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Durin's Bane or Whistling Past the Graveyard

H

Harad

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We first hear it called "Durin's Bane" in LOTR when Gimli says:

The Dwarves tell no tale; but even as mithril was the foundation of their wealth, so also it was their destruction: they delved too greedily and too deep, and disturbed that from which they fled, Durin's Bane. Of what they brought to light the Orcs have gathered nearly all, and given it in tribute to Sauron, who covets it.
Soon afterwards:
Gimli stared with wide eyes. `Durin's Bane! ' he cried, and letting his axe fall he covered his face.
'A Balrog,' muttered Gandalf. `Now I understand.' He faltered and leaned heavily on his staff. `What an evil fortune! And I am already weary.'
Celeborn afterwards said:
'Alas! ' said Celeborn. `We long have feared that under Caradhras a terror slept.
But 220 years earlier:

Up the steps after him leaped a Dwarf with a red axe. It was Dáin Ironfoot, Náin's son. Right before the doors he caught Azog, and there he slew him, and hewed off his head. That was held a great feat, for Dáin was then only a stripling in the reckoning of the Dwarves. But long life and many battles lay before him, until old but unbowed he fell at last in the War of the Ring. Yet hardy and full of wrath as he was, it is said that when he came down from the Gate he looked grey in the face, as one who has felt great fear...

Then Thráin turned to Dáin, and said: 'But surely my own kin will not desert me?' 'No,' said Dáin. 'You are the father of our Folk, and we have bled for you, and will again. But we will not enter Khazad-dûm. You will not enter Khazad-dûm. Only I have looked through the shadow of the Gate. Beyond the shadow it waits for you still: Durin's Bane. The world must change and some other power than ours must come before Durin's Folk walk again in Moria.
So why was everybody so surprised? After all Dain was the leader of the Dwarfs in the North, not a mythological character that nobody could talk with. Somebody might have debriefed him.

Equally odd:

Glóin sighed. `Moria! Moria! Wonder of the Northern world! Too deep we delved there, and woke the nameless fear. Long have its vast mansions lain empty since the children of Durin fled. But now we spoke of it again with longing, and yet with dread; for no dwarf has dared to pass the doors of Khazad-dûm for many lives of kings, save Thrór only, and he perished. At last, however, Balin listened to the whispers, and resolved to go; and though Dáin did not give leave willingly, he took with him Ori and Óin and many of our folk, and they went away south.
"Dain did not give leave willingly" is rather a mild disapproval from someone who should know better.
 
M

Mormegil

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Maybe the Elves and Gandalf did not trust Dain's judgement of what lies in Moria.
Dwarves aren't the most trustworthy of folks are they?

Also, Celeborn had a strong dislike of Dwarves and wouldn't allow them to enter his kingdom. So if he rarely spoke to, and mistrusted Dwarves, how could they have told him what Durin's Bane really was?
 

Dhôn-Buri-Dhôn

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It's also possible that the dwarves didn't have a name for what it was, and that Dain's glimpse (and any subsequent description) was not sufficient for anyone to identify it as a Balrog.

Or maybe Dain simply didn't want to talk about it, as is common among people (and perhaps dwarves) who have been traumatized.
 
H

Harad

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As far as communication: Dain was King Under the Mountain and had good relation with Brand of Dale. THerefore one would think that through Dain to Brand to Thranduil to Rivendell to Lorien, that the word could have gotten around. It had 200 years to percolate after all.

Finally when Balin left Dain (25 years before the Fellowship), wouldnt it have been time for him to spill the beans.
 

Mellon

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Gandalf's logic in pursing Moria sounds strangely similar to his approval of the Dwarves plan to enter Smaug's lair under the Lonely Mountain.

Both plans relied on a stealthy approach to a relatively unknown or unused passageway. Both plans didn't figure on what to do about an important, large, and rather ticked off adversary. Both plans resulted in losses, but ultimately gained the objective sought.
 

Greenwood

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Harad

What is your point here? There seems to be a somewhat widespread knowledge, at least in some quarters (dwarves, some elves, Gandalf), of something called "Durin's Bane" existing in Moria at some time. None of the quotes you have given give any evidence that anyone knew it was specifically a Balrog, if that is what you are saying. Dain could see a fearful creature when he looked into Moria without knowing what it was. In fact, his quote does not even make it certain that he saw anything. He may have just sensed a terrible thing waiting inside. Remember Gandalf's first encounter was through a closed door and he sensed the Balrog without knowing what it was. If you are saying that they knew something terrible was in Moria, that is true, but it was hundreds of years since there had been any evidence of it. It might be sleeping again deep under the mountains.
 
