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Jeff the Green
2012-09-12, 10:20 PM
So, I'm working on the fluff of the various common races of my homebrew setting, and I've come up with an... interesting idea for the dwarves: serial polygamy.

Basically, most dwarves get married three times, and no marriage is legally allowed to last more than 10 years. Traditionally the first marriage is arranged by parents, the second by a town council (city magistrates or coworkers in cities), and the third chosen by the individuals. For many in the modern period, though, each individual dwarf chooses their own spouse each time and in any case family can't coerce a son or daughter into a marriage. (The big exceptions are the wealthy, where marriages are political, and the rural poor, who tend to follow tradition more exactly.)

In addition, they practice ghost marriage, similar to the Chinese minhun. When a dwarf dies before getting married all three times, their family, town council, and friends (depending on which marriage we're talking about) will arrange a marriage with a similarly dead spouse. Dwarves are pretty big on ancestor worship and believe that a dead dwarf that isn't married in this way will be upset and haunt the living.

So, I'm trying to figure out the various consequences of this odd set of practices. There will definitely be a large industry, often of questionable morality, providing ghost brides and grooms for wealthy families. There are other things I've thought of but not decided: Is it considered boring or an honor to be married to the same spouse for all thirty years? Are dwarves that have made it through the thirty years then expected to remain celibate or are they basically allowed to do what they want?

And then of course, I'm sure there would be consequences I haven't even considered. What do y'all think?

Weirdlet
2012-09-12, 10:41 PM
For what reasons are dwarves expected to marry three times? Is it to increase genetic diversity? To be able to change up business and political alliances as the tides of both shift? Some duty given to them by their gods?

Craft (Cheese)
2012-09-12, 10:46 PM
The best reason I can think of is that the dwarves have multiple genders that they progress through as they age. e.g., female-born dwarves eventually turn male, male-born dwarves eventually turn female, etc. So you physically become incapable of reproducing with your spouse after the gender shift happens.

NecroRebel
2012-09-12, 10:48 PM
There doesn't necessarily have to be a reason for it in the modern world, but you should at least think about how this tradition got started. A lot of what humans do is done simply because it's traditional - consider the position of "best man" at weddings, which is just ceremonial now - but was originally done for a good reason - the "best man" was the groom's ally who was best at combat, their best fighting man, who was kept close in case the wedding was attacked. That might tell you other things about the tradition as well - the best man stands where they would've been most capable of defending the groom with their sword in case of attack.

Conners
2012-09-13, 02:51 AM
Not everything is practical. The filing of human teeth to carnivore-like points was done for religious reasons, rather than the benefit of freaking your enemies out (someone else could tell you about the religious reasoning).

Ravens_cry
2012-09-13, 04:34 AM
Not everything is practical. The filing of human teeth to carnivore-like points was done for religious reasons, rather than the benefit of freaking your enemies out (someone else could tell you about the religious reasoning).
Have you ever talked to a child after they did something quite strange but you realize by their reasoning it made perfect sense?
I read a story of a small child who was going to go on an elevator for the first time, but was scared to.
Terrified in fact.
Imagine his perspective. He sees doors open, people going in, no doors on the other side, doors closing, and when they open, no one inside.
The logical conclusion under what he knows, not knowing how an elevator works or what it does, the people disappeared after getting in.
No wonder it terrified him.

What does this have to do with sharpened teeth and dwarf marriage customs?

Well, I can think of a reason for the former at least.

Carnivores have sharp teeth and are fierce hunters. By having sharp teeth, we take on that attribute.
In that light and under the assumptions of sympathetic magic, sharpening teeth makes perfect sense, from that point of view.

If dwarves have three marriages there has to be some reason that makes sense to them, stories of woe to those who break the taboo and fail and subversive tales of those who break the taboo and, on some level, succeed.
Even if there is no reason, people make them up.
Making up reasons why is what people do.

supermonkeyjoe
2012-09-13, 05:05 AM
There are literally a million and one reasons that could have started this, whether they are still relevant or even remembered is another matter.

It could be something like the Japanese tradition of Tsukumogami wherein objects that are 100 years old become alive and self aware, or the idea that the number 4 sounds a bit like the work for Death in Japanese so 4 is considered unlucky.

