FOTR, Book II, Chapter 5, The Bridge of Khazad-dûm

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FOTR, Book II, Chapter 5, The Bridge of Khazad-dûm

Postby ~WyrtWif~ » Tue Oct 03, 2006 9:22 pm

The chapter opens with the party lingering around the tomb of Balin. They begin to notice the clues all around them – bones, broken weapons and armor, both dwarven and orc; various trunks, broken and now empty, and nearby, a badly damaged book, brittle and stained. The book of records contains much information from Balin’s company’s first arrival in Dale.

Gandalf reads, after some examination, how the dwarves first chased out the orcs and set up residence in Moria, and their discovery of mithril. Gimli translates the “Chamber of Mazarbul” as the “Chamber of Records.”

They continue to browse through the damaged book as best they can. Gandalf cannot make out the words on many of the pages. Then he finds a clearer hand in Elvish, a telling passage by Ori. Balin’s death preludes the final horror as the group is trapped, to their doom. The repeated phrase of the scribe, “We cannot get out,” is utterly despondent. The page tells of the sounding of drums in the deep, as their enemies come for them.

Gimli echoes the phrase of despair thoughtfully. After some time, the party rouses themselves from mourning to make their own escape, as Gandalf finally pieces together their location, and thus their proper exit, from clues in the book. At this moment, a deep booming shakes the floor. The drumming reverberates, a horn blows, and suddenly the recently read passage begins to be played out, with dramatic foreboding, by the Fellowship.

“‘They are coming!’ cried Legolas.
“‘We cannot get out,’ said Gimli.’
“‘Trapped! cried Gandalf.’”

And then the party springs into action. Gandalf and Aragorn lead with Boromir assisting in the rush of decisions for the party’s defense.

The party needs to travel east, and the orcs are approaching from the west. But instead of fleeing immediately, Aragorn and Gandalf decide to stand and fight where they are in order to delay the enemy. Although Boromir wedges the door, a brute soon begins to burst through. Boromir’s blade glances off the monster’s arm, and indeed comes back chipped, but Frodo’s fierce thrust with Sting pierces the thing’s foot, giving a temporary reprieve as it retreats, and then the orcs break through.

A fierce battle ensues, with the company’s attack so terrible that the orcs flee in dismay, and so the party does likewise, taking this chance to escape. But as they make for the stair, an orc-chieftain assails Boromir, Aragorn and finally Frodo. Aragorn slays the chieftain with one fierce blow from Andúril, again dismaying the orc-followers into retreat, and Aragorn scoops up what he thinks is Frodo’s lifeless body. In the hall, Frodo’s command to be set down startles Aragorn.

Gandalf orders the party onward as he stays behind. The party cannot see as they press forward. Behind them, there is a mysterious flash of light and drumming. Suddenly, Gandalf is flung into their midst and urges them to continue forward. The drumbeats follow, but at a distance now. The company goes on, as Gandalf now leads them straight ahead, past a maze of passages, taking no turns, but always descending, with the air growing progressively hotter.

During a short pause, Gandalf recounts his battle at the stair briefly, and then in an aside observes to Frodo that he seems to have something “more about you than meets the eye.” After some time they come to an open chamber and discover an open chasm of fire, which would have served to trap them had they continued on the main road as was their original path. In this fortuitous position, Boromir laughs at the anguish of the orcs in discovery of their error. However, soon trolls come with long stones to cross the gap.

Gandalf calls the party’s attention to their apparent last danger in Moria – the open-sided narrow stone bridge which is their only path of escape. As the party prepares to cross single-file, Legolas spies a Balrog. The coming of the Balrog inspires feared silence in the orcs, and deep terror in the Fellowship.

Gandalf takes a resigned stance as he leans on his staff. Then he urgently commands the party to flee across the bridge. The party obeys, but then halts on the other side to watch, expectantly waiting for Gandalf. Aragon and Boromir stubbornly guard the end of the bridge, ready to assist in Gandalf’s escape.

With slow, determined, powerful words, Gandalf refuses passage to the terrifying creature of fire and darkness before him. The Balrog, silent, draws itself up and fills the chamber with deep shadow, large and menacing, and steps forward slowly to challenge the wizard. They strike. Gandalf breaks the beast’s sword, and again forcefully denies passage to the beast, but the Balrog is undaunted as it jumps to battle.

