The Balrog of Khazad-dûm

‘A Balrog,’ muttered Gandalf. `Now I understand.’
He faltered and leaned heavily on his staff. `What an evil fortune! And I am already weary.’


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The Balrog of Moria was a demon of the ancient world. The Balrogs were corrupted by Morgoth in the pits of Angband in the First Age of Middle-earth. They were originally Maia, who followed Morgoth into Arda soon after its creation. They fell under his dark spell and fought for him throughout the First Age. After the War of Wrath, the few Balrogs that survived fled the battle and hid in the deepest and darkest places of the world. The Balrog of Moria was one of these.

BalrogMoria4This Servant of Shadow lay hidden deep within the roots of the Misty Mountains for more than five millennia, laying undisturbed throughout the Second Age and most of the Third Age.  However, in the opening years of the First Age Durin the Deathless founded what would become the greatest of the Dwarven Kingdoms in Middle-earth, the mighty Khazad-dûm. Over the course of millennium the city grew in power and wealth, mainly because it was the only source of Moria Silver, named Mithril. It is said that the dwarves were too greedy, delving too deep in search of more Mithril and brought about their own doom. In the year 1980 of the Third Age, the miners of King Durin VI awoke the Balrog, which attacked the halls of the great kingdom under the mountain. Durin was slain by the creature, who wielded the Flame of Udûn and ever after it was called Durin’s Bane.

The dwarves fled the city and it became know as Moria, the black pit, a place of fear and darkness that few dared enter. The riches of the dwarves where taken by the orcs and carried off to the treasure hoards of Mordor. So it was that Moria lay empty for over a thousand years, a place of foreboding and dark rumor, until the coming of the Fellowship of the Ring in the year 3018 of the Second Age.

‘Not yet! ‘ said Gandalf. ‘But there is time for wonder. Off you go, all of you, down the stairs! Wait a few minutes for me at the bottom, but if I do not come soon, go on! Go quickly and choose paths leading right and downwards.’
‘We cannot leave you to hold the door alone! ‘ said Aragorn.
`Do as I say! ‘ said Gandalf fiercely. `Swords are no more use here. Go!’
The passage was lit by no shaft and was utterly dark. They groped their way down a long flight of steps, and then looked back; but they could see nothing, except high above them the faint glimmer of the wizard’s staff. He seemed to be still standing on guard by the closed door. Frodo breathed heavily and leaned against Sam, who put his arms about him. They stood peering up the stairs into the darkness. Frodo thought he could hear the voice of Gandalf above, muttering words that ran down the sloping roof with a sighing echo. He could not catch what was said. The walls seemed to be trembling. Every now and again the drum-beats throbbed and rolled: doom, doom.
Suddenly at the top of the stair there was a stab of white light. Then there was a dull rumble and a heavy thud. The drum-beats broke out wildly: doom-boom, doom-boom, and then stopped. Gandalf came flying down the steps and fell to the ground in the midst of the Company.
`Well, well! That’s over! ‘ said the wizard struggling to his feet. `I have done all that I could. But I have met my match, and have nearly been destroyed. But don’t stand here! Go on! You will have to do without light for a while: I am rather shaken. Go on! Go on! Where are you, Gimli? Come ahead with me! Keep close behind, all of you!’
BalrogMoria3They stumbled after him wondering what had happened. Doom, doom went the drum-beats again: they now sounded muffled and far away, but they were following. There was no other sound of pursuit, neither tramp of feet, nor any voice. Gandalf took no turns, right or left, for the passage seemed to be going in the direction that he desired. Every now and again it descended a flight of steps, fifty or more, to a lower level. At the moment that was their chief danger; for in the dark they could not see a descent, until they came on it, and put their feet out into emptiness. Gandalf felt the ground with his staff like a blind man.
At the end of an hour they had gone a mile, or maybe a little more, and had descended many flights of stairs. There was still no sound of pursuit. Almost they began to hope that they would escape. At the bottom of the seventh flight Gandalf halted.
`It is getting hot! ‘ he gasped. `We ought to be down at least to the level of the Gates now. Soon I think we should look for a left-hand turn to take us east. I hope it is not far. I am very weary. I must rest here a moment, even if all the orcs ever spawned are after us.’
Gimli took his arm and helped him down to a seat on the step. `What happened away up there at the door? ‘ he asked. `Did you meet the beater of the drums? ‘
‘I do not know,’ answered Gandalf. `But I found myself suddenly faced by something that I have not met before. I could think of nothing to do but to try and put a shutting-spell on the door. I know many; but to do things of that kind rightly requires time, and even then the door can be broken by strength.
`As I stood there I could hear orc-voices on the other side: at any moment I thought they would burst it open. I could not hear what was said; they seemed to be talking in their own hideous language. All I caught was ghâsh; that is “fire”. 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. For an instant the door left my control and began to open! I had to speak a word of Command. That proved too great a strain. The door burst in pieces. Something dark as a cloud was blocking out all the light inside, and I was thrown backwards down the stairs. All the wall gave way, and the roof of the chamber as well, I think.

