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I've always been puzzled on the route the Fellowship took following the skirmish in Balin's tomb. After the Fellowship entered the wide Hall with the pillars (Dwarf Delving, for easy understanding I'll call it the 'Hall of Pillars' here) Gimli discovered the tomb. After Pippin messed things up, they fought the intruding orcs and the troll there, and eventually left the tomb hall again into the Hall of Pillars after hearing more orcs coming, running to reach the bridge of Khazad-Dûm.

Then the Balrog was coming, this is where I start puzzling. In order to reach the bridge they left the Hall of Pillars and entered the room with the broken stairs. Upon entering the room the bridge was seen from afar and at the same elevation obviously. However, the Fellowship went down the stairs, and the Balrog was obviously above them still in the Hall of Pillars. But when they left the stair room they were in the Hall of Pillars again and the bridge was at their elevation despite having gone down, and the Balrog was there as well. So I wonder about the following:

  • Is the Hall of Pillars after they left the stair room the same one or are they two distinct halls?
  • If they're one and the same, why did the Fellowship need to go through the room with stairs? Was the Balrog or maybe some other obstacle (there is fire when they leave the stair room) inbetween them and the bridge?
  • How come they needed to go down while the bridge seemed at their level and the Hall of Pillars above them? Did they eventually go any stairs up?
  • What was the route the Balrog took while the Fellowship walked through the stair room?
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  • Another interesting question concerning the Balrog that has puzzled me (spoiler warning): scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/215261/… Aug 19, 2021 at 7:48
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    They walked very fast, one may even consider running for their lives. Aug 19, 2021 at 8:41
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    Why is there a close vote? Do we know too little about the Fellowship's route that it's too opinion-based? Aug 19, 2021 at 9:07
  • I never distinguished between the two rooms you mentioned - the stairs were just "down the side" of the pillars (i.e. no wall or door to separate them, just one big cavern/space - you go between any two pillars on one side of the pillar-space and there's the stairs/trench with the bridge over the trench at the bottom). Do you have screenshots showing how/when they left and re-entered the hall of pillars? Or am I completely misunderstanding your idea of rooms?
    – Pam
    Aug 19, 2021 at 9:10
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    @AragornElessar, it's called a joke and as per rules, it belongs in the comments. It answers the question in the title, omitting the details. Aug 19, 2021 at 10:34

2 Answers 2

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The book, at least, is very clear about their route through Moria.

They enter Moria through the West gate, after avoiding the Watcher in the Water and solving the instructions on the door (say "Friend" to enter).

They head up a broad and shallow stairway of 200 steps and through an arch, then pause on the landing at the top to eat.

They set off, and the passage initially twists and turns a little, then heads steadily downwards for a long way, before levelling out.

They continue onward past many openings to other passages, stairways, arches, etc., along with chasms and cracks in the walls and path (at one point they have to leap a 7 foot gap in the ground with churning water a long way below). Gandalf consults often with Gimli about the correct way forwards, but the final choice of path is always left to Gandalf, and they head mostly eastwards as far as they are able.

After several hours since entering Moria they come to an area with a wide arch leading to three eastward heading passages - the left goes down, the middle is level but narrow, and the right heads upwards. Gandalf is unsure which to take. Left of the arch is a stone door leading to a guardroom with an open well in the centre. Pippin throws a stone down the well; after the splash, they hear a few hammer thuds in the deep (possibly signals?) but nothing more comes of it. They rest here. Pippin takes the first watch for one hour, then Gandalf relieves him for six more hours. They decide to take the right hand passage.

They march onward and upward for 8 more hours (with two brief rests). The passage is smooth and climbs steadily in great curves, getting wider and loftier as they go - it was clearly an important thoroughfare. There are no longer any openings at the sides. This passage takes them about 15 miles east, though they walk closer to 20 thanks to the curving.

They come out into a large hall (the Twenty First Hall of the North Side, being on the Seventh Level (with the Eastern entrance to Moria being on the first level)). There is a vast roof high above, held up by many stone pillars. Large arched doorways are in the North, South, East and West sides of the hall (they have entered through the West door, and presume they will need to take the East door). They rest here for the night, with Frodo and then Legolas taking the watch. In the morning they see a shaft above the Eastern arch that leads out to daylight, and also light appearing through the Northern arch.

They explore the Northern arch to find the source of the light. They head down a wide corridor, and see the light is coming from a doorway on the right (i.e. to the east). This room is the Chamber of Mazarbul (the Chamber of Records). It is a large square chamber, dimly lit by a shaft high in the eastern wall heading outside to daylight. Another smaller door lies in the eastern wall under the shaft. Balin's tomb lies in the centre under the light. There are many recesses in the walls containing plundered wooden chests, near which they find a book describing the fate of the dwarven colonists who tried to retake Moria. Bones and weapons lie scattered around both doors where the dwarves made their last stand.

Having learnt from the book where they are (the Twenty First Hall) Gandalf knows they need to head down six levels and to the east and south. He plans to leave the hall by the eastern arch, then head downwards and to the right (i.e. south) when possible.

They are about to head back to the twenty first hall when they hear drums, and many feet heading towards them. Gandalf shines a light in the corridor to see many orcs, some larger black Uruks and at least one giant cave troll. They wedge the western door (that they originally came through) shut, but leave the eastern door open as an escape route. The cave troll forces the door open, getting an arm and foot inside, but retreats when Frodo stabs its foot with Sting. Orcs rush into the room, but retreat after thirteen are slain. The Fellowship make to retreat when a huge orc chieftain leaps into the room. He spears Frodo in the chest, but is killed by Aragorn.

They head through the eastern door. A stairway down is beyond it, which they take. Gandalf remains at the top by the doorway to put a shutting-spell on the door. The Balrog enters the room, and uses a terrible counter-spell which nearly breaks Gandalf. He is forced to use a Word of Command; the door cannot withstand it and breaks apart, then the walls and ceiling of the Chamber of Records collapse, burying Balin's tomb, some of the orcs and the Balrog within, and blocking the way.

They continue down the stairs for an hour, travelling maybe a mile or more. They take no turnings off but continue downwards. All in all they descend seven flights of steps (each maybe 50 or more steps). Finally they come to a low archway that leads through to the Second Hall of Moria, on the First Deep level (i.e. they are now one level below the exit, having headed down seven flights from being six levels above it). The Second Hall is even larger than the Twenty First; two rows of great pillars go down the centre of it. They've come out on the Northern wall of the Hall, nearish to the East side to their left where the exit is, some quarter of a mile away. On their right side, a fissure splits the whole room, with flames leaping out of it. If they had come the usual way into this room they would have been trapped behind the flames and unable to continue.

They head into the hall, turn left and make for the exit. At the eastern end of the Second Hall is one of the defences of old Moria, the Bridge of Khazad Dum. This is a single span of stone with no rails, 50 feet long, wide enough only for people to pass in single file, over a wide chasm in the floor. The orcs now appear behind them, but are themselves trapped behind the fiery fissure they meant to trap the Fellowship with. As the Fellowship reach the bridge, two Cave Trolls appear, placing down giant slabs of stone for the orcs to cross the fissure. The Balrog also reappears. He leaps across the fissure, and races to the bridge.

Gandalf makes a stand in the middle of the bridge, breaking it with his staff before being caught by the Balrog's whip and falling with him. The rest of the bridge breaks.

The Fellowship rush through the eastern door of the hall, and up a broad stair leading to a wide corridor with shafts of light cut into the roof. Past this is the First Hall of Moria, bright with daylight from windows cut in the east wall. They pass through it to the eastern great gates, which are shattered and broken. Some orcs ambush them, but flee when Aragorn cuts down the leader. Finally they leave Moria through the gateway.

So, to explicitly answer the questions:

Is the Hall of Pillars after they left the stair room the same one or are they two distinct halls?

There are two distinct halls. The Twenty First Hall is the hall they enter before finding Balin's tomb; they then travel for an hour, down seven flights of stairs, before reaching the Second Hall, which contains the bridge.

If they're one and the same, why did the Fellowship need to go through the room with stairs? Was the Balrog or maybe some other obstacle (there is fire when they leave the stair room) in between them and the bridge?

Yes; a horde of orcs, several cave trolls and the Balrog block the Fellowship's path back to the Twenty First Hall, not to mention tons of rock that fall after Gandalf and the Balrog's spells clash, destroying the tomb.

How come they needed to go down while the bridge seemed at their level and the Hall of Pillars above them? Did they eventually go any stairs up?

The tomb is six levels above the bridge. They head down seven levels, cross the bridge, then need to head one level up again (the broad stairs from the Second Hall to the First Hall) to get to the level of the exit.

What was the route the Balrog took while the Fellowship walked through the stair room?

Presumably, the Balrog dug itself out of the collapsed room and headed back to the Twenty First Hall, then through the Eastern archway. This is the main route down, and the one Gandalf would originally have taken. This path comes out in the Western end of the Second Hall - i.e. behind the fissure with the fire, so it would have trapped the Fellowship if they'd taken their planned route.

