Writing with Tolkien Through Moria (and a Nazi Firebombing)

The Fellowship is just now closing in on Lothlorien proper, and this is the last few miles that Tolkien breezes through with a walking montage. Let’s celebrate this (and our halfish way point) by taking a look back at the two early drafts of the Mines of Moria chapters.

I covered quite a bit of this in the Balrog post, but let’s take a look at some other things Tolkien first thought about after deciding to drag the Fellowship through the Mines.

In the published version, the Fellowship arrived at the westward gate late in the evening, and was able to enter Moria that night. However, in the original draft, they actually arrived too late in the evening and had to encamp near the gates, still not knowing the location. In fact, Gandalf didn’t begin his search for the gates until around 9am the next day. And so it was the sun, and not the moon, that “shone across the face of the wall.”

One of the larger differences was word “gates.” It definitely meant plural. As originally conceived, the westward side of Moria was serviced by two separate gates. Gandalf: “There were two secret gates on the westward side, though the chief entrance was on the East.” One door was a “Dwarven Door,” and the other was an “Elven Door”. This idea was changed while writing the second draft. The phrase “and the Dwarven-door further south” was struck out in the manuscript, though it seems like he went back and forth on this idea before finally settling upon one gate.

No matter which gate was which, from the original draft, Gandalf had trouble figuring out the password. It wasn’t Merry who was “on the right track,” as in the published version, but Gandalf, who alone figured it out in all of the drafts until the final.

(I explored the early drafts of the Watching in the Water here.)

The walking montage through Moria was much the same in the original – even the mileage is identical, though the times were off. This, of course, changed the hour of the day when the rock was dropped down the well (by Sam in the original drafts).

It’s a much shorter description, but more or less the same. Some small differences appear, such as mithril being called “ithil” and Azanulbizar being named “Uruktharbun,” though that was quickly changed.

There’s one glaring difference that I forgot to mention and didn’t even occur to me until the Fellowship neared Balin’s Tomb. Frodo really wanted to meet some Dwarves, especially Balin, whom he remembered from when he [Balin] visited Bilbo. This is because Gimli was not yet part of the story! He would only be penciled in at the end of the first draft: “Gimli cast his hood over his face.”

Without Gimli, this would change everything. Tolkien must have thought so too, because he abruptly ended the first draft just as soon as they reached Balin’s Tomb. Though there would be notes here and there, Tolkien wouldn’t return to this chapter for quite some time.

From Autumn of 1939 until August of 1940, Tolkien hardly even looked at Lord of the Rings. When he came back, he began by revising the entire story up to Rivendell, and then rewrote the Council of Elrond chapter several times.

Also during this period, Tolkien rewrote The Fall of Numenor, as well as some things that he thought would be included in either the Silmarillion, which he hoped to publish as a companion volume, or the Appendices. All the while, Germany was bombing England. At times, Tolkien could see a red glow on the horizon – the fire bombing of Coventry, forty miles away.

Probably around December of 1940, Tolkien finally picked up the story at Balin’s Tomb. Here, we learn the fate of Balin’s Folk through the book left behind in the Tomb. In this draft, Balin entered Moria twenty years before. For the published version, Tolkien rethought this, pushing it ten years earlier.

Some differences exist between the published and the original draft, but they’re mostly minor. As far as the battle and Balrog go, I’ve written about those here.

There was, however, a problem he was facing concerning goblins and Orcs (and “black Orcs” as they were called in the original draft). Tolkien wrote in the original: ‘There are goblins: very many of them,’ he [Gandalf] said. ‘Evil they look and large: black Orcs.’ In another version of this, Gandalf calls them “real Orcs.”

I’m sure I’ll go into the whole history of Orcs at some later stage, but at this point in his writing, Orcs were nothing new, having been invented in the very earliest of his writings. But goblins did not equal Orcs for Tolkien just yet. Orcs were more formidable, goblins were shorter and kind of goofy. In the published version, goblins became nondifferent Orcs, and real/black Orcs became Uruks of Moria.

At any rate, just where he wanted to Fellowship to go after leaving Moria was something that Tolkien didn’t really figure out until finishing the Moria chapters. As he so often did, he wrote an outline. This time, it included chapter breaks and went until the very end of the story, though it was rough and vague and was missing many things that were to come.

As for Lothlorien, the name itself didn’t appear until the second draft of “The Ring Goes South” chapter (written just before Tolkien picked up the Moria story). It’s unlikely that he had any idea what Lothlorien was at that point, other than it was in the woods. After finishing the Moria chapters, in his notes, he wrote that Lothlorien was populated by Elves.

It’s not until he actually wrote the Lothlorien chapters that he fully developed the place and the people, including Galadriel, who didn’t exist at all until she appeared before the Fellowship. But I’ll get to all of that later.

For now, just understand that as we go forward, we are unwrapping Middle-earth along with Tolkien, discovering new places and people in almost the precise order in which they were created by the author. He was, in a very real way, making it up as he went along. It’s a wonderful thing, and we’ll get to experience that along with him.

Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2, Model D (1914) Film: Shanghai GP3 100

Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2, Model D (1914)
Film: Shanghai GP3 100

A Few Notes

  • Frodo is (a bit more than) half way to Mordor! I mean, my math could be (and actually was) a bit off, but we’re half way there! Huzzah! Only 881 miles to go!
  • I’m not exactly sure when to tell the Orcs’ story. It’ll be done in a similar way to how I handled the Balrogs. They’re not nearly as interesting, but their evolution was much more drastic and controversial, I think.
  • Next time we meet, we’ll explore Cerin Amroth, where we’ll gasp and swoon over the truest of loves ever told or something!

About the Photo
I suppose this looks something like the Misty Mountains. Maybe it’s as the Fellowship neared them. Or maybe it’s as they’re walking away. In reality, it’s the Olympic Mountains on the Washington Peninsula captured with a 100 year old camera and crappy Chinese film. Yay!


  • Day 181
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 894 (440 from Rivendell)
  • 22 miles to Lothlórien proper
  • 881 miles to Mt. Doom

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

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Numenoreans, the Last Alliance and Whatever the Hell Elrond Was Talking About

During the Council of Elrond, after Elrond was finishing up his retelling of the Tale of How the One Ring Was Made, he talked about Numenor. He must have went on and on about that as well, since it was summarized by the narrator.

Elrond had nothing really to do with Numenor. His brother, Elros, was the island’s first king, but he died in 442 of the Second Age just as he reached the five-century mark. The whole tale of Numenor was summarized in a sentence, including “and the return of the Kings of Men to Middle-earth out of the deeps of the Sea, borne upon the wings of storm.”

The Numenoreans were known as the Kings of Men. But then, the Valar called them the Atani (meaning “Second People”), while they were known as the Edain in the Sindarin tongue. Once they got to Numenor, they were called the Numenoreans, or, just to make things more Tolkien-esque, the Dunedain (which means Edain of the West). They apparently called themselves the Adun.

Anyway, at first, there were just Men. But some of these men aided the Valar and the Elves against Morgoth in the War of Wrath (at the end of the First Age). These men, made up of what remained of the Houses of Beor and Hador, were rewarded for their sacrifice by the Valar.

They were given what the Valar called Andor, an island in the middle of the sea (though closer to Valinor). The Men called it Elenna, meaning “Starwards,” because they, led by Elrond’s brother Elros, followed the Star of Earendil (Venus) to find it. They also called it Anadune, meaning “Westernesse.” The Elves, however, called it Numenor, and that’s apparently all that mattered because that’s the name that stuck.

Apart from the island, they were given long lives without sickness. “Therefore they grew wise and glorious, and in all things more like to the Firstborn (Elves) than any other of the kindreds of Men; and the light of their eyes was like the bright stars.” (from the Silmarillion‘s Akallabeth)

They were also pretty tall. By some accounts, Elendil, father of Isildur, was eight feet tall. We’re given the Numenorean unit of measurement, the ranga, which was based upon the typical stride of a Numenorean. Tolkien glossed it as “slightly longer than our yard, approximately thirty-eight inches,” because why not.

In Unfinished Tales we’re told that two rangas was called “man-high,’ which means that typical men were 6’4” tall. However, these measurements were actually used on Middle-earth, not Numenor. The Numenor-Atlantis men were said to have been “more than man-high.” Elendil’s height was supposed to be man-high plus half a ranga, so nearly eight feet tall, which is why Elrond referred to him as “Elendil the Tall.” He was the tallest Numenorean to escape the downfall. Later, however, Tolkien must have rethought it, placing the average tall person’s height at around seven feet. Seriously, Tollers….

