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Literature / The Dwarf

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The Dwarf is a 1944 novel by Swedish author and Nobel laureate Pär Lagerkvist, considered to be one of his greatest works. Written as the diary of a court dwarf in an Italian city state during The Renaissance, it explores human evil and self-perception through the thoughts of its Villain Protagonist.

The novel contains examples of:

  • The Black Death: The plague eventually reaches the city. A large portion of the book is spent with the Dwarf inside the stricken city while the body count rises and its inhabitants grow increasingly desperate.
  • Depraved Dwarf: Could be the trope codifier. The protagonist, the titular dwarf, is utterly, irredeemably evil.
  • The Film of the Book: Peter Dinklage has been trying to gather support for a film adaptation for decades, and it now seems to be becoming reality.
  • Forced Prize Fight: The Dwarf was forced to wrestle the other court dwarf, Jehoshaphat. He strangled him to death.
    "Since then I have been the only dwarf at this court."
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  • Kick the Dog: When she's a little girl, the Dwarf sneaks into Angelica's room while she's sleeping and decapitates her beloved kitten. For no other reason than that he's tired of playing with her.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: The Dwarf. He looks up to his master, the Prince. Everyone else he hates - including himself.
    "All these creatures who call themselves men, and who inspire such disgust and nausea! Why should they exist? Why should they revel and laugh and love and overrun the earth? Why should these lying dissemblers and braggarts exist, these lustful shameless creatures whose virtues are even viler than their sins? May they burn in the fires of hell!"
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Master Bernardo is a thinly disguised Leonardo da Vinci. He paints, he dissects cadavers, he designs war machines... He even apparently creates the Mona Lisa (basing it on Princess Teodora) and The Last Supper during his stay with the Prince.
  • No Name Given:
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    • The protagonist. The book is written in first person as a diary and there's very little dialogue, so we never find out the Dwarf's name.note 
    • The Prince.
  • Period Piece: The book is set during the Italian renaissance.
  • Private Military Contractors: One recurring character is the condottiere Bocarossa.
  • Shown Their Work: Subverted. The setting is impeccably researched, but Lagerkvist deliberately leaves out any mentions of real names and places.
  • Straight Edge Evil: The dwarf has no interest in sex, doesn't drink and only eats as much as it's necessary. He's utterly disgusted by gluttony, lust and even love.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The Dwarf's actions constantly belie his descriptions of himself and his thoughts.
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