should consider trimming off your beard," the young boy said. "Or you'll rip your chin skin off. Or even worse, burn y our face!"
"Lad, when you grow older, you'll come to understand the importance of the beard," the old dwarf said calmly but still with a hint of pain in his voice. "Now, let's get back to work. This sword won't shape itself."
  While growing ones hair and beard longer seems like an easy task to achieve length, it does not stop there. The length comes on its own when dwarfs take proper care of it. That is why they maintain their hair to keep it strong yet flexible and vibrant using several beard and hair oils and special combs for different stages of the growth.  

Braiding

When the (facial) hair is long enough, dwarfs can add extra finesse by braiding it. Some dwarfs like to make their braiding more intricate to climb the social ladder. Others like the look of a simple but very effective braid that makes them appear clean and strong. For dwarfs, there is a sense of elaborateness in both types of braiding. In the end, it is all about the execution and how well it suits the dwarf to determine its effectiveness. However, for true extravagance, the most intricate design will win.   Do not be fooled, braiding is difficult to master, especially on oneself. However, with the importance of this technique, dwarfs deem it essential to learn it as early as possible. Therefore, children learn how to braid as early as ten years old. They practice on their parents hair who often teach their children. If a parent does not have the time to teach their children, they can hire a Beard Groomer. A truly proud parent would never do away with their child's first successful braid for a week to show their community their child has finally started to master the art.   As the children grow up, they move from practicing on their parents hair to their hair. At this stage, it has grown enough to teach them the importance of grooming in general. They learn the importance of different types of oil and combs.  

Decoration

The next step in creating a more elaborate beard or head hair design lies in the decoration. The types of decoration truly shows the appreciation of the beard. Furthermore, decorating the hair properly contributes to the overall design and occasion. Especially during religious traditions or old dwarfish rituals, it is common to weave specific objects to the grand design.   There are a few things with which a dwarf can decorate their hair. These can be jewelry, rings, coils, and ornaments for every day life. Jewelcrafters and blacksmiths can create these based on commission, or they are readily available at groomer shops. Depending on the dwarf, they can decide if they want to rotate their design and therefore the decoration of their beard on a regular basis. Some stay with the same design which becomes their staple and sets them apart from the other dwarfs.
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Come and get your grooming kit at Barthen's Grooming! It has ev'rything you need to grow a proper long beard and hair. We have included four types of oil and three combs to get you well on your way towards the most prestigious beard and hair!
— Advertisement in Beard Magazine of Barthen's Grooming
 

Dwarven Twists in Practice

The Dwarven Twists are everywhere; ranging from everyday life to religious traditions and old dwarfish rituals. Here are a few notable examples of the importance of the beard and hair in dwarfish society.

Religious Traditions

With Te Akoranga standing at the heart of most dwarfs, there are a few religious traditions that surround the hair.

Vlezma Dopari

Before the festivities of Vlezma Dopari, all dwarfs make their way to the Twilmagne Mountains to search for the Muramura. It is a little glowing mushroom growing in the caves of the mountains. The dwarfs harvest a small number of these Muramura and take it back home with them. On the day of the festivities, dwarfs decorate their hair with them. Together, they watch from a distance the Muramura release their spores. By putting these mushrooms in the spotlight, they celebrate the hidden life that keeps the planet and its natural ecosystem flowing.
Dwarf at Vlezma Dopari by Panthers Eye

Ogalthr's Birth

According to many a legend, the birth of Ogalthr, Deity of the Earth, was violent. The mountains formed and volcanoes erupted as he stepped out of the core of the planet. Dwarfs celebrate Ogalthr's Birth where they offer their sincerest thanks for his duties to the world, but also ask him to say within the planet to avoid devastating their home.

For the rituals on this day, the female priests of the Pillar of Earth dye the hair of the females fiery red, representing the lava flowing out of the volcano.. The male priests braid the beards of men like a little birds nest. In it, they put a tiny magical fire, which makes the beard look like a lantern. It represents the peacefulness of the deity at the center of the earth.

Traditional Beard Lantern by ShadowPhoenix

Old Dwarfish Rituals

In many Dwarfish clans, where they still value the old ways the most, the hair fullfills an emotional role in the traditional rituals.

Departure of ye Beloved

Departure of ye Beloved is an amazingly beautiful example where a dwarf's hair plays an important role in an old Dwarfish ritual. When the partner or parent of a dwarf has left the mortal world to venture on to The Realm of Eternal Slumber, they leave behind their bodies for their family. The head of the clan collects hair of the departed and puts it through a secret process passed down from one clan head to the next. During the ritual, they give small braids made with the hair of the departed to the members of the family, so they can put it as extensions in their hair or beard and keep their beloved one close to their hearts.