Elrond moved on to talk about Isildur and Anarion, the sons of Elendil who became the leaders of Arnor in the north and Gondor in the south, respectively. Together, they were known as the Realms in Exile or simply The Two Kingdoms. This was in 3320 of the Second Age, or 3,139 years before the our story takes place.

Both places had been Numenorean colonies for some time, and both welcomed Elendil and his followers after the downfall of Numenor. But there were also Black Numenoreans who had become followers of Sauron. They didn’t recognize Elendil’s authority, especially in Gondor.

After a bit of shuffling, Isildur and Anarion divided up the kingdom. Isildur built Minas Ithil (which we’ll later know as Minas Morgul) right next to Mordor to keep a watch on it and probably as a bit of piss to throw at Sauron. Anarion built Minas Anor (which we’ll know as Minas Tirith).

Really not keen on this whole idea, Sauron attacked in 3429, about a hundred years after the Realms in Exile were established. A year later, the Last Alliance of Elves and Men was formed. This combined the troops of Gil-galad from Lindon and Elendil (both Isildur’s and Anarion’s from Gondor and Arnor). Here you can see a map of where everybody was coming from. Lindon was mostly near the coast and sort of west of Arnor.

While, as Elrond says, “the hosts of Gil-galad and Elendil were mustered in Arnor,” the army under Anarion was doing their best to hold off Sauron’s forces spilling out of Mordor, the East, as well as the South. It took the Last Alliance three years to prepare, which they did in Rivendell (then called Imladris). This is when Elrond was with them.

‘I remember well the splendour of their banners,’ he said. ‘It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand, so many great princes and captains were assembled.’

Finally… FINALLY, the Last Alliance was ready, and they marched over the Misty Mountains and down the Andiun. This is where they picked up the Elves from Greenwood and Lorien and the Dwarves from Moria. You’ll notice that this wasn’t called the Last Alliance of Elves, Men and Dwarves – and they wonder why the Dwarves are so unhappy with Elves (who do all the naming).

When they got near Mordor, they also picked up Anarion’s army, which was probably exhausted after three years of struggling on their own. While it makes sense that the Last Alliance couldn’t join with Anarion’s army due to not being prepared, why couldn’t the Greenwood and Lorien Elves help out before then? Why not the Dwarves?

They attacked in what became known as the Battle of Dagorlad, which took place near what later was known as the Dead Marshes, just outside of the Black Gate of Mordor. Defeated, Sauron’s forces retreated to Barad-dur, which the Last Alliance then besieged for seven years.

At this point in the telling, Elrond is interrupted by Frodo and goes off on a bit of a tangent before returning to the siege. Over the next two (hell, probably morr) days, we’ll follow suit.

A Few Notes
Incidentally, Tolkien placed Aragon’s height at 6’6″ and Boromir’s at 6’4″. You’ll find in Tolkien’s writings that the tallest person is almost always the leader (even among hobbits and dwarves). Speaking as someone who is 5’4″, this is an incredibly dodgy way to pick leaders.

When reading about this stuff, a map really, really helps. My go-to maps are from Karen Wynn Fonstad’s Atlas of Middle-Earth. You seriously can’t go wrong with it.

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper Film: FujiChrome 400D (expired 08/1994) (xpro as C-41)

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper
Film: FujiChrome 400D (expired 08/1994) (xpro as C-41)

About the Photo
I didn’t take nearly as many photos of the Gettysburg and Antietam battlefields as I wanted to when I traveled through them last year. I did, however, manage to accidentally destroy a whole roll of film with said photos on it. I was pretty bummed. A few survived from the trip, including this one of the “Triangular Field,” one of my favorite spots.


  • Day 119
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 596 (142 from Rivendell)
  • 325 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,183 miles to Mt. Doom

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

What Can Bring Tom Bombadil Down? (Day 27)

Camera: Mamiya C3 Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64x; expired 10/96; x-pro

Camera: Mamiya C3
Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64x; expired 10/96; x-pro

Tom Bombadil and our hobbits ride west and then north toward the East Road. As they cross an old dike, Tom grows quiet and seems to be thinking about something sad.

Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 8 (p146-7, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
Another incredibly short passage, but this one shows a sense of history that could keep me researching for hours. Before the hobbits were trapped by the Barrow-wights, they saw a line of trees that they assumed was the East Road (the main road through the Shire and to Bree and beyond). It was, however, not the Road, but “a deep dike with a steep wall on the further side.”

