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Moria (Middle-earth)

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.[2]

J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location
Emblema Durin.svg
Durin's emblem as described on the West-gate of Moria
TypeGreatest city of Dwarves[1]
subterranean realm, labyrinth
RulerKings 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 –
First and Second Hall, Durin's Bridge, the Chamber of Mazarbul, the Endless Stair, the Mines, the Black Chasm
Other name(s)Khazad-dûm
the Dwarrowdelf
Locationcentral Misty Mountains
LifespanYears of the Trees[1] - T.A. 1981
Fourth Age -
FounderDurin the Deathless

Moria is introduced in Tolkien's novel The Hobbit, and is a major scene of action in the sequel, The Lord of the Rings.

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.


Tolkien deploys his constructed languages to provide and translate a number of names for Moria. The relative frequency of these various names in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings reflects the usage in the fictional times in which those novels are set (and these are also the times in which much of Middle-earth's history is purportedly compiled).

Moria is thus 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 ='void, abyss, pit'.[3] 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-most used name, and tends to be limited in application to 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. However whilst 'delf' connotes an ancient excavation, it does not capture the sense 'large halls' in the Dwarvish dûm. Tolkien rhymes dûm with tomb.[4]

Such was Khazad-dûm's splendour and long history that it was well known by many peoples in Middle-earth. Some of them translated Khazad-dûm into their own languages: Hadhodrond ([haˈðɔdrɔnd]) by the Sindar, Casarrondo by the Noldor and Phurunargian in the Common Speech. However, by the times in which The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are set, these translated names are little used: the name Moria is dominant.



Moria was originally a system of natural caves located in Dimrill Dale, a great valley on the eastern side of the central Misty Mountains. The caves led to an immeasurably-deep subterranean abyss: the Black Chasm. Moria lay on the western edge of the large 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 area was discovered by Durin the Deathless, one of the Fathers of the Dwarves and the first King of Khazad-dûm. He also named its main natural features. Durin gave the names in Khuzdul, the language of Dwarves, but the main features became better known (among non-Dwarves) by their translations in Sindarin and the Common Tongue.

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".[5] Within this valley (which at this time had many trees), 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".[5] 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[6] as the earliest beginnings of his new stronghold.

All of these places became revered by Durin's Folk. A rune-carved stone monolith – Durin's Stone — was erected on the site where Durin had first looked into the Mirrormere. It was still standing, although much worn by time and weather, at the end of the Third Age.

Black ChasmEdit

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.

The Black Chasm was a second line of defence to Khazad-dûm's Great Gates. It lay at the eastern end of Khazad-dûm's Second Hall, where there was a sheer drop. It was only crossed by Durin's Bridge, which connected the Second Hall (and the main part of the city) with the First Hall and the Great Gates. The Dwarves believed the abyss to be a bottomless pit.

When Gandalf and the Balrog fought on Durin's Bridge, they both fell into the Black Chasm. After a long fall, they found that the chasm indeed had a bottom: an underground lake. This led into Moria's underworld.


The Dwarves excavated most of Khazad-dûm out of solid mountain rock.[7] The excavations included huge halls, whose walls of black stone they highly polished.

The minerals found by the Dwarves in Khazad-dûm included gold, gems and large quantities of iron ore. However they essentially ignored these minerals because they discovered lodes of mithril, a fabulously precious and versatile metal found nowhere else in Middle-earth. Mithril was the source of Khazad-dûm's huge wealth, but ultimately its mining was the cause of its downfall.


Far beneath the surface-level caves of Moria, and 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" that had lived there since the earliest beginnings of Arda.[8] Few ever glimpsed these creatures. No description of them is extant, with the possible exception of the Watcher in the Water, which Gandalf suggested may have come from the underworld's waters.[9]

Moria's underworld was connected with the bottom of the Black Chasm and the deepest delvings of the Dwarves by "secret ways".


The great valley of Dimrill Dale, which lay outside the Great Gates of Moria, was an inherent part of the Dwarf-kingdom of Khazad-dûm,[10][11] no less than the subterranean city behind the Gates.

Mount Gundabad, which was also located in the Misty Mountains but far to the north of Khazad-dûm, was the ancestral homeland of the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm, and was regarded by them as a sacred site which belonged to their people.

