Tolkien Geek

Blogging J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and other aimless pursuits.


FOTR: Bk 2, Ch 4

A Journey In The Dark
"There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world."
Exhausted from their climb up the side of Caradhras, the company realizes that they must either find another way past the mountains or return to Rivendell. Going back, however, would be to admit defeat. Boromir pushes for a journey farther South, going around the Misty Mountains by way of the Gap of Rohan. This would bring the Fellowship perilously close to Isengard and the forces of Saruman, who clearly is no longer their ally. Of course, from Boromir's perspective it would also bring them - the Ring - practically to the gates of Minas Tirith. Emphasizing the danger of Saruman, Gandalf reluctantly suggests that they should travel under the mountains - through the Mines of Moria.

Aragorn knows of the danger that dwells there and at first votes against it. It could be that he foresees the potential loss of Gandalf, and understands that the responsibility of leading the company would then fall to him. Aragorn's self-doubt and inner struggle with realizing his destiny is played up much more in the film, but elements of it remain in the book. Since the enemy is looking for them, Gandalf suggests that their disappearing for a while would be advantageous. He also points out that most of the Orcs of the Misty Mountains were either destroyed or scattered after the Battle of Five Armies. The wizard has passed through Moria before as did Aragorn once. They both understand the risks. But ultimately they decide that it is their only real choice.

That night, the sound of wargs chills their blood and soon a great host of them encircles and attacks the company. Gandalf manages to chase them away with some of his trademark pyrotechnics and they quickly advance South. Later, as they make their approach, they see the west wall of Moria.
"Suddenly Gimli, who had pressed on ahead, called back to them. He was standing on a knoll and pointing to the right. Hurrying up they saw below them a deep and narrow channel. It was empty and silent, and hardly a trickle of water flowed among the brown and red-stained stones of its bed; but on the near side there was a path, much broken and decayed, that wound its way among the ruined walls and paving-stones of an ancient highroad."
When the Dwarves discovered Mithril early in the Second Age, the Elves began an alliance with them to trade for the precious metal, which was light yet strong as well as beautiful and versatile. The road that led from Eregion, where Celebrimbor was tricked into teaching Sauron the skill of ring-making, followed a bridge over the River Sirannon, the Gate-stream. It had once flowed swiftly and noisily but now all was bleak and dry. As they investigate they see that the river is dammed and the water has backed up to fill the shallow valley that lay before the Gate, so that it now formed a small lake that lay about two miles from end to end.

Gandalf leads the company around the North end of the lake and back down along the narrow shelf that followed the base of the wall. At this point, Gandalf acknowledges that Bill the pony can no longer accompany them, for the road ahead is too treacherous and difficult for a beast. Sam is heartbroken, but he must lead the pony back to the road.

It is night by the time they reach the West Gate. At first the door is invisible, but the moonlight reflects upon a slender vein of silver marking an engraved design on it. The tree of the High Elves and the star of Feanor are combined with the symbol of Durin and the Dwarves - a hammer and anvil. Thus the pictures and ruins on the door represent a period of amicability between the two races until the day when the Dwarves delved to deeply.

In the year 1980 of the Third Age, the last wall that imprisoned Durin's Bane was breached and an evil was released that killed many Dwarves and scattered the rest, ending their long occupation of the realm of Khazad-Dum. Durin's Bane was a Balrog of Morgoth. Now what exactly is a Balrog? Where did it come from and what exactly was it doing there under the Misty Mountains? Balrogs were originally Maiar spirits (the "lesser" immortals) that were corrupted by Morgoth. When he came to Middle Earth in the First Age, he brought with him these beings who took the physical form of hideous demon-creatures, riddled with fire and brandishing whips of many thongs.

When Morgoth was finally defeated and his fortress of Thangorodrim broken, at least one of these beasties escaped by fleeing to the safety of the roots of the Misty Mountains. When the lands East of the Blue Mountains was engulfed by the sea and the physical make-up of the rest of Middle-Earth changed, the Balrog became trapped in a stony prison of its own making. There it slept until the greed of the Dwarves awakened it. And there it dwelt still somewhere in those dark caverns. This was the force of evil that Gandalf feared, with good reason. For although Gandalf's true nature was also that of a Maiar spirit, it was not certain which would survive such an encounter.

At this point, Gandalf tries following the command of the door to "speak, friend, and enter". He tries every password he knows but it seems of no use. At last he realizes that the password is actually mellon, the Elvish word for friend. The instruction was actually to say "friend" and enter. The doors open outwards and the Fellowship begins to cross the threshold. Out of nowhere comes a long tentacle, seizing Frodo by the ankle and pulling him. They manage to free him but dozens more emerge from the lake, grabbing at Frodo and eventually slamming the doors shut on them as they flee inside. This "watcher in the water" creature is presented in a much more elaborate way in Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring. But the idea is the same.

Not much is known about it, but it is assumed that this evil thing is responsible for the damming of the Sirannon and the creation of the lake in the first place. Frodo asks Gandalf what it is. "I do now know," answered Gandalf, "but the arms were all guided by one purpose." Gandalf does not say so aloud but the fact that it concentrated on Frodo leads him to believe that it was searching for the Ring. Whether it did so at the behest of Sauron is not made clear. But we can assume that at the very least it was drawn to the Ring by its evil nature.

Several days pass as they travel through the darkness. Gandalf taks the lead with a light he has created at the end of his staff. Tolkien mentions that they encounter several breaks and fissures along their path that required them to leap across (one was as wide as seven feet). In the film, each of them has to jump over an ever-widening staircase as they flee from the Balrog. I can't help but wonder if this passing reference by Tolkien was Peter Jackson's inspiration for writing this new scene, complete with the now-infamous "Dwarf-tossing" gag.

Because of his experience with the world of the Ringwraiths after he was stabbed, Frodo notices something odd.
"One sign of change that he soon had noticed was that he could see more in the dark than any of his companions, save perhaps Gandalf. And he was in any case the bearer of the Ring: it hung upon his chain against his breast, and at whiles it seemed a heavy weight. He felt the certainly of evil ahead and of evil following; but he said nothing."
Frodo is becoming more attuned to the Ring. And his heightened senses allow him to make note of the faint sound of soft bare feet following them. Gollum has found them and has been trailing them. Gandalf has to pause before three passages. His memory was failing him and in any case his last trip through Moria was going the other direction. He at last decides on the passage on the right, as he feels it is time that they began to head upwards.

The company enters a cavernous hall. Lined with great pillars, this is the underground city of the Dwarrowdelf. Gimli is in awe and is inspired to recite a poem of the Dwarves, after which they discuss the legend of Durin's Bane. When the day breaks outside the mountains, a shaft of light comes in through a breach in the rock and continues down into a small room behind one of the arches up ahead. The company enters this room - the Chamber of Marzarbul which was once the chamber of records during the days of Durin.

As they enter the chamber, they see the light falling upon a slab of white stone in the middle of the room. Gandalf reads the ruins on it. It is a tomb. The inscription says:
Balin Son of Fundin
Lord of Moria

While Balin and the Dwarves had been successful in reoccupying Moria, it appears that the occupation was short-lived.

Next: The Bridge Of Khazad-Dum

[Chronology: January 13th through January 15th 3019 T.A.]

(revised 8/31/06)


At 5:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always get the creeps reading the record of Balin's expedition. It's one thing to be trapped with no escape, but to be trapped long enough to write about it and hope someone finds the book later so that your friends and family will know what happend to you.... brrr.


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