The Invention of Moria (Fimbulfami, Bladorthin, and More than a Few Goblins)

On Monday, we looked at the history of Moria that’s given in Tolkien’s books, finding that it went back to nearly the creation of Arda. Today, we’ll take a look at how Tolkien brought Moria into existence in his writings.

Moria is not something that arose with Lord of the Rings, but dates from The Hobbit:

“I did not ‘get hold of it,’ I was given it,” said the wizard. “Your grandfather Thror was killed, you remember, in the mines of Moria by Azog the Goblin.”

At least, that’s how it appears in today’s printing of the book. But it was not such an easy road to get to this bit of exposition.

This scene, without any mention of Moria, appeared in the very first scribblings of a draft. Here, the wizard pulled out a map and showed it to the dwarves, led by “Gandalf,” Thorin’s name before it was Thorin.

‘This [the map] I had from Fimbulfami(?) – your grandfather, Gandalf,’ he said in answer to the dwarves’ excited questions.

So yes, Thorin was originally named Gandalf, and Thror was originally named Fimbulfami. Tolkien wasn’t quite sure about this name, and actually wrote the “(?)” following it. Wonder why….

And then, it was in the (more or less) second draft of the opening chapter where the wizard (now named Bladorthin) explained to Gandalf the dwarf how he acquired the map.

‘I didn’t,’ said the wizard; ‘I was given it. Your grandfather Gandalf you will remember was killed in the mines of Moria by a goblin.’

You’ll notice that the character of Azog was not yet named, but came into existence in this moment. In the manuscript, Tolkien began to name the goblin, but scribbled out a capitol letter – that was as close as he got. (More on this later.)

At any rate, Moria was born. It was not written about in the early Silmarillion manuscripts, or in the Lays of this or that. It came from The Hobbit. But though it was the place of Gandalf’s [proto-Thorin’s] grandfather’s death, it was nothing more. There was nothing at all to suggest its future glory or its long past.

In fact, there’s a good chance that at this point, Tolkien believed it to be little more than another goblin dwelling. It was placed within the Misty Mountains, which during this stage of the writing, was known only as goblin territory.

Prior to writing The Hobbit, Tolkien had stated that the Dwarves lived in Nogrod and Belegost, which were far southwest of pretty much everything that was happening during the Silmarillion in Beleriand. The Misty Mountains hadn’t even come into existence yet! Strange to think that Moria arrived before them. This means that when Tolkien first wrote about Moria, he had no real idea where it was located (or, at least, never said that he did).

The above passage is the only time that Moria was mentioned in the earliest drafts of The Hobbit. Elrond’s mention of it was not yet written, and it wasn’t until a bit later, when he finally finished the book, that he had the Dwarves at the Battle of Five Armies shouting ‘Moria!’ as a battle cry. But even then, it was more of a “Remember the fallen grandfather” sort of deal. Though, by the time it was published, in 1937, a few more references were added, it was still not the Moria we all know today.

This came much later. In 1947, ten years after The Hobbit was published, Tolkien suggested a new turn for Chapter 5. He submitted what he believed was a draft which brought the Gollum scene more into line with what he was then writing for Lord of the Rings. His publisher ran with it and the book was changed. Tolkien wasn’t thrilled, but he didn’t complain much.

And so The Hobbit as we know it today was (mostly) born. But we’re still not finished. The book had undergone some hefty edits after the publication of Lord of the Rings. This includes the passage about Azog from above.

It appeared in the 1937 printing as:

“Your grandfather was killed, you remember, in the mines of Moria by a goblin.”

Then, in 1966, it was changed to:

“You grandfather Thror was killed, you remember, in the mines of Moria by Azog the Goblin.”

Thror and Thrain were both named in the original 1937 publication. Tolkien had come up with them while writing the Lake Town segments. That was also when he decided to rename Bladorthin to Gandalf and Gandalf to Thorin. It was a big day for him.

The actual story of the death of Thror was told in the third section of Appendix A in Lord of the Rings. The story of how Gandalf got hold of was given the map was written about in “The Quest of Erebor,” which was also to be part of the Appendices, but was cut.

You can find a version of it in Unfinished Tales, and the whole of it in the Annotated Hobbit by Douglas A. Anderson.

And so, as we’ve seen, Moria sort of came out of nowhere. For the first year or so, it didn’t have a home, and then when it finally got one, it wasn’t the ancestral home of Durin’s Folk, but a goblin-den. It wasn’t until he began writing Lord of the Rings that it grew roots with the telling of Balin’s move to Moria, which Tolkien wrote about in its early drafts. Only then did the geography and history finally come together.

Camera: Argus C3 Film: FujiColor 200

Camera: Argus C3
Film: FujiColor 200

A Few Notes

  • Trust me, you need a copy of the Annotated Hobbit.
  • I really love these montage moments – it allows me to dig a bit deeper. That said, we “missed” another reference to Frodo hearing the flap flapping of Gollum’s feet.
  • The reincarnation of Durin I – VII in the next post! Seriously weird stuff ahead.

About the Photo
Say, you’re the Misty Mountains, right? Well no, they’re the Strawberry Mountains in Oregon. Usually, I’d use the Cascades to depict the Misty Mountains, but I think these will do just fine. Though, I think the Misty Mountains were much higher.


  • Day 168
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 829 (375 from Rivendell)
  • 63 miles to Lothlórien
  • 950 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s place in the narrative begins with: In this way they advance some fifteen miles…. and ends with …a following footstep that was not an echo. Book II, Chapter 3. Inside the Mines of Moria! 22nd day out of Rivendell. January 14, 3019 TA. (map)

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7 thoughts on “The Invention of Moria (Fimbulfami, Bladorthin, and More than a Few Goblins)

  1. That photo is perfect – it looks so like what I imagine Region/Hollin to be: full of trees, mountains, water. A brilliant choice.

    • Thanks! Like I said, I really prefer the Cascades for the Misty Mountains, but these work well enough. I get WAY too attached to photographic depictions of things in ME. I explained a couple of weeks ago about really wanting Mt. Washington in Oregon to be Mount Doom. We traveled the six or seven hours to get there, made a whole weekend trip of it, and when we got there, the clouds were too thick and we never saw the damn thing. I was devastated. You can only get to it in the late summer because of snow. So now I’ll have to find another Doom. The next post actually has a digital photo because I couldn’t get to *the* location for depicting the 21st Hall. I was bummed about that too.

    • Yep! It’s a bit surprising then that Tolkien gave the name to the wizard while writing The Hobbit. I’m glad he did, though. Bladorthin isn’t really that great of a name. He later gave it to a King – I guess since he made it up, he had to use it somewhere.

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