Building Middle Earth - Moria

category image "The power of Moria endured throughout the Dark Years and the dominion of Sauron,for though Eregion was destroyed and the gates of Moria were shut, the halls of Khazad-dum were too deep and strong and filled with a people too numerous and valiant for Sauron to conquer from without. Thus its wealth remained long unravished, though its people began to dwindle."
— LotR III p. 439

Deep in bowels of the central Misty Mountains lies Moria, the "Black Chasm." Huge and grand, forbidding and mysterious, shrouded by its very nature and with the passage of time, this ancient underground Dwarf-city remains one of the noblest creations in Middle-earth. It serves as a testimony to both honor and greed, an ever eerie symbol of the struggle with Darkness that has so long plagued Endor. Those who seek to walk its paths and exploit its untold riches feel the power of its plight and legacy, and must endure visions and terrors beyond comprehension. Moria is both beauty and death incarnate. Here stood Khazad-dum (Kh. "Dwarf-mansion"), the Kingdom of the noblest Lord of the Seven Tribes of Dwarves, a city sculpted from rock and embellished by the finest hall-builders of their day. Within its recesses, Durin's Folk mined precious jewels and metals, and discovered mithril, the "true-silver." They built stