The coinage survived Paracelsus and was taken up in the next several centuries. While Paracelsus claimed Gnomes move through earth as men move through air, that idea was soon transformed to tunnels. Gnomes were regarded as earthy and ugly, the opposite of Fairies, who were lithe creatures of beauty and luminosity. In the past century, this doughty underground spirit has become a generalised term for a kind of Earth Fairy, whose name is interchangeable with many similar creatures (Kobolds, Goblins, Brownies, etc.) The association with underground and mining has, for the most part, been lost. Dwarves, like Gnomes, are an underground race, described in some detail in the 1300’s in Norse mythology, particularly the Icelanding sagas or “Eddas.” Dwarves are associated with construction, metalwork, cunning jewelry, magical items, weapons of war, and the like.
Dwarves, for their part, may be far more ancient even than the Eddas suggest – a “reminiscence,” as folklorist Lotte Motz puts it, from the Megalith Culture, the monument builders who left thousands of sacred stone circles, including Stonehenge, throughout Europe. This would explain several of the Dwarves’ traditional roles, she said, as smiths and gatekeepers. Dwarves are now regarded as short and mostly ugly, but early Norse writings do not describe them as being short. There is some thought that their stature was either the result of satirical presentation, or of Christianity “belittling” or literally diminishing them by making them (and probably other magical races) smaller than human beings.