More Than Meets The Eye – Frodo in the Battle of Khazad-dûm

The whole point of the Fellowship is to destroy the Ring in the fires of Mordor. Those who are not Frodo were sent along to protect him and the Ring at all costs. The battle in the Mines of Moria was easily the most dangerous event since they set out from Rivendell, some 400 or so miles before. I’d like to take a look at how Frodo behaved in the battle, as well as how those around him worked toward his protection.

After reading from the Book of Mazarbul in Balin’s Tomb, the “doom, doom” of the Orcs’ drums was heard. In the quick preparation for the battle, Frodo was basically forgotten. This is understandable since they were blocked – they would all die or live together.

Nothing was mentioned of Frodo until after the cave troll forced open the door to the chamber. It was cracked open just enough for an arm and a foot to jab through. Boromir advanced and tried to sever the arm, but he couldn’t cut it. Frodo was then seized by the mood of a warrior. He “felt a hot wrath blaze up in his heart.”

With the battlecry of “The Shire,” he stabbed the troll’s foot with Sting. Unlike Boromir’s weapon, the Elvish letter opener did some damage, drawing black blood and making the troll back away. This allowed Boromir to slam the door shut.

Nobody, not even Frodo, expected this bit of careless abandon, but clearly Frodo wasn’t just some little Hobbit who needed to be coddled. Aragorn told him that he “had a good blade.” Boromir’s was probably made by the finest black smiths in Gondor. It was heavy, double-bladed and broad. Frodo probably couldn’t have even lifted it. Yet against the stony scales of the cave troll, it was useless.

Frodo’s sting must have injured the troll so much that the Orcs needed to use a battering ram to open the door. But once they were inside, all, including Frodo and the hobbits were engaged.

Then something pretty important is described – an Orc chieftain (almost man-high) wielding a giant spear, jumped into the room. He deflected Boromir’s sword with his shield, throwing him (Boromir) backwards and to the ground. He ducks a swipe from Aragorn’s sword, “he charged into the Company and thrust with his spear straight at Frodo.”

When the Fellowship was at the westward gate of Moria, the Watcher in the Water specifically targeted Frodo (according to Gandalf’s private thoughts, anyway). And here again, the head Orc tried to kill Frodo. It seems incredibly unlikely that either knew that Frodo had the Ring, but somehow, the Ring called to both in an attempt to free itself from Frodo’s mission.

It was Sam who chopped the shaft of the spear, breaking it in the belief that Frodo would be saved. He slumped down by the wall, and Aragorn, thinking Frodo was dead, had to carry him.

Of course, Frodo wasn’t dead – Bilbo’s mithril coat had saved him, though nobody knew this yet. Able to run (not that he wasn’t seeing stars), Frodo and the rest, minus Gandalf, ran down the long flights of stairs. Stopping for a bit, Frodo leaned on Sam.

A little while later, they took another rest from their retreating. During the battle, Gandalf thought Frodo was dead when he saw that Aragorn had to carry him. Still, he played his roll, protecting the Ring, even if the Ring Bearer was dead. Alive and wanting nobody to suspect his mithril coat, Frodo made some excuse as to why he was alive.

‘You take after Bilbo,’ said Gandalf. ‘There is more about you than meets the eye, as I said of him long ago.’ Frodo wondered if the remark meant more than it said.

Of course it did. Gandalf most definitely knew about the mithril coat by this point, deducing it from the wounds that Frodo didn’t have.

Frodo wasn’t mentioned again until they arrive at the bridge and chasm. Tolkien decided to describe both from Frodo’s point of view, even though he wasn’t the first to see it. Suddenly Frodo saw before him a black chasm. There was no real reason to do this, and neither were described in any sort of way having to do with the Shire or hobbits. All of the Fellowship saw the chasm. That Frodo was central in all of this was a point that had to be made again and again. Perhaps it was at this point when Frodo felt a much deeper chasm.

After being hit by an arrow which bounced harmlessly off of him, the Balrog came. Frodo’s reaction to this was not written. Nothing was mentioned of Frodo during the entire Balrog vs. Gandalf bout. The next we hear of him is when he discovers himself weeping with Sam at his side, running away from the enemy.

Tolkien gave Frodo a center roll in the battle – he was the only one who injured the troll. Though the Fellowship had protected him, he would have been killed if it hadn’t been for Bilbo’s gift of the mithril coat.

And if Frodo had been killed, it makes you wonder who would have taken the Ring to Mordor. Sam would certainly have demanded it, but I wonder who would have followed. Gandalf probably would have allowed it, but since he was soon dead, I can’t imagine Aragorn or Boromir letting it happen. Maybe something would have been different in Lothlorien as well. Of course, Tolkien never had the notion to kill off Frodo, so this was never a problem.

 Camera: Bolsey Jubliee Film: ORWO UN54


Camera: Bolsey Jubliee
Film: ORWO UN54

A Few Notes

  • At the start of the battle, Tolkien wrote: “[Gandalf] sprang toward Boromir’s side and drew himself up to his full height. ‘Who comes hither to disturb the rest of Balin Lord of Moria?’ he cried in a loud voice.” I get the feeling “full height” didn’t just mean that Gandalf slouched a bit less. This was at least a glimpse of Gandalf the Grey’s full power.
  • Tolkien described Sam in battle: “A fire was smoldering in his brown eyes that would have made Ted Sandyman step backward, if he had seen it.” This is about as fierce as any hobbit could ever get, and it’s awesome.

