A Company of Dwarves

Folio bearing the eddic poem Völuspá (Seeress's Prophecy) in the Icelandic Codex Regius (Reykjavík, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, GkS 2365 4to, f. 1r) (c. 1270s). 

Hidden among Callisto's craters are some familiar names. Craters on this moon take their names from characters in northern myths, including names drawn from the eddic poem Völuspá (The Seeress’s Prophecy). A section of this poem called the Dvergatal (‘catalogue of dwarves’) tallies up the dwarves made in the early days of creation. Völuspá tells how the dwarves - among them Durinn, Nori, Glóin and Gandálfr - took shape within the earth, and multiplied, as Snorri Sturluson describes it, like maggots in flesh. These dwarves live underground, and excel in working stone and metal into wonderous things, from Þórr’s mighty hammer, Mjölnir, to the marvellous necklace worn by the goddess Freya.

Time it is to tally up the dwarfs in Dvalin’s troop,

for the sons of men, to trace them back to Lofar...

Völuspá (The Seeress's Prophecy), verse 14

Gloi crater

Gloi (115.3 km diameter, 49 N, 245 W).

Fili, Gloi, and Nori

Twenty craters on Callisto take their names from the Dvergatal, among them Fili, Gloi (or Glóin), and Nori. These names are recognisable to us from the company of dwarves who attend the Hobbit Bilbo's tea party in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Glóin's son, Gimli, joins the Fellowship of the Ring in Tolkien's subsequent trilogy. Durinn, Loni, and Nar - other dwarves in Tolkien's fictional universe - were also borrowed from the Icelandic Dvergatal, and also appear here as craters on Callisto.

Geirvimul Catena

Nori (114 km diameter, 45.2 N, 343.6 W) and Ánarr (41.7 km diameter, 44 N, 0.5 W), with a Norse-derived name from Grimnismál.

Gunntro Catena and Eikin Catena

Vitr (72.8 km diameter, -22.1 N, 349.4 W) with other Norse-derived names from the eddic poems Grimnismál and Hyndluljóð. 

Alfr (96 km diameter, -9.9 N, 222.7 W) (Völuspá 16)
Ánarr (41.7 km diameter, 44 N, 0.5 W) (Völuspá 11)
Austri (15 km diameter, -80.9 N, 64.5 W) (Völuspá 11)
Bavörr (85.3 km diameter, 49.1 N, 20 W) (Völuspá 11)
Buri (86 km diameter, -37.5 N, 45.5 W) (Völuspá 13)
Durinn (51.6 km diameter, 67 N, 89.1 W) (Völuspá  10)
Fili (31.7 km diameter, 64.2 N, 349.7 W) (Völuspá 13)
Finnr (80 km diameter, 15.5 N, 4.3 W) (Völuspá 16)
Gandalfr (17 km diameter, -80.5 N, 63.6 W) (Völuspá 12)
Gloi (115.3 km diameter ,49 N, 245 W) (Völuspá 15)
Hepti (48.6 km diameter, 64.5 N, 23.4 W) (Völuspá 13)
Loni (85 km diameter, -3.6 N, 214.3 W) (Völuspá 13)
Nár (56.9 km diameter, -1.5 N, 46 W) (Völuspá 11)
Nidi (49.3 km diameter, 66.4 N, 94.9 W) (Völuspá 11)
Nori (114 km diameter, 45.2 N, 343.6 W) (Völuspá 11)
Reginn (57 km diameter, 39.8 N, 90.1 W) (Völuspá 12)
Sudri (69.5 km diameter, 55.9 N, 135.6 W) (Völuspá 11)
Thekkr (13 km diameter, -80.3 N, 62 W) (Völuspá 12)
Vestri (77.3 km diameter, 45.3 N, 52.5 W) (Völuspá 11)
Vitr (72.8 km diameter, -22.1 N, 349.4 W) (Völuspá 12)

Gandalfr crater

Gandalfr (17 km diameter, -80.5 N, 63.6 W), Thekkr (13 km diameter, -80.3 N, 62 W) and Austri (15 km diameter, -80.9 N, 64.5 W).


Another familiar name, Gandalfr, has been assigned to a small crater on Callisto’s south polar region, in the close vicinity of the craters Thekkr and Austri. Gandalfr is a name that appears among the company of dwarves in Völuspá.

The name Gandálfr can be translated as 'staff elf' (combining the words gandr, ‘wand’, and álfr, ‘elf’), and Tolkien borrowed the name for his staff-wielding wizard. In the Icelandic Þiðriks saga af Bern, a woman waves a gandr, a wand or staff, to perform magic. Staffs have been found deposited in graves across Viking-Age Scandinavia and Iceland, and may have been used in magic, or rituals no longer known to us. 

The Danish folk band Krauka recorded their version of 'Dvergatal', with lyrics adapted from the eddic poem Völuspá, in 2019. 

A Company of Dwarves