As Aragorn and Boromir spring to assist, Gandalf strikes the bridge in a burst of white flame. As the Balrog falls, it ensnares Gandalf with its whip. With one last urgent whisper before disappearing into the darkness of the chasm, Gandalf orders his friends to escape.

The party, numb and frozen, is roused by Aragorn and they flee in terror and despair, into the growing sunlight. The company sweeps on to the outside with Aragorn’s wrathful attack on the gate guard. The party flees from the darkness of Moria, and then at last, on the bright hills of Dimrill Dale, they stop to grieve the loss of their guide, as the echo of the dooming drumbeats fade away.
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Postby ~WyrtWif~ » Tue Oct 03, 2006 9:25 pm

Some possible discussion questions:

1. What is the monster that attempts to break the door? Greenish scales, toeless foot. A troll?

2. Frodo’s sword is able to pierce the monster’s foot, but Boromir’s sword falls away notched and apparently does not hurt the thing. Why?

3. Is the Balrog an independent entity or a servant of Sauron? Gimli calls it Durin’s Bane of the old legend. Is it a demon?

4. Gandalf uses strong words and regal bearing in this chapter – challenging the mob who dares to disturb Balin’s tomb and then again facing the Balrog. Is his true power is being unveiled just as we lose him?

5. How long was the company in Moria? Two nights – one day? They entered at night, slept late, traveled, slept again, and then found the chamber, and fled into sunlight – ‘one hour after noon.’

6. Sam weeps again as they leave Gandalf behind, and as Frodo notices, he finds himself weeping as well. Comments?

Please feel free to add your own questions or discussion ideas as well.
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Postby rowanberry » Wed Oct 04, 2006 10:04 am

Thanks for the summary and questions, WyrtWif!

To kick this month's discussion going:

3. Is the Balrog an independent entity or a servant of Sauron? Gimli calls it Durin’s Bane of the old legend. Is it a demon?


I've always believed that, it was an independent entity, although Sauron must have known of its existence; an independent ally of Mordor, a bit like Shelob. The dwarves know it as Durin's Bane because it killed King Durin VI in III 1980 and his son Náin I the next year, and caused the destruction of the realm of Moria.

Balrogs were originally Maiar, spirits of the same order as Sauron and the Istari (Wizards); they joined the first Dark Lord, Morgoth, in the prehistory of Middle-earth, and were among his most powerful servants. Only a few of them (maybe just this one, since Tolkien reduced the original amount of these creatures quite radically in his revisions of the Silmarillion tales) managed to escape when Morgoth was finally overthrown, and hid themselves in the depths of the earth.

5. How long was the company in Moria? Two nights – one day? They entered at night, slept late, traveled, slept again, and then found the chamber, and fled into sunlight – ‘one hour after noon.’


To this, the answer can be found in Appendix B, The Tale of Years. The Fellowship entered the West Gate at nightfall on January 13, and got out of the East Gate in the afternoon of January 15.
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Postby Arvegil » Thu Oct 05, 2006 3:38 pm

A few more bits on the Balrog:

1. Sauron may have been "first amongst equals" of the Maia of Morgoth, but the Balrogs were up there in power and authority. A Balrog may be inclined to look at Sauron as an equal, not a superior. Doubly so, now that their old boss is gone.

2. If the Balrog was truly subordinate to Sauron, one would think Sauron might have found a use for him prior to 1980 T.A. A Balrog showing up at just the right time during the War of the Elves and Sauron would have been handy. Or, for that matter, leading an army to sack Lothlorien.

No, for a creature of its power, the Balrog actually seems pretty unambitious compared to the old days. It is certainly the undisputed master of Moria, and has been for 1000+ years when Gandalf shows up, but the Balrog seems to be content at that. It isn't a part of Sauron's plans nor does it show any inclination in that direction.
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Postby Nadreck_of_Palain7 » Thu Oct 05, 2006 6:18 pm

2. Frodo’s sword is able to pierce the monster’s foot, but Boromir’s sword falls away notched and apparently does not hurt the thing. Why?


As an Elvish sword, Sting obviously had a capability that more ordinary swords lacked. Later Sting is able to easily able to slice Shelob's web, after Sam's Barrow blade has a very hard time with it. What I always wondered is how Anduril would have done.