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  • "avoiding" the watcher in the water....you sure about that? ;)
    – NKCampbell
    Aug 19, 2021 at 13:55
  • @Showsni Does the book say tht each flight of stars was maybe 50 or more steps, or is that your guess? If a normal step is about 8 inches high, each flight would be about 33.33 feet high. And there should be a lot more space than that between each level, since the great halls could be over a hundred feet tall. Possibly the hobbits didn't guess the number of steps very accurately. Aug 19, 2021 at 15:18
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    It says "Every now and again it descended a flight of steps, fifty or more, to a lower level." then, "At the end of an hour they had gone a mile, or maybe a little more, and had descended many flights of stairs." and then, "At the bottom of the seventh flight Gandalf halted." There is a little more travel down a sloping passage after that before the hall, but it doesn't last long.
    – Showsni
    Aug 19, 2021 at 16:34
  • Lovely and detailed answer. Is it for certain that the being casting the counterspell was the balrog? I do not recall that the word was used until Legolas' cry when it crossed the fiery chasm. I also do not recall Galdalf describing the counterspelling entity as made of flame and shadow. On the other had I do recall "many things" deep in the earth, and the balrog is just one of them. So aren't we at best uncertain as to the identity of the counterspeller?
    – Lexible
    Aug 20, 2021 at 15:08
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    @Lexible If not outright stated, it is very heavily implied. Gandalf describes the being that cast the counterspell as "dark as a cloud" and "blocking out all the light inside". Note that the Balrog does not take on any fire until it leaps over the fiery chasm. When they meet the Balrog in the open, Gandalf says "Now I understand." The implication is that he now realises what it was that was giving him such difficulties.
    – Showsni
    Aug 20, 2021 at 18:10
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As "a picture is worth a thousand words", especially when talking about movies, I tried to select a few screenshots to highlight the different places.

In their voyage through the Mines of Moria, the Fellowship travels across several great halls with tall columns, and smaller rooms and passages.

They enter the first large hall shortly after Gandalf finally decides which way to choose at the fork he does not remember being in before.

arriving in the first hall

They walk in a straight path along the columns ...

between the columns

... until Gimli turns right and runs forward entering the Chamber of Mazarbul, where a shaft of light (coming from the opposite side) falls upon the tomb of Balin.

entering the Chamber of Mazarbul

Here they try and barricade against the attack of the goblins and the cave troll.

After defeating the first wave of enemies, they run away from the first column hall (as the goblins are coming from that direction), entering a different large hall.

exiting the Chamber of Mazarbul

A large number of goblins quickly runs after them, coming from the room they just left,

goblins behind them

and more goblins emerge from wide cracks in the hall floor and ceiling, until they are completely surrounded (note that we cannot see the shaft of light any more, so the heroes have run a long way, or maybe they took a turn into a similar columned passage).

surrounded

The distant growls of the Balrog scatter the goblins, allowing the Fellowship to run away (note that they seem to be on lower ground than the distant Balrog, so this large hall slopes downward).

enter image description here

The Fellowship run into a side passage too small for the Balrog to enter, so it has to find a different way.

enter image description here

After a dangerous trip down the steep, crumbling flight of stairs

enter image description here

they arrive near the Bridge of Khazad Dum (they arrive running from the right side of the picture; behind Gandalf you can see a large, high-ceilinged ramp they did NOT take).

enter image description here

The Balrog arrives from the ramp and jumps through the flames, while the Fellowship runs towards the bridge, which is now at their level. There are pillars here, too.

enter image description here

After the bridge, they will just have to climb a few steps before finally reaching the Eastern Gate of Moria and exiting.

enter image description here

(note in the background on the right side the remaining parts of the stairs the Fellowship took to arrive here)

enter image description here

(all screencaps from https://movie-screencaps.com/lord-rings-fellowship-ring-2001)

Final recap:

Is the Hall of Pillars after they left the stair room the same one or are they two distinct halls?

There are pillars both before and after the steep stairs; they are probably distinct hall connected with large ramps. Note that there is no "stair room", it's more of a chasm crisscrossed by some precariously-looking stairs

If they're one and the same, why did the Fellowship need to go through the room with stairs? Was the Balrog or maybe some other obstacle (there is fire when they leave the stair room) inbetween them and the bridge?

The Balrog had almost reached the Fellowship, so they needed a passage where it could not follow them. Moreover, the large hall had large cracks in the floor that could be impossible to jump over.

How come they needed to go down while the bridge seemed at their level and the Hall of Pillars above them? Did they eventually go any stairs up?

The bridge is at a lower level.

What was the route the Balrog took while the Fellowship walked through the stair room?

He passed through large halls and ramps, making a longer tour to reach the same point.

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  • Sideshow Weta made a model representing the stairs and the bridge, but I could just find a youtube video showing it and a few small images.
    – lfurini
    Aug 19, 2021 at 18:26
  • Your penulitmate image doesn't show the remaining part of stairs taken but the stairs on the other side of the bridge (you can see the Fellowship running to the other side) where we exited Moria. Aug 20, 2021 at 5:41
  • Thanks for pointing out that the route out of the tomb is actually different than the route into it. I had some suspicion about this already (and Showsni has stated it too, so there was actually another way out of the tomb chamber). Aug 20, 2021 at 5:47
  • I doubt the stairs in the last image are the same the Fellowship took. We were running some time from the stair's bottom to the bridge. Aug 20, 2021 at 5:52

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