The Rings of Power's Sophia Nomvete on her female dwarf: "There were all sorts of lengths discussed with the beard"

The Lord of the Rings/The Rings of Power
(Image credit: Amazon)

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has brought J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth back to the screen – and, for the very first time, female Dwarves are present. Sophia Nomvete plays Disa, the stone-singing princess of Khazad-dûm introduced in the show's second episode. She's an immediately striking presence and looks set to be one of the show's many standout performances.

Of course, with playing the very first female dwarf, there comes some controversy: namely, where's the beard? That's the question seemingly on everyone's lips, mainly thanks to a certain famous interaction in Peter Jackson's The Two Towers between Gimli, Aragorn, and Eowyn. 

"It's true you don't see many dwarf women," Gimli tells Eowyn as they travel to Helm's Deep. "And in fact, they are so alike in voice and appearance, that they are often mistaken for dwarf men."

Aragorn intercuts: "It's the beards."

To which Gimli continues: "And this, in turn, has given rise to the belief that there are no dwarf women, and that dwarves just spring out of holes in the ground! Which is, of course, ridiculous."

Tolkien himself wrote in the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings that Dwarves: "They are in voice and appearance, and in garb if they must go on a journey, so like to the dwarf-men that the eyes and ears of other peoples cannot tell them apart."

There's no direct line from Tolkien about female Dwarves actually having beards, but stating that they look like male Dwarves, and male Dwarves all have beards, heavily implies that they do have beards. Either way, in The Rings of Power, Disa does have sideburns and a sprinkling of face fluff under her chin – a design that Nomvete discussed at length with the showrunners.

"The conversation was brilliantly collaborative," she tells Total Film of the design of Disa. "The production team: they always discussed it, and we always talked about it. We were building this character from scratch. There were all sorts of lengths discussed with the beard, and brilliantly we decided to go with the version of this lovely, beautiful interpretation of facial hair for Disa. And then her look – there was actually a first draft of her costume, which was much more heavier-set, and a little bit more stony and rocky and heavier.

"And then suddenly a couple of the creative team had this wonderful idea of: 'What if we celebrate Disa’s passion and sexuality, and how unapologetic she is about feeling, and loving, and being, and her body, and her strength?' And for everything that I am, and everything that the world does and does not see filmically enough, I was so happy and proud and excited to be celebrated.

"She has a softness to her. We have all of this incredible gold and strength, and all the resources that Dwarves have with the materials around them. But there is a softness to Disa. We would talk: 'What if there was something maybe representing some water?' Thus the grey, flowy, long costume, with a huge slit up her leg, was born, with these incredible boots, which weigh like 5 kilos each. Quads of steel by the end of that bloody shoe.

"But it a great collaboration of a million versions of what this could be, and finding reasons, whether they be mythical, character-driven, storytelling-driven, and unique, to build this wonderful vision."

Disa in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

(Image credit: Amazon)

Vinnie Ashton, one of the hair and makeup artists alongside Jane O'Kane, adds some further details on the design. "We still wanted to lean into the femininity of the female Dwarves, so we did give them facial hair, but it was a lot more delicate than the men's here," she says. "Sophia’s, not only did she have the downer facial around her jawline, she had little tufts of eyebrow extensions as well. We played with things like monobrows, which some of our Dwarves still have, but it was done character by character, what suited her and her face."

Which is all to say: beards were discussed for female Dwarves, ad we may still see them yet, but for Disa, the minimal design that pays homage to Tolkien's writings but works within the context of The Rings of Power was what the collaborative team ended up with. It's a decision that was obviously not taken lightly, and one that still looks excellent on screen.

The Rings of Power continues on Prime Video every Friday – check out the full Rings of Power release schedule for more info. And if you're after some theories, then be sure to check out our pieces on Sauron, The Stranger, the Harfoots, and Morgoth.

Jack Shepherd
Freelance Journalist

Jack Shepherd is the former Senior Entertainment Editor of GamesRadar. Jack used to work at The Independent as a general culture writer before specializing in TV and film for the likes of GR+, Total Film, SFX, and others. You can now find Jack working as a freelance journalist and editor.