FoTR - The Bridge of Khazad-dûm: Bk II, Chapter V

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FoTR - The Bridge of Khazad-dûm: Bk II, Chapter V

Postby Philipa » Sat Dec 02, 2006 10:37 pm

The Bridge of Khazad-dûm

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Gandalf and the Balrog

© marbretherese



'BALIN SON OF FUNDIN
LORD OF MORIA'


The words found on Balin's tomb only make the company feel less welcomed in this dark and foreboding place. In Moria they face orcs, cave trolls most dangerous fow... a Balrog. The Balrog is probably as old if not older than Gandalf himself. Spawn of Morgoth from the first age but just as dangerous as the day he was created.

Let us discuss Balrogs, the near misses for the company and what it meant to survive the dark of Moria.
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Postby Riv Res » Sun Dec 03, 2006 12:25 am

I will say that in this short chapter I first questioned whether I would ultimately like the complete story that Tolkien was writing. Gandalf gone!! I could not fathom how the Fellowship and the tale could successfully continue. I think here is where I actually put the book down for the first time since I had picked it up. I was crushed!!

Little did I know. :roll:
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Postby Iolanthe » Sun Dec 03, 2006 3:43 pm

I felt the same, Riv. I couldn't believe he could kill off Gandalf with so much of the story still to go. By that stage in the book Gandalf is the reassuring presence that we have all come to rely on - not just the Fellowship. His being there meant that it would all be alright in the end. He was wise, kind, knew nearly everything worth knowing and had magic powers that we were only just beginning to guess at. Suddenly it's like Tolkien has pulled the rug out from under our feet and we feel as lost as the others on the far side of the bridge. From this point on the book can contain anything. It's terrifying and exciting at one and the same time.

Thank goodness he then takes us all to Lothlorien for a bit of R and R.
Last edited by Iolanthe on Sun Dec 03, 2006 5:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Philipa » Sun Dec 03, 2006 4:15 pm

Because I read these books after viewing Jackson's movies the impact was not so devistating.

My first 'aha' moment was as the Balrog drew up to his full heighth he spread his wings. :shock: What the Balrog had wings??? It was actually this chapter that prompted me to read the Silmarillian. I needed to know more about Gandalf and his power as well as why the elf was so aghast when he saw the Balrog. I knew there was Balrog history out there somewhere. :lol:
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Postby Merry » Sun Dec 03, 2006 5:02 pm

I was devastated that he killed off Gandalf, but I was also happy. :? What? How could that be? Well, I guess because it told me that this was not a children's story and that he was committed to making it a serious tale. I really began to be invested in the story more, because there arose some real doubt that they could accomplish their mission in the end. I thought it was a great move, and I had no inkling that Gandalf the White was a possibility!
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Postby marbretherese » Sun Dec 03, 2006 5:20 pm

Gosh, this discussion brings back a few memories! I too was shaken that Tolkien killed off Gandalf at this point, and, like Riv, I began to question where the book was taking me. As an adolescent I tended to relate emotionally rather than intellectually to a good tale (and in fact to a large extent I still do!), and had become used to 'having my hand held' by Gandalf's wise leadership of the Fellowship. I felt quite cheated that he wasn't around any more - and that of course made his reappearance later on all the more exciting!
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Postby Iolanthe » Sun Dec 03, 2006 7:47 pm

That's exactly it 'having my hand held'! That sums up how I felt too. I think this is the point where our expectations plunged down the chasm with Gandalf. There are several great moments in LOTR where Tolkien astonishes and this is one of them. The other is Gandalf's return - I really never expected that - and the final moments of the Ring above the Crack of Doom. Oh to read the book again not knowing what's going to happen and re-experience that sense of astonishment!
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Postby Airwin » Mon Dec 04, 2006 1:56 am

Like Philipa I also read the books after I saw the movie, so Gandalf's fall was expected. What was a surprise to me was how they got away from the orcs. Down a dark passage, down many flights of stairs, for more than a mile. Where were they going to end up? Were they going to get followed?

It also made more sense to me that Aragorn and Boromir were trying to come to Gandalf's aid, even though I knew they'd be too late...
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Postby Philipa » Mon Dec 04, 2006 3:17 pm

Aiwin I see you were struck by hurrying running down stairs and corridors in complete blackness. Something only survival would help urge you on to do. That concept just blew me away. Which is more frightning...the darkness and unknown or what hunts you?
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Postby Lindariel » Mon Dec 04, 2006 5:15 pm

The first time I read LOTR -- back in the mid-70's in my vulnerable teen years -- I actually put the book down and WEPT after Gandalf fell. I'd had a bad feeling when they went into Moria that this would happen because of Aragorn's warnings. By that point in the book, I already knew not to take the scruffy Ranger's words lightly (plus I was head-over-heels in love with the character -- thank you so much to Viggo Mortensen for taking Aragorn out of my head and putting him on the screen).

But, as upset as I was, I also had a feeling that they HAD to lose Gandalf, because as long as he stayed with the party, no one would really grow. They would continue to depend on him for all decision-making and problem-solving, and this was clearly set up as a journey of self-enlightenment or self-fulfillment for each character in their own way. And I knew that feeling was justified when Aragorn immediately took leadership of the party. I knew this had to be the next step in his journey to the kingship. I also strongly suspected that at some point Frodo would sneak off and leave the Fellowship behind, or be separated from them in some way, so that he could make his own journey.

So I had a really, really good cry over the death of Gandalf, then wiped my face, blew my nose, and plunged right back in. I was thoroughly and completely ensorcelled by the tale and so anxious to find out what would happen next!
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Postby Airwin » Mon Dec 04, 2006 6:48 pm

Philipa wrote:Aiwin I see you were struck by hurrying running down stairs and corridors in complete blackness. Something only survival would help urge you on to do. That concept just blew me away. Which is more frightning...the darkness and unknown or what hunts you?


That's exactly it Philipa! Would they have gone that way if Gandalf hadn't insisted they run? Although they didn't really have a choice but to go in the passage.

Which brings me to another thought I had when first reading this chapter. How was Gandalf going to keep the orcs, trolls, and other dangers from going after them by himself? How did he know that "swords were of no more use"? I don't think the Balrog had made its presence known at that time.

Lindariel wrote:But, as upset as I was, I also had a feeling that they HAD to lose Gandalf, because as long as he stayed with the party, no one would really grow. They would continue to depend on him for all decision-making and problem-solving, and this was clearly set up as a journey of self-enlightenment or self-fulfillment for each character in their own way.


I suspect Gandalf had that same feeling, which is probably why he insisted on facing the dangers alone. IMHO of course. :wink:
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Postby Riv Res » Tue Dec 05, 2006 6:25 am

I don't know. I always got the impression that Gandalf knew he would have to face the Balrog and battle him, not so much for the inner growth of the others in the Fellowship, but because he needed to reach the higher level himself. How else could he go toe to toe with Saruman unless he was Gandalf the White. The same for the Witchking.

This is where I think Tolkien is the most religious and his Catholic background comes to the for. Christ died and rose in glory because he needed to in order to save Men. Gandalf in like fashion needed to fall into the abyss and come out "white" and powerful on the other side.
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Postby Merry » Tue Dec 05, 2006 3:40 pm

Yes, I agree, Riv. One would have to think that Tolkien's belief in the Resurrection comes into play here. Even the reasoning behind it--that Gandalf was a Maia, a servant of the Valar, a spiritual being, like an angel, who couldn't be killed, sort of robed in humanity so that he could do his mission--has religious overtones as well.

On the sense of dread that grows on us in Moria: I think Tolkien does foreboding as well as any author, and it becomes almost intolerable in Moria. Even the name of the place is full of dread! I remember on my first reading being a little relieved when the worst was over! If anyone could face death, it would be Gandalf. Wouldn't we have felt worse if the Balrog had eaten Pippin?
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Postby Philipa » Tue Dec 05, 2006 11:32 pm

Merry wrote:Even the reasoning behind it--that Gandalf was a Maia, a servant of the Valar, a spiritual being, like an angel, who couldn't be killed, sort of robed in humanity so that he could do his mission--has religious overtones as well.


I think you nail it on the head Merry. :D

In any case the battle between Gandalf and the Barlog was a classic good vs. evil. And in the end the good win and become even more powerful.
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Postby Airwin » Tue Dec 05, 2006 11:58 pm

I guess I never think of anything in LOTR as particularly religious when I read it (unlike The Silmarillion, which struck me as being very religious). Even now that I know Tolkien was very religious, I choose not to look at the story that way. Perhaps I'm missing the point by doing so?
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