The Lord of the Rings – Book 2, Chapter 4: “A Journey in the Dark”

To turn back now is to admit defeat, and to face certain doom in the days ahead if they do so.  The path ahead, according to Gandalf, lies through the Mines of Moria, the very mention of which brings a sense of dread to the company.  They liken the lack of hope it engenders with capture by Sauron, which Gandalf is quick to dismiss, revealing that he was once held in Sauron’s lesser prison at Dol Guldur.  Barad-Dûr offers far worse, and Moria far less.

After a long night of fending off wargs, dawn’s light reveals no sign of the battle.  Though exhausted, the race is on to reach the doors of Moria before sunset.  The features of the area have changed, with the gate-stream having been dammed to create a lake, but the Elven door remains, the last marker of their domain before Elven paths give way to Dwarven roads.  As the path beneath the mountain is dangerous and too narrow for pack animals, this is where Sam is forced to part ways with Bill, sending him back to Rivendell with a little enchantment from Gandalf.

Revealing the door and speaking the password (after multiple frustrating attempts), the doors open, but the tentacled Watcher in the Water attacks before the company can pass through.  The Watcher targets Frodo in particular.  The way of escape is, ironically enough, into Moria, and the Watcher destroys the doors behind them.  The only way out is forward.

The Fellowship rests little and eats less, and the path ahead is made more dangerous by chasms and fissures.  As night wears on outside, weariness takes them inside.  As they rest, Pippin drops a rock down a well and is mercilessly chastised.  They hear the sounds of distant tapping, as with a hammer.  During the course of their trek, Gandalf risks some light, allowing the company to see the full grandeur of Moria.  As Gimli reminds them, Moria is not merely a mine, not merely a hole in the ground, but a fully-developed city.  Gimli regales them with a recounting of “The Song of Durin” to express the magnificence of the realm in days of old.  Sam is so impressed, he wants to learn it for himself.

It is revealed that Balin and his Dwarves came to Moria in search of mithril, and Frodo learns that the mithril armor he wears is worth more than the entire value of the Shire.

The next day, they come across the tomb of Balin and the remains of his people.  Gandalf reads the runes that confirm this, offering stark contrast to “The Song of Durin.”

You can hear The Tolkien Ensemble’s rendition of “The Song of Durin” right here.

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