Beast in the Pool Before the West Gate of Moria
“Something has crept, or has been driven out of dark waters under the mountains.
There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.”
LOTR: FOTR B2 C4
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The many tentacled creature that lay hidden in the black waters at the West Gate of Moria, is thought to have come from the deep places within Moria. It’s possible, it was the Balrog of Khazad-dûm that knew of this monster and drove into the fetid waters of the river Sirannon, which was dammed and filled the small vale before the gate. There are few accounts of this creature and none now live who remember it.
In the Red Book of Westmarch, it was described by Frodo as a creature with many tentacles that all seemed guided by a single deadly purpose. What lay beneath the waters lay hidden, but when one the tentacles came forth out of the water, it latched upon the Ringbearer first among the company. The water was said to have boiled with many thousands of snake like arms that rushed toward the Fellowshiop as they fled into the mines, tearing and rending the doors and sealing off any hope of escape.
Other accounts have stated that this large creature reared out of the dark waters, a monstrous thing with bright and cunning eyes and a ravenous maul from which came a hideous stench. It was said to have grabbed Frodo and lifted him high into the air, until the brave swords of Aragorn and Boromir cut its limbs and set the Ringbearer free. It is unclear if these accounts are true, or if the tale was embellished in the telling, over the course of millennium. The fate of this creature is also unknown, what happened to it after the fall of the Balrog is unclear. Was the water drained and the creature killed? Or did it creep back into eternal night of Moria, until it found its way by dark paths to the waters from which it was birthed? None will ever know for sure.
Here are accounts of this creature from the Red Book of Westmarch. When the nine members of the company came at last to the West Gate of Moria, they found that things had indeed changed…
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.
‘Ah! Here it is at last! ‘ said Gandalf. `This is where the stream ran: Sirannon, the Gate-stream, they used to call it. But what has happened to the water, I cannot guess; it used to be swift and noisy. Come! We must hurry on. We are late.’
The Company were footsore and tired; but they trudged doggedly along the rough and winding track for many miles. The sun turned from the noon and began to go west. After a brief halt and a hasty meal they went on again. Before them the mountains frowned, but their path lay in a deep trough of land and they could see only the higher shoulders and the far eastward peaks.
At length they came to a sharp bend. There the road, which had been veering southwards between the brink of the channel and a steep fall of the land to the left, turned and went due east again. Rounding the corner they saw before them a low cliff, some five fathoms high, with a broken and jagged top. Over it a trickling water dripped, through a wide cleft that seemed to have been carved out by a fall that had once been strong and full.
`Indeed things have changed! ‘ said Gandalf. `But there is no mistaking the place. There is all that remains of the Stair Falls. If I remember right, there was a flight of steps cut in the rock at their side, but the main road wound away left and climbed with several loops up to the level ground at the top. There used to be a shallow valley beyond the falls right up to the Walls of Moria, and the Sirannon flowed through it with the road beside it. Let us go and see what things are like now! ‘
They found the stone steps without difficulty, and Gimli sprang swiftly up them, followed by Gandalf and Frodo. When they reached the top they saw that they could go no further that way, and the reason for the drying up of the Gate-stream was revealed. Behind them the sinking Sun filled the cool western sky with glimmering gold. Before them stretched a dark still lake. Neither sky nor sunset was reflected on its sullen surface. The Sirannon had been dammed and had filled all the valley. Beyond the ominous water were reared vast cliffs, their stern faces pallid in the fading light: final and impassable. No sign of gate or entrance, not a fissure or crack could Frodo see in the frowning stone.
`There are the Walls of Moria,’ said Gandalf, pointing across the water. `And there the Gate stood once upon a time, the Elven Door at the end of the road from Hollin by which we have come. But this way is blocked. None of the Company, I guess, will wish to swim this gloomy water at the end of the day. It has an unwholesome look.’
`We must find a way round the northern edge,’ said Gimli. `The first thing for the Company to do is to climb up by the main path and see where that will lead us. Even if there were no lake, we could not get our baggage-pony up this stair.’
`But in any case we cannot take the poor beast into the Mines,’ said Gandalf. `The road under the mountains is a dark road, and there are places narrow and steep which he cannot tread, even if we can.’
`Poor old Bill! ‘ said Frodo. `I had not thought of that. And poor Sam! I wonder what he will say? ‘
`I am sorry,’ said Gandalf. `Poor Bill has been a useful companion and it goes to my heart to turn him adrift now. I would have travelled lighter and brought no animal, least of all this one that Sam is fond of, if I had had my way. I feared all along that we should be obliged to take this road.’
The day was drawing to its end, and cold stars were glinting in the sky high above the sunset, when the Company, with all the speed they could, climbed up the slopes and reached the side of the lake. In breadth it looked to be no more than two or three furlongs at the widest point. How far it stretched away southward they could not see in the failing light; but its northern end was no more than half a mile from where they stood, and between the stony ridges that enclosed the valley and the water’s edge there was a rim of open ground. They hurried forward, for they had still a mile or two to go before they could reach the point on the far shore that Gandalf was making for; and then he had still to find the doors.
When they came to the northernmost corner of the lake they found a narrow creek that barred their way. It was green and stagnant, thrust out like a slimy arm towards the enclosing hills. Gimli strode forward undeterred, and found that the water was shallow, no more than ankle-deep at the edge. Behind him they walked in file, threading their way with care, for under the weedy pools were sliding and greasy stones, and footing was treacherous. Frodo shuddered with disgust at the touch of the dark unclean water on his feet.
