A Nazgul Visits the Lonely Mountain

The first person to speak at the Council of Elrond, after everyone was introduced to everyone else, was not Elrond, but Gloin the dwarf from The Hobbit.

‘It is now many years ago,’ said Gloin, ‘that a shadow of disquiet fell upon our people.’

We’re told that not everything that was said at the Council was related in the chapter, and Gloin’s tale seems to be heavily edited. For instance, the background was skipped and appears as “Durin’s Folk” in part three of Appendix A. But what we are told is pretty fascinating stuff.

First, we hear again of Moria, which we first heard of in The Hobbit’s “An Unexpected Party,” when Gandalf reminds Thorin: “Your grandfather Thror was killed, you remember, in the mines of Moria by Azog the Goblin.” Elrond also makes mention of it and its “forgotten treasures of old.”

Clearly Moria was a place that the Dwarves dearly wanted to regain. Gloin called it, “Wonder of the Northern World!,” but explained why it was abandoned. They had mined too deep “and woke the nameless fear.” This, as we’ll learn, was a Balrog – a nasty creature, evil and powerful. Nobody who ever killed one had lived to tell the tale (though two were curiously reincarnated – well, one so far in the story…anyway).

This was in 1980 of the Third Age. In 1981, the Dwarves left living escaped, eventually taking refuge in Erebor – The Lonely Mountain – in 1999 (where they partied like it was … well, you know). There they remained until Smaug came around in 2770. It was a pretty good run. But since the Dwarves had taken back Erebor, some were looking to do the same with Moria, or as they called it, Khazad-dum.

Those “some” were led by Balin, from The Hobbit, who was accompanied by Ori and Oin in 2989, forty-eight years after the Battle of Five Armies and the retaking of Erebor. For awhile things seemed to be going well enough for Balin and his party. For a time (a few years, maybe?) messages regularly came from Moria. Then, all of a sudden, they stopped. It had been twenty-nine years since Balin entered Moria, and nearly that many since word had last been received.

About a year ago (so in 3017), Dain, who now ruled the Dwarves at Erebor, was visited by “a horseman in the night.” He was a messenger from Sauron in Mordor, and his description was hardly given. All we are told was that he rode a horse and that “his breath came like the hiss of snakes, and all who stood by shuddered.”

From Evan Dorkin's new comic, The Eltingville Club, which is pretty great.

From Evan Dorkin’s new comic, The Eltingville Club, which is pretty great.

This was pretty clearly one of the Nazgul. First, he came only at night. Also, the hissing is a pretty dead (ha! get it!) giveaway, as is the reaction of the Dwarves. His voice was described as “fell,” and he was accompanied by other messengers who visited nearby Dale. However, the thing that really clinches it is his Rider’s quest.

He starts by saying that Sauron only wanted their friendship, and in return, he would give them rings, just like the old days. But Sauron was also interested in hobbits, “of what kind they were, and where they dwelt.” It’s pretty clear here that until recently Sauron had never heard of Hobbits and had no idea where The Shire was. But somehow had learned that the Dwarves knew Bilbo. Maybe Gollum said a bit more than “Baggins” and “Shire” when being tortured in Moria, hm?


“As a small token only of your friendship Sauron ask this,” he said: “that you should find this thief,” such was his word, “and get it from him, willing or no, a little ring, the least of rings, that once he stole. It is but a trifle that Sauron fancies, and an earnest of your good will.”

Basically, the Rider wanted any information they could get about this “thief” (which makes it pretty obvious that the information came from Gollum). In return, he promised that Moria would be theirs forever. This messenger had visited Erebor three times and promised to come again before the year was out (probably meaning 3018, which was to end in less than two and a half months – the Council of Elrond was held on October 25th).

Since this quest was essentially for the Ring, it had to be a Nazgul, as Sauron could trust nobody else in finding it – not even the Mouth of Sauron, it seems.

And so Dain dispatched Gloin “to warn Bilbo that he is sought by the Enemy.” He was also sent to take council of Elrond, which could conveniently be had at the Council of Elrond.

That was really all Gloin had to say. Next up was Elrond, who found himself fairly wordy.

A Few Notes

  • The word “Moria” was actually nicked from a Scandinavian castle called Soria Moria. In Tolkien’s world, however, the word was derived from “mor” (meaning dark or black, as in Morgoth) and “ia” (meaning void or abyss). Sounds like a swell place.
  • The word Khazad-dum, on the other hand means “deeps of the Khuzd.” Khuzd being what the Dwarves call themselves. Dum meant mansion or halls.
Camera: Mamiya C3 Film: Film: FujiChrome Provia 100F (xpro - not expired)

Camera: Mamiya C3
Film: Film: FujiChrome Provia 100F (xpro – not expired)

About the Photo
I have some great ideas for the Mines of Moria photos, but I can’t get to the places until the snow finally melts on the mountains. Until then, I think this old Pennsylvania Turnpike tunnel will do nicely. This is one of my favorite spots in Pennsylvania, and I’m glad I got to visit it again last summer.

  • Day 117
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 586 (132 from Rivendell)
  • 335 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,193 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Marching south along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. Seventh night out from Rivendell. January 1 – 2, 3019 TA. (map)

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2 thoughts on “A Nazgul Visits the Lonely Mountain

  1. I know some readers find Fellowship of the Ring has a slow buildup (ie. the main story doesn’t really get going until after the Council of Elrond) — but I like the way this allows Tolkien to weave in so many strands of his history. The story and the reality of Middle-earth holds up to so much scrutiny because he took such care with all the details, and it’s all the more believable because Sauron’s plans unfolded over many years. The fact that the hugely-powerful enemy still can’t see/know everything is an irony that adds a lot to what makes LOTR great.

    • I couldn’t agree more! Even if you skip the prologue, the first chapter is basically The Hobbit, but once the second chapter kicks in, it’s a perfect blending of what we already knew and how things would be different this time. The book then repeats that idea through to Rivendell, where it all changes.

      Interesting enough, in the writing process, Tolkien was hung up for a while on both of those transitions.

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