About the Photo
If I knew that I was going to spend so much time in Moria, I would have taken more cave photos! Instead, here’s a narrow bridge across a chasm!


  • Day 180
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 889 (435 from Rivendell)
  • 27 miles to Lothlórien proper
  • 886 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 6, Lothlorien. Entering Lothlorien. January 17, 3019 TA. (map)

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9 thoughts on “More Than Meets The Eye – Frodo in the Battle of Khazad-dûm

  1. This was a wonderful read. As you liked my post regarding Shadow of Mordor, I’m assuming that you know that I’m new to the Tolkien world, at least as much befits someone calling themselves a ‘fan’. Therefore, I hope you will take some credit for stoking the fires of my interest further!

    • Thanks so much! I’m pretty new, myself – just a few years into it. Most of my friends have been into Tolkien since grade school. They always prodded me to read him, but I just declined. The whole fantasy thing didn’t do it for me (and apart from Tolkien, still doesn’t).

      I really haven’t played a video game since the original Nintendo in the 80s. Sure, I picked up Grand Theft Auto for a bit, but even that got kind of boring. I know the new Tolkien game is amazing. I’ve heard nothing but amazingly wonderful things about it. And I’m sure that I could quit my job and do nothing but play it and be incredibly satisfied. Thankfully, I’m willfully ignorant! 🙂

      Though the idea of Elvish Wraiths is pretty interesting. That was an idea that Tolkien batted around for a bit. He eventually abandoned it, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be explored. Really interesting. I mentioned it here.

      Question – the monster pictured on your post about Shadow of Mordor – what is it? a Balrog? It looks a LOT like a Rancor from Return of the Jedi.
      Thanks!

      • It’s called a Graug. There’s nothing more empowering than empowering than riding one and crushing orcs! There are a few beasts in the game that I’m pretty sure are made for the game.

        • Oh interesting. That’s mostly made up (and I’m still betting Luke could defeat it), but a very cool idea. In Gnomish, one of Tolkien’s early languages, “graug” was the word for demon. In Sindarin, it’s raug – the root of balrog, actually.

    • Oh absolutely! I definitely simplified things by saying that everyone was just there helping Frodo. It’s true, but there’s really so much to that. Each had a purpose that will be fulfilled through the rest of the book, and though the Fellowship will be broken, their respective efforts are still for the same purpose.

      Thanks!
      Eric

  2. Eric – I found my way to this blog in the last few weeks. I’m impressed by your scholarship and you’ve got me digging through my shelves trying to find my old copy of The Silmarillion. I’m curious – how and when did you find your way to Tolkien? Also, why is it that you have gone to such a level of knowledge? You touch on it above. If it’s in an earlier post point me in that direction. At this point I think you know more than I could even forget.

    Personally I found Tolkien the summer between 5th and 6th grade – some time in the early 70’s. My friend Tom and I were trying to see how many books we could read. Mostly kid stuff. Tom’s sister gave him a paperback of The Hobbit and he couldn’t stop talking about it. He made me start reading it the day he finished. We spent the rest of the summer talking about hobbits and dragons and dwarves and what not – blissfully unaware of the existence of The Lord Of The Rings. It would be another 2 years before I found out about it. We just kept reading the books over and over again. I don’t know how many conversations we had about middle earth. This went on well into adulthood. Even as the movies came out we would go into conversations about Gandalf, mithril, Galadriel, ents, and on and on. Sadly, Tom died last year, but I’ll always remember when practically lived in the shire for one summer – it was great!

    • Hi Matt!

      I discovered Tolkien when I got myself some geeky friends in the early 90s. Unfortunately, they didn’t force me to read him right away. It wasn’t until threeish years ago that I finally read LotR (though I read the Hobbit probably six years ago – something like that).

      So after reading pretty well everything, I got myself a set of the History of Middle-earth series, but had no idea at all what to do with it. My background is in Civil War history and I have a daily blog where I research what happened 150 years ago to the day (www.civilwardailygazette.com). Researching is pretty much what I do for fun, so I combined research with Tolkien and came up with this blog.

      Sort of. Originally, it was supposed to be an exercise blog, but I quickly dropped that focus and made it a “scholarly” Tolkien blog.

      I’m always ridiculously envious of people who grew up with Tolkien. I wish that someone would have been there telling me to read The Hobbit. Even after I read it and LotR, I had few friends who would have acted as my Tom.

      As to the question of how did I gain this or that knowledge, all I can really say is that I devoured this stuff. Also, I’m pretty adept at research and, when compared to doing primary research for the Civil War, there’s really not all that much you need to have at your fingertips to do the same with Tolkien, especially LotR. Mostly, writing about it really helps me retain it. That’s the only way that I could remember things, and probably the biggest reason I do this blog.

      That, and it gives me a place where I can talk about Tolkien with people.

      Thanks so much!

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