The Duergarbok: The Dwarves of the Northern Tradition

Title: The Duergarbok: The Dwarves of the Northern Tradition
Publisher/Author: Susannah Ravenswing

This book includes essays and poetry by multiple authors, collected by Ravenswing, as well as her own writing. She is a goldsmith with a personal relationship to the Duergar. This book includes lore, gnosis, and personal experiences. It is partly a description of the Duergar and partly a devotional to them.

The author apprenticed as a Northern Tradition shaman with Raven Kaldera, and a lot of Kaldera’s writing appears in this book. One of Ravenswing’s personal experience stories is about a meditation led by Kaldera. If you don’t like Kaldera’s writing, you might not like this book. On the other hand, if you’re a big fan, you might have read some of this already, because some of this book is reprints. Kaldera’s influence pervades the book. For example, Ravenswing goes with Kaldera’s contention that the Duergar and the Dokkalfar are two different peoples sharing one world, the former subterranean Dwarves and the latter surface dwelling Elves, and that the term Svartalfar applies to the surface elf species. This is not the commonly accepted idea among scholars.

This book is divided into chapters by subject, and further divided into smaller sections within each chapter. Longer essays mix with shorter ones and with poetry, which breaks up the reading into chunks that are easy to finish even if one only has a few minutes at a time to read. The works by various other authors are salted throughout the book rather than having each author’s works together, which helps break up the tone of the book from more to less scholarly, more to less serious, and from more fact-filled and descriptive to more story-like. The varied tone and pace keeps the book from ever bogging down. It not only stays interesting, but is almost like a wonderland the reader gets to explore, with new exciting things around each corner, or page, as the case may be. Some of the various authors’ personal experience stories were fun in addition to being informative. 

It was cool to find out that there is a society of crafts people who call themselves Dwarves, and one member is over seven feet tall. The English language word Dwarf is cognate to Duerg (Duergar being the plural) but the English word is also sometimes used to refer to a short human being, which could be confusing.

I liked the poetry and songs Ravenswing channeled, after I got over my initial surprise at how much it sounded like Tolkien. I like the chants for working with various types of crafts and materials. I identify with the section on the Maker’s Trance. I recognize every step and emotion of Making as described.

The author has interesting things to say about money. She outlines a view of money in which money is supposed to flow, and stagnation leads to dragon sickness. She divides ownership into ownership by right and ownership by chance, with some examples. This idea could be explored at greater length in a work dedicated just to that. 

As with any book that has a lot of gnosis in it — that is, a lot of information gained via religious experiences — some bits will appeal strongly to some readers and some other parts will appeal more to others. Not every piece will resonate with all readers. Even though some kernels of information may occasionally strike a reader as contradicting lore or the reader’s own gnosis, it is clear that Ravenswing has had numerous profound gnosis experiences and has learned much from her contact with the Duergar. She presents a lot of hard-won information, and the reader has much to gain by reading. I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to learn from others’ gnosis about the Duergar. 

[Reviewed by Erin Lale.]