In Durin's Day, even before the First Age of the Sun, Khazad-dûm effectively ruled an empire to its east, in the western and northern marches of Wilderland. In particular its territories included the Grey Mountains, the Iron Hills, and other valleys (in addition to Dimrill Dale) on the eastern side of the Misty Mountains.[12]

Many of these territories were occupied or conquered by other races in later ages. By the time in which The Lord of the Rings is set, only the Iron Hills and Erebor were in the hands of the Dwarves; even Khazad-dûm itself had long fallen.


Durin's DayEdit

Moria was founded 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: the immensely long reign of Durin the Deathless, the founder and first King of Khazad-dûm.

Ages of the StarsEdit

Khazad-dûm was founded by Durin 'the Deathless' during the Sleep of Yavanna. This was a long epoch in primeval Middle-earth and the last of the Ages of the Stars; it eventually ended with the creation of the Moon and Sun.

Durin had awakened at Mount Gundabad (far to the north of Moria) not long after the Elves first awoke, and as eldest amongst the Fathers of the Dwarves was acknowledged as pre-eminent amongst them, a status subsequently inherited by his descendants, the kings of the Longbeards.

From Mount Gundabad, Durin's growing clan "spread southward down the vales of Anduin", all the while "under attack from the orcs of Morgoth".[13] According to legend, Durin ultimately discovered the great Dimrill Dale in the central Misty Mountains. In the Mirrormere, a marvellous lake in the valley, Durin saw a crown of stars above his reflected head. Durin took this as a sign, and founded the subterranean city-kingdom of Khazad-dûm nearby.

The long reign of Khazad-dûm's first king was a golden age, remembered as Durin's Day (this name was also applied to the Dwarvish New Year). During that period Khazad-dûm grew continuously in size and population, until it became the "greatest of all the mansions of the Dwarves",[1] even before the return of the Noldor to Middle-earth. By that time, Khazad-dûm was already "a name and a rumour from the words of the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains"[1] to all the Eldar of Beleriand.

During the reign of Durin the Deathless some of the wonders of Dwarvish architecture were built in Khazad-dûm: Durin's Bridge, the Second Hall, the Endless Stair and Durin's Tower.

Durin's Khazad-dûm was effectively the capital of an empire on the western and northern marches of Wilderland. The colonies included Mount Gundabad, sacred to Dwarves, and the Grey Mountains and Iron Hills. During this time many of Middle-earth's roads were first constructed by Dwarves for trade and other journeys. The Dwarves of Khazad-dûm kept in touch with the other six Dwarf-clans, and sent delegates to the meetings of all seven clans, which they hosted at Mount Gundabad.

The reputation of Durin's realm continued to grow during his reign (and after his death), not merely due to his spiritual ascendancy over the other Fathers of the Dwarves as the eldest amongst them, or Khazad-dûm's growing size, but to its great wealth, which was founded upon the uniquely precious metal mithril, which was universally prized, but found nowhere else in Middle-earth.

First Age of the SunEdit

The First Age of the Sun was dominated by the wars and other events in Beleriand (as told in The Silmarillion). But Beleriand was far to the west of Khazad-dûm, and Khazad-dûm played no part in those events. In fact Khazad-dûm gained a respite from Orc attacks throughout this period, "when Morgoth needed all his strength" elsewhere.[13] The Longbeards maintained contact with the other six Dwarf-clans, and when early Men arrived in Rhovanion (the great region on Khazad-dûm's eastern doorstep), this opened up new opportunities for trade. Khazad-dûm exchanged the products of its growing metallurgical and masonry skills for food and other goods, to the great profit of both peoples.

The eventual death of Durin 'the Deathless' occurred before the end of the First Age. He was buried in the royal tombs of Khazad-dûm.[4][14] A rune-carved stone monolith – Durin's Stone – was erected on the site where he had first looked into the Mirrormere, and although it had become indecipherably weatherworn by the end of the Third Age—broken, cracked and faded—the influence of Durin I, the founding king of Khazad-dûm, was never forgotten.

Second AgeEdit

When Númenor arose in the Second Age, it was found to have mithril. But Númenor was far to the west of Middle-earth, and it did not threaten Khazad-dûm's monopoly on mithril in Middle-earth.

The Coming of the Dwarven RefugeesEdit

Early in the Second Age, Khazad-dûm's realm of Longbeards saw changes in culture, skills and population by large numbers of Dwarven refugees from Belegost and Nogrod. Belegost and Nogrod were also great cities of Dwarves, but they had been ruined at the end of the First Age, along with the destruction of most of Beleriand in the cataclysmic final battle against Morgoth. The Dwarves of those cities struggled for forty further years after the cataclysms, before many of them made the difficult decision to leave their homelands behind and cross Eriador, to the now great and ancient Dwarrowdelf.

The Dwarves from Belegost and Nogrod were not Longbeards, but two other Dwarf-clans: the Broadbeams and Firebeards. Whether they remained separate clans or groups within their new home, or became merged with the Longbeards, is not known. One possible clue is Gimli's information that "Narvi and ... all his kindred" had become extinct by the end of the Third Age.[15]

Enemies and alliesEdit

As the early Second Age proceeded, Orcs once again became "well-armed and very numerous, cruel, savage, and reckless in assault. In the battles that followed the Dwarves were outnumbered, and though they were the most redoubtable warriors of all the Speaking Peoples they were glad to make alliance with Men."[13] The Orcs were all the more easily defeated by the new combination of Khazad-dûm's heavy infantry and the horsed archers provided by Men, and the Longbeards consequently came to dominate the northern and central Hithaeglir and the lands east of there, although Khazad-dûm had always "regarded the Iron Hills, the Ered Mithrin, and the east dales of the Misty Mountains as their own land".[13] Ultimately, these Men then assisted the dwarves of Khazad-dûm "in the ordering of the lands that they had secured".[13]

With the foundation of the Noldorin realm Eregion to the west of Khazad-dûm around S.A. 700,[16] friendly relations between the Longbeards and the Elves became firmly established. Many of the Elves then became involved in the development of Khazad-dûm's mansions as a consequence, and it "became far more beautiful"[17] during this period.

This friendship also resulted in a massive westwards extension of the subterranean realm of Khazad-dûm. Its habitable parts remained in the eastward side, but passages were delved through miles of rock that terminated at a gigantic stone portal—the West Gate. This stood on the borders of Eregion, and "opened out into their country and was chiefly used by them."[13] Celebrimbor, the Lord of Eregion, used ithildin lettering on this gate on behalf of its builder: his friend Narvi,[18] a great craftsman of Khazad-dûm.

The West Gate allowed the Elf lady Galadriel and her followers to pass eastwards through Khazad-dûm and establish Lothlórien downstream of Azanulbizar. Galadriel's rule enabled Nandorin elves to return to Lothlórien; they had earlier evacuated the area to escape Khazad-dûm's growing power.

Rings, war and seclusionEdit

Between years 1500 and 1600 of the Second Age, the Rings of Power (other than the One Ring) were made in Eregion, the Elf-realm which was Khazad-dûm's neighbour and great ally. The Elves were assisted in making the rings by Annatar, a seemingly benevolent being of great skills. Durin III, the King of Khazad-dûm at the time, obtained one of the rings; another of these rings was Nenya, made from mithril mined in Khazad-dûm (this was the ring later borne by Galadriel).

After it was discovered that Annatar was in fact Sauron, the Dark Lord, and that he had placed evil spells on the rings, the War of the Elves and Sauron broke out in S.A. 1693. The war was primarily between Eregion and Sauron; however it also involved Khazad-dûm: its colony in the Grey Mountains and the holy Mount Gundabad were conquered by Sauron's Orcs, and for a time Khazad-dûm was cut off from its remaining colony, the Iron Hills.[19] In S.A. 1697, Sauron conquered Eregion, but not before Khazad-dûm's military intervention enabled numbers of Elves (notably including Elrond and Celeborn) to escape Eregion's destruction;[20] thus Khazad-dûm contributed to the foundation of a new Elf-realm: Rivendell.

Following this military action, Khazad-dûm immediately withdrew from the war, and shut its gates to the outside world for many years.

Much of the outside world was dominated by the Dark Years of Sauron. Sauron harboured deep hatred for Khazad-dûm because it had assisted the Elves; he also learned that the Kings of Khazad-dûm possessed one of the Rings of Power. However "the halls of Khazad-dûm were too deep and strong and filled with a people too numerous and valiant for Sauron to conquer from without".[6] So Sauron ordered his Orcs to trouble Durin's folk at every turn: some of them resided in settlements outside Khazad-dûm, and eventually the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm itself began to quietly emerge from their seclusion.

The population of Khazad-dûm "began to dwindle".[6] This was possibly due to the loss of provisions that had been provided by Men in the vales of Anduin. Possibly also a more sinister force was at work: the Ring of Power possessed by the Kings of Khazad-dûm.

Khazad-dûm openly emerged from its seclusion at the end of the Second Age: some of "the kindred of Durin of Moria" fought against Sauron in the War of the Last Alliance[21] (S.A. 3434-3441).

Third AgeEdit

Downfall of Khazad-dûmEdit

With the apparent defeat of Sauron at the end of the Second Age, Khazad-dûm was able to recover somewhat, and it was not until 1300 years later that the Dwarves came under renewed attacks by Orcs.[22] By that time, the more easily accessible veins of mithril had become exhausted, and Númenor had been long destroyed, leaving the deeper mines of Khazad-dûm as the only remaining known source of mithril.

With the passage of further centuries, the Dwarves delved ever deeper. Eventually, in the year T.A. 1980, they disturbed or released at a great depth 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 were unable to defeat Durin's Bane, or even drive it away, for their great skills in steel and stone had no effect on the ancient being, and so the Dwarves were forced to abandon Khazad-dûm in its entirety and flee into Wilderland.

The Dwarves found themselves in exile. After 18 years they established a new kingdom, Erebor, under the Lonely Mountain on the far side of Wilderland. This was pivotal in the history of the Dwarves, and ultimately even entangled the One Ring and Sauron. But the Dwarves never forgot their beloved Khazad-dûm.

Orcs control MoriaEdit

After Khazad-dûm was abandoned by the Dwarves, it gained a dark and evil reputation, and the name Moria became dominant; even Dwarves used this name. Orcs of the Misty Mountains made Moria their stronghold, whilst the Balrog, Durin's Bane, haunted its depths. The Orcs looted Moria of all the wealth left behind by the Dwarves, and delivered any mithril they found to Sauron.

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, a murder that precipitated the War of the Dwarves and Orcs.

The War culminated in T.A. 2799 in a bloody battle called the Battle of Azanulbizar outside Moria's Great Gates. The Dwarves were victorious and Azog himself was beheaded by Dáin Ironfoot before the great orc could reach the safety of the gates, but the Dwarves had suffered great losses and remained unwilling to face Durin's Bane. Casualties were so high that the Dwarves were unable to craft sufficient crypts for the slain, as was their wont, and were forced instead to burn their dead. The felling of trees to accomplish this was so great that the valley of Azanulbizar (the "Dimrill Dale") was forever deforested. Those slain were honoured in future years with the appellation "Burned Dwarf". 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.

In T.A. 2941 Bolg the son of Azog assembled a vast army of Orcs from their strongholds in the Misty Mountains, including Moria, and led them to the Battle of Five Armies, far to the north-east of Moria. Bolg and his army were utterly destroyed in the battle; this led many to assume that Orc-dominance in Moria and elsewhere in the Misty Mountains had been vanquished.

Balin's colonyEdit

The Battle of Five Armies had left Dáin Ironfoot as the heir of the Dwarf-kings of Khazad-dûm, but instead he took up the kingship of Erebor.

Increasing numbers of Dáin's people, like many in Middle-earth, assumed that the Battle had also left Moria depleted of Orcs. In T.A. 2989, "many"[23] Dwarves left Erebor to recolonize Moria, although King Dáin "did not give leave willingly". The expedition was led by Balin (who had been a key member of Thorin Oakenshield's quest in The Hobbit), and included Óin and Ori (two others of Thorin's company), and Flói, Frár, Lóni, and Náli. At first all went well, but after five years all contact with the colony was lost.

It was not learned for many years later that the entire Dwarf colony had been destroyed by Orcs, although Balin's comrades had made a valiant last stand in the Chamber of Mazarbul. There they left the Book of Mazarbul, a record of the colony. Flói was killed in the first year, but for a while the Dwarves gained control; Balin was declared as the Lord of Moria, and they even found mithril. The situation rapidly deteriorated when Balin was killed, on 10th 'November' 2994. Frár, Lóni, and Náli were killed when Orcs took Durin's Bridge and the Second Hall. When the Watcher in the Water killed Óin at the West Gate, the remaining survivors, including Ori, were fatally trapped in the Chamber of Mazarbul.

War of the RingEdit

As the War of the Ring loomed, a messenger from Sauron visited Dáin Ironfoot, the Dwarf-king of Erebor and the heir of the Kings of Khazad-dûm. Dáin was offered 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. At this stage Dáin was unaware of the fate of Balin's colony in Moria. Dáin refused the offer, and appointed his own messengers (Glóin and his son Gimli), sending them to the Council of Elrond. The Council met in Rivendell on 25th 'October' T.A. 3018, and initiated the quest of the Fellowship of the Ring.