From The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in the Chapter ‘The Bridge of Khazad-dûm’


As Gandalf led the company away from the ruins of Balin’s Tomb, they came upon a large hall and beyond lay the Bridge of Khazad-dûm…

They now went on again. Before long Gimli spoke. He had keen eyes in the dark. `I think,’ he said, `that there is a light ahead. But it is not daylight. It is red. What can it be? ‘
`Ghâsh!’ muttered Gandalf. `I wonder if that is what they meant: that the lower levels are on fire? Still, we can only go on.’
BalrogMoria6Soon the light became unmistakable, and could be seen by all. It was flickering and glowing on the walls away down the passage before them. They could now see their way: in front the road sloped down swiftly, and some way ahead there stood a low archway; through it the glowing light came. The air became very hot.
When they came to the arch Gandalf went through, signing to them to wait. As he stood just beyond the opening they saw his face lit by a red glow. Quickly he stepped back.
`There is some new devilry here,’ he said, ‘devised for our welcome no doubt. But I know now where we are: we have reached the First Deep, the level immediately below the Gates. This is the Second Hall of Old Moria; and the Gates are near: away beyond the eastern end, on the left, not more than a quarter of a mile. Across the Bridge, up a broad stair, along a wide road through the First Hall, and out! But come and look! ‘
They peered out. Before them was another cavernous hall. It was loftier and far longer than the one in which they had slept. They were near its eastern end; westward it ran away into darkness. Down the centre stalked a double line of towering pillars. They were carved like boles of mighty trees whose boughs upheld the roof with a branching tracery of stone. Their stems were smooth and black, but a red glow was darkly mirrored in their sides. Right across the floor, close to the feet of two huge pillars a great fissure had opened. Out of it a fierce red light came, and now and again flames licked at the brink and curled about the bases of the columns. Wisps of dark smoke wavered in the hot air.
‘If we had come by the main road down from the upper halls, we should have been trapped here,’ said Gandalf. `Let us hope that the fire now lies between us and pursuit. Come! There is no time to lose.’
Even as he spoke they heard again the pursuing drum-beat: Doom, doom, doom. Away beyond the shadows at the western end of the hall there came cries and horn-calls. Doom, doom: the pillars seemed to tremble and the flames to quiver.
`Now for the last race! ‘ said Gandalf. ‘If the sun is shining outside we may still escape. After me! ‘
He turned left and sped across the smooth floor of the hall. The distance was greater than it had looked. As they ran they heard the beat and echo of many hurrying feet behind. A shrill yell went up: they had been seen. There was a ring and clash of steel. An arrow whistled over Frodo’s head.
Boromir laughed. `They did not expect this,’ he said. `The fire has cut them off. We are on the wrong side!’ `Look ahead!’ called Gandalf. `The Bridge is near. It is dangerous and narrow.’
Suddenly Frodo saw before him a black chasm. At the end of the hall the floor vanished and fell to an unknown depth. The outer door could only be reached by a slender bridge of stone, without kerb or rail, that spanned the chasm with one curving spring of fifty feet. It was an ancient defence of the Dwarves against any enemy that might capture the First Hall and the outer passages. They could only pass across it in single file. At the brink Gandalf halted and the others came up in a pack behind.

From The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in the Chapter ‘The Bridge of Khazad-dûm’


As the prepared to cross the bridge something came from the darkened hall behind…

Arrows fell among them. One struck Frodo and sprang back. Another pierced Gandalf’s hat and stuck there like a black feather. Frodo looked behind. Beyond the fire he saw swarming black figures: there seemed to be hundreds of orcs. They brandished spears and scimitars which shone red as blood in the firelight. Doom, doom rolled the drum-beats, growing louder and louder, doom, doom.
Legolas turned and set an arrow to the string, though it was a long shot for his small bow. He drew, but his hand fell, and the arrow slipped to the ground. He gave a cry of dismay and fear. Two great trolls appeared; they bore great slabs of stone, and flung them down to serve as gangways over the fire. But it was not the trolls that had filled the Elf with terror. The ranks of the orcs had opened, and they crowded away, as if they themselves were afraid. Something was coming up behind them. What it was could not be seen: it was like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater; and a power and terror seemed to be in it and to go before it.
BalrogMoria5It came to the edge of the fire and the light faded as if a cloud had bent over it. Then with a rush it leaped across the fissure. The flames roared up to greet it, and wreathed about it; and a black smoke swirled in the air. Its streaming mane kindled, and blazed behind it. In its right hand was a blade like a stabbing tongue of fire; in its left it held a whip of many thongs.
‘Ai! ai! ‘ wailed Legolas. ‘A Balrog! A Balrog is come! ‘
Gimli stared with wide eyes. `Durin’s Bane! ‘ he cried, and letting his axe fall he covered his face.
‘A Balrog,’ muttered Gandalf. `Now I understand.’ He faltered and leaned heavily on his staff. `What an evil fortune! And I am already weary.’