6. Sam weeps again as they leave Gandalf behind, and as Frodo notices, he finds himself weeping as well. Comments?


Tolkien's characters seem to be more emotionally expressive than the stoicism that seemed to be the case for most British and American people of the day. This reminded me of a part of the movie that I did not like. In the movie, right after they get out of Moria, Boromir is resistant to Aragorn's attempt to get them moving immediately, apparently because he wants the hobbits (and maybe himself) to recover a little from the emotional shock of losing Gandalf. Of course in the book that does not happen. A combat veteran like Boromir would know that even after loses you have to keep going until the danger is over.

One of the marks of the heroic characters in LOTR is the ability to keep going, keep trying, even while experiencing heavy emotions of loss, grief, or despair. They still feel the emotions, they just do not let that stop them.
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Postby Arvegil » Wed Oct 18, 2006 8:15 am

...which, of course, raises the question of how much Tolkien put his own war experiences into his battles and his characters' reactions.
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Re: FOTR, Book II, Chapter 5, The Bridge of Khazad-dûm

Postby Chubb » Tue Aug 27, 2013 8:44 am

6. Sam weeps again as they leave Gandalf behind, and as Frodo notices, he finds himself weeping as well. Comments?


The actual lines from the book are very subtle and yet deeply moving. When I first read the book, I couldn't quite believe what had just happened, and the action is so frenetic there is no time to reflect immediately afterwards. The company are thrown into pitch black darkness, the bridge collapses, and all thought must be given to their escape. As is the case for much of FOTR, the readers' experience is shaped and mirrored by the perspective of Frodo - and it is clear from these few lines that he is in a state of shock, as I think are we. As for Sam, he represents all that is real, down-to-earth and straight-speaking. For all his rustic qualities, he is in fact of all the company the most perceptive, and indeed open, about his own feelings and opinions, and he says things as they are. They have just lost their leader and friend, right in front of their eyes - it is fitting that it is Sam who first recognises and responds most naturally to his sorrow and grief through tears. I think it is then that the reality sinks in for Frodo.

Just a note on Aragorn, who at that critical moment rallies the company and tells them he will now lead them: it says much about his strength and leadership qualities, for it shows that he put his own shock and grief to one side for the sake of the others, to bring their minds immediately back to their mission. They could easily have all fallen to despair and disarray at that point, and the one thing they needed to hear the most was that someone would lead them in Gandalf's place.
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Re: FOTR, Book II, Chapter 5, The Bridge of Khazad-dûm

Postby fatty*lumpkin » Mon Mar 24, 2014 9:03 pm


Just a note on Aragorn, who at that critical moment rallies the company and tells them he will now lead them: it says much about his strength and leadership qualities, for it shows that he put his own shock and grief to one side for the sake of the others, to bring their minds immediately back to their mission. They could easily have all fallen to despair and disarray at that point, and the one thing they needed to hear the most was that someone would lead them in Gandalf's place.


very true, aragorn really stepped up to the plate here
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Re: FOTR, Book II, Chapter 5, The Bridge of Khazad-dûm

Postby solicitr » Fri Apr 25, 2014 8:22 am

One of the nicer aspects of the chapter, along with the creepy foreshadowing in the Book of Mazarbul and the Dwarvish dead, is the way Tolkien very gradually introduces the Balrog as a Horrible Unknown without identifying it to the readers or even the characters at first.

"Then something came into the chamber - I felt it through the door, and the orcs themselves were afraid and fell silent.It laid hold of the iron ring, and then it perceived me and my spell.

What it was I cannot guess, but I have never felt such a challenge. The counter-spell was terrible. It nearly broke me."
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Re: FOTR, Book II, Chapter 5, The Bridge of Khazad-dûm

Postby Morwenna » Mon May 26, 2014 10:34 am

It is one of the most atmospheric and exciting chapters in the story. I think every reader is in shock who reads of Gandalf's fall for the first time. It's one of those chapters where at the end one just plops the book down and takes a BIG breath! And stares ahead a lot. While waiting for one's heart rate to return to normal.

It is probably one of the most naturally cinematic chapters in the book, and I don't even remember the movie version.
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Re: FOTR, Book II, Chapter 5, The Bridge of Khazad-dûm

Postby Krubs » Sat Aug 23, 2014 2:12 pm

Hello! I would like to ask if anybody knows what is the weight of the Balrog in the book, because I want to do a research. Also do you know when the bridge was built before or after the dwarves got in bad terms with the elves? Thank you for your time :)
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