Elves and Dwarves: The Origin Story
It’s believed that the true, underlying reason for why the elves and the dwarves so often find themselves at odds with each other is because of the dwarvish origin story.
A quick basic summary: Iluvatar announced his plans to create the elves, and then the men, but he didn’t say when exactly they’d arrive. Aule, one of the Valar, got impatient and decided to make the dwarves, so that he’d have someone to teach. When Iluvatar found out, he was angry, and at first Aule thought he would have to destroy the dwarves. Instead, Iluvatar let them live, saying:
But I will not suffer this: that these should come before the Firstborn of my design. They shall sleep now in the darkness under stone, and shall not come forth until the Firstborn have been awakened upon Earth. But when the time comes I will awaken them; and often strife shall arise between thine and mine, the children of my adoption and the children of my choice.
Basically, the dwarves were not part of Iluvatar’s original plan. His plan was to have the Firstborn (the elves) and the Secondborn (the men) only. And though Iluvatar “adopts” the dwarves, it seems that the elves would always sense, even subconsciously, that the dwarves did not originate with Iluvatar, and so were “The Other.” Which isn’t an unreasonable basis for a bias, given that the other beings the elves come into contact with who didn’t originate with Iluvatar are the orcs.
The Silmarillion is told from the elvish point of view, so we really don’t know how the dwarves feel about all this. Is part of their secretive and isolationist nature because, while the elves have a natural friendship with men, being “siblings”, the dwarves are “only children”? Or do they not recognize or agree with this more spiritual beginning to their relationship with the elves?
And why aren’t the Men involved in this conflict at all? I have a few theories, though Tolkien never says for sure. The elves are very spiritual, or at least spiritually aware. This is in large part, I’m sure, because of the extended contact they’ve had with the Valar. Meanwhile, men have had next to no contact with the Valar, and learned everything they know about the Valar and Iluvatar through the elves. So it might just be that Men don’t really care about such things as much as the elves do. Also, we have to consider the major difference between men and elves: their destination. While the elves are connected to Arda forever, and therefore might be more sensitive to such things as the unplanned inclusion of an entirely new race, the destiny of men lies Somewhere Else. So maybe their “spiritual focus” isn’t on Arda at all? Just my thoughts.
SOURCES: The Silmarillion