Fri
Apr 17 2009 5:46pm

LotR re-read: Fellowship II.5, “The Bridge of Khazad-dûm”

cover of The Fellowship of the Ring We continue the Lord of the Rings re-read with Fellowship II.5, “The Bridge of Khazad-dûm.” Spoilers and comments behind the cut.

What Happens

The Company finds a book recording the fortunes of Balin’s folk in Moria. It states that the Dwarves drove out Orcs on their arrival and found truesilver (mithril) in their first year, and that Orcs killed Balin and overran the Dwarves in their fifth year, trapping the last of them in the room with Balin’s tomb. As Gandalf finishes reading, the Company hears an enormous drum-beat and the sound of many Orcs approaching.

The Orcs attack. Frodo is pinned to the wall by a spear, and amazes everyone by not dying. Gandalf sends the rest of the Company out the other exit to wait at the bottom of the stairs. At the top, he attempts to spell shut the door, and is met by a terrible challenge; the struggle causes the door to burst and much of the chamber to collapse.

The Company descends. When they arrive at the level below the Gates, they find that, because they did not use the main road, they are on the exit side of a fire-filled chasm. As they arrive at the narrow Bridge leading to the outside, a Balrog (Durin’s Bane) arrives. After the rest cross, Gandalf holds the Bridge against the Balrog, eventually breaking the Bridge at the Balrog’s feet. But as the Balrog falls, it pulls Gandalf into the abyss.

The Company, now led by Aragorn, flees Moria and grieves in the sunlight outside.

Comments

I’ve been looking at this chapter pretty much since I posted about the last one, and I just don’t find a lot of things to say about it. (And yet it still took me until Friday to post, you say? Well, yeah, but that’s because SteelyKid got sick again in the middle of the week, and eight-month-olds believe very firmly that misery loves company. (She’s better now.)) On the other hand, perhaps a non-mammoth post would be a nice change of pace?

* * *

In the Chamber of Mazarbul:

The record book mentions “Durin’s Axe,” possibly in the context of Balin claiming lordship, which appears to be an orphan reference; anyone?

This chapter makes good use of repetition for effect, starting with “We cannot get out” three times in the section Gandalf reads. It also employs the very simple but, as far as I’m concerned, brilliantly effective device of characterizing the drum beat as sounding like “doom,” which economically communicates how the Orcs are feeling in a manner than increases the reader’s tension: for instance, when the door to the Chamber of Mazarbul bursts, “(t)he drum-beats broke out wildly: doom-boom, doom-boom, and then stopped.”

Uruks of Mordor are among the attack, which I believe is the first definite sighting of non-supernatural Mordor creatures in the book. The text doesn’t specify which kind of Orc attacked Frodo: I’d suspect it was a Mordor orc since it went past Boromir and Aragorn to get to Frodo, but the Watcher also targeted Frodo first and it seems harder to imagine how it could be explicitly, affirmatively allied with Sauron.

The cave troll, Boromir, and Frodo: either swords are of much lower quality these days, or the hide on a troll is much thicker at the arm than the foot, or both. Probably both, though I don’t think we know about the lineage of Boromir’s sword, if any. (Also, blood smoking when it hits the floor? Any bio types want to comment on whether this is remotely plausible or just window-dressing?)

Sam kills an orc. He shows no reaction to this that I can remember, probably because of the intervening shock of Gandalf’s fall and the fact that he has no reason to see orcs as anything but animals. There is no mention of Merry or Pippin’s actions in the fight.

“Gimli had to be dragged away by Legolas: in spite of the peril he lingered by Balin’s tomb with his head bowed.” Is this a hint at their future friendship, or just convenience?

* * *

The eponymous Bridge:

Wow, I love this section. It has such fabulous descriptions, like the first time the Balrog’s seen clearly:

It came to the edge of the fire and the light faded as if a cloud had bent over it. Then with a rush it leaped across the fissure. The flames roared up to greet it, and wreathed about it; and a black smoke swirled in the air. Its streaming mane kindled, and blazed behind it. In its right hand was a blade like a stabbing tongue of fire; in its left it held a whip of many thongs.

I love the rhythm of the darkness, rushing, fire generally, and of the third sentence particularly. Also, the Balrog’s mane catches fire and it doesn’t care: how bad-ass is that?

