The Dwarf, excerpt from

Lagerkvist, Par

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Donley, Carol
  • Date of entry: Jan-29-1997
  • Last revised: Aug-21-2006


This excerpt from the novel, narrated by the court dwarf, gets us at once into his attitudes and prejudices: that he is nobody’s fool and will not act like a buffoon to entertain people; that he admires the Prince he serves but doesn’t really understand him; that he has a huge ego and plenty of defensiveness, as if he were always expecting ridicule. He hates being treated like a child and being forced to play with the Princess, so he takes revenge by decapitating her pet kitten.

In the extraordinary scene where dwarfs act out a communion service, he says, "I eat his body which was deformed like yours. It tastes bitter as gall, it is full of hatred." Then he throws the wine over the Prince’s guests who are watching this entertainment.


While dwarfs in some stories evoke compassion and pity, this narrator is quite unlikable--full of himself and quick to criticize others. His unrelenting and angry voice bitterly blames those who have hurt him--just about everyone. But he understands a deep psychological fact: that people who are afraid of dwarfs are really scared by "the dwarf within them . . . who sticks up its head from the depths of their souls."


Novel copyright, 1945. Translated by Alexandra Dick.

Primary Source

The Tyranny of the Normal


Kent State Univ. Press

Place Published

Kent, Ohio




Carol Donley & Sheryl Buckley

Page Count