Bonding of ye Fire

Another old Dwarfish ritual where hair has a central part in it, is in the Bonding of ye Fire where two dwarfs will become bound forever. One step in this ritual consists of carefully grooming the other dwarfs hair the same way they do it themselves. It shows that the two dwarfs truly know each other as taking care of themselves is an extremely personal part of life. To accommodate this step, the dwarfs must prepare by only doing the bare minimum grooming themselves before the ritual, which is the oiling and combing of the hair and the other dwarf will complete the rest.
Penguin Huddle Placeholder by Nnie

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Cover image: World by World Anvil

Comments

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5 Dec, 2021 19:14

I love the details in this article <3 What about beard sickness or the loss of hair condition? What to dwarfs do against this? There's a typo in the forth last sentence :) - availble = available

5 Dec, 2021 19:35

I still want to figure out the sickness, although it might land in another article. ^^   00p, thanks for spotting that typo, fixed it!

The cold winter days are rolling in. A fire crackles in the fire place. World Ember is Here!
5 Dec, 2021 20:41

Very interesting. I don't think I've ever seen someone go this direction with Dwarves and their beards.

7 Dec, 2021 09:53

Thank you! Glad you liked it. :D

The cold winter days are rolling in. A fire crackles in the fire place. World Ember is Here!
6 Dec, 2021 17:24

Love the article! The lantern part cracks me up every time. Also... bizarre question, if dwarves get to attach hair from their passed family members to their beards, are there dwarves that kill in oder to gain social status? xD

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7 Dec, 2021 09:48

Thank you <3 Glad you're liking the lantern part, I'm still most proud of that idea to be honest. xD   The hair extensions from passed family members is a ritual mostly done in tradition dwarven clans, where they don't let the Irrean social system be imposed on them. Besides to they have too much respect for the dead to use them to gains like that. Or do they fear the dead? Who knows... :3

The cold winter days are rolling in. A fire crackles in the fire place. World Ember is Here!
8 Dec, 2021 10:07

The details are very interesting, and my favorites were how they might come to denote social status. Are there any styles of beard or beard decoration that is exclusive to nobles, the imperials, or priests? Or... Dyeing, loss of beard by fire, accident, or malice?   Really good work! :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
10 Dec, 2021 13:50

Thank you!   There aren't any styles of beard that are exclusive to anyone, aside from a few styles that are prescribed in Te Akoranga. But if you've got the money to hire a groomer who can pull off an impressive style, you'll be seen as someone from a higher social status.   There have been occurrences of accidents that pulled a beard or hair to shreds. The outcome is either one of two: you either get demoted into a lower status, or you keep your status if multiple dwarfs in the community vouch for you. As for malice, it doesn't happen very often, but when a dwarf is caught tempering with another dwarfs (facial) hair for personal gains, they will receive the Mark of the Outcast and lead a much more devastating life.

The cold winter days are rolling in. A fire crackles in the fire place. World Ember is Here!
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
11 Dec, 2021 15:07

This is an absolutely amazing article! I really love how you've interweave all aspects of the dwarfs' culture around their beards and ow important it is for their social status :D Reminds me of how the Franks thought they had power and status in their hair and how they cut the hair of rivals to make them unsuitable to the throne.

Feel free to check my WE overview and bard challenge article.
25 Dec, 2021 18:29

Thank you! ^^

The cold winter days are rolling in. A fire crackles in the fire place. World Ember is Here!
20 Dec, 2021 02:02

Such a rich article about this cultural aspect for the dwarves. I really like that it is highly tied into social status, which I guess allows for quite a lot of social mobility in some cases.   Really fascinating article. I also love your placeholder images, though I can't wait to see what replaces them. :)

25 Dec, 2021 18:31

Thank you! ^^   I like to do the art myself, but as that takes time, placeholder images it is. ^,^"

The cold winter days are rolling in. A fire crackles in the fire place. World Ember is Here!
4 Jan, 2022 14:51

Such a fantastic article! You really put some thought into this with defining so many details about the beards and their relation to the culture of the Dwarves. Especially putting a magical fire in a beard is such an original idea! :D

Feel free to check out my Bard Challenge article and my Worldember Overview if you want to see what I am up to!
11 Jan, 2022 09:55

Thank you! <3 Yeah, it started with a simple idea and then the ball just kept rolling and rolling and rolling. xD

The cold winter days are rolling in. A fire crackles in the fire place. World Ember is Here!
5 Jan, 2022 18:57

Love this. Inspired me to create two articles about traditions in my world. Thanks.

11 Jan, 2022 09:56

I'm glad you liked it and that it gave you inspiration! :D

The cold winter days are rolling in. A fire crackles in the fire place. World Ember is Here!
Sage eccbooks
E. Christopher Clark
16 Jan, 2022 16:04

I mean, what can I say that hasn't already been said? You've done a fantastic job at fleshing this tradition out, and I hope you keep at it.

Check out some of my WorldEmber 2021 favorites
17 Jan, 2022 18:37

Thank you! ^^

The cold winter days are rolling in. A fire crackles in the fire place. World Ember is Here!