Welcome to Moria! Don’t Drink the Water…

It’s good to be back! After a too-long hiatus, I’m going to start slowly. The posts won’t come every day, but they will (hopefully) be regularish as possible. Let’s begin (again). The reading today is on p309-311 of the 50th Anniversary one-volume edition. Nearing the end of the Journey in the Dark chapter. If you need a quick reminder of my intent with this project, click here.

This is a great passage with which to start, as the Fellowship is just starting out in Moria. They are also reintroduced, just in case we forgot who they were.

Upon entering the mines, they ascended a staircase. Two hundred steps they counted, broad and shallow…. Two hundred shallow steps probably equates to around 150 normal steps. There are usually about fourteen steps in a floor or level, so we can say that there were probably around twenty steps per each “level” in this case (though there were no levels, of course). I think it can easily be deduced that the Fellowship climbed the equivalent of ten stories. That really doesn’t seem like all that many.

But keep in mind that they just had their encounter with the Watcher in the Water. They were trapped inside by the monster throwing rocks and trees against the closed door. Without stopping for much more than a few minutes, they immediately climbed ten flights of stairs. After all of that, they deserved a short rest.

And a short rest is what they got, during which Gandalf gave them a bit of schooling about how to behave in a mine. After allowing them each a sip of miruvor, a drink that’s totally not soma, the wizard reminded them that though there were many streams and springs inside the mine, they shouldn’t drink of them.

This actually says quite a bit about mining. If the dwarves were just digging, then there wouldn’t really be much reason they springs couldn’t be utilized. But apparently Gandalf believed they could be poisoned. Whether it was from the dwarves or from the orcs that inhabited Moria. He knew that in 1980 of the Third Age, the dwarves had dug too deeply in their search for mithril that they unearthed (or is it unmiddle-earthed?) Durin’s Bane – a balrog, nasty one, too.

He also knew of the orcs and trolls and the battle – but we’ll get to that soon enough.

Anyway, Gandalf warned that they might not have a chance to get more water until they come out of Moria. This was at least forty miles by his own reckoning, and would take three or four days. Good luck, fellows.

When they started walking again, Tolkien made a point to list their order of march. First came Gandalf, who led the group with the aid of his staff, which emitted a bit of light. He held his sword, Glamdring, as well. He was followed by Gimli, of whom he’d ask advice now and then, though he seemed to take it with a grain of salt. Gimli was a young dwarf and had never been to Moria. The dwarf was followed by Frodo, wielding Sting, then Sam, naturally. Sam was followed by Legolas, and then Merry and Pippin. The rear was brought up by Boromir, and lastly Aragorn.

Though Gandalf had petitioned for the hobbits to be allowed to accompany Frodo, he wasn’t foolish enough to allow them to either lead or dawdle behind. They were even separated by an Elf. This arrangement was not brought about by Tolkien until the final draft. Prior to that, he made no mention of order, except that Gandalf was leading with his “wand.”

Curiously enough, the air in the mines grew “hot and stifling.” This is interesting, as mines, like caves, should have a temperature of around 56F (13C). Some really deep mine can reach temperatures of 130F (55C), but Moria wasn’t a deep mine. They could feel cooler air coming in from hallways attached to the main one through which they were walking. Makes you wonder what was going on in those Misty Mountains, eh?

Camera: Zeiss-Ikon Ikoflex || Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D (expired 08/1994)(xpro as C-41)

Camera: Zeiss-Ikon Ikoflex || Film: FujiChrome Provia 400D (expired 08/1994)(xpro as C-41)

A Few Notes

  • From the first draft, Tolkien knew that it would take the Fellowship three or four days to tramp the forty miles of Moria.
  • It’s great to have Hammond & Scull’s Reader’s Companion as well as the first two volumes of the History of Lord of the Rings by Christopher Tolkien back in my hands. It’s great to be back!

About the Photo
I don’t do a ton of indoor photography, so finding a photo I’ve taken of stairs that aren’t outside is basically impossible for me. This will have to do.


  • Day 162
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 799 (345 from Rivendell)
  • 92 miles to Lothlórien
  • 980 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s place in the narrative begins with: As the wizard passed on ahead…. and ends with there was a path that led towards his goal. Book II, Chapter 3. Just inside the gate of Moria! 21st day out of Rivendell. January 13, 3019 TA. (map)

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7 thoughts on “Welcome to Moria! Don’t Drink the Water…

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