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H

Harad

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Greenwood:

I am glad to "point" out my "point."

The assembled Wise of ME knew of the dwarf "embarrasment" at Moria. "Embarassment" as in 1000s of losses, a city destroyed, and eviction from the premises. Dain was an eyewitness or near eyewitness of Durin's Bane. Yet 200 years pass and neither the Dwarfs nor the Elves nor the Istari knew it was a Balrog?

How many such creatures of such power were there in ME? How many had experience with a Balrog before? Well there's the illustrious Glorfindel for one. Dain did not share his info with anybody? Not even Balin, not even Gloin prior to the CoE? No one cared enough to do a postmortem on "How did we lose Moria?"

Of course the issue of Balin being incommunicado for 25 years is also swept under the rug.

I'd like some sense made of this. I've asked such questions before. The answers...


Mellon:

The quest involving Smaug is a bit different. They knew exactly what the danger was and the goal was burglary. In LOTR the quest was to avoid capture and to protect the Ring from an "unknown" danger.
 

Bucky

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What IS the point here?

Did Glorfindel see Durin's Bane?
Whether there's one or 2 different Glorf's, the fact is he/they were High Elves & saw action in the First Age, hence, they most likely knew a Balrog from a Ringwraith at one glance.

But, did any other Elf who had experience in the First Age see DB prior to Gandalf entering Moria?
No.

It is quite possible that no Dwarf who got a good look at DB before the Dwarves deserted Moria actually lived to give the description to anyone else.

And, Dain (& any surviving witnesses) may well have seen just a shadow or 'felt the pressance' of DB as Gandalf did through the door.

Is the point again that Gandalf should have chose another way?
It was the ONLY way they could've gone (without a snow blower), as we've discussed ad nauseum already.....
 
H

Harad

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Dain got enough of a "look" to have his beard curled.

Glorfindel--there was only one--ought to know Balrog. Glorfindel might even tell others. He seemed a talkative enuf type at the CoE.

A conspiracy of ME: dwarfs, elves, half elves, wizards decided to ignore the inconvenience of Moria:

Balin went there to set up shoppe, despite the experience of his King. Wouldnt Dain make inquiries as to what he saw? Wouldnt Balin quiz Dain about it? Wouldnt Gandalf know what it was based upon the descriptions? Or Glorfindel, the one and only Glorfindel?

What is your point for not seeing a point?
 

Bucky

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Dwarves weren't exactly the most talkative & friendly 'race' in ME.

And there's Dain, up in the Iron Hills, quite removed from anybody who might be able to figure out what he saw.

Also, doesn't Gandalf say that there are things in the deeps of the earth, even Sauron knows them not, they are older than he? "Now, I have walked there, but will bring no report to darken the light of day."

How about The Watcher in the Water?
Isn't it pretty fair to assume that it crept out from some underground way from Moria into the lake?

Maybe 'The Wise' or 'The White Council' had sketchy evidence & assumed it was something like that.
 
H

Harad

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Originally posted by Bucky
Dwarves weren't exactly the most talkative & friendly 'race' in ME.
except for Dain who had an exceptional relationship with Dale.

And there's Dain, up in the Iron Hills, quite removed from anybody who might be able to figure out what he saw.
see above. Plus he wouldnt talk to Balin or Gloin? Shirley you jest.

Also, doesn't Gandalf say that there are things in the deeps of the earth, even Sauron knows them not, they are older than he? "Now, I have walked there, but will bring no report to darken the light of day."
I suppose it could have been WORSE than a balrog....like....Ungoliant...different Modus Operandi.

How about The Watcher in the Water?
Isn't it pretty fair to assume that it crept out from some underground way from Moria into the lake?
The dwarfs of Moria were burnt not drowned. Dont see the connection with the Watcher, except as a random monster...like Shelob. These seem quite different in effect than a Balrog. Anybody from the First Age: Galadriel, e.g. would know about them.

Maybe 'The Wise' or 'The White Council' had sketchy evidence & assumed it was something like that.
Find out Wise! Especially after Balin goes silent for 25 years. It might be important. Gandalf worried about Smaug. Why not Moria?
 

Minas

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Good Question and good investigative work Harad. There seems to be plenty of evidence that people know that Moria was "Haunted" but exactly what is a little harder for them to be sure of. As for Dain allowing Balin to go back to Moria, could the oldest Dwarf enemy greed have had a part to play?

