|J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location|
Durin's emblem as described on the West-gate of Moria
|Type||Greatest city of Dwarves[T 1]|
subterranean realm, labyrinth
|Ruler||Kings of Durin's Folk (to T.A. 1981); Durin's Bane, Azog; Balin; Durin VII|
|Notable locations||– outdoors –|
Dimrill Dale, Durin's Stone, the Mirrormere, Durin's Tower, the Mountains of Moria
– entrances –
the Great Gates [east], the Doors of Durin [west]
– subterranean –
Durin's Bridge, the Chamber of Mazarbul, the Endless Stair, the Mines, the Black Chasm
|Location||central Misty Mountains|
|Lifespan||Years of the Trees[T 1] - T.A. 1981 |
Fourth Age -
In the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, Moria, also named Khazad-dûm, is a fabulous and ancient subterranean complex in north-western Middle-earth, comprising a vast labyrinthine network of tunnels, chambers, mines and huge halls. The complex ran under and ultimately through the Misty Mountains. Moria is one of the wonders of the world of Middle-earth.[T 2]
In much of Middle-earth's fictional history, which spanned many millennia, Moria was the greatest city of Dwarves in Middle-earth. The Dwarves had founded and built Moria, giving it the name Khazad-dûm, and inhabiting it for thousands of years. The city's wealth was founded on its mines, which produced mithril, a fictional metal of extremely high value and versatility.
However, by the times in which The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are set, Moria had been abandoned by the Dwarves long ago. It was now a place with an evil repute; it was now dark, with some features in dangerous disrepair; and in its labyrinths lurked Orcs, and a demon of great power: the Balrog. This is the situation when the Fellowship of the Ring is forced to enter Moria.
- 1 Names
- 2 Tolkien's account
- 3 Concept and creation
- 4 Reception
- 5 Adaptations
- 6 Further reading
- 7 References
Moria is by far the most common name of the place in Tolkien's writings. The name means "the Black Chasm" or "the Black Pit", from Sindarin mor = 'dark, black' and iâ ='void, abyss, pit'. The element mor also had the sense 'sinister, evil', especially by association with infamous names such as Morgoth and Mordor; indeed Moria itself has an evil reputation by the times in which The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are set.
The name Moria had (within the fiction) originally applied only to the Black Chasm itself. However, after the Dwarves were forced to abandon Khazad-dûm, its many bright lamps were destroyed, and the whole subterranean complex was drowned in darkness: a veritable Black Pit. Tolkien borrowed the name Moria itself, but not its meaning, from a book he had read.
Khazad-dûm is the second-commonest name, used for the fabulous city-kingdom of the Dwarves, especially in an historical or nostalgic context. In the fictional history, Khazad-dûm was Moria's original name, that given it by the Dwarves in their own language. It is translated as the Dwarrowdelf, 'dwarrows' being an archaic English plural of 'dwarf', and 'delf' an archaic alternative to 'delving', from the verb 'delve', to dig. Tolkien rhymes dûm with tomb.[T 3]
Moria was originally a system of natural caves located in Dimrill Dale, a valley on the eastern side of the Misty Mountains. The caves led to an immeasurably-deep subterranean abyss: the Black Chasm. Moria lay on the western edge of the Middle-earth region of Wilderland. Three of the Misty Mountains' most massive peaks embayed Dimrill Dale: the Mountains of Moria. In the Common Tongue they are named Silvertine (which stood on the west of the valley), Redhorn (on the north) and Cloudyhead (on the east). The caves of Moria, where the Dwarf city-kingdom of Khazad-dûm was founded, were situated under Silvertine; their mouth overlooked Dimrill Dale.
The first feature encountered by Durin was the great valley itself: "a glen of shadows between two great arms of the mountains, above which three white peaks were shining".[T 4] Within this valley, a long series of short waterfalls led down to a long, oval lake, which appeared to have a magical quality: "There, like jewels sunk in the deep shone glinting stars, though sunlight was in the sky above".[T 4] Perceiving these stars as a crown glittering above his head, Durin took this as an auspicious sign, and named the lake Kheled-zâram, the 'Mirrormere'.
The three peaks overshadowing the lake he named Barazinbar 'the Redhorn', Zirakzigil 'the Silvertine' and Bundushathûr, 'Cloudyhead'. The icy-cold springs below the lake he called Kibil-nâla (the source of the Silverlode), and the valley itself he gave the name Azanulbizar, the Dimrill Dale. Durin chose the eastward-facing caves above Kheled-zâram[T 5] as the earliest beginnings of his new stronghold.
Not far within Moria's original caves, and thus not far within the city of Khazad-dûm, lay a subterranean abyss of vast depth: the Black Chasm (or the Black Pit), whose Sindarin translation Moria was eventually applied to the whole subterranean complex. The Black Chasm was some fifty feet wide, crossed only by Durin's Bridge.
The Dwarves excavated most of Khazad-dûm out of solid rock, leaving polished walls.[T 6] Minerals included gold, gems and iron ore. However the principal mineral was mithril, a fabulously precious and versatile metal found nowhere else in Middle-earth. It was the source of Khazad-dûm's huge wealth, but ultimately its mining was the cause of its downfall. Far below even the deepest mines of the Dwarves lay a primordial underworld of tunnels, streams and lakes in perpetual darkness, inhabited by primitive creatures. The tunnels were "gnawed by nameless things" from the beginnings of Arda,[T 7] along with the Watcher in the Water, which Gandalf suggested may have come from the underworld's waters.[T 8]
The great valley of Dimrill Dale lay outside the Great Gates of Moria.[T 9][T 10] In Durin's time, even before the First Age of the Sun, Khazad-dûm ruled an empire to its east, in Wilderland, including the Grey Mountains and the Iron Hills.[T 11]
Moria was founded by Durin as Khazad-dûm, the fabulous city-kingdom of the Longbeards, the premier Dwarf-clan in Middle-earth. Its first historical period was known as Durin's Day, Durin's immensely long reign during the Sleep of Yavanna at the end of the Ages of the Stars. During his reign, the precious metal mithril was discovered in the mines, and some of the major structures of Moria were built: Durin's Bridge, the Second Hall, the Endless Stair and Durin's Tower. Durin died before the end of the First Age. He was buried in the royal tombs of Khazad-dûm.[T 3][T 12] A rune-carved stone monolith – Durin's Stone – was erected on the site where he had first looked into the Mirrormere.
Early in the Second Age, other Dwarves came to Khazad-dûm as refugees.[T 13] Orcs constantly attacked the dwarf kingdom; men and dwarves fought together against the orcs.[T 11] With the foundation of the Noldorin realm Eregion to the west around S.A. 700,[T 14] the Longbeards became friendly with the Elves, who assisted in developing Khazad-dûm's mansions; making it "far more beautiful"; it grew westwards through tunnels to the massive stone West Gate.[T 15] It opened on to the elf-realm of Eregion. Celebrimbor, the Lord of Eregion, used ithildin lettering on this gate on behalf of its builder: his friend the dwarf craftsman Narvi.[T 16]
Between years 1500 and 1600 of the Second Age, the Rings of Power (other than the One Ring) were made by elves in Eregion. Durin III, the King of Khazad-dûm at the time, obtained one of the rings; another was Nenya, made from Moria's mithril; it became Galadriel's ring. When the elves discovered that Sauron, the Dark Lord had placed evil spells on the rings, the War of the Elves and Sauron broke out in S.A. 1693, involving Khazad-dûm; for a time it was cut off from the Iron Hills.[T 17] In S.A. 1697, Sauron conquered Eregion, but Khazad-dûm's intervention enabled Elves including Elrond and Celeborn to escape Eregion's destruction and found Rivendell. [T 18] Khazad-dûm was then closed, and its population dwindled.[T 5]
At the end of the Second Age, Khazad-dûm fought against Sauron in the War of the Last Alliance (S.A. 3434-3441), helping to defeat him.[T 19]
The more easily accessible veins of mithril were exhausted, and over the centuries, the Dwarves dug deeper and deeper until in the year T.A. 1980, they disturbed a Balrog, an ancient demon of dreadful power. This balrog killed King Durin VI in that year, acquiring the name Durin's Bane, and in the following year it killed Náin I, his son and successor. The Dwarves abandoned Khazad-dûm and fled into Wilderland.
Orcs of the Misty Mountains occupied Moria, while the Balrog, Durin's Bane, haunted its depths. By T.A. 2790 the Orc-chieftain Azog was the master of Moria. In that year Thrór, the heir of the Dwarf-kings of Khazad-dûm, attempted to enter his people's ancestral home, despite warnings not to. He was slain by Azog, precipitating the War of the Dwarves and Orcs; Azog was beheaded by Dáin Ironfoot, but the Dwarves had suffered great losses and remained unwilling to face Durin's Bane. After this Pyrrhic victory, Thrór's son Thráin II attempted to re-enter the Mines, but Dáin stopped him and prophesied that some power other than the Dwarves must come before Durin's folk could return to Moria. Dwarves led by Balin, one of Bilbo's party in The Hobbit, left Erebor to recolonize Moria. At first all went well, but after five years the colony was destroyed by Orcs.[T 20]
As the War of the Ring loomed, a messenger from Sauron offered Dáin the return of Moria (and the remaining three of the Seven Rings of Power assigned to Dwarves) if he cooperated with Sauron to find the One Ring. Dáin refused, sending (Glóin and his son Gimli), to the Council of Elrond in Rivendell, starting the quest of the Fellowship of the Ring.
The Fellowship reluctantly passed through Moria in 'January' T.A. 3019, gambling that most of its Orcs had been killed in the Battle of Five Armies. They were attacked by a monster as they entered the West-gate, and faced further perils in the subterranean passages. After reaching the Chamber of Mazarbul, the Fellowship were attacked there by a Troll and many Orcs, before being approached by Durin's Bane itself. Gandalf confronted the Balrog on Durin's Bridge, where the two duelled briefly before plunging together into the Black Chasm, allowing the rest of the Fellowship to escape to the Eastern Gates.
Khazad-dûm lay empty. Some centuries into the Fourth Age, the auspiciously-named Durin VII, a descendant of Dáin Ironfoot, succeeded as the King of the Longbeards and heir of the Kings of Khazad-dûm.[T 21] He led his people back to Khazad-dûm, where they remained "until the world grew old and the Dwarves failed and the days of Durin's race were ended".[T 22]
Architecture and structures
The city of Khazad-dûm had many levels, linked by flights of fifty or more stone steps. There were at least six levels above the Great Gates, and many more levels —or Deeps— below it. Every level consisted of a network of arched passages, chambers and many-pillared halls, often with "black walls, polished and smooth as glass".[T 6] Below the level of the Gates lay treasuries, armouries, dungeons,[T 5] and the mines. The Endless Stair ascended "from the lowest dungeon to the highest peak",[T 5] where it ended within Durin's Tower, carved from the rock at the tip of Zirak-zigil. During the kingdom of Khazad-dûm, the subterranean realm was "full of light and splendour", illuminated by many "shining lamps of crystal".[T 23] The higher levels had skylights – deep windows and shafts carved through the mountain-side – which provided light during the day. The East-gate or the Dimrill Gate was the main entrance to Moria. It looked over Dimrill Dale. In Durin's Day, trumpets were set there.[T 3] It opened into the First Hall of Moria. The West-gate enabled travellers to pass right through the Misty Mountains, thus providing a weather-free alternative to the notorious and arduous Redhorn Pass, which lay 15–20 miles to the north.
Michael Drout notes that Middle-earth gates are important both symbolically and practically: "They mark exclusion or admission. They test character and wisdom. They suggest mystery, secrecy, and privilege."
Chamber of Mazarbul
The Chamber of Mazarbul was Khazad-dûm's repository of documents. The tomb of Balin was built in the chamber; later still, the chamber was explored and defended by the Fellowship of the Ring. It held Balin's tomb and the Book of Mazarbul, a chronicle of Balin's colony in Moria. The Chamber's depiction in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring film is loosely based on the description in the books; however the walls are covered with inscriptions in Khuzdul and the Common Speech not found in Tolkien's work.
The Bridge of Khazad-dûm or Durin's Bridge, "a slender bridge of stone, without kerb or rail",[T 24] was the only way to cross the Black Chasm, an abyss fifty feet wide and of indeterminate depth. It forced any group wishing to cross to go in single file, limiting the power of any attack.[T 25]
The Endless Stair of many thousands of steps rose in an unbroken spiral from the lowest dungeon of Moria to Durin's Tower at the summit of Celebdil; it was destroyed in the battle between Gandalf and the balrog, Durin's Bane.[T 26]
Khazad-dûm's mines were the foundation of its wealth. Although gold, gems and iron could be found in Moria, the overriding purpose of its mines was to locate and extract the lodes of mithril, also called Moria-silver: a fabulously precious and versatile metal found nowhere else in Middle-earth. But mithril was ultimately also the downfall of Khazad-dûm. Beginning under the mountain Zirak-zigil, the Dwarves mined ever deeper, and down towards the roots of Caradhras, another massive mountain. There they unearthed the Balrog, a powerful demon who then drove the Dwarves from Khazad-dûm into exile. A thousand years later, Dwarves led by Balin attempted to re-colonize Moria. They recommenced mining, and even found some mithril, but their colony was short-lived. By the time in which The Lord of the Rings is set, the deep places of Moria were "drowned in water—or in a shadow of fear."[T 27] One piece of mithril mined by the Dwarves in Khazad-dûm (by T.A. 1981 at the very latest) was made into the mail-shirt which features in The Hobbit and, more prominently, The Lord of the Rings. In The Lord of the Rings the mithril shirt is worn by Frodo Baggins. This saves his life – ironically in a part of the story set in the mail-shirt's birthplace: the Mines of Moria.
Concept and creation
Moria first appeared in Tolkien's 1937 novel The Hobbit. Tolkien later recalled that the name Moria was "a casual 'echo' of Soria Moria Castle in one of the Scandinavian tales translated by Dasent. ... I liked the sound-sequence; it alliterated with 'mines', and it connected itself with the MOR element in my linguistic construction." The tales translated by Dasent were from the 1852 collection Norwegian Folktales.
It has been suggested that Tolkien—an ardent Catholic—may have used the name Moria as a reference to the Biblical mountains of Moriah, where (according to the book of Genesis) Abraham was to sacrifice his son, Isaac. However, Tolkien categorically denied such derivations, saying that "As to Moria…it means…Black Chasm [in Sindarin]. …As for the 'land of Morīah' (note stress): that has no connection (even 'externally') whatsoever."
The critic Jane Chance observes that the fall of the dwarves, first those of Durin, then those of Balin, is brought about through avarice, their greed for Moria's deeply-buried mithril. She identifies this as "their internal vice", which the balrog "monstrously projects". Chance notes further that Balin meets his death at the lake Mirrormere, "a very dark mirror in which he is blind to himself."
The critic Clive Tolley notes that the contest between the wizard Gandalf and the evil Balrog on Durin's bridge somewhat recalls a shamanistic contest, but that a far closer parallel is medieval vision literature, giving the example of St Patrick's Purgatory, and even Dante's Divine Comedy.
Critics such as Chance and Jerram Barrs have recognised the death of Gandalf the Grey (at the hands of the Balrog), and his reappearance as Gandalf the White, as a transfiguration, the change in colour hinting at "a parallel with Christ's own death and resurrection".
The professor of English literature Sue Zlosnik notes that the fantasy world in Tolkien's "fake" mythology "for England" is constructed with elaborate detail. She cites Humphrey Carpenter's biographical account of Tolkien's "painstaking crafting" of The Book of Mazarbul that appears in Moria, complete with "burnt and tattered" pages, and Tolkien's disappointed wish for a facsimile of this artefact to appear in the first edition of Fellowship of the Ring. In Zlosnik's view, this sort of detail recalls Horace Walpole's love of the "Gothic".
Erin Derwin, writing on The Artifice, compares the fellowship's time in Moria with Siegfried Sassoon's First World War poem "The Rear-Guard", in which he describes "groping along the tunnel" in a labyrinth of dark trenches, with "muttering creatures underground", recalling, Derwin suggests, the awakening of the orcs and the balrog by the hobbit Pippin.
Peter Jackson's portrayal of Moria in his The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring movie was mostly inspired by Alan Lee's illustrations. Moria was modelled for the film at 1/12 scale.
The first expansion pack of the MMORPG The Lord of the Rings Online named Mines of Moria takes place almost entirely in Moria, which has several levels. The uppermost is the path of Durin's Way, which pierces the mountain to reach the cliffs of Zirak-Zigil. The main levels of Moria span from the Doors of Durin to Dolven-View, Zelem-Melek, Nud-Melek and the East doors, known as the First Hall. Further down in the subterranean realm are the Silvertine Lodes and the Redhorn Lodes, and the furthest depths contain the submerged Water-Works, the fiery Flaming Deeps, and the Foundations of Stone, where Gandalf and the Balrog fought before ascending the Endless Stair.
- Dickerson, Matthew (2006). "Moria". In Drout, Michael D. C. (ed.). J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Routledge. pp. 438–439. ISBN 0-415-96942-5.
- This list identifies each item's location in Tolkien's writings.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977), Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-25730-1
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 2 ch. 2 p. 253; ISBN 0 04 823045 6
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 2 ch. IV p. 330; ISBN 0 04 823045 6
- Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings. p. 352.
- J. R. R. Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 2 ch. IV p. 329; ISBN 0 04 823045 6
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Two Towers, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 3 ch. V p. 105; ISBN 0 04 823046 4
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 2 ch. IV p. 323; ISBN 0 04 823045 6
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 2 ch. VI p. 348 ("the lowlands of the Dwarf-kingdom"); ISBN 0 04 823045 6
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, appendix A part III p. 355 ("Azanulbizar ... had of old been part of the kingdom of Khazad-dûm."); ISBN 0 04 823047 2
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1996), The Peoples of Middle-earth, Houghton Mifflin, part 2 ch. X p. 302; ISBN 0-395-82760-4
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, appendix A:III p. 352; ISBN 0 04 823047 2
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 2 ch. IV p. 318; ISBN 0 04 823045 6
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1980), Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-29917-9
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1980), Unfinished Tales, George Allen & Unwin, part 2 ch. IV 'Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn' p. 236; ISBN 0-04-823179-7
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1980), Unfinished Tales, George Allen & Unwin, part 2 ch. IV p.235; ISBN 9780048231796
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1996), The Peoples of Middle-earth, Houghton Mifflin, part 2 ch. X p. 305; ISBN 0-395-82760-4
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1980), Unfinished Tales, George Allen & Unwin, part 2 ch. IV p. 238; ISBN 0-04-823179-7
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1977), The Silmarillion, George Allen & Unwin, 'Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age' p. 294; ISBN 0 04 823139 8
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 2 ch. 2 p. 254; ISBN 0 04 823045 6
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1996), The Peoples of Middle-earth, Houghton Mifflin: "The Making of Appendix A", '(iv) Durin's Folk', p. 279; ISBN 0-395-82760-4
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1996), The Peoples of Middle-earth, Houghton Mifflin: "The Making of Appendix A", '(iv) Durin's Folk', p. 278; ISBN 0-395-82760-4.
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 2 ch. IV pp. 329-330; ISBN 0 04 823045 6
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 2 ch. V p. 343; ISBN 0 04 823045 6
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm", ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Two Towers, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 3 ch. V 'The White Rider' p. 105; ISBN 0 04 823046 4.
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 2 ch. IV p. 331; ISBN 0 04 823045 6
- Etymology of "Moria".
- Drout, Michael D. C. (2007). J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Taylor & Francis. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-415-96942-0.
- The Mazarbul Chamber Wall Runes, Chamber of Mazarbul – Tolkien Gateway
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, George Allen & Unwin, letter no. 297 (August 1967) p. 384; ISBN 0-04-826005-3
- Wayne G. Hammond & Christina Scull (2005), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, Harper Collins, p. 224 'Moria'; ISBN 0 00 720308 X
- Tolkien, J.R.R. Draft of a letter to a Mr. Rang. Letter #297, August 1967
- Nitzsche, Jane Chance (1980) . Tolkien's Art. Papermac. p. 42. ISBN 0-333-29034-8.
- Nitzsche, Jane Chance (1980) . Tolkien's Art. Papermac. pp. 108–109. ISBN 0-333-29034-8.
- Tolley, Clive. "Old English influence on The Lord of the Rings" (PDF). Pearson Education. p. 55. Retrieved 10 January 2020.
- Barrs, Jerram (2013). Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts. Crossway. p. 123. ISBN 978-1-4335-3600-7.
- Zlosnik, Sue (2006). Eaglestone, Robert (ed.). Gothic Echoes. Reading The Lord of the Rings: New Writings on Tolkien's Classic. A&C Black. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-8264-8460-4.
- Derwin, Erin (8 July 2014). "World War I and The Lord of the Rings: The Trenches of Moria". The Artifice.
- Russell, Gary (2002). The lord of the rings : the art of The fellowship of the ring. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-00-713563-9. OCLC 50329727.
- Leotta, Alfio (2015). Peter Jackson. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 176. ISBN 978-1-62356-948-8.
- Koeneke, Robert Alan (1983). "The Dungeons of Moria". Internet Archive.
- Woodruff, Teeuwynn (2007). "Lord of the Rings". In Lowder, James (ed.). Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. 183–187. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0.
- Bree Royce (19 December 2016). "TURBINE SPINS Lord of the Rings Online AND DDO TEAMS OUT TO NEW STUDIO, USING DAYBREAK AS PUBLISHER". Massively Overpowered. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
- Michael (26 February 2019). "LORD OF THE RINGS ONLINE EXPANSION TO INCLUDE MINAS MORGUL AND SHELOB". MMOCourt. Retrieved 27 August 2019.