This article is part of private research I did for my work on the "Mage" series, and were originally made simply so that I would have a consistent background to work from when writing the trilogy. It is not intended to be the "last word" on all dwarves, only those in the "Mage" universe. Please note also that it was written from the perspective of being background material - the tone may seem a bit "official", but again, it's only "official" for my own works.
Dwarven Reproduction and Genetics:
In the world of "Mage", the gene pool of dwarves is unusual, in that males are produced 75% of the time. This is due to the oddities of dwarven gender genetics.
With humans, there are 46 chromozomes in each cell. Elves are assumed to have the same number of chromozomes as humans, and the structure of their genetic coding is assumed to be 99.9998% identical to humans - as such they can interbreed, and produce "half-elves." The gender of the offspring is determined by the combination of the last two chromozomes, a pair of gender-determining chromozomes called the 'X' and 'Y' chromozomes. All humans have one 'X' chromozome in the pair, and males have a 'Y' chromozome for the other half of the pair while females have another 'X' chromozome (I.E. females always have an 'XX' pair, while males always have an 'XY' pair). When gametes (sperm and egg cells) are formed, half of the genetic code (23 chromozomes) is placed in each gamete. For females, this means that each egg they produce has a single 'X'. For males, this means that each sperm cell they produce has either an 'X' or a 'Y' (thus gender is determined by the male parent's gamete). This gives four possible combinations, as shown below:
Human and Elven Gender Genetics
Dwarves in the "Mage" universe are, however, a species completely unrelated to humans and elves (though their genetics and biology are similar). Dwarves in the "Mage" universe have 52 chromozomes, rather than the 46 found in humans and elves (which is why dwarves cannot sucessfully reproduce with non-dwarves). Moreover, with dwarves, there are actually 3 genes that control gender, rather than two, with each dwarf having two of the three possible genes. There are two male chromozomes, a dominant 'X' and a recessive 'x', and one female chromozome, a dominant 'Y'. Both gender and fertility in dwarves is determined by the combination of these genes. The combinations are shown on the chart below:
Dwarven Gender Genetics
In the chart above, dominant gender chromozomes are noted in uppercase letters, while recessive chromozomes are noted in lowercase letters. Females are always 'xY', and fertile males are always 'Xx'. The shaded combinations ('xx' and 'XY') are always male, but they are 'mules' - sterile and unable to reproduce (though once in a long while, the wife of an 'xx' or 'XY' male will give birth to a female - the odds are 1 in 150,000 against).
In dwarves, several different endocrine levels are controlled by the gender chromozomes. This produces three different types of dwarven males, whose hormone-induced and culturally-reinforced behavior is the source of the three male characters found in dwarven myth - the paranoid-taker, the warrior-leader, and the scholar-artisan.
Dwarven males with 'XY' gender-chromozomes are the paranoid-takers. These dwarves often show the greatest extremes of the negative aspects of dwarven behavior - they are grasping, greedy and money-hungry, as well as often also being miserly, paranoid and often quite vicious. Even though these ruthless dwarves often accumulate their bride-price the fastest (and often accumulate very large bride-prices), they are usually unable to marry. This is because their negative attitudes (and often anti-social behavior) make it very difficult for them to find a potential bride and potential father-in-law who will agree to the marriage, and because it is a part of the lore of dwarven religion that dwarf males with these personality traits are sterile. XY males often grow frustrated with their inability to find a bride, and as such grow even more hateful, paranoid, greedy and vicious. Of course, with a high enough bride-price nearly any potential father in law can be bought, so on very rare occasions they are able to marry, and once in a very long while they will have a daughter.
Dwarven males with 'Xx' gender-chromozomes are the warrior-leaders. These dwarves often show the greatest extremes of the leadership and martial aspects of dwarven behavior - they are agressive, dominant individuals who are noted for bravery (often bordering on foolhardiness), physical strength, charisma and force of will. The greatest of the dwarven kings and generals were all 'Xx' males. Once 'Xx' males accumulate a bride price, they usually have no trouble finding a bride, because it is a part of the lore of dwarven religion that dwarf males with these personality traits are known to be fertile.
Dwarven males with 'xx' gender-chromozomes are the scholar-artisans. These dwarves often show the greatest extremes of the creative and intellectual aspects of dwarven behavior - they are artistic, inventive and usually highly industrious dwarves (though the specific area they specialize in varies widely). The greatest dwarven smiths, craftsmen, jewellers, orators, philosophers, lawyers, artists, poets and musicians were all 'xx' males. Despite the fact that the lore of the religion of the dwarves states that these males are sterile, their personalities and creativeness make it so that they are often able to marry, and once in a very long while they will actually have a female child.
Females, who are formed by having 'xY' gender chromozomes, also are affected mentally - all dwarven females have SEVERE agorophobia (fear of open spaces), and as such they are never found outside of the underground dwarven cities. This has led many humans (who have never seen a female dwarf) to conclude that all dwarves are male, or (upon seeing dwarven poets and philosophers) to conclude that female dwarves have beards (in fact, female dwarves are beardless, like human females).
Three unrelated Female Dwarves. Notice how they are beardless, in many ways resembling short human women with pointed ears, and that relative beauty varies normally.
Three unrelated male dwarves of each gender chromozome set. Notice that it is impossible to tell from simple appearance which dwarf has which gender chromozome set - for example, the dwarf in the upper right tallying up the value of various treasures is actually an 'xx' male, whose 'scholar-artisan' tendencies have led him to become an exellent bookkeeper. The dwarf in the upper left with the sinister appearance is actually an 'Xx' male, whose leadership traits have made him a respected general. The dwarf in the bottom center who looks like a brave 'adventurer' is actually an 'XY' male, whose greed and viciousness have made him a feared mercenary and treasure-hunter. In the end, behavior and occupation is the only clue to the gender chromozome set of a male dwarf.
- Jim Farris,
Published Professional Author and Composer