As Sam, the last of the Company, led Bill up on to the dry ground on the far side, there came a soft sound: a swish, followed by a plop, as if a fish had disturbed the still surface of the water. Turning quickly they saw ripples, black-edged with shadow in the waning light: great rings were widening outwards from a point far out in the lake. There was a bubbling noise, and then silence. The dusk deepened, and the last gleams of the sunset were veiled in cloud.
From The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in the chapter ‘A Journey in the Dark’
As Gandalf pondered what spell might open the Dwarven Gate of stone, something moved in the dark waters behind them…
At that moment from far off the wind bore to their listening ears the howling of wolves. Bill the pony started in fear, and Sam sprang to his side and whispered softly to him.
‘Do not let him run away! ‘ said Boromir. ‘It seems that we shall need him still, if the wolves do not find us. How I hate this foul pool! ‘ He stooped and picking up a large stone he cast it far into the dark water.
The stone vanished with a soft slap; but at the same instant there was a swish and a bubble. Great rippling rings formed on the surface out beyond where the stone had fallen, and they moved slowly towards the foot of the cliff.
‘Why did you do that, Boromir? ‘ said Frodo. `I hate this place, too, and I am afraid. I don’t know of what: not of wolves, or the dark behind the doors, but of something else. I am afraid of the pool. Don’t disturb it! ‘
‘l wish we could get away! ‘ said Merry.
‘Why doesn’t Gandalf do something quick? ‘ said Pippin.
Gandalf took no notice of them. He sat with his head bowed, either in despair or in anxious thought. The mournful howling of the wolves was heard again. The ripples on the water grew and came closer; some were already lapping on the shore.
With a suddenness that startled them all the wizard sprang to his feet. He was laughing! `I have it! ‘ he cried. ‘Of course, of course! Absurdly simple, like most riddles when you see the answer.’
Picking up his staff he stood before the rock and said in a clear voice: Mellon!
The star shone out briefly and faded again. Then silently a great doorway was outlined, though not a crack or joint had been visible before. Slowly it divided in the middle and swung outwards inch by inch, until both doors lay back against the wall. Through the opening a shadowy stair could be seen climbing steeply up; but beyond the lower steps the darkness was deeper than the night. The Company stared in wonder.
`I was wrong after all,’ said Gandalf, ‘and Gimli too. Merry, of all people, was on the right track. The opening word was inscribed on the archway all the time! The translation should have been: Say “Friend” and enter. I had only to speak the Elvish word for friend and the doors opened. Quite simple. Too simple for a learned lore-master in these suspicious days. Those were happier times. Now let us go!’
He strode forward and set his foot on the lowest step. But at that moment several things happened. Frodo felt something seize him by the ankle, and he fell with a cry. Bill the pony gave a wild neigh of fear, and turned tail and dashed away along the lakeside into the darkness. Sam leaped after him, and then hearing Frodo’s cry he ran back again, weeping and cursing. The others swung round and saw the waters of the lake seething, as if a host of snakes were swimming up from the southern end.
Out from the water a long sinuous tentacle had crawled; it was pale-green and luminous and wet. Its fingered end had hold of Frodo’s foot and was dragging him into the water. Sam on his knees was now slashing at it with a knife.
The arm let go of Frodo, and Sam pulled him away, crying out for help. Twenty others arms came rippling out. The dark water boiled, and there was a hideous stench.
`Into the gateway! Up the stairs! Quick! ‘ shouted Gandalf leaping back. Rousing them from the horror that seemed to have rooted all but Sam to the ground where they stood, he drove them forward.
They were just in time. Sam and Frodo were only a few steps up, and Gandalf had just begun to climb, when the groping tentacles writhed across the narrow shore and fingered the cliff-wall and the doors. One came wriggling over the threshold, glistening in the starlight. Gandalf turned and paused. If he was considering what word would close the gate again from within, there was no need. Many coiling arms seized the doors on either side, and with horrible strength, swung them round. With a shattering echo they slammed, and all light was lost. A noise of rending and crashing came dully through the ponderous stone.
Sam, clinging to Frodo’s arm, collapsed on a step in the black darkness. `Poor old Bill! ‘ he said in a choking voice. `Poor old Bill! Wolves and snakes! But the snakes were too much for him. I had to choose, Mr. Frodo. I had to come with you.’
They heard Gandalf go back down the steps and thrust his staff against the doors. There was a quiver in the stone and the stairs trembled, .but the doors did not open. `Well, well! ‘ said the wizard. `The passage is blocked behind us now and there is only one way out–on the other side of the mountains. I fear from the sounds that boulders have been piled up, and the trees uprooted and thrown across the gate. I am sorry; for the trees were beautiful, and had stood so long.’
`I felt that something horrible was near from the moment that my foot first touched the water,’ said Frodo. ‘What was the thing, or were there many of them? ‘
‘I do not know,’ answered Gandalf, ‘but the arms were all guided by one purpose. Something has crept, or has been driven out of dark waters under the mountains. There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.’ He did not speak aloud his thought that whatever it was that dwelt in the lake, it had seized on Frodo first among all the Company.
From The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in the chapter ‘A Journey in the Dark’