The Mines of Moria


The Mines of Moria in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings are immensely important to the nine members of the Fellowship of the Ring. They provide the first true danger to the Fellowship, and take the first life of a member. The Mines also follow certain conventions of Gothic fiction. For example, the Balrog Durin’s Bane represents an “inescapable persecutor,” as mentioned in Ann Blaisdell Tracy’s Patterns of Fear in the Gothic Novel, and a small movement made by Pippin seems to wake up all of the mines, bringing to mind Tracy’s idea of “disproportion of affect to cause.” (4, 10). Besides these specific Gothic tropes, the Mines themselves create a sense of horror and impending doom – “‘The name of Moria is black’… ‘if you pass the doors of Moria, beware!” (Fellowship 309-310). Once the Fellowship passes through those doors, they shut behind them, “and all light [is] lost.” This complete darkness is the first terrifying aspect of Moria, and it follows the Fellowship through all their time there. The horror of darkness is accompanied by the massive labyrinth of bridges and tunnels within, “bewildering beyond hope of remembering” (Fellowship 322, 324). Both labyrinths and darkness are quintessentially Gothic. Continuing in Gothic tradition, the mines provide horror as the ruins of a once great city, “full of light and splendour… [and] many-pillared halls of stone” (Fellowship 329-330). Upon hearing this, Samwise Gamgee explains best the effect that Moria has. As Sam says, “it makes the darkness seem heavier, thinking of all those lamps” (330). The contrast of what once was with what is makes thedarkness heavier, and makes the horror that much worse.


Boswell, George W. “Tolkien as Littérateur.” The South Central Bulletin Winter 32.4 (1972): 188-97. JSTOR. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.

Brisbois, Michael J. “Tolkien’s Imaginary Nature: An Analysis of the Structure of Middle- Earth.” Tolkien Studies 2 (2005): 197-216. Project MUSE. Web. 5 Nov. 2013.

Glover, Willis B. “The Christian Character of Tolkien’s Invented World.” Criticism Winter 13.1 (1971): 39-53. JSTOR. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.

Obertino, James. “Moria and Hades: Underworld Journeys in Tolkien and Virgil.” Comparative Literature Studies 30.2 (1993): 153-69. JSTOR. Web. 5 Nov. 2013.

Tracy, Ann Blaisdell. Patterns of Fear in the Gothic Novel, 1790-1830. New York: Arno, 1980. Print.


2 responses to “The Mines of Moria

  1. Firstly, I love Lord of the Rings so this post speaks to me on a whole other level. In terms of this class however, I feel as though this speaks to an invasion of space, in this case the invasion of white people into an evil/”colored” space if you consider the goblins. I find this pretty similar to the invasion of Helen into the neighborhood of Cabrini in Candyman, an urban neighborhood of black people. In both cases the invasion of the white person into these spaces leads to destruction and violence as they traipse unknowingly through areas that they no longer belong. This invasion causes the audience to view the space as monstrous as well as those within it.

  2. I love this post because I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan as well. I agree that the mines are a perfect example of a truly gothic setting. I love the idea that the mines or the setting quite literally come alive and cause their own horror. It also goes along with the idea of entrapment of gothic settings from other films as they come to realize and read in a corpse’s journal “we cannot get out…”. The Balrog is truly simply an extension of the setting. He is an ancient creature that comes alive because the dwarves “dug too deep and awoke something in the darkness.” It is definitely an extreme example of gothic setting and the terror it creates.

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