Maybe these Dwarves attach a significance to the number 10, or 11 is unlucky so they try to shun it, only sell things in bundles of 10, discard tools that are coming up to being 11 years old, same with marriage. There could have been 10 original dwarven clans that were betrayed by the 11th? or Perhaps they have 10 gods so 10 is considered sacred?

kwanzaabot
2012-09-13, 05:40 AM
In regards to the boringness, I'd say a dwarf would find it boring to have the same spouse for 30 years. Their culture encourages multiple partners. They don't mate for life.

Now, they might still love their ex-wives (and might even cheat on their current spouses with their exes), but it seems to me that to these dwarves, they'd be capable of loving multiple women at once- to them, love and marriage wouldn't be mutually exclusive.

Eldan
2012-09-13, 05:43 AM
One of the Mesoamerican Empires, the Mayans, I think, would throw away and renew most of their stuff at the end of the year, for renewal. Maybe the dwarves, being longer lived, build their lives on a ten-year cycle? So all marriages take place only in certain years, and in certain years?

Asheram
2012-09-13, 06:09 AM
So, I'm working on the fluff of the various common races of my homebrew setting, and I've come up with an... interesting idea for the dwarves: serial polygamy.

Basically, most dwarves get married three times, and no marriage is legally allowed to last more than 10 years. Traditionally the first marriage is arranged by parents, the second by a town council (city magistrates or coworkers in cities), and the third chosen by the individuals. For many in the modern period, though, each individual dwarf chooses their own spouse each time and in any case family can't coerce a son or daughter into a marriage. (The big exceptions are the wealthy, where marriages are political, and the rural poor, who tend to follow tradition more exactly.)

In addition, they practice ghost marriage, similar to the Chinese minhun. When a dwarf dies before getting married all three times, their family, town council, and friends (depending on which marriage we're talking about) will arrange a marriage with a similarly dead spouse. Dwarves are pretty big on ancestor worship and believe that a dead dwarf that isn't married in this way will be upset and haunt the living.

So, I'm trying to figure out the various consequences of this odd set of practices. There will definitely be a large industry, often of questionable morality, providing ghost brides and grooms for wealthy families. There are other things I've thought of but not decided: Is it considered boring or an honor to be married to the same spouse for all thirty years? Are dwarves that have made it through the thirty years then expected to remain celibate or are they basically allowed to do what they want?

And then of course, I'm sure there would be consequences I haven't even considered. What do y'all think?

To be completely frank I think you are a bit stuck in the concept here. Strange for the sake of strange instead of first figuring out a reason.

But for the sake of Argument... Perhaps there was a war and the dwarf population was heavily decimated. They couldn't just go around and tell every dwarf to shag since that'd be terrible on morale, so they decided that every young dwarf would marry. Twice to help the species and the final time (the life bond) to honour the clan in a true bonding that would last until death?

Edit

Elaborating further on this, this would pretty much mess up the clan structure and there'd be no family bonding. Please ignore this.

Smart_alec
2012-09-13, 06:49 AM
For what reasons are dwarves expected to marry three times? Is it to increase genetic diversity? To be able to change up business and political alliances as the tides of both shift? Some duty given to them by their gods?
They can't tell what the sex of the person that they've married is and they're allowed another chance if they guess wrong.

DigoDragon
2012-09-13, 08:02 AM
Who gets custody of the kids when the marriage ends?

Mark Hall
2012-09-13, 11:13 AM
My suggestion would be that the third marriage doesn't necessarily end, and that children and property inheritance would be negotiated beforehand (either by those making the marriage or by tradition). And, unless you're really set on the 10 year thing, I'd lengthen it a bit for dwarves... 30 years isn't that long in a 280 year lifespan... it would be like a human (living about 70 years) were to have three marriages, each lasting about two and a half years. And for that to be not just a norm, but culturally enforced.

This would be a society where the two "starter marriages" would not only serve social purposes (forming alliances between families, and diffusing tensions by creating shared familial interests), but the final marriage would be one of relatively mature people... they'd learned what they hate, and are more likely to get along.

ImperiousLeader
2012-09-13, 11:46 AM
Why not make marriages contracts that expire after 10 years?

So, marriages last 10 years, and dwarves sometimes, though rarely, will remarry, ie. renew their contract. I could see each contract as a part of a rite of passing. Your clan contracting you out to another clan is a sign of the age of maturity, you are able to create children. Government issued contracts are a sign that you are now a citizen of the government, able to vote.