From The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in the Chapter ‘The Bridge of Khazad-dûm’


The shadowy demon crossed the fiery chasm and burst into flame…

The dark figure streaming with fire raced towards them. The orcs yelled and poured over the stone gangways. Then Boromir raised his horn and blew. Loud the challenge rang and bellowed, like the shout of many throats under the cavernous roof. For a moment the orcs quailed and the fiery shadow halted. Then the echoes died as suddenly as a flame blown out by a dark wind, and the enemy advanced again.
‘Over the bridge!’ cried Gandalf, recalling his strength. `Fly! This is a foe beyond any of you. I must hold the narrow way. Fly! ‘ Aragorn and Boromir did not heed the command, but still held their ground, side by side, behind Gandalf at the far end of the bridge. The others halted just within the doorway at the hall’s end, and turned, unable to leave their leader to face the enemy alone.
The Balrog reached the bridge. Gandalf stood in the middle of the span, leaning on the staff in his left hand, but in his other hand Glamdring gleamed, cold and white. His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings. It raised the whip, and the thongs whined and cracked. Fire came from its nostrils. But Gandalf stood firm.
`You cannot pass,’ he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. `I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass.’
The Balrog made no answer. The fire in it seemed to die, but the darkness grew. It stepped forward slowly on to the bridge, and suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall; but still Gandalf could be seen, glimmering in the gloom; he seemed small, and altogether alone: grey and bent, like a wizened tree before the onset of a storm.
From out of the shadow a red sword leaped flaming.
Glamdring glittered white in answer.
BalrogMoria7There was a ringing clash and a stab of white fire. The Balrog fell back and its sword flew up in molten fragments. The wizard swayed on the bridge, stepped back a pace, and then again stood still.
‘You cannot pass! ‘ he said.
With a bound the Balrog leaped full upon the bridge. Its whip whirled and hissed.
‘He cannot stand alone! ‘ cried Aragorn suddenly and ran back along the bridge. ‘Elendil!’ he shouted. ‘I am with you, Gandalf! ‘
`Gondor! ‘ cried Boromir and leaped after him.
At that moment Gandalf lifted his staff, and crying aloud he smote the bridge before him. The staff broke asunder and fell from his hand. A blinding sheet of white flame sprang up. The bridge cracked. Right at the Balrog’s feet it broke, and the stone upon which it stood crashed into the gulf, while the rest remained, poised, quivering like a tongue of rock thrust out into emptiness.
With a terrible cry the Balrog fell forward, and its shadow plunged down and vanished. But even as it fell it swung its whip, and the thongs lashed and curled about the wizard’s knees, dragging him to the brink. He staggered and fell, grasped vainly at the stone, and slid into the abyss. ‘Fly, you fools! ‘ he cried, and was gone.
The fires went out, and blank darkness fell. The Company stood rooted with horror staring into the pit. Even as Aragorn and Boromir came flying back, the rest of the bridge cracked and fell. With a cry Aragorn roused them.
‘Come! I will lead you now! ‘ he called. ‘We must obey his last command. Follow me! ‘
They stumbled wildly up the great stairs beyond the door. Aragorn leading, Boromir at the rear. At the top was a wide echoing passage. Along this they fled. Frodo heard Sam at his side weeping, and then he found that he himself was weeping as he ran. Doom, doom, doom the drum-beats rolled behind, mournful now and slow; doom!
They ran on. The light grew before them; great shafts pierced the roof. They ran swifter. They passed into a hall, bright with daylight from its high windows in the east. They fled across it. Through its huge broken doors they passed, and suddenly before them the Great Gates opened, an arch of blazing light.
There was a guard of orcs crouching in the shadows behind the great door posts towering on either side, but the gates were shattered and cast down. Aragorn smote to the ground the captain that stood in his path, and the rest fled in terror of his wrath. The Company swept past them and took no heed of them. Out of the Gates they ran and sprang down the huge and age-worn steps, the threshold of Moria.
Thus, at last, they came beyond hope under the sky and felt the wind on their faces.
They did not halt until they were out of bowshot from the walls. Dimrill Dale lay about them. The shadow of the Misty Mountains lay upon it, but eastwards there was a golden light on the land. It was but one hour after noon. The sun was shining; the clouds were white and high.
They looked back. Dark yawned the archway of the Gates under the mountain-shadow. Faint and far beneath the earth rolled the slow drum-beats: doom. A thin black smoke trailed out. Nothing else was to be seen; the dale all around was empty. Doom. Grief at last wholly overcame them, and they wept long: some standing and silent, some cast upon the ground. Doom, doom. The drum-beats faded.

From The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in the Chapter ‘The Bridge of Khazad-dûm’


“You cannot pass,’ he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell.
`I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn.
Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass.”


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 Posted by at 8:23 am