Empire of the Dwarfs [News of the Weird]

Look, I don’t make the news, I just pass it along. And the news is this: approximately 100 dwarfs live in a self-contained mini-Empire-cum-theme-park and entertain tourists. China built the facility in 2009, despite some concerns about exploitation of people with disabilities.

As Matt Poulter of website eChinacities wrote: “Is Dwarf Empire providing its employees with a legitimate means of earning their living, or is it just exploiting them and cashing in on the fact that they are dwarves? Well, probably a bit of both is our conclusion after visiting.”

But theme park bosses pointed out to Chris Horton of the Go Kunming website that dwarves working at the park are paid better than university graduates in nearby Kunming can command.

If the dwarfs were being put on display as sideshow attractions, that would be exploitative. In this case, they’re merely entertainers working a crowd. Dwarfs were always valued as entertainers and jesters. Naturally, some of this had to do their unique physiology, which many found humorous, even to the point of cruelty. If there’s a distinction between a very tall man being a basketball player and a dwarf being a clown or acrobat, that distinction is lost on me. They weren’t created by accident: they were created by God, which means their disability can be a channel of grace for them and us.

When I was in school, one of my best friends was a dwarf. (I’m 6’5″, so we were an unlikely pair.) The world wasn’t designed for someone his size, and that, coupled with myriad health problems that accompany the condition, made life hard for him. Living in a place where everything is designed for you and you can also use your God-given talents to entertain and earn a good income? I’d say that’s a win.

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And, just because I’m not sure I’ll ever have an excuse to post this, here’s a few minutes of The Greatest Dwarf/Midget Western You’ve Never Seen: 1938′s The Terror of Tiny Town.

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UPDATE: Yes, I’m using “dwarfs” as the plural of “dwarf.” It’s completely acceptable. Don’t make me take out Gimli’s axe…

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • http://www.chesterton.org Sean P. Dailey

    You misspelled “dwarves.” Your entire Tolkien collection is hereby confiscated.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    Nope, I did it on purpose. Unless his name his Thorin Oakenshield, it’s “dwarfs” for me. I reserve “dwarves” strictly for fantasy use.

  • victor

    Agree on dwarves vs. dwarfs. Incidentally, being avid fans of old westerns, my parents had us watch “The Terror of Tiny Town” when I was growing up so that is a movie I actually have seen (still haven’t seen “Avatar” but I’ve seen “The Terror of Tiny Town”).


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