Legends of the malevolent dwarves of the Simonside Hills in the Northcumberland region are that of dark and mischievous pests that attack innocent travelers in the night. The dwarves, also referred to as Brownmen, Bogles and Duergar have legends of a leader by the name of Roarie. They are known to lead hikers astray, usually after dark with lit torches, and into dark bogs.
Documented Accounts of the Dwarves
Local newspaper (or as it was called then) , the Morpeth Gazette (1889)
Tibbit’s English Fairy Tales (1902)
Tyndale’s Legends and Folklore of Northumbria (1930)
F. Grice’s telling of the traditional story The Duergar in Folk Tales of the North Country (1944)
Northumberland National Park website.
Let’s dig a bit deeper…
The dwarves of Simonside Hills get their name from the Old Norse word, duergar, meaning Dwarf, and is associated with dorch, dwerch, duerch, duergh, and duerwe on the Anglo-Scottish border. This connection can be made in the Volsunga Saga. Documented as far back as 1279, Simonside Hills was called Simundessete (Wikipedia), and is thought to be taken from the name, Sigmund’s seat. This seems logical enough. This comes together as Sigmund is from the Volsunga Saga (Norse) and is the father of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer in Beowolf. The actual story that J.R.R. Tolkien based Smaug on. Below you will see the Norse period carving of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer from Hylestad stave church from the 12th century. On display at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo.
What’s awesome about this?
Well, aside from the fact that there is a pretty good history of a local legend about the dwarves living in the Simonside Hills, there is an amazing connection here to be made with the J.R.R. Tolkien literary works such as the Hobbit, and, Lord of the Rings.
During my recent interview with Dr. Terry Gunnell, professor of Folkloristics at the University of Iceland, we discussed the influence of the Volsunga Saga and Beowolf in relation to these works. It is well known that they are something of a foundation for these tales.
The mischievous nature of these night dwelling dwarves forged legends of their devious games. Given that J.R.R. Tolkien was from England it is reasonable to suggest that, the local folklore of the dwarves of Simonside Hills found it’s way into the character development of his famous works.