Between Gandalf's fear of Moria, and the amount of time that has obviously passed (due to the condition of the remains of the dwarves in Moria), why is Gimli so unaware of the fall of his kin?

At least in the movie, Saruman's line;

"Moria... You fear to go into those mines. The dwarves delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-dûm... shadow and flame."

Would seem to indicate Gandalf not only knows of Balin's defeat, but even that the defeat was not purely because of orcs or goblins. (The dwarves' book of records references the drumming that is a precursor to the appearance of the Balrog - indicating the downfall of the dwarves in general was not due entirely to warring with the orcs).

I have a hard time believing Gandalf would have been so reluctant to go into Moria if he believed the Balin and his group of dwarves had been successful and wasn't more aware of its current state. I figure even if he wasn't sure, he was pretty convinced they had not survived. So why does Gimli seem so clueless? (Yes, I understand wizards are wise and a little smarter, but Gimli wasn't a Neanderthal either.)

I do not remember this part of the book really at all. If things are entirely different in the book it wouldn't surprise me one bit. If the answer is that Jackson took a liberty here for the sake of the movie's plot, I'd love to know the comparable aspects of the original version in the books as are applicable.

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    and they call this a Mine... A mine!
    – Jared
    Commented Jan 16, 2013 at 23:52
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    Remember that, even in the movie, when Gandalf sees Balin's tomb he murmurs, "So he is dead, then." Gandalf suspected something had happened, but he wasn't sure. By that quote, he thought there could still be survivors, even if there had been a catastrophe.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 17:18

7 Answers 7


The references in The Hobbit are from a different "fall of Moria". After the events in The Hobbit, a dwarf named Balin, from the company that traveled with Bilbo, attempted to reclaim Moria once more. In the movie, Balin is the old-looking dwarf with white hair.

His success was short-lived, though, as we find in The Lord of the Rings. Hence the tombstone which reads "Balin, son of Fundin, Lord of Moria".

Both Gimli and Gandalf know of Moria being a dangerous place, but they don't know Balin's mission has failed so catastrophically.

From Wikipedia:

In T.A. 2989 Balin left Erebor and entered Moria with a company of dwarves including Flói, Óin, Ori, Frár, Lóni, and Náli. He discovered Durin's Axe. Balin's colony was overrun by orcs soon afterward, and Balin was killed by an orc archer in the Dimrill Dale in 2994.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, the title characters discover Balin's tomb in the Chamber of Mazarbul. Gandalf finds the dwarves' book of records, and discovers from it that Balin was killed by orcs.

In addition, I do not think Gandalf knew for certain that Durin's Bane was a Balrog, or that it had been reawakened. In "The Mirror of Galadriel", it is at least shown the Elves from Lórien weren't sure themselves, and also Galadriel shows some insight into why Gimli might want to see Moria in spite of the danger. Here's the relevant exchange:

Celeborn says:

“We long have feared that under Caradhras a terror slept. But had I known that the Dwarves had stirred up this evil in Moria again, I would have forbidden you to pass the northern borders, you and all that went with you.”

(FotR, "The Mirror of Galadriel". Source: "Celeborn and Galadriel", The Council of Elrond)

To which Galadriel answers:

“If our folk had been exiled long and far from Lothlórien, who of the Galadhrim, even Celeborn the Wise, would pass nigh and would not wish to look upon their ancient home, though it had become an abode of dragons? Dark is the water of Kheled-zâram, and cold are the springs of Kibil-nâla, and fair were the many-pillared halls of Khazad-dûm in Elder Days before the fall of mighty kings beneath the stone.”

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    @balancedmama I can only speculate. First, Moria wasn't their first choice; they tried Caradhras first, but the mountain proved too dangerous. Second, Gandalf only suspected Durin's Bane was actually a Balrog; if he had known for sure, I guess he wouldn't have taken the Fellowship down that road. And last, Gimli was blinded by his desire to see Moria. I remember Galadriel said something to that effect later, comparing Gimli's desire to see Moria to that of an Elf wishing to see Lorien even it that realm had fallen to the enemy. (sorry, don't have the exact quote)
    – Andres F.
    Commented Dec 17, 2012 at 23:17
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    Galadriel's quote, which shows an understanding of Gimli's desire to see Moria, is: If our folk had been exiled long and far from Lothlórien, who of the Galadhrim, even Celeborn the Wise, would pass nigh and would not wish to look upon their ancient home, though it had become an abode of dragons?
    – Andres F.
    Commented Dec 17, 2012 at 23:25
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    @balancedmama Dumbledore!? :P
    – Andres F.
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 19:20
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    Okay that is really funny! I'm reading HP to my daughter right now. Obviously, I meant Gandolf. Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 20:36
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    Or possibly Gandalf?? ;-)
    – Stefan
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 23:41