Conners
2012-09-13, 11:47 AM
@Ravens_cry: It wasn't even as simple as that... It was more like teeth represented wisdom, or something. We're not talking about logic based on what is seen, we're talking about logic based on what is assumed (the shaman says the spirits are such and such, so it's only logical to assume so-and-so based on that). Had originally thought they did it to terrify their enemies--but apparently not (it's may've still been a result of their practice).

Romanes eunt do
2012-09-13, 11:55 AM
The practice you describe reminds me a bit of ancient Rome. Women who only ever had one husband were very honored, but it wasn't unusual at all for the aristocracy to get married and divorced several times during their lives. This would often happen for political reasons or a lack of children (though I'm sure there were enough "irreconcilable differences," too).

-I'd work out the relative status of the bride and groom and what sorts of property each brings to the marriage and what happens to this when they split.

-Who gets the children? It's possible that it's similar to the American system where it's worked out by a judge, but in other societies it was clear cut. In the Roman example, children belonged to the father and would be raised in his family as his heirs.

-Also, think about whether they live with the bride's family, the groom's family, or if they start an independent household.

But you can always choose whether to answer these depending on how important it is to your setting. I guess the bottom line, maybe, is not to think about grounding it in the common explanation (though origin myths are good flavor). Think about the social, cultural, and environmental forces that make the practices attractive to dwarfkind.

Signed,

Your friendly neighborhood anthropology nut

Note: If the dwarves in question only have one spouse at a time, it's serial monogamy. (Pardon the nitpick.)

tbok1992
2012-09-13, 12:22 PM
Dangit, now ya guys made me remember this thread on /tg/ about Dwarven porn (http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive/7089173/) and now I have to show it to you. (Spoiler: It involves blacksmithing. Lots and lots of blacksmithing).

Also, on the whole "ghost marriages" thing, what if some sketchy necromancer ressurected the dead dwarf as an undead to make the "ghost marriage" thing feel more legit, and the Dwarves are split on whether or not that's blasphemous?

Conners
2012-09-13, 12:40 PM
Would be more interesting if the ghost marriages were just cermonies involving the ashes or mementos of two dead dwarves.

Ravens_cry
2012-09-13, 01:12 PM
@Ravens_cry: It wasn't even as simple as that... It was more like teeth represented wisdom, or something. We're not talking about logic based on what is seen, we're talking about logic based on what is assumed (the shaman says the spirits are such and such, so it's only logical to assume so-and-so based on that). Had originally thought they did it to terrify their enemies--but apparently not (it's may've still been a result of their practice).
If Wisdom is considered a trait of certain predators, then the same basic logic of sympathetic magic applies.

Conners
2012-09-13, 02:01 PM
AKA: If X is Considered Y, you can assume tons of stuff.

Jeff the Green
2012-09-13, 07:31 PM
Wow, I didn't expect to get this much of a response so soon. Thanks everybody!

So the main question has been why. I haven't come up with the original reason for it, but at least their after-the-fact reason is that a dwarf's life is divided into five approximately equal-length segments: childhood, young adulthood, adulthood, middle age, and elder.

As children dwarves live with their parents and learn what they needs to know (maybe serving as an apprentice under a family member). As young adults they're supposed to do work that benefits their families: if a dwarf's father's a blacksmith, he serves as his assistant making simple stuff like nails; if her mother's a shop owner, she runs the shop while she's growing the business, etc. As adults they're supposed to do work that benefits their towns/cities/country/employer. At middle-age they're supposed to improve themselves to get ready to be elders, whether by growing a business, studying, making political connections, or something else. Finally, as elders, they're supposed to be leaders of the community and their family.

The idea that one spouse can serve as a helpmeet for all four of the adult segments of their life is ludicrous (to a dwarf), so they don't stay married to the same person unless they're exceptionally lucky the first time around. I borrowed the idea from Mexico City and some middle-eastern cultures, that it's possible for someone to be the right choice for spouse in one part of your life but not the rest.


The best reason I can think of is that the dwarves have multiple genders that they progress through as they age. e.g., female-born dwarves eventually turn male, male-born dwarves eventually turn female, etc. So you physically become incapable of reproducing with your spouse after the gender shift happens.