The Fellowship reluctantly passed through Moria in 'January' T.A. 3019; they were gambling that most of its Orcs had been killed in the Battle of Five Armies a few decades earlier. They were attacked by a monster as they entered the West-gate, and then faced further perils as they journeyed through the subterranean passages. After reaching the Chamber of Mazarbul towards the end of the traversal, the Fellowship were attacked there by a Troll and many Orcs, before being approached by Durin's Bane itself. Gandalf confronted the Balrog on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, where the two duelled briefly before plunging together into the abyss below, allowing the rest of the Fellowship to escape via the remains of the Eastern Gates. Though Gandalf and the Balrog survived the fall, both perished in the subsequent duel which continued below Moria and ultimately emerged at the peak of Zirak-zigil, where their battle demolished both Durin's Tower and the top of the Endless Stair. Gandalf was afterwards resurrected as Gandalf the White.

Fourth AgeEdit

Following their exile from Khazad-dûm, the Longbeard Dwarves always yearned for their homeland, even after more than a thousand years had passed; Azanulbizar became "the deep-shadowed valley which we cannot forget",[24] just as they felt compelled to continue incorporating "the image of those mountains into many works of metal and stone, and into many songs and tales. They stand tall in our dreams".[24]

With the destruction of the Balrog at the end of the Third Age, the way was at last clear for the Longbeards to reclaim Khazad-dûm. Eventually, some centuries into the Fourth Age, the auspiciously-named Durin VII succeeded as the King of the Longbeards and heir of the Kings of Khazad-dûm. (He was a descendant – some sources say the grandson[25] – of Dáin Ironfoot.) He led his people back to their longed-for ancient homeland, where they remained "until the world grew old and the Dwarves failed and the days of Durin's race were ended".[26]

Architecture and structuresEdit

The city of Khazad-dûm was a multi-storey subterranean complex, excavated and built by highly skilled Dwarves. The levels lay between flights of fifty or more stone steps, with at least six levels hollowed out of the mountain above the level of the Great Gates, and many more levels —or Deeps— below. Every level comprised a multitude of arched passages, chambers and many-pillared halls, often with "black walls, polished and smooth as glass".[7] Below the level of the Gates lay treasuries, armouries, dungeons,[6] and the mines. The delvings of Khazad-dûm's Dwarves reached great depths, but even further below them lay Moria's underworld.

One important feature of Khazad-dûm was the defensive structure known as Durin's Bridge. Described as "a slender bridge of stone, without kerb or rail",[27] it was the only way to cross the Black Chasm, an abyss fifty feet wide and of indeterminate depth. Enemy soldiers could only cross the bridge in single file (one after another), not side by side.

Another notable feature, steeped in legend, was the Endless Stair, which ascended "from the lowest dungeon to the highest peak",[6] where it terminated within Durin's Tower, carved from the solid rock at the tip of Zirak-zigil.

By the end of the War of the Ring, many of Moria's key structures had been destroyed or severely damaged: the West-gate, the Chamber of Mazarbul, Durin's Bridge, the Endless Stair and Durin's Tower, and the Great Gates.

Lighting, ventilation and waterEdit

During the kingdom of Khazad-dûm, the subterranean realm was "full of light and splendour", being illuminated by many "shining lamps of crystal".[28] The higher levels also had skylights – deep windows and shafts carved through the mountain-side – which provided light during the day.

Khazad-dûm also had an extensive ventilation system, with shafts and other features. This was so well-built that much of it was still functioning when the Fellowship of the Ring arrived, over a thousand years after the kingdom of Khazad-dûm had been abandoned by the Dwarves.

The city and the mines of Khazad-dûm also required sources of water, and the means to deal with waste-water and saturated zones. Features included many subterranean "streams and wells", and at least one great water-wheel "turning in the depths." This system largely broke down (or was sabotaged) after the Dwarves abandoned Khazad-dûm; Gandalf warned the Fellowship not to touch any of the water-sources in Moria, and also reported that many of "the deep places ... are drowned in water". Another sign of deterioration was the flooded valley at the West-gate; the Watcher in the Water made its lair in the lake that was formed.


The East-gate was the original and main entrance to Moria. It was also known as the Dimrill Gate, for it looked over Dimrill Dale, and the Great Gates. In Durin's Day, trumpets were set at the gates.[4]

The Dimrill Gate had two great doors that hung from tall doorposts. From the outside it was accessed by climbing "huge and age-worn steps"; inside it opened into the First Hall of Moria.

Thrór, Dwarf-king in exile, entered Moria through the Dimrill Gate T.A. 2790, but was infamously murdered by Azog, Orc-lord of Moria, and his decapitated body was flung out onto the Gate's steps. This sparked the War of the Dwarves and Orcs, which raged through the Misty Mountains for years until in 2799 it returned to the Dimrill Gate to reach its climax. There Azog slew Náin, heir of Grór (Dwarf-lord of the Iron Hills), only to be slain in turn by Nain's own heir Dáin Ironfoot (later King Dáin II). Dáin "looked through the shadow of the Gate", but refused to enter; "when he came down from the Gate he looked grey in the face, as one who has felt great fear."

It was with rather less incident that Gandalf entered the Dimrill Gate while searching for Thrór's successor Thráin II (who had disappeared in T.A. 2845). Gandalf continued through Moria, exiting via the West-gate. Aragorn too passed through the Dimrill Gate during his journeys in Middle-earth; he reported "the memory is very evil", and indicated that he soon came back out again.[29]

Gollum entered the Dimrill Gate in 'August' 3018 and made his way through Moria to the West-gate. The Fellowship entered Moria through the West-gate on 13th 'January' 3019, and journeyed eastward followed by Gollum. Two days later Gandalf confronted the Balrog on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm and fell into the abyss; Aragorn immediately led the remaining Fellowship out of Moria through the Dimrill Gate. They found that the great doors of the gate had been "shattered and cast down."


The Doors of Durin, also called the West-gate or the West-door of Moria, were created in the Second Age by the Dwarf Narvi, as the western entrance to Khazad-dûm. In those times, they stood open and were guarded by a doorwarden, allowing free and friendly trade between the Dwarves and the neighbouring Elf-realm of Eregion, established S.A. 750. A highway, the Elven-way, was built from the Doors of Durin to the capital of Eregion.

The Durin, king of Khazad-dûm, named on the West-gate is most likely to have been Durin II.[30]

The West-gate (when open) 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.

Features of the West-gateEdit

The doors of the West-gate were made so that, when shut, they were from the outside invisible and unopenable by physical means. However to aid friendly visitors, the gateway was flanked by two giant holly-trees, and the doors were decorated with designs which became visible by uttering a password. The designs contained a second password which enabled the doors to magically open. From the inside, the doors could be opened by normal means.

The designs on the front of the doors were engraved in ithildin, which mirrored only starlight and moonlight. When the moon was out and ancient words long-forgotten were spoken, fine silver lines would appear, outlining the secret door. The use of ithildin not only enhanced the security of the West-gate; it also symbolized the co-operation between Eregion and Khazad-dûm that created the West-gate: the ithildin was made by the Elves of Eregion out of mithril, and the mithril was obtained from the mines of Khazad-dûm.

The designs on the doors were made by Celebrimbor, the lord of Eregion, and included a frame of a pillar at either side, and an arch at the top. In the centre there was: a hammer and anvil, surmounted by a crown and seven stars (the emblems of Durin); two trees bearing crescent moons (representing the High Elves); and a single star (the Star of House of Fëanor, of whom Celebrimbor was the grandson).

The arch was inscribed with two lines of text in Sindarin (an Elvish language), using tengwar characters. The top read: "Ennyn Durin aran Moria. Pedo mellon a minno", which Gandalf initially translated as: "The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Speak, friend, and enter." The bottom line read: "Im Narvi hain echant: Celebrimbor o Eregion teithant i thiw hin." – "I, Narvi, made them. Celebrimbor of Hollin drew these signs".

Tolkien's drawing of the designs on the Doors of Durin was the only illustration that appeared in The Lord of the Rings during his lifetime (other than cover-art and some calligraphy).

The Fellowship and the West-gateEdit

The Fellowship of the Ring arrived at the western entrance to Moria in the evening of 13th 'January' T.A. 3019. At this period the gateway is over 5,000 years old (although it's one of the youngest parts of Moria). In the original novel The Fellowship of the Ring, a comment by Merry led Gandalf to realize that the gate-inscription was actually intended literally: "Say 'friend' and enter." He then spoke the Elvish word for "friend" (mellon) and the doors opened. In the 2001 film, though, it was Frodo who had the inspiration to see the gate-inscription as a riddle, asking "What's the Elvish word for 'friend'?".

Shortly after Gandalf opened the doors, the Watcher in the Water attacked the Fellowship, and they fled into Moria. The Watcher then shut the doors, ripped down the holly trees that flanked the doors, and buried the outside of the gate with boulders. In the film, the Watcher caused a cave-in instead, apparently destroying the gate. In both versions, the gate is rendered impassable, trapping the Fellowship in Moria.

Chamber of MazarbulEdit

The Chamber of Mazarbul – also known by its translation: the Chamber of Records – was a subterranean room established as a repository of documents in Khazad-dûm. The tomb of Balin was later built in the chamber; later still, the chamber was explored and defended by the Fellowship of the Ring.

It was located on the right of a main passage that led from the north end of the Twenty-first Hall, on the sixth level above the Great Gates. The chamber had two stone doors: the eastern on the main passage, and the western opening into a stairwell. Within the chamber, many recesses were cut into the walls; these recesses contained chests where records were stored; any valuables were looted by the Orcs when they conquered Moria. The chamber also featured one of Moria's skylights.

When the Fellowship found the chamber as they journeyed through Moria, Balin's tomb was located inside it, and a bright shaft of sunlight streamed in from outside the mountain to land directly on the tomb. In the chamber they also discovered the eponymous Book of Mazarbul, a chronicle of Balin's colony in Moria. The last words in the book revealed: "We have barred the gates, [but] can [not] hold them long... We cannot get out. They [the Orcs] have taken the Bridge and the Second Hall. ... The pool is up to the wall at the Westgate. The Watcher in the Water took Óin. We cannot get out. The end comes. Drums, drums in the deep. They are coming." These last words were written in haste by Ori, who together with the other last survivors of Balin's colony were killed in the Chamber of Mazarbul while making a valiant last stand.

The Fellowship were also attacked by Orcs in the Chamber. After repulsing this attack the Fellowship fled through the western door, where Gandalf made his first stand against the Balrog.[6]

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,[31] and the doors to the chamber are made of wood rather than stone.

Durin's BridgeEdit

The Bridge of Khazad-dûm was a narrow stone bridge and the only way to cross the Black Chasm, which lay within the Great Gates of Moria. The bridge lends its name to chapter 5 in book 2 of The Lord of the Rings, although the characters refer to it as Durin's Bridge.[32] Some 50 feet (15.2 metres) long, it spanned the chasm in a single arch.

The bridge was built so that it formed a second line of defence to the Great Gates of Khazad-dûm. It was purposely narrow, and there was no "kerb or rail" to prevent a fall into the chasm. This gave the bridge powerful defensive value, for if an enemy were to breach the Great Gates, he would be forced to cross the span of the Bridge in single file line, exposing the crossing enemy to the arrows of the defending Dwarves.[32] However the Book of Mazarbul revealed that Balin's colony ultimately had insufficient Dwarves to hold the Bridge.

The eastern end of the bridge connected to the First Hall and through that toward the Great Gates of Khazad-dûm. The western end of the bridge connected to the superstructure of the main city itself,[citation needed] beginning with the Second Hall.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, the eponymous Fellowship were forced to seek a path through Moria, long since abandoned by Durin's Folk. The Fellowship eventually reached the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, and had mostly crossed it when they were attacked by the Balrog from behind.

Seeing that the Fellowship would be hopelessly inferior, Gandalf challenged the Balrog on the span of the Bridge. In the course of this fight, Gandalf shattered the Bridge with his magic staff, allowing the rest of the Fellowship to flee out of Moria by the Great Gates while he was dragged into the chasm below with the Balrog.[32]

The replacement of the destroyed Bridge would have been crucial in Khazad-dûm's re-establishment in the Fourth Age.

Endless StairEdit

The Endless Stair rose from the lowest dungeon of Moria to Durin's Tower at the summit of Celebdil. The Endless Stair was of such legendary status among Dwarves that some considered it mythical, but Gandalf confirmed its existence to Gimli when he recounted his battle with Durin's Bane (a balrog). Durin's Tower and the top of the Stair were destroyed in that struggle. The height of the Stair is not known, but Gandalf said that it climbed many thousands of steps in an unbroken spiral.[33] The Stair was clearly of epic proportions, as it allowed Gandalf and the Balrog to ascend from one of Moria's lowest Deeps to the pinnacle of one of the tallest mountains in Middle-earth.

The Balrog and his pursuer Gandalf entered the Endless Stair at the very bottom, via "secret ways". If the Endless Stair could only be accessed by secret means known only to few, this would explain why the Stair's existence was half-disbelieved in the general Dwarf population. The description of the Stair as an "unbroken" and "Endless" ascent could indicate that it had no entrances (or exits) between the bottom and the top.

The MinesEdit

Like most Dwarf-realms, Khazad-dûm's mines were an important focus, and the foundation of its wealth. Khazad-dûm's mining industry so dominated the realm, and were so famous, that Moria was sometimes referred to as the Mines of Moria, or locally as the Mines.

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. Mithril provided Khazad-dûm with enormous wealth for thousands of years.

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, including most of its mines, were "drowned in water—or in a shadow of fear."[34]

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.

Tombs and secret passagesEdit

Khazad-dûm was known to have hidden passages. Especially secret portals, such as the entrances to the secret royal tombs,[35] would have utilized magic doors, the "usual dwarves' method".[36]

After the fall of Khazad-dûm many of its secret passages became the familiar haunt of the Balrog. At least one of these passages connected with Moria's underworld; another enabled access to the Endless Stair. The Balrog ultimately tried to use these "secret ways" to elude Gandalf, but Gandalf was too close behind.

The tomb of Balin, for a time the Lord of Moria, was placed in the Chamber of Mazarbul, directly under one of Khazad-dûm's skylights. Thus Balin's tomb was conspicuously illuminated by daylight. This lack of secrecy for a Dwarf-tomb may be because Balin was not a king; in any case, the constructors of his tomb, the last survivors of Balin's colony, had few options and little time.

Concept and creationEdit

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."[37] The tales translated by Dasent were from the 1852 collection Norwegian Folktales.[38]

The details of Moria's layout and history, and its alternative names, emerged as Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings.


It has been suggested that Tolkien—an ardent Catholic—may have used the name Moria as a reference to the 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."[39]



The 21st Hall, now abandoned, as seen in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

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. Apart from the bridge spanning the chasm, its architecture consists entirely of polygons and contains no curves.

Computer gamesEdit

The roguelike computer game Moria was modelled on The Lord of the Rings events. The goal in the game is to reach the bottom of a maze-like simulation of the Mines of Moria and kill a Balrog. Moria has also been featured in board games such as the Lord of the Rings (board game) created by Reiner Knizia.

Several other roguelikes and MUDs feature Moria as a dungeon similar to the one described in the book, usually containing a creature akin to a Balrog.

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.

Further readingEdit

  • 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.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977), Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-25730-1
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ Etymology of "Moria".
  4. ^ a b c 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
  5. ^ a b Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings. p. 352.
  6. ^ a b c d e f J. R. R. Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings
  7. ^ a b 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
  8. ^ 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
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1996), The Peoples of Middle-earth, Houghton Mifflin, part 2 ch. X p. 302; ISBN 0-395-82760-4
  13. ^ a b c d e f Tolkien, J. R. R. (1996), Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-82760-4
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ 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
  16. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1980), Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-29917-9
  17. ^ 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
  18. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1980), Unfinished Tales, George Allen & Unwin, part 2 ch. IV p.235; ISBN 9780048231796
  19. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1996), The Peoples of Middle-earth, Houghton Mifflin, part 2 ch. X p. 305; ISBN 0-395-82760-4
  20. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1980), Unfinished Tales, George Allen & Unwin, part 2 ch. IV p. 238; ISBN 0-04-823179-7
  21. ^ 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
  22. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, appendix B 'The Third Age' p. 366; ISBN 0 04 823047 2
  23. ^ 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
  24. ^ a b J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 2 ch. III p. 296; ISBN 0 04 823045 6
  25. ^ 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
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ 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
  28. ^ 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
  29. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, book 2 ch. IV p. 310; ISBN 0 04 823045 6
  30. ^ Robert Foster (1971), The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, Unwin Paperbacks edition (1978); ISBN 0-04-803001-5
  31. ^ The Mazarbul Chamber Wall Runes, Chamber of Mazarbul – Tolkien Gateway
  32. ^ a b c 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
  33. ^ 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.
  34. ^ 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
  35. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1955), The Return of the King, 2nd edition (1966), George Allen & Unwin, appendix A:III p. 357; ISBN 0 04 823047 2
  36. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien (1937), The Hobbit, 4th edition (1978), George Allen & Unwin, ch. 1 p. 26; ISBN 0-04-823147-9
  37. ^ 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
  38. ^ 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
  39. ^ Tolkien, J.R.R. Draft of a letter to a Mr. Rang. Letter #297, August 1967