Okay, so my friend Chloe just pointed this out, and it’s amazingly accurate:
“Because of the scarcity of Dwarf-women, their secrecy and similarity in
appearance to males, and their lack of mention, many Men failed to
recognize their existence.”
Well, Tolkien was a philologist, and a Norsist, and that means he knew Völuspá well enough to pull the names of every dwarf from Dvergatal and he had a pretty firm grasp Old Norse grammar.
In fact, he grasped it well enough that he knew if you dropped an n from a name ending in –inn, it changes from the masculine
to the feminine.
Well, what the hell does any of this mean?
Well, I give you the names of the Dwarves from the Hobbit, as they appear in Dvergatal (stanzas 14-16) and in the order they appear:
Bívurr, Bávurr, Bömburr, Nóri,
Þorinn, Þráinn, Fíli, Kíli,
Glóinn, Dóri, Óri
Now, in the Hobbit, they’re named as follows:
Dwalin, Dáin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Nori, Óin, Thorin, Thráin, Fíli, Kíli, Glóin, Dori, Ori.
Now, you notice something with the way those names got changed? That’s right, he changed the masculine -inn definite suffix to -in, which is feminine.**
That means that, at least grammatically, Dwalin, Dáin, Thorin, Thráin, and Glóin are female Dwarves.
Since we know Tolkien was meticulous about his grammar, this was done most likely as an in-joke (lol we’re so learnèd about Norse grammar that my comment on Dwarf women being indistinguishable from men is hilarious because of this grammatical funniness)
But there’s a not-inconceivable chance that the Dwarves were using the masculine pronouns in Westron because that’s what the Men who met them used, despite the fact that a third of the company was female, and
hey, it’s kinda neat to think he wrote a bunch of Dwarf-ladies going on an adventure.
**He also dropped the double-r suffix, but -r as the root is still, in general, a masculine grammatical feature
given Tolkien’s general approach to women he’s unlikely to have intended this but I don’t care I’m going to accept it as canon anyway
isn’t there stuff in the appendixes about the Hobbit language having ’-a’ as a masculine name ending and ’-o’ as feminine but then he changed all the Hobbit names anyway?
‘O’ and ‘e’ are feminine suffixes in hobbit-dialect Westron, which is not English.
Tolkien translated/Anglicized the names of all the hobbits into names that both sounded appropriate for their gender and reflected the aesthetic impression a native Westron speaker would get when meeting hobbits and hearing their language. It’s not about how The Hobbits Are Actually Girls (though that would be cool) it’s about how “Bilbo Baggins” gives a certain feeling when you as an English speaker encounter it – you get an idea of a character, perhaps, and it sounds just a little ridiculous – but you wouldn’t get that feeling from “Bilba Labingi”, the original hobbit-dialect Westron name.
(As to “Tolkien’s general approach to women”, yes, the man was sexist, I’m not going to deny that, but he was also meticulous and perfectionist when it came to language and there is no way this was accidental. No way at all. Not when he wrote an entire fake-academic-journal fanfic essay about why the Sindarin word ros had two translations, justifying it with in-universe linguistic drift.)
That being said, yeah, quite a lot of those dwarves were ladies. Headcanon accepted.
Headcanon so accepted.