:smalleek: My dwarves are not descended from clownfish.

(Plus that wouldn't work anyway, at least as long as there's a fixed schedule of changes; at most you'd have to marry someone close to your age and put up with them being the same sex as you for a short while.)


My suggestion would be that the third marriage doesn't necessarily end, and that children and property inheritance would be negotiated beforehand (either by those making the marriage or by tradition). And, unless you're really set on the 10 year thing, I'd lengthen it a bit for dwarves... 30 years isn't that long in a 280 year lifespan... it would be like a human (living about 70 years) were to have three marriages, each lasting about two and a half years. And for that to be not just a norm, but culturally enforced.

I've decided to do away with races living a lot longer than humans. Dwarves and halflings are about the same, elves maybe 20-30 years longer, gnomes a bit shorter. It makes history really difficult to write when you have to consider that someone's grandpa could have been alive a thousand years ago, and you have to answer the question "what has an elf been doing in the 100 years before they reached level 1?" Still, 15 years/marriage might make more sense.


-I'd work out the relative status of the bride and groom and what sorts of property each brings to the marriage and what happens to this when they split.

I think it'll probably be outlined in marriage contracts (these dwarves being cautious and organized), the most common being a 50/50 split of property obtained during the marriage, while everything brought to the marriage remains in the same hands.


-Who gets the children? It's possible that it's similar to the American system where it's worked out by a judge, but in other societies it was clear cut. In the Roman example, children belonged to the father and would be raised in his family as his heirs.

Yeah, I've been thinking about it. I think I'm going to pilfer another cultural practice and have it be the mother and her closest male relative of the same generation (brother or cousin, usually) that keeps guardianship.


-Also, think about whether they live with the bride's family, the groom's family, or if they start an independent household.

Hadn't thought about that one. It's a pretty patriarchal society, but it'd be interesting to have it also be matrilineal.


Note: If the dwarves in question only have one spouse at a time, it's serial monogamy. (Pardon the nitpick.)

Both phrases are correct and mean the same thing. I just think serial polygamy is more accurate.


Also, on the whole "ghost marriages" thing, what if some sketchy necromancer ressurected the dead dwarf as an undead to make the "ghost marriage" thing feel more legit, and the Dwarves are split on whether or not that's blasphemous?

Oh, they'd definitely consider it blasphemous. Their beliefs about spirits are very similar to the ancient Greeks, in that if they don't have a proper burial or the burial is disturbed the spirit becomes very unhappy.


Would be more interesting if the ghost marriages were just cermonies involving the ashes or mementos of two dead dwarves.

I think that's basically how it will work, though I'm still working on exactly what their burial practices will be. I know that some of the elves will mummify (as in real mummies, not walking around groaning mummies) their dead and then bring them out to dance on special occasions, and that the main elf church has been trying to stomp out that practice.

Conners
2012-09-13, 09:38 PM
I think that's basically how it will work, though I'm still working on exactly what their burial practices will be. I know that some of the elves will mummify (as in real mummies, not walking around groaning mummies) their dead and then bring them out to dance on special occasions, and that the main elf church has been trying to stomp out that practice. You have some awesome ideas. Both the ghost marriage, and the illegal dancing mummies sound like real things, too.

Jeff the Green
2012-09-13, 09:50 PM
You have some awesome ideas. Both the ghost marriage, and the illegal dancing mummies sound like real things, too.

Thanks. I wish I could claim they came entirely from my own imagination, but I stole them from China and the Incas, respectively. National Geographic FTW!

TuggyNE
2012-09-13, 10:46 PM
Thanks. I wish I could claim they came entirely from my own imagination, but I stole them from China and the Incas, respectively. National Geographic FTW!

Once again, truth is stranger than fiction. :smallamused:

Ravens_cry
2012-09-14, 02:30 AM
AKA: If X is Considered Y, you can assume tons of stuff.
My point exactly:smallamused:

headwarpage
2012-09-14, 06:06 AM
Yes, but do the mummies do the Thriller dance?

Simple explanation for multiple marriages: once upon a time, virtually all dwarven marriages were arranged. Also, this was a period of time when dwarves were constantly at war, so there were a lot of widows/widowers who married multiple times, always in arranged marriages to benefit the family/community. Then there was a very, very famous dwarven hero named Urist who refused his/her third marriage and married for love. Urist was popular enough to pull it off, and other noteworthy dwarves followed suit...