The Dwarves believed in fact not that everything went right in Balin's mission. Before the Council of Elrond

'And what has become of Balin and Ori and Óin?' asked Frodo.

A shadow passed over Glóin's face. 'We do not know,' he answered. 'It is largely on account of Balin that I have come to ask the advice of those that dwell in Rivendell.'

Then at the Council:

'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.

That was nigh on thirty years ago. For a while we had news and it seemed good: messages reported that Moria had been entered and a great work begun there. Then there was silence, and no word has ever come from Moria since.'

Before they enter the mines, Gandalf doesn't express any more than hope to find Balin there (alive), and neither does Gimli:

'There is even a chance that Dwarves are there, and that in some deep hall of his fathers, Balin son of Fundin may be found. However it may prove, one must tread the path that need chooses!'

'I will tread the path with you, Gandalf!' said Gimli. 'I will go and look on the halls of Durin, whatever may wait there – if you can find the doors that are shut.'


Discard the movie; what you see there is Jackson's fairly clumsy mish-mash and he certainly messed up this part something rotten.

In the book Gandalf does not know that it's a Balrog; he knew after the Chamber of Mazarbul that there was something quite powerful there, but it was only at the Bridge that he became aware of what he faced: "a Balrog, now I understand".

It's also the case that Gimli did not know what had happened to Balin. Nobody knew; all the Dwarves knew was that Something Bad had happened, and it was quite clear that the colony had failed (witness Sauron's messenger to Dáin offering the realm of Moria back), but precise details were unknown.

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    On the contrary; it is undeniable that Jackson played fast & loose with Tolkien's work to make it appeal to adolescent male "moviegoers". Perhaps we need a tag "jacksons-legendarium"? +1
    – m4r35n357
    Commented Apr 14, 2023 at 10:26

First of all, communications technology wasn't really a thing yet. As isolated as Moria is, travel back and forth was probably relatively infrequent, so news would travel slowly -- also, if there were no survivors, the only way for news to get out would be when the next supply shipment or such showed up (which might be a long time).

Gandalf's reticence is probably based on his knowledge of the first fall of Moria, and the precariousness of Balin's hold there. Gimli, on the other hand, grew up knowing Balin as one of his father Glóin's cool friends who was part of the successful Smaug-slaying expedition; he probably looks up to him, and has since his youth.

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    "when the next supply shipment or such showed up" beyond this, that assumes that any such supply shipment makes it there in one piece to begin with (which given the mode of transportation, makes that improbable enough) and assuming the supplies did make it there in one piece, there's no guarantee that the suppliers would survive their brief examination of the mines to attempt to return.
    – zzzzBov
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 16:59

I agree with leftaroundabout and Andres F. A few other points:

  • It's possible that the dwarves of Erebor had sent one or more search parties to try and make contact with Balin. Given all the perils between Erebor and Moria, and inside Moria itself, it may be that none of the searchers ever returned. After this happened a few times, King Dáin (who had never approved of Balin's expedition in the first place) might have forbidden any more of them from going.

  • While the Elves and wizards might have had means of sending fast messages, they would not be likely to lend them out to the dwarves. (The dwarves in The Hobbit did use ravens to send messages, but Erebor to Moria is a long and dangerous flight for a raven — they might have refused to go, or not been successful.)

  • In The Hobbit, Tolkien noted that dwarves are "not heroes, but calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money." Balin may have taken many of the more heroic and adventurous dwarves of Erebor with him. Those who remained might have been reluctant to go out searching for him, if there was no obvious profit in it.

  • One of the members of Balin's group was Óin, who was Glóin's brother and Gimli's uncle. This would have given them an additional interest in finding out what happened.

  • Dwarves live a long time (up to 300 years, or about 4 times as long as a human) so 30 years to them is more like 8 years to us. Still a long time, but they would not feel quite the same sense of urgency.


