Havard wrote:How many different groups of Dwarves are there in Middle Earth?
I’m going to start by saying TWO, because I think it’s the most helpful way of looking at it. In the first edition of THE HOBBIT, we get the following quote: “‘Durin, Durin!’ said Thorin. ‘He was the father of the fathers of one of the two races of dwarves, the Longbeards, and my grandfather's ancestor.’” And: “In ancient days [the elves] had had wars with some of the dwarves, whom they accused of stealing their treasure … though Thorin’s family had had nothing to do with the old quarrel”. The name of Durin comes from the Old Norse ELDER EDDA, from this passage:here was Motsognir the mightiest made
Of all the dwarfs, and Durin next
Putting together all of the above, we start to get a clear picture of the two races of dwarves:
1. The Nauglath, Motsognir’s Folk, the more thieving, quarrelsome sort from THE NAUGLAFRING
2. The Longbeards, Durin’s Folk, the more noble, friendly sort from THE HOBBIT
Even after Tolkien came up with the idea of the Seven Houses of the Dwarves (no doubt because of the “Seven for the Dwarf-lords” of the Ring-verse), he still reintroduced the dichotomy thus:
1. Great Dwarves (of the Seven Houses)
2. Petty-dwarves (Nibin-noeg; Mîm’s folk)
Under this model, the original “thieves,” the folk of Nogrod, later named Firebeards, are considered Great Dwarves, larger and mightier in smithcraft than the Petty-dwarves. Although they are still mainly known for the Sack of Doriath and the slaying of Thingol, they are also known for their great smith, Telchar, forger of Elendil’s (later Aragorn’s) sword Narsil,
as well as Beren’s knife Angrist
which was able to slice through the Iron Crown of Morgoth — but was also said to be cursed due to the inherently treacherous nature of the Dwarves of Nogrod.
The Broadbeams of Belegost we know less about. They were called Longbeards in Tolkien’s earliest writings (before THE HOBBIT), and their king Azaghâl was recorded as doing multiple noble deeds, so, from what we know they were pretty noble. The name “Broadbeam” seems to me a reference to fat Bombur, and since it is mentioned in the canon that Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur were not of Durin’s Line, I assume them to be of this folk. Glean what you can from that.
Mîm and his family are likely dead in the Third Age. MERP had a strain of them survive, but that seems far-fetched — which I don’t have a problem with in an of itself, but, it’s also unnecessary. There are four Dwarven Houses that we know nothing about, who could be like anything. Pretty much any dwarf you find who is not a Longbeard or Broadbeam can be assumed to be “lesser” in some fashion. Some of them fought for Sauron in the Last Alliance. I myself invented a group called the Mud-dwarves who were outcasts from a Southern House, who had picked up some strange religions and sorceries from the Haradrim.
The Vala Aulë created the Dwarves. Do they worship him as a God? Or even talk about him?
They definitely know about him. They name him Mahal (the Maker). To me, though, considering how much they talk about their fathers, I would prefer to see more of an “Ancestor-worship” style religion, if anything (worship being too strong a word for non-evils in Middle-earth), especially venerating THE Seven Fathers (each house revering its own Father).