The Coming of Dwarves, the Misty Mountains, and Moria

Since we’ve entered another (short) montage moment, where the Fellowship is making good time through the Mines of Moria, I thought it would be fun to take a look at Moria itself. To learn about Moria is to learn about the history of the Dwarves. And for that, we have to look at their creation.

This is told in the Silmarillion (and a good overview of this chapter is here). Sometime after the creation of Arda, during the Years of the Lamps, the Vala named Aule had heard of the coming of the Children of Illuvatar, the Elves. Since they had not actually come yet, nobody had any idea what they looked like. Aule, however, was incredibly excited and was “unwilling to await the fulfillment of the designs of Illuvatar.”

So he took it upon himself to make the Dwarves based upon a wild guess. He made them “strong and unyielding” so that they might fight Melkor/Morgoth. This seems mostly innocent, but that he hid his work from the other Valar seems to indicate that he knew he was overstepping his bounds.

Anyway, he managed to create “the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves in a hall under the mountains in Middle-earth.” Aule finished up and began to teach them how to speak. But that’s when Illuvatar stepped in. He had watched Aule ply his trade, and asked him why he had done this since it was obviously not in his authority to do so. Aule did not possess the power to give them freedom. As they were, the Fathers of the Dwarves were little more than chess pieces which Aule might move around as if he were some sort of bobo-Illuvatar. Was that what he wanted?

Aule said it was not. He only wanted “to love and to teach them.” There was, he said, room enough in Arda for a bunch of things, including Dwarves. He compared himself to a child playing, claiming that he was innocent. In the end, he told Illuvatar to “do with them what thou wilt. But should I not rather destroy the work of my presumption?” And with that, Aule grabbed his hammer to smash the poor little guys. They cowered and begged for mercy.

And Illuvatar showed them just that. He would not “fix” them to be like Elves, but would leave them as they were. However, they would not awaken before the Elves. “They shall sleep now in the darkness under stone, and shall not come forth until the Firstborn [Elves] have awakened upon Earth; and until that time thou and they shall wait, though long it seem.” They would then become the adopted children of Illuvatar.

Durin was the oldest of the Seven Fathers. Though it might seem as if the Dwarves were sleeping in the Mines of Moria, that doesn’t seem to be the case. In Appendix A, Tolkien wrote that once awakened, Durin and his people “came to Azanulbizar, and in the caves above Kheled-zaram in the east of the Misty Mountains he made his dwelling.”

So the Dwarves were awakened somewhere in some undisclosed mountains, and then traveled to Azanulbizar. This was before even the First Age, during the Years of the Trees. All through that time, the Elves were coming and going from Middle Earth, while Durin’s Folk dug out the Mines. Other Dwarves established trade routes, bartering their mined metals and crafts for needed goods.

Though Durin was called “the Deathless,” he died “before the Elder Days had passed,” meaning before the First Age was out. By the end of the First Age, other Dwarves gave up their own cities and united with Durin’s Folk.

As Sauron came to power and took over Middle-earth, Moria was untouched as, “the halls of Kazad-dum were too deep and strong and filled with a people too numerous and valiant for Sauron to conquer from without.” They would have to be conquered from within. The Dwarves had supplies, but their number dwindled as the years passed.

By the middle of the Third Age, Durin VI was in power, and the mines grew deeper and deeper as they dug for Mithril, “the metal beyond price that was becoming yearly ever harder to win.” This begs the question that if Moria was completely closed off, why did they still need to dig for metals? There was apparently no trading going on. If true, then they were doing it to increase their own horde.

Anyway, their deep digging “roused from sleep” a Balrog, “a thing of terror that, flying from Thangorodrim, had lain hidden at the foundations of the earth since the coming of the Host of the West.”

Now, there’s much debate over whether the Balrog had wings or not (and I’ll address that a bit in the coming weeks), but this line seems to indicate that he did – otherwise how might it fly? Of course, Tolkien could have been using the definition meaning “flee.” Thangorodrim was a group of three volcanoes created by Morgoth. During the War of Wrath, at the end of the First Age, they were destroyed, along with a huge chunk of Middle-earth.

The Misty Mountains, though now much closer to the Sea, were untouched, and the Dwarves in Moria hammered away, though other Dwarves aided the Men and Elves in the fight against Morgoth.

But exactly when the Balrog got there, I’m not really sure. The dates seems to conflict since the fall of Thangorodrim came long after Durin’s folk occupied the Misty Mountains. I’ll look into this later, when we get to the Balrog bit.

There’s more to the story of Durin’s Folk, of course, and we’ll get to that in the coming days, as well.

Camera: Argus C3 Film: Fuji Sensia II 200 (xpro)

Camera: Argus C3
Film: Fuji Sensia II 200 (xpro)

A Few Notes

  • Azanulbizar (which might be one of my favorite words ever) is also known at Dimrill Dale. It’s the valley below the East Gate of Moria. Though when Durin first came there, it was just a valley. Kheled-zaram is the Mirrormere, the lake in the valley.
  • As we learned in The Hobbit, Durin’s Folk were known as the Longbeards. It wasn’t until long after writing Lord of the Rings when Tolkien named the other six families. They were: “Blacklocks, Broadbeams, Firebeards, Ironfists, Stiffbeards, and Stonefoots.”
  • Apparently, Durin’s Folk who assembled in Moria were only two of the seven families of Dwarves. Who apart from the Longbeards, were with Durin, I don’t think Tolkien ever said.
  • In response to the Dwarves being created by Aule, Yavanna created the Ents. This, however, was okay with Illuvatar (it was in “the music”). “Would that the trees might speak on behalf of all things that have roots, and punish those that wrong them!” The Ents would awaken with the Elves.

About the Photo
This is the East Gate during the Seventh Age, right? Sure! Actually, it’s a gas station carved into the side of a small mountain in Utah. It’s kind of near and also kind of obnoxious.


  • Day 167
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 824 (370 from Rivendell)
  • 67 miles to Lothlรณrien
  • 955 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s place in the narrative begins with: As far as they could judge it went in great mounting curves. and ends with quicker than they had done on their first march. Book II, Chapter 3. Inside the Mines of Moria! 22nd day out of Rivendell. January 14, 3019 TA. (map)

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11 thoughts on “The Coming of Dwarves, the Misty Mountains, and Moria

  1. I always have a special place in my heart for the Dwarves. Aule was right- they just seem to belong under the mountains. Our new house has a small room with slanted roofs and a tiny little alcove that is my bed. Jaime (elf woman that she is) was baffled that I could sleep there. It’s my cozy little cubby. I just need an axe to hang over the door. And maybe my hobbit father can give me back that mithril shirt he borrowed…

    • You DO need an axe. And I hope you get one.

      I’m more Hobbit than Dwarf, but still, the small space living thing is something I’m totally down with. You know, like container living.

    • The War of Wrath is amazing. You’ll love it.

      Also, I meant to link to your post about this chapter in the Silm. Totally forgot it until I was at work this morning.

      Anyway, it’s here.

      • Can’t wait! We (that is, hubby and me — he’s still listening! ๐Ÿ™‚ ) demolished it last night and are into the next part, about Numenor. I think he’s happy that we’re getting into some more familiar territory.

        And thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Oh that’s right! You’re reading to him, right? That’s so adorable/awesome! The familiar territory of Numenor is really refreshing. It’s great that you’re both sticking with it. Wish I could get Sarah to let me read the Silm to her.

  2. Fascinating! Could you do a post on the versions of reincarnation the Dwarves believed in, please? Because I seem to remember something of the sort being mentioned in the Silmarilion. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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