As to the lack of communication between Elves and Dwarves Iam interested to know what did spark the level of distrust between the two.
 

Mellon

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Harad:

The quest involving Smaug is a bit different. They knew exactly what the danger was and the goal was burglary. In LOTR the quest was to avoid capture and to protect the Ring from an "unknown" danger.
Certainly the quests were different. But Smaug presented something of a problem in completing the burglary. The nature of the problem that he would present, the feasability of accomplishing a significant burglary in his presence, and how the team would handle his arousal were unknown, yet important issues not considered until they received their first snort of flame up the secret tunnel!

This is an interesting thread about what exactly was known about the risk in Moria... reminds me of the current search for who is accountable for knowing about 9/11. Seems that the risk was known and yet not exactly known. The goal was to get from point "A" to point "B" unscathed, despite "whatever" lay in between. Sounds like you've already discussed whether this trip was optional.

My point is that at both Moria and Lonely Mountain Gandalf consented to lead a group into known or presumed severe danger without a plan of how to deal with this.
 

Elanor2

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I am not sure if I get the subject here. Is it "Did anyone know that Durin's Bane was a Balrog, or they discovered only after Gandalf says so?"

I would say that they knew that Durin's Bane = Balrog. They must have found it out when Moria was destroyed originally. After all, there were survivors of Moria's destruction, including some royal heirs (Thorin's family). And the Balrog also went out to destroy Eregion, Celebrimbor's people. Even Legolas, Aragorn and Gimly recognized the Balrog for what it was as soon as they saw it across the bridge, although probably they learned it on hearsay and by different names (from their nannies, I would say: Be good or the great fire monster will get you :) )

I would say that if Gandalf and later Celeborn were surprised it was not to find that Durin's Bane was a Balrog, but to learn that it was active again. After all, many centuries had past since the original awakening and the Balrog was never seen again. Gandalf himself had gone through Moria before and seen no Balrog. The only exception was Dain, and his single testimony might be doubted: he was tired, injured, and had just a glimpse of something inside the gate that might be some other creature. Dain himself was convinced, though, but perhaps he was not convincing enough.
 

Tar-Palantir

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Originally posted by Elanor2
I am not sure if I get the subject here. Is it "Did anyone know that Durin's Bane was a Balrog, or they discovered only after Gandalf says so?"

I would say that they knew that Durin's Bane = Balrog. They must have found it out when Moria was destroyed originally. After all, there were survivors of Moria's destruction, including some royal heirs (Thorin's family). And the Balrog also went out to destroy Eregion, Celebrimbor's people. Even Legolas, Aragorn and Gimly recognized the Balrog for what it was as soon as they saw it across the bridge, although probably they learned it on hearsay and by different names (from their nannies, I would say: Be good or the great fire monster will get you :) )

I would say that if Gandalf and later Celeborn were surprised it was not to find that Durin's Bane was a Balrog, but to learn that it was active again. After all, many centuries had past since the original awakening and the Balrog was never seen again. Gandalf himself had gone through Moria before and seen no Balrog. The only exception was Dain, and his single testimony might be doubted: he was tired, injured, and had just a glimpse of something inside the gate that might be some other creature. Dain himself was convinced, though, but perhaps he was not convincing enough.
I think Elanor2 has a good point. I always took Gandalf's and Celeborn's suprise in reference to the Balrog being active again and not that there was a Balrog in Moria. The Wise had to know (being Wise) and the Dwarves had to know (they have a penchant for remembering past hurts) that a Balrog had at one time been in Moria. It couldn't have left, IMO, because someone would have known - although I guess it's possible it could have "cloaked" itself in some manner.
I agree with Harad that it doesn't seem to make sense that Dain would let Balin walk into Moria knowing that the Balrog was there. I don't know how to explain it, other than the fact that, if Gimli's any indication, the Dwarves information on the world at large is either sadly lacking or plain wrong. Mix a little greed in and you have yet another Dwarf debacle.
 

Elanor2

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From Tal-Palantir:
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it doesn't seem to make sense that Dain would let Balin walk into Moria knowing that the Balrog was there.
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We do not know what kind of relationship Dain and Balin had. Balin's allegiance was to Thorin, not to Dain, until the death of Thorin and his heirs (Fili and Kili). Dain was a cousin from another branch and inherited from Thorin by lack of other heirs. Balin and the other 9 dwarves were quite rich after the battle: one 14th part of the whole hoard for each, while Dain had only 3 parts (from Thorin, Fili and Kili) plus Bilbo's discarded part, and he had a kingdom to run, followers to pay, housing to restore...

