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Battle of the Chamber of Mazarbul

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"Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?" - Tom Bombadil
This article describes a concept which is mentioned in J.R.R. Tolkien's works, but was never given a definite name.
Battle of the Chamber of Mazarbul
The Battle of the Chamber of Mazarbul as depicted in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Conflict: War of the Ring
Date: January 15, 3019 T.A.
Place: The Chamber of Mazarbul and the Bridge of Khazad-dûm in Moria
Outcome: The Fellowship escapes, Gandalf and the Balrog of Moria continue to fight in the Battle of the Peak

The Fellowship of the Ring

The Orcs of Moria
The Balrog of Moria





Aragorn II
Gimli Elf-friend
Frodo Baggins
Samwise Gamgee
Meriadoc Brandybuck
Peregrin Took

Unknown number of orcs.
At least one Cave-troll.
One Balrog


Samwise Gamgee and Frodo lightly wounded

Many orcs killed

The Battle of the Chamber of Mazarbul was a skirmish between the Fellowship of the Ring and the Orcs of Moria which took place on January 15 T.A. 3019. It was a significant event in the Quest of the Ring, resulting in the separation of Gandalf and the rest of the Fellowship.



After being turned back by a snowstorm at the Redhorn Pass and unwilling to risk the Gap of Rohan for fear of capture by Isengard, the Fellowship attempted to cross the Misty Mountains through the abandoned dwarven city of Moria. Gimli hoped to encounter, or at least discover the fate of, Balin's expedition to re-establish Khazad-dûm with which the Dwarves had lost contact. At the end of their third day in Moria the Fellowship took refuge in the Chamber of Mazarbul—the site of Balin's tomb—and learnt of his failure from the Book of Mazarbul. Immediately afterwards they heard the sounds of drums and horn blasts. Gandalf was able to ascertain that a band of orcs, including several black uruks of Mordor, and at least one cave-troll were approaching one of the chamber's two doors.

The Battle

The Fellowship intended to make an escape through the east door, which was to their knowledge clear of enemies; however, since the other door opened inwards and could not be locked or barred they were forced to hold their ground until they could put off pursuit. Boromir attempted to wedge the door with broken swords before the orcs arrived; however, a large cave-troll was able to break through with its foot. Frodo Baggins managed to force the troll to withdraw temporarily by stabbing its foot with Sting, but the orcs were able to breach what remained of the doors and flooded in.

In the ensuing melee Gimli and Samwise Gamgee are recorded as killing one orc each, Legolas two with his bow, while Aragorn and Boromir are said to have slain "many". The orcs then retreated and Gandalf judged the time right to make an escape. However before the Fellowship could reach the door, a "huge orc chieftain" forced past Aragorn and Boromir and pinned Frodo to the wall with a spear. To the astonishment of his companions Frodo's mithril shirt saved him from injury and his attacker was quickly beheaded by Aragorn, finally routing the orcs.

Gandalf stayed behind to hold the door while the rest of the Fellowship fled down a dark and narrow stairway. As they reached its foot they saw a bright white light from the doorway and Gandalf swiftly descended the stairs to join them; he told them he had "met my match, and nearly been destroyed" and then urged the company forward.

After a brief rest where Gandalf discusses his encounter with what the Fellowship will later discover to be a balrog they continued their retreat towards the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, along the way being occasionally fired upon by orc archers. Upon reaching the bridge the Fellowship turn to see the balrog closing in on them and realise its nature. Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf are all described as becoming physically distraught at the realisation. Nevertheless Gandalf regained his composure and ordered the rest of the Fellowship to cross the bridge while he held the rear.

In order to secure the Fellowship's retreat Gandalf broke the bridge with his staff, sending the balrog falling into the chasm beneath. He too falls, however, as the balrog's whip catches his legs. The remaining members of the Fellowship assumed he perished in the fall and upon escaping Moria appointed Aragorn their new leader. In actuality both Gandalf and the Balrog survived the fall and continued their duel amongst the many caverns and tunnels underneath the mountain, eventually culminating in the Battle of the Peak.

Portrayal in adaptations

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

  • The Battle of the Chamber of Mazarbul is expanded a great deal in the films, to aid the movie's dramatic flow and pacing, and to make the battle something more meaningful for the Fellowship on screen. The entire Fellowship takes part in the skirmish.

The battle begins when a large group of Moria orcs breaks through the chamber door, after Legolas and Aragorn have shot a few orcs outside the room through holes in the closed door. A furious, fairly prolonged battle ensues. The cave-troll enters the scene early on, breaking into the chamber and nearly killing Sam, who ducks under the troll's legs just in time. The fighting continues, with Legolas, Aragorn, Boromir and Gimli killing many orcs. Sam is able to kill (or at least knock out) a few with one of his iron pans and kills at least one with his sword, along with Merry, early on in the battle. Frodo and Pippin seem to be participating in the fight as well. Peter Jackson likely wanted to involve the entire Fellowship in the skirmish to make it something meaningful to each member, as well as to the group as a whole, it being the Fellowship's first real battle together (in the book, the Fellowship never fights together like this). At one point during the fight, Legolas climbs up onto the Cave-troll's shoulders and shoots its head with two arrows, but to no avail. While swinging madly around the chamber, the Cave-troll smashes Balin's Tomb.

  • It is source of debate as to whether or not the "black Uruks of Mordor" described by Tolkien are present in the film.

There are a few orcs that physically look slightly different from the rest, though they wear the same armor. Some have argued that perhaps the Mordor Uruks sent to Moria by Sauron had taken up the Moria orcs' way of life, adopting their armor and weaponry and, thus, have a similar appearance (see Moria orcs).

  • In the film, it is the Cave-troll that chases after Frodo and hits him with a spear (despite Aragorn's brave stand against the troll in an attempt to protect the hobbit), rather than an orc-chieftain.

Jackson likely wanted to bring the Cave-troll into the center of the action, adding greater interest to the battle. It is Legolas who at last kills the Cave-troll by shooting it through the throat with an arrow.

Following a momentary victory, when most of the orcs have been killed or fled the chamber, the Fellowship hears the sound of more orcs approaching and flees through a break in the eastern wall of the chamber, running back through the Twenty-first Hall (see Chamber of Mazarbul for notes on geographical changes). The action is extended further in the film, as the Fellowship are soon surrounded by hundreds of Moria orcs, before the Balrog enters the hall.

  • Gandalf never has his encounter with the Balrog in the Mazarbul chamber in the movie.

Jackson likely wanted to reserve the revelation of the Balrog for a more dramatic moment on film.

In the extended cut of the film, an important character moment is added to the fight, in which Aragorn saves Boromir from an attacking Moria orc. This further develops the relationship between the two men. Another moment is also only found in the longer cut, in which the troll continues to chase Sam after nearly hitting him with its giant club, and almost steps on the hobbit before Aragorn pulls the troll away with its chain.

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