LotRFI Pt.17–The Gate and the Chamber

Honestly, I do not have much to say about Moria itself. The incident with Pippin and the well, I want to save for talking about Pippin’s development as a character, and I have already covered the death of Gandalf. The only other incidents that I paid much attention to in my first reading were the puzzle of the gate, including the fight with the Watcher, and the discovery of the Chamber of Mazarbul.

The puzzle at the gate was an interesting pause in the movement of the text for me. I liked how it acted as a hiatus from the onrush of foes to serve two purposes: to develop character more and to heighten suspense. The depth of character comes first. When the gates are finally revealed, Gandalf, Gimli, and Legolas all have dialogue which indicates that they have learned some of the lore surrounding the doorway and its design:

‘There are the emblems of Durin!’ cried Gimli.

‘And there is the Tree of the High Elves!’ said Legolas.

‘And the Star of the House of Fëanor, said Gandalf.

Image copyright J.R.R. Tolkien

Along the journey through the mines, Gandalf constantly turns to Gimli for counsel. These chapters start to establish the usefulness of having both a dwarf and an elf among the Fellowship; however, there is more to the scene at the gate than showing the learning of Legolas and Gimli, it also demonstrates the practicality of hobbits when the wise over think something simple. Out of the whole Fellowship, it is Merry who finds the hint for the words of opening. This demonstrates the importance of having characters with a practical approach to the world around them. While Gandalf and many of the others constantly seek to interpret events and artifacts for their deeper meaning, the hobbits often take things at face value and concern themselves mostly with the world of concrete reality. Frodo is perhaps the largest exception to this rule, though each of the hobbits grow a tendency to interpret events as the story progresses.

The second aspect of this scene comes with the introduction of the Watcher in the Water. This event is the second physical threat that confronts the Fellowship after Rivendell. Unlike the Wargs, however, the warriors seem stunned by the sudden appearance of this adversary. Sam leaps to Frodo’s aid, then Gandalf commands them to move on. Gandalf’s words “Rous[ed] them from the horror that seemed to have rooted all but Sam to the ground where they stood” (FR, II, iv, 309). For the second time in the same location, the hobbits have proved themselves worthy to be among the Fellowship. Despite how the movie interprets this event, Tolkien’s characterization of the action leaves more mystery surrounding the nature of the Watcher. I had never assumed that there was some gigantic octopus-like head which combined all the arms, nor did I assume that the Fellowship could hold their own against the Watcher. These were both additions from Jackson’s interpretation which I have never accepted.

Image copyright Anke Eissmann

The other interesting scene during my first reading was the Chamber of Mazarbul. I have to admit that, not knowing how long the trip through Moria was going to take, I felt like the plot dragged a bit in the Mines. It felt like an arduous trek through darkness, which I did not particularly enjoy. Therefore, I was elated when something finally happened three-fourths of the way through the trip. In fact, I remember setting the book down at least once and resuming later. It was not until the action resumed in Balin’s tomb that I regained my momentum for the story. The chamber, just like the gate scene, has the dual purpose of character development and conflict. First, this section expounds upon the history of Moria and Gimli’s attachment to it. Then, the major confrontation with enemies inside Moria begins with the vanguard that assaults the Fellowship in the chamber. The pace quickened here, and this propelled me into and beyond the next chapter, which I cover in my preceding post.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I think that the next stop will be to talk about Galadriel and her mirror.

What Do You Think?

Did I miss something in the Mines of Moria? Did you have another part that you enjoyed?
Do you like or dislike Jackson’s interpretation of the Watcher in the Water?

One thought on “LotRFI Pt.17–The Gate and the Chamber


    I enjoyed Moria. When I first read it at age 12 I had already been taken on excursions to various caves near where I lived, including Ruby Falls, Sequoyah Caverns, and a few others, so I had some background from which to draw my mental imagery of Moria’s caverns and tunnels. I’ve always pictured the Watcher in the Water as one kraken-like being, though I’ve never had a good mental image of its center or head. The depictions of Moria in the film were among Jackson’s better efforts, though he didn’t capture some of the claustrophobic elements that Tolkien mentions.

    Liked by 1 person

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