...several thousand years pass...

...an excessively formalized version of this tradition (and heavily romanticized version of the origin story) carries over to the modern day.

Henlein_Kosh
2012-09-14, 07:00 AM
A reason for this tradition could be at one point in history the male population of the dwarves was decimated to the point where females outnumbered the males 3 to 1, and to give all females the oppotunity of the sacred marriage, this tradition started. When the population evened out, the tradition went on with the modification that it also applied to females.

The reason for the decimation of the male population could be many things, but personally I would use some sort of magical plague, that lingered for many generations, so this system would have the time to become a tradition.

the decimation wouldn't have to be worldwide, consider having it just affecting a few of the major dwarven settlements, and the tradition spread from there, in this way you could have a few dwarfholds with a "strange" more traditional marriage system.


a thing you could consider for social impact, what clan do the marriged couple belong to: the male's, the female's, the oldest of the two's clan's, or is it specified individually in the marriage contract.


Imight have to borrow this idea in some form, would give my current world a bit more feel.

Morph Bark
2012-09-14, 07:08 AM
The reason for the decimation of the male population could be many things, but personally I would use some sort of magical plague, that lingered for many generations, so this system would have the time to become a tradition.

It could be as simple as a war, during a time when males were the only ones fighting. This would thus not only spur on the triple marriage tradition, but also cause emancipation among females (just like how that happened during WWII, due to the women needing to take over a lot of the work on the homefront) and be a reason for the stereotypical idea amongst other races that all dwarves have beards (either including the women, or that they think there are no dwarf women), because those races have mostly come into contact with male dwarves in the past.

The stereotype of "all dwarves have beards" or "there are no dwarf women" would mainly prevail amongst the longer-lived races who remember those old times, whereas shorter-lived races like humans and orcs have had more generations pass by since the institution of the triple marriage and the emancipation of dwarf women.

Note that emancipation and perceived inequality in marriage deals are seperate. For instance, there are regions in the world where the sexes are pretty much equal socially, but where they still practice polygamy with either the man or the woman marrying multiple people of the other sex. (Tibet is a good example, I believe.)

Andreaz
2012-09-14, 07:09 AM
The whole "marries thrice" thing is easy to expand on. Dwarves really really value their family and their work.

They may do it thrice to represent what their family wants, what their homeland wants and what they want themselves. Most dwarves repeat the ceremony with the same mate, and relationships that actually vary in each iteration are hushedly viewed as scandalous and a show of petty disrespect...or a tale of anguish and love.

Reasons for tradition to go on don't need to be many or complex. It's just how they do it, and it works, so why change? Its origin can be tied to a bunch of stuff.
For example, a great unification war where the royals had particularly egregious marriage issues (damn shifting loyalties!), which were seen as obscene and redressed as loyalty values over the ages...or parodied that hard.

Acanous
2012-09-14, 08:30 AM
My thoughts on Dwarven serial Polygamy;
(Spoilered for length)

Dwarven Culture is very rigid, with strict castes and expectations based primarilly on the work you do, and your skill.
Most Dwarves, being lower caste, do not have the right to a proper "Marriage", instead holding a "Civil union" which grants them the right to have children.

Successful, wealthy, and influential dwarves, however, can enter into Marriage in order to create a new Guild, Taig, or Clan altogether, depending. This happens when a Dwarven couple is so prosperous, influential, or respected that they can make the marriage request to the elders, who evaluate them and give them yay or nae.

The Dwarven Marriage Contract is a VERY serious thing. It is foremost an agreement to double one's resources within 10 years. A Dwarven couple who enters into Marriage and fails this, is forever shamed, and unable to remarry.

Dwarves who manage to fulfil or exceed this requirement, may each pick a suitable new spouse to enter into the marriage. (They do not divorce their old spouses. Instead, the origional two are the Matriarch/Patriarch of the new Guild/Taig/Clan).
It is possible, but unusual for two married Dwarven couples to enter into the second marriage contract together. In this case, there is a very serious, long series of negotiations about the purpose and direction of the marriage, and the responcibilities and duties of each individual within the marriage.