I do not think that Balin and the others would go against Dain, but they would not be mindlessly obedient. They were heroes, richer individuals than the king, and Balin in particular did not sit back and relax, but went around, visited, gathered admirers and perhaps supporters...

Balin might have become too important to be ordered around even by Dain. Dain could only advise strongly against going to Moria but unable to prevent it, except by starting a civil war between him and Balin. Besides, many dwarf kingdoms started the same way, by a group of them splitting from the main "hive" and founding a new one (or recovering an old one). It was part of their tradition. I do not think that Dain could have prevented it.
 

Tar-Palantir

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I can't answer to possible friction between Dain and Balin, except to say that what little characterization we get of Dain shows him to be much wiser and level-headed than....oh, to pick a name entirely at random...Thorin. We get a much clearer picture of Balin, of course, in the Hobbit. He also shows himself to be a "decent sort", at the very least.
Again, Elanor2, what you've proposed certainly sounds plausible enough and, given the Dwarves penchant for greed, maybe even "good" Dwarves can let wealth come between them.
 

Eonwe

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Originally posted by Mellon
My point is that at both Moria and Lonely Mountain Gandalf consented to lead a group into known or presumed severe danger without a plan of how to deal with this.
Exactly! Great post Mellon as was your post before IMO.

See the conversation in the Quest for Erebor chapter in UT between Gimli and Gandalf after the downfall of Sauron. Gimli asks Gandalf how much he knows, how much he knew then. Gandalf responds that he knew the quest was important, that Bilbo had to go. He gets so into it just before the Quest for Erebor in a conversation with Thorin that he has a shouting match with Thorin, telling Thorin he has to trust him or fail utterly. Why?

There is no direct evidence in the books that I can find that anyone knew for sure what was in Moria. But they certainly knew it was big, bad and ugly. Besides the point of Dain seeing/sensing the Balrog, Aragorn also went through Moria, says his memory was "very evil" and that Gandalf specifically is in peril. Why would he say that? He wouldn't say that about a bunch of cave trolls against Gandalf. And Gandalf himself went through, who knows what he knew, knowing that he went to Dol Guldur himself?

The dwarves of Moria I think found the Balrog in the third age, so there wasn't traffic or travel of elves into Moria at the time, where the Balrog could have been identified? But the dwarves lived in Moria for a while, if I remember right, even after DB was found... So at least "many" dwarves would have some memory of seeing it in the middle of the third age, with some detailed descriptions?

I think the point is Gandalf went somewhere illogically (like in Erebor, I mean really the dwarves and Bilbo pilfering the whole treasure of Smaug? Even Bilbo says its the weak point of the whole affair), set up something illogical because he knew somehow in advance it was the right thing to do. How? Why? I could argue he was trying to eliminate the Balrog in the same way he was trying to eliminate Smaug, but there isn't direct evidence. And Gandalf's own words in Moria seem to say he didn't really completely know what he was getting into. Perhaps a faded memory of the music of the Ainur, or simply a feeling that it was the right thing to do?

And as far as Balin going in with a total of 25 dwarves, well even the other dwarves thought this was unwise, as per Dain's unwilling giving of leave to Balin.
 

Dhôn-Buri-Dhôn

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Folks, let's not forget one little thing:

'What it was I cannot guess, but I have never felt such a challenge.'
'A Balrog,' muttered Gandalf. 'Now I understand.'
These two lines, taken together, are totally unambiguous. Gandalf did not know there was a Balrog in Moria, even after the first time he challenged it. Only when he saw it in the Second Hall did he realize what it was.

Now, really, all we have to determine is why no one put two and two together to come up with Durin's Bane = Balrog.

I think we've seen some good suggestions already. Here are a couple other possibilities:

1. Wishful thinking. Balrogs are nasty enough that nobody would really want to consider the possibility. Kind of the way nobody gave much thought to people flying hijacked airliners into buildings until it actually happened and could no longer be denied.

2. Active magic. Balrogs are said to wrap themselves in shadow. Perhaps Moria's Balrog was able to project a kind of "stupidity field" around itself, so that any survivors who'd seen it would be unable to recall clearly what they had seen, or perhaps would be unwilling to discuss it.

3. Gandalf was a thick-witted old fool, and already more than half senile.

I doubt that many here would go for option 3...
 

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