The thirty year gap though is strange, Balin died in 2994 and the Fellowship did not find his tomb until 3018/9. The fact that it took 25 years for the Dwarves to organise a search party shows a lack of care on their part, maybe family ties aren't that strong? Or perhaps JRR just didn't worry too much about the dates when he wrote this fictional book!

In reality we know people would react more quickly regardless of how you were communicating be it pigeon mail or email - If my cousin moved to Australia and started writing once he arrived - then stopped suddenly, I wouldn't wait thirty years to go looking!!

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    Today you wouldn't. But if your cousin moved there in 1801, the communication delay alone could have you not realizing anything's amiss for 2 years or more. Then how long would it take you to get there? Yes, you can get there in just a few months on a boat, but getting passage can take forever. You get there, do your investigation, trying to find people to talk to about events that are already years past. Eventually you find a tombstone. Things were different in earlier times, you couldn't catch a trans-Pacific flight and use your iPhone to walk right up to it.
    – John O
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 20:36
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    @JohnO - so true, but Gandolf could send messages with moths! I mean things had to be a little better for Elves and Wizards! Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 20:39
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    no, there was no magical communication. Elrond and Galadriel no doubt had efficient networks of agents reporting to them, and it is indeed noticed that as the elves moved further west towards the Havens information from the east became harder and harder to get (that's one reason Gimli was so welcome to Elrond, he brought news from an area no elf had visited in years). Radagast had some ways of communicating with birds and gets tidbits of information from them about what they had seen, Gandalf could do similar with the great Eagles (but then they were an intelligent species with language),
    – jwenting
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 7:19
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    and it's hinted at several places that Sauron and/or Saruman used ravens, wargs, and/or crows as spies, but that's about it. I doubt any form of long distance communication faster than a carrier pigeon existed, or more reliable than a rider on a fast horse.
    – jwenting
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 7:21
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    For the record, JRRT cared more about dates than most mortal minds can fathom. Seriously - he'd rewrite whole sections of stories to correct a mistake in the day of the week or the phase of the moon.
    – user1786
    Commented Sep 24, 2013 at 3:21

Aye a Balrog has come.

Gandalf tries to lock the door once they escape the chamber but the counter spell was too strong, broke the door and greatly weakened him. He had to be almost carried down to the lower level.

The rumour of the great evil, hinted at by Saruman, was well known but its nature was never known. No one lived to tell of it. Saruman either did not know or hid his knowledge of the nature of the beast. More likely he did not know.

When it leaps upon the bridge Gandalf realizes what it is, tells the others to flee that it is beyond their power.

Gandalf blocks the bridge and the Balrog is frightened of Gandalf realizing his nature.

Gandalf's very words "YOU SHALL NOT PASS" have so much power the Balrog balks.

Moria had always been rumoured to have an evil at its depths.

As to the dwarves not going to check on Balin. You would not just pop over and knock on the door and say how goes it?

It would require a large force to go in, in case of trouble, either if Moria had again fallen, or as reinforcements. As it is well known the dwarves reproduce slowly, it would take a long time to have enough people to spare for such a journey. No trade routes had been established and it was a dark time of mistrust in Middle-earth. If I am not mistaken, didn't Lórien lie between Moria and the homes of the other Dwarves, a place they could not and would not pass through?

When Gandalf realizes it is a Balrog the history of Moria makes sense.

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    no, not Lorien lay between them, but the Mirkwood, an altogether evil place. And of course the Beornings had no love of dwarves, elves, or men. They'd have granted Balin passage because they knew him from his companionship with Bilbo and Gandalf, but that's about it.
    – jwenting
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 7:23
  • @jwenting: not quite, Glóin specifically talks about how the Beornings charge high tolls (which shows that at least the High Pass / Old Ford is considered a trade route), and how they aren't "overly fond of dwarves"; but in principle they seem to grant passage to all free folk. And at least northern Mirkwood only began to become evil again in the years before the Ring War. The most problematic part of the journey Erebor↔Moria might actually be the Gladden Fields, like already in Isildur's time... Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 1:25
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    Another thing: you shall not misquote Gandalf! Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 1:26
  • You could make your post much more readable by using formatting (and more text) to show what you are quoting from where and what is your own commentary or conclusions.
    – PJTraill
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 10:37

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