Even MORE unusual, and considered a power play of the highest order, is when three to FIVE such Dwarven couples interlink on the second marriage, by virtue of each marrying into a different couple.
This is strictly frowned upon and seldom allowed except when staging what effectively ammounts to a legal coup.

The process repeats again for the second 10 years. Each Dwarf in the Marriage Contract is expected to double their resources, a failure to do so at this stage shames the Patriarch and Matriarch, who can no longer remarry- however, a new Prime Couple may be elected, if both of the elected DID double their starting resources. In this fashion, the sacred tradition can continue, even if an individual failed. Such is the way of the Dwarves- the Community over the Individual.

Shamed members forfeit all posessions, including their children.

The young Dwarves birthed by one of these marriage webs are considered the property of their respective parents, and the godchildren of the Patriarch or Matriarch, depending upon their respective genders.

This allows for many Dwarven children to be birthed, raised, and trained within a social caste (It is most commonly done within guilds), allowing the fathers to participate in war without losing the closely-guarded skills Dwarven clans pride themselves on.

In the case of a shamed Prime Couple, children of that couple become the children of the NEW prime couple.

Finally, the THIRD marriage. This is known as being the most trying, which is why the Dwarves involved have the honor, and the freedom, of selecting their own partners.

Again, it begins with an assessment of assets. If the Dwarves of the Prime Couple doubled their assets, they are once again allowed to marry. They have ten years to once again double their resources. Many Dwarven Prime Couples fail during this marriage, as they must manage 1: Their respective trade, shop, or career path, 2: The education and training of all children produced by the extended marriage, 3: Personal conflicts and disagreements within the extended marriage, and 4: The resource allocation and investments of the extended marriage.

Dwarves who complete this gruelling 10 year stretch successfully, become Clan Elders, titanic forces within the community. Their suggestions and advice listened to by Dwarven Kings when offered, if not actively saught.

In this manner, only the most dilligent, cunning, and wise Dwarves, with proven willingness to work and sacrifice for the good of the whole, become clan elders.

Many Dwarves of poorer stature and lesser caste often duplicate this custom, but, lacking the resources and ability to care for such an extended family, divorce their first spouse and re-"Marry".
In exceptionally progressive, liberal areas, this is even actually CALLED a Marriage.

In normal, Right-thinking Dwarven lands, however, referring to a Dwarven union as a Marriage is exceptionally bad manners on the part of an outsider. It both shames the Dwarves in the union (As they were not wealthy or influential enough to have an actual marriage) and the outsider (As it proves them ignorant of Dwarven custom.)


Edit: A few Clarifications.
1: The total number of dwarves is considered to be a resource, and must double every union. Thus, 2 children in the first marriage, then another four in the second (Usually 2 with the first spouse, 2 with the second) and finally eight in the third marriage.
Having MORE children in the first marriage practically gueruntees failure in the third, although there IS one notable case of a Dwarven woman who had 12 children in her third marriage, which impressed her clan enough that they built a commemorative statue of her.

2: Most Dwarves will exceed the "Double" target in the first 10 years. The common tradition here is to give back to the clan, until you are as close as possible to "Double" your starting value. The reason for this is so the SECOND marriage has an easier benchmark. Further, it helps eliminate "Luck" as a factor.
The process repeats again at the 20 year mark, although less frequently, and very rarely will a Dwarf do so at the 30 year mark.

3: Dwarves regard this whole process as being best for building character, gaining experience, and progressing up the social ladder at an acceptable pace. Most adventurers are ostracized from Dwarven society for their meteoric climbs (And usually, subsequent meteoric fall) unless they do a great deal of good for the clan as a whole. Dwarves do not trust sudden, risky gains.

4: Mechanically, if your standing is good with the Dwarven elders, and you're following projected Wealth by Level guidelines, you can expect to be allowed to marry the first time at lv 5, the second at lv 7, and the third at lv 10. Dwarven Prime Couples who have completed all thirty years are usually lv 13.

Kane0
2012-09-16, 08:20 PM
just a small thing, don't Dwarves live a very long time?
Might be different in your setting, but for the average Dwarf 10 years isn't really that long at all.

SowZ
2012-09-17, 01:25 AM
just a small thing, don't Dwarves live a very long time?
Might be different in your setting, but for the average Dwarf 10 years isn't really that long at all.

Yeah, he said in his setting dwarves live only marginally longer than humans.