I note in passing that Boromir’s sounding of his horn comes after Gandalf falters and and leans on his staff and Legolas and Gimli drop their weapons in dismay, and just before Gandalf “recall(s) his strength” and tells the others to fly.

The repetition of “You cannot pass” three times in Gandalf’s initial speech echoes and inverts the repetition of “We cannot get out” from the start of the chapter.

Another masterful section of prose follows:

The Balrog made no answer. The fire in it seemed to die, but the darkness grew. It stepped forward slowly on to the bridge, and suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall; but still Gandalf could be seen, glimmering in the gloom; he seemed small, and altogether alone: grey and bent, like a wizened tree before the onset of a storm.

From out of the shadows a red sword leaped flaming.

Glamdring glittered white in answer.

It’s almost redundant to go on to say that the swords then met in a ringing clash, because the abrupt change from a very long anticipatory sentence (two semi-colons and a colon!) to two terse one-sentence action paragraphs practically conveys that shock on its own.

The section after Gandalf’s fall is also extremely effective writing, particularly the way the ending paragraph keeps increasing the feeling of forlorn loss:

They looked back. Dark yawned the archway of the Gates under the mountain-shadow. Faint and far beneath the earth rolled the slow drum-beats: doom. A thin black smoke trailed out. Nothing else was to be seen; the dale all around was empty. Doom. Grief at last wholly overcame them, and they wept long: some standing and silent, some cast upon the ground. Doom, doom. The drum-beats faded.

(See what I mean about how brilliant the drums are?)

Clearly I must be missing a lot about this chapter. Go on, tell me what.


« Fellowship II.4 | Index | Fellowship II.6 »

38 comments
Tudza White
1. tudzax1
Isn't there some hint in Gandalf's warning to the Balrog that he carries one of The Three?
Jonathan Crowe
2. mcwetboy
My interpretation of "servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor" was that Gandalf was flashing his ID as one of the Maiar.
Michael Ikeda
3. mikeda
must be missing a lot about this chapter

Of course you're missing THE key unresolved issue...

Do balrogs have wings?

:-)
rick gregory
4. rickg
@3... "It stepped forward slowly on to the bridge, and suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall..."

One thing I've never quite understood is that Gandalf, Saruman and the rest are Maiar as is Sauron, yet Sauron seems much more powerful than they. I cannot imagine Sauron falling to a Balrog, even inadvertently.
Jon Meltzer
5. Jon Meltzer
Two reasons:

(1) There are Maiar, and then there are _Maiar_. Tolkien says somewhere that Sauron was of a "higher order" than the Istari.

(2) Gandalf the Grey, being incarnate, is limited. Gandalf the White, on the other hand, may have had less difficulty.
Jon Meltzer
6. Mike Molloy
I always thought there were three scenes in LOTR that were especially cinematic, one in each volume as it happens. In Two Towers, the scene where Strider hails the Rohirrim as they're riding past, and they ride their horses into a tight, circular formation around Strider, Legolas and Gimli on the hillside; in Return of the King, Eowyn facing the Witch King; and of course Gandalf against the Balrog in Fellowship. Of the three, the Balrog scene is the one that I think Jackson got just right.

It's funny though; I believe that Christopher Tolkien, in either Unfinished Tales or Book of Lost Tales, quotes a letter his father wrote at a time when some movie studio was trying to get LOTR to the screen, and JRR was quite upset that the director was planning to have the Balrog emit a roar. JRR complains rather heatedly about this; IIRC, if there's one thing Tolkien was sure about, it was that the Balrog does not roar. I think it does roar in the Jackson version, and it struck me as the right decision. I mean, with all that combustion going on, there's going to be a roar, right?

Much though I love the Moria scenes, and great as I think the fight with the Balrog and flight from the pursuing orcs is, I've always kind of regretted that the gang didn't have more time to spend in the Dimrill Dale. Just from the little bit of description Tolkien gives, it seems like a special place. I guess my tastes are more for the mountains, less for the forests, than Tolkien's.
Jon Meltzer
7. Clamarnicale
@3: Pleeease, let's not get into the wing debate! :-D It's so tiresome, and it really doesn't lead anywhere. My answer is yes, by the way. And no. Because my view on things tend to shift between my re-reads. And depending on where I am in the text. When the Balrog emerges, in my mind, it does not have wings. When the Battle of the Bridge takes place, it has. ^^

As for difference in strength between Sauron and the Istari, I quote Wikipedia (since I'm just about to get some sleep, and therefore am to lazy to find a more appropriate source): "They were stripped of much of their powers and deliberately 'clothed' in the bodies of old Men, as the Valar wished them to guide the inhabitants of Middle-earth by persuasion and encouragement, not by force or fear."
Sacha G
8. Fortune_Prick_Me
Kate,

Thanks for pointing out that Boromir's horn sounding calls the ancient races to their duty. It fits in nicely with the theme of the upcoming Age of Man, those short-lived, corruptible yet foolhardy brave mortals. I wish I had my books here, so I could reference some other passages, but I feel that until now I had really underestimated Boromir in favor of the Elder peoples (Aragorn included). Perhaps Sean Bean's excellent performance has also influenced me in this new direction.

Mike@6

I'm in full agreement regarding those cinematic scenes. P. Jackson and Ian McKellen's hoarse "Fly, you fools" was better than I could have hoped for..

I'll admit it's hard to re-read without certain scenes from the movies intruding, even though my first read throughs date from being around 13 years old or so. (Many, many years ago...)

Kate:

I also noted the inversion/repetition from "We cannot get out" to "You cannot pass" and it has always struck me as being as strong as Bombadil's lyrical chapters or the upcoming lyrical Skald-like descriptions of the Paths of the Dead and the Pukel-Men.

Regarding Legolas reminding Gimli of the present, I believe that Dwarfs (not Dwarves) are presented to be unchanging, like stone, honoring the past and memory. They master what has been accomplished, constructed and hewn. Like Thorin attempting to reclaim the Arkenstone. Elves, however, while not exactly flighty, live like butterflies, walking softly over snow, lost in song and mastering the moment, if not the past nor the future.

Their friendship is un-natural in 3rd Age terms, yet this is the end of an Age. Man embodies all of these qualities and weaknesses and the budding friendship between Elf and Dwarf is perhaps a harbinger of the Age of Man to come.

Oh sweet Ea, preserve me from from waxing pretentious... looking forward to comments.
Jon Meltzer
9. Confutus
Frodo was wielding Sting, I think. From the Hobbit, this was found in the same troll-hoard as Glamdring (which Gandalf was using against the Balrog) and Orcrist (left with the body of Thorin Oakenshield). Elrond identified all of these as having been forged in the First Age, for use in wars against the Orcs, Like them, it glowed blue when orcs were near.

The mithril coat that saved Frodo's life from the spear had been given to Bilbo by Thorin from Smaug's hoard, and Bilbo gave both Sting and the coat to Frodo in Rivendell.

Sting was magical and exceptionally sharp, so it is little surprise that it penetrated the troll when an ordinary weapon would not. It was also exceptionally effective against spiders, both those of the black spiders of Mirkwood, as Bilbo used it, and, later, their ancestress Shelob, as Sam used it.
Jon Meltzer
10. DBratman
My favorite tidbit about this chapter is that, to go along with the reproductions of the Westgate design and Balin's tomb inscription in the previous chapter, Tolkien actually created the Book of Mazarbul. He wrote the texts that Gandalf reads, in the appropriate styles of Elvish lettering, down to the last despairing scrawl. And he burned and smudged the papers as the text describes. The idea was to include them as color plates in the book, but this was scotched for cost reasons. But some of the results can be seen in Tolkien art books, Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien and J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator.

I'm glad you like the very fine descriptive passages in this chapter. But they do go to show how inimitable Tolkien was, as drums going doom in the deep has become a risible cliche in the hands of lesser authors.
Jon Meltzer
11. DBratman
mcwetboy #2: "Gandalf was flashing his ID as one of the Maiar." That's pretty much it, yeah.

rickg #4: "its wings were spread from wall to wall..." If you think that's a definitive answer to the Balrog wing question, you haven't noticed two paragraphs earlier, where it says, "the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings." So there the wings appear to be similes, not actual wings.