These types of dikes were prevalent in England, denoting boundaries or established for defense. And so it was with this dike. Tom explains (through the narrator) that “it had once been the boundary of a kingdom, but a very long time ago.”

And it was. This was once the border of the kingdom of Arnor, founded at the end of the Second Age (it’s the end of the Third Age at this point in the story, 3018). It was founded, along with Gondor, by those who escaped the destruction of Numenor.

(At this point, you’re going to need a map. Here’s one that might work.)

For some 860ish years, Arnor was one kingdom, but after the king died, his three sons started a civil war which resulted in Arnor being divided into three separate kingdoms: Arthedain, Rhudaur, and Cardolan. It is the border of Arthedain and Cardolan which Tom and the hobbits come across. Cardolan was the southern portion, with its northern border along the East Road. All three kingdoms met at Weathertop.

From roughly 861 till roughly 1300 (it was in 1100 when Gandalf, etc discovered the Necromancer in Dol Guldur, by the way), there was relative peace between the three separate kingdoms. But it was then that the Witch-king established Angmar, to the north of old Arnor, but still its influences could be felt even in southern-most Cardolan. This was when the orcs began to attack the Dwarves in the Misty Mountains. But it was also around this time (1300ish) that the Periannath (the ‘halflings/hobbits’) come west to live in Bree, itself on the border between Cardolan and Arthedain.

Around 1350, the king of Arthedain, Argeleb I, claimed rule over all of Arnor, as he was supposedly the only true air in the line from Isildur. While Cardolan seemed cool with this, Rhudaur did not and actually sided with Angmar and the Witch-king. On their own, Rhudaur went to war with the new and slightly smaller Arnor, killing King Argeleb I. In turn, his son pushed back, driving the troops from Rhudaur away from Weathertop.

About 50 years later, the Witch-king attacked, combining his own forces with those from Rhudaur, capturing Weathertop and King Argeleb’s son (now the king, himself) was killed. It was at the Barrow-downs and in the Old Forest where the last few of the Dunedain made their stand. This is when the dike crossed by Tom and the Hobbits was probably built. It was, at least, used during these battles. The last person was buried in the Barrow-downs in 1409.

Eventually, the Witch-king’s armies were stopped by Elrond’s forces from Rivendell, but most of Arnor, including Cardolan, was completely gutted by the enemy. But it was around this time (1601) that the hobbits migrate farther west into the Shire, in what was once Arthedain. This makes 1601 actually Year 1 in the ‘Shire reckoning’.

But 35 years late came the Great Plague, which killed pretty much everybody still living around the Barrow-downs. It was then that the Barrow-wights were sent by the Witch-king to occupy the land. For a short while, the kingdom of Arthedain, mostly unaffected by the plague, retook the Barrow-downs area, but nobody really wanted to live there (what with the wights and all). With nobody to defend it, the Witch-king once more took over the land.

For the next couple of centuries, Arnor continued to reestablish itself, even communicating with Gondor to the south in 1940. But thirty years later, the Witch-king attacked again, this time overrunning all of Arthedain, putting an end to Arnor. The next year, however, he is defeated at Fornost (northwest of Weathertop), and driven away. Five years later, he winds up in Mordor.

At this point, the action moved east, centering around Mordor and Moria. The land that used to be Arnor became sparsely populated, watched over by the Dunedain, the Rangers. For about 1,000 years it went on line this, until our story begins.

So there’s a bit of history, taken mostly from Appendix A and the Tale of Years, both contained in the Lord of the Rings. All this information is there, if you’re up to reading that kind of stuff.

And that’s what made Tom Bombadil seem kind of down for a few seconds.

About the Photo
Since we’re talking about borders, here’s a shot of an old customs sign that once stood between the border of Canada and the United States in Molson, Washington – a fine little ghost town. I don’t have my passport (yet?), so within these borders I must stay. For now anyway.

Thoughts on the Exercising
Maybe it’s just Monday, but I’m feeling laaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy! Did five miles, but it was despite my laziness. I feel about the same, and did it at around the same speed as I normally do. I don’t have a whole lot to say about this today. Huzzah!


  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 125
    • 10 miles to Bree
    • 89 miles to Weathertop
    • 335 miles to Rivendell
    • 1,654 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Still moving north toward the East Road (map)