Clamarnicale #7: The source for that Wikipedia quote on the extent of Gandalf's power is the headnote for the "Third Age" section of LOTR's Appendix B. Tolkien elaborated further on this point on an essay on "The Istari" in Unfinished Tales, and there's more yet in The Peoples of Middle-earth.
Kelly McCullough
12. KellyMcCullough
rickg, what Jon Meltzer said in terms of the varying power of the Maiar. Take Melian and Sauron as very high end. Beyond that the very even matching of Gandalf and the Balrog seems quite appropriate and even poignant in a way, as both are Maiar of fire, making them essentially close cousins divided by the fall of those who followed Morgoth. I've always wondered if they might not once have been friends.
Jon Meltzer
13. sunjah
Blood smoking=magic, in my opinion. I can't think of any biochemically plausible mechanism for it (my BS was in molecular bio). Assuming a floor made of ordinary stone. Wasn't the troll one of the Olog-hai rather than an ordinary troll, and therefore perhaps intrinsically magical?

I am not surprised that JRRT did not want to have the Balrog roar. It was a demon, a fallen Maia after all, and roaring is perhaps too bestial. Contrast the descriptions of the troll, quite monstrous and very physical, with the beautifully evocative description of the Balrog which Kate highlighted. Some of the scariness is the implication that what you see is not all there is, the metaphysical aspect of it if you wish.
Andrew Foss
14. alfoss1540
Thanks Kate for pointing out the repetition and rhythm. I joined this conversation back in December specifically to hear about people's thoughts on Tolkien's wriiting style.Up to now,I have just enjoyed it.

Few comments so far on how short this chapter runs vs the last few. But what it lacks in length it makes up in depth - Characters, History etc.

More here about the secret lives of dwarves than in too many other places in middle earth. The little snippets in the readings (with Gimli's emotion to back them up) really give the feeling of what life was like in those 5 years in Moria. And I loved the effect of the blood smears and Smudges on the telling of the story of Moria.

AND WHAT OF THE RELIC??? - Gandalf gives it to Gimli - I am assuming that it is quite a tome and not just a loose leaf pocket notebook. Though Dwarves make light of burdens, I have trouble believing that it is something that he carries for the next 4 books. Who would stow a relic such as this during the raft trip? Is there anywhere in Unfinished Tales that tell of what happens with the book? Is it left in Lorien? Does it make it back to the Lonely Mountain? I do not recall any mention of it after here.

The Balrog is glorious - in everything about it. I love how Legolas is terrified of it. Seems like his first real emotion on this trip - Primal disgust/fear. Gimli's axe falls and he covers his face

Again - where is Gollum and how the hell does he get out so quick - and all the way to the edge of Lorien in about 5 more pages - in the bright of Day that even the Orcs refuse to go out in. I have trouble believing that the Gollum that we will meet in Book 4 would venture outside at this point - He hides even from the light of the moon, yet we are to believe that he ran from Moria to Lorien in an afternoon - in time to sneak up a tree to get at Frodo?

Did everybody read closely to the description of the Huge broken doors and the Great Gates that they flew through, scattering Orc Guards?

As far as the movie version of this chase, while the teetering staicase looked really cool, it had NO PART of this chapter - especially the dwarf tossing comment. But in all, the movie was visually incredible and added much tomy mental pictures of this pit.
Mari Ness
15. MariCats
This was one of the places where I stopped reading in my original read, since if Gandalf didn't go on, I didn't want to go on either.

In the movie, it was far easier to guess that Gandalf would return (I say this, since I saw the first movie with some people who hadn't seen the book, and most of them guessed that Gandalf would return but Boromir wouldn't). In the book that all seemed pretty final. Probably because of that constant repetition of "doom, doom."
Jon Meltzer
16. Jon Meltzer
I think it's easiest to assume that Gimli never actually takes the book out of Moria at all - right after Gandalf says Gimli should keep it, the orcs attack and then there's that annoying cave troll. He didn't have time to put it in his pack and they're running for their lives after that.
JS Bangs
17. jaspax
Several of the comments here have given me an idea for a different visual representation of the Balrog--as a creature of fire and deadly beauty. A couple of things contributed to this: Tolkein didn't want the Balrog to roar, the detail of a mane (which I had never noticed before), and someone's suggestion that it might have known the pre-incarnate Gandalf. All of which makes me think less of a fiery monster and more of a burning angel. An attractive idea!
Jon Meltzer
18. clovis
This chapter confirms me in my strong belief that reading LOTR without having first read The Hobbit is to leave the path of wisdom. Gandalf dies. On my first reading, after several Hobbit readings, this was a real shock with a feeling that this was grown up. Tolkien is very good on the inevitability of loss and sorrow. The death of some of the main Hobbit characters horrified me as a child (bad things can't happen to good people!) and I remember my mother who had read the book to me gently explaining that in war even heroes can die. Then comes LOTR and the immortal and all-powerful Gandalf of The Hobbit falls into shadow, with no hint that I perceived of any return. This was shocking and yet felt right and on my first reading added to the realisation that the quest our heroes were on was serious and the enemy was powerful, horribly so. The near corruption of Bilbo (snarling at Gandalf, snatching at the ring at Rivendell) had the same effect, again lessened if one had not read The Hobbit earlier. For me this is the chapter when the book changes gear. The hints and metaphors of leaving the Shire that others have already pointed out (and which I missed) here come to their climax.
Jon Meltzer
19. DBratman
As there's been more discussion of Gandalf's death (and yes, he actually dies), it's worth looking at how well Tolkien handles his return. Many fantasies that have imitated this haven't gotten it right: they have the dead character return as part of the happy ending, which actually cheapens the ending, since they only took the character away so as to make the reader happy when the character comes back.

Tolkien, however, doesn't have Gandalf return at the end, but while the plot is still very much in doubt. Nor does his return give any sense of "The war will be easy now that we have Gandalf back." Instead, as it's clear that his return is an act of grace and favor by the Valar, with a strong implication that without him, there'd be no chance of military victory at all, his return only underlines how desperate the situation is. Gandalf's personality - he's no optimist, but a hard, bitter realist - emphasizes this further.
Jon Meltzer
20. Tom Scudder
On wings: some time ago, Andrew Rilstone wrote the definitive essay. (Link is to a re-posting, as the original seems to have disappeared).
Kate Nepveu
21. katenepveu
Hi, all.

Mike Molloy @ #6: if there's one thing Tolkien was sure about, it was that the Balrog does not roar. I think it does roar in the Jackson version, and it struck me as the right decision.

Heh. Sarah Monette uses *balrog* as a description of emotional physical expression (e.g., *giggle*, *eyeroll*), after that scene, and while I'm sure this is just one of the many ways Tolkien would be disappointed in me, a big deep angry scary noise is now intrinsically part of what's evoked by that.

Also, I think Dimrill Dale would be really hard to do well on film. What sounds so amazing on the page could easily look very cheesy on screen.

Fortune_Prick_Me @ #8, thanks, I'm really trying hard to pay attention to Boromir this time, because I don't know if I've done him justice before. And your comments on Dwarves & Elves don't sound pretentious to me, I think they're useful thematically, though I'm not sure that Elves don't live in the past more than you say.

Confutus @ #9, yes, Frodo was wielding Sting, which is why I speculated that Boromir's sword was not of similiar lineage.

DBratman @ #10: Tolkien actually created the Book of Mazarbul

Now that is really serious dedication--not surprising, though. And other authors have imitated the "doom" thing? I'd never noticed, perhaps fortunately.

sunjah @ #13, the troll with smoking blood isn't identified by species, just as having "A huge arm and shoulder, with a dark skin of greenish scales" and "a great, flat, toeless foot."

Also, NetHack has ruined me, you say "Olog-hai" and I think, "purple T"? See also this very silly LJ usericon I made:



alfoss1540 @ #14, I wondered what Gimli did with the book, too, but I'm inclined toward what Jon Meltzer says, he never actually managed to bring it out.

MariCats @ #15, can I ask how old you were when you first read it and stopped here? (I have no idea what I thought the first time I read it, since I was so young and it was so long ago.)

clovis @ #18, I agree that if you've read _The Hobbit_ first, this will read differently, but I can't go so far as to say one _should_ read _The Hobbit_ first--if one's an adult with a low tolerance for twee, one might never get through it and to the different tone of _LotR_ . . .

Tom Scudder @ #20, that is a really fabulous essay. Thanks.
Michael Ikeda
22. mikeda
clovis@18

How do you get "immortal and all-powerful Gandalf" from The Hobbit ?
Mari Ness
23. MariCats
Katenepveu @21. I think I was 12. I hadn't read the Hobbit, but I had just started to really sink into the depths of the _LotR_, caught by all the glimpses of its dim and dusky history...

...and then Gandalf died. Took me awhile to get over that one.

I think part of the problem was that, on that read, at least, I had no other characters to identify with: Sam annoyed me, Frodo felt old, I couldn't get what Strider was about, and Merry and Pippin had little screen time. I'll also admit that, at 12, had the mental image of Orlando Bloom been in my mind for Legolas, I might have plowed on regardless, but at 12 I was even more shallow than I am now.

Afterwards, when I could identify with Frodo, the book read - and felt - very different.
Jon Meltzer
24. DemetriosX
I've been waiting 2 weeks for this chapter, following on some comments on the previous 2. Tolkien has set us up like an expert boxer with three successive downer endings. "Caradhras had defeated them." Bang! An unexpected blow. Gimli covers his head in grief. Pow! We're reeling. Then Gandalf dies and Bam! Knockout punch. JRRT has played us like a fiddle.

@8 It is Dwarves not dwarfs. Tolkien was quite clear on the matter. Dwarfs is correct modern English. But he argued that had the Khazad been with us all along, the plural dwarves would have developed in analogy to hoof/hooves.
Agnes Kormendi
25. tapsi
When I first read this chapter I was scared of loud bangs for days... and I was nearly late for school because I had to read one more chapter to unwind a little.

Before I read The Silmarillion, I had a more bestial image of the balrog, but since that time I picture it more as a fiery spirit (and don't get me started on the movie... I'm one of the few who actively hate it).

DemetriosX@24
Or elf/elves :)
Jon Meltzer
26. DavidT
tudzax1 @3:

Isn't there some hint in Gandalf's warning to the Balrog that he carries one of The Three?

I think so, yes. The clincher for me was that the Balrog immediately became less fiery and more shadowy in response. I interpreted that as "Hmm, for taking on a wizard with the Ring of Fire, fire is perhaps not my best tactic."
Jon Meltzer
27. J Lund
I also thought of the Balrog as a fiery spirit with both the darkness and flame of the fire. My impression of the Balrog catching fire was of an ember, hot and dark, blown alight.
Jon Meltzer
28. clovis
DBratman@19
Agreed. Also, he is only returned for a certain time as he says. He knows even if Sauron falls, his days are now numbered.
katenepvue@21
I just feel that you're missing out so much from LOTR is you haven't read The Hobbit. I agree that The Hobbit can be twee, but then there are bits of LOTR which I find twee-er (is that a word?). But then I do intend at a later point to run the argument that The Hobbit is a better written book than LOTR so I'm biased.
mikeda@22
You're right, Gandalf is never portrayed as immortal as such in The Hobbit, I was thinking of Thorin's statement that only the wizard is sure of surviving their quest and the general way that he is 'semi-detached' (for want of a better phrase) from the book.
Jon Meltzer
29. BlacksmithButNotEmo
This series marked a turning point in my reading, lo these many years ago. I was reading a lot at 12, but juvenile stuff; my mother had given me The Hobbit and I liked it...and then I found these three books and that was it. Return Of The King was the first time I pulled an all-nighter reading a book.

I'm pleased that my first evocative images of this stretch are from my reading and my mind at that time, unsullied by images from the movie. I liked the movie, but use of Gimli for comic relief is one of the things I relegate to the "artistic interpretive license" drawer...all the movie makers do it, and you just let it go. As dark as this scene ends in the movie, it was much grimmer and darker in my head. I remember even now, more than thirty years later, the ache of Gandalf's loss; I had no foreshadowing of his return at the time.

The Balrog remains one of the scariest, baddest ass villian critters anywhere for me. I side with the "no wings, but darkness like wings" opinion.

Nice read, Kate; thanks for this...
Jon Meltzer
30. Viviannn
tapsi, I hate the movies too!
Jill Hayhurst
31. pericat
(grumble) they could ask JRRT about the roaring, which was clearly foolishness, but no one thought to ask about the wings?! Movie people, feh.

I kind of thought Gimli made it out with the book. There was time to get it in his pack, Boromir had to do things with the door, twice, wedging it, and Gandalf peeked out once. Maybe it didn't work out, but I was hoping the book made it back to Dáin.

I was around 11 when I got to here first time through. I was so upset, I hunted up my big brother and asked him if Gandalf really dies? He just looked at me, purely disgusted, and said, "I'm not telling you how a book ends!"

We were militantly spoiler-free in our house.
Andrew Foss
32. alfoss1540
This Chapter reads fast downhill - Starting in the Balins tomb - down the stairs, across the bridge - out of the Mines, Down the Valley to Lothlorian - and like a staicase with landings, they - and the pace of the books, stops at level locations.

I will be looking for story pace with other geographical features - painfully slow up Caradhras, drifting slowly down Anduin, etc.
Jon Meltzer
33. *** Dave
For me, the haunting, "We cannot get out. We cannot get out," remains one of the most quietly terrifying bits of the entire series. There's the immediate horror of being trapped (underground!), but also the greater sense of doom upon the whole effort to reclaim Moria.

I must say, I find the idea of "a creature of fire and deadly beauty" -- a fallen angel, dark and beautiful and terrible (cf. Galadriel during her Ring-jonesing) -- is very intriguing. And I say that as someone long in love with the whole D&Desque winged demon sort of portrayal.
Kate Nepveu
34. katenepveu
MariCats @ #23, thanks. I find it very interesting the many different ways people approach texts; for me, I've never needed a particular character to identify with in order to get into a story, or perhaps I identify very widely with fictional protagonists. But it would certainly be very tough to get past Gandalf's death in that case.

J Lund @ #27, an ember, hot and dark, blown alight -- yes, exactly.

BlacksmithButNotEmo @ #29, thanks and welcome. And yes, I'm happy that I haven't had any trouble keeping the movie separate in my head except where I want to adopt its images.

pericat @ #31, too funny about being spoiler-free! I wonder what I'll do if SteelyKid ever asks me the same--I guess it'll depend on how upset she seems.

alfoss1540 @ #32, I like your geographical story pace idea. Maybe that's why the slog across Mordor seems so much longer to me than it actually is, because the geography reinforces it.
Peter Schmidt
35. PHSchmidt
sunjah@13: how about hydrogen peroxide? To quote http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_peroxide, "In organisms, hydrogen peroxide is naturally produced as a byproduct of oxygen metabolism; virtually all possess enzymes known as peroxidases, which harmlessly and catalytically decompose low concentrations of hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen."
And, "The liberation of oxygen and energy in the decomposition has dangerous side effects. Spilling high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide on a flammable substance can cause an immediate fire."

So, a cave troll under the ultimate exertion of fighting for its life produces a high concentration of H2O2 (because of a crummy liver and not enough catalase), and when cut drips blood that will smoke.

Q.E.D.
Jon Meltzer
36. edtechguy
I think "I am a servant of the Secret Fire" refers not to Gandalf's ring but to the Flame Imperishable that Illuvatar placed in the center of Ea to give life to the world. Note especially the use of servant rather than master (which he was of his ring)
Geoffrey Dow
37. ed-rex
MariCats @15:

This was one of the places where I stopped reading in my original read, since if Gandalf didn't go on, I didn't want to go on either.

More years ago than I care to count (alright, about 15), I had the sublime pleasure of reading all three volumes aloud to my first serious girlfriend. This being before the movies, she had had no prior acquaintance with Tolkien (except, now that I think of it, his delightful Letters to Father Christmas) and so my pleasure was heightened by watching her react for the first time - something (as Tolkien knew all to well) one can never do again directly.

Anyway, I knew the story well and so Gandalf's death came as no surprise to me. But Michelle?

"Oh no! Not Gandalf!" she cried, and I think (I may be romanticizing here) she actually shed tears. It was a powerful reminder of just how good a book this is and why I had wanted to read it to her in the first place. And also, a powerful foreshadowing of the tears I knew I would shed when we finally reached "The Scouring of the Shire".
Keith Adamson
38. Tyrunea
@30 and @25.

Why do you hate the movies? As far as book->movie goes, LotR is the best I have ever seen. Jackson portrayed most of the books the way I would have directed the movie, and having read some 50k+ pages, I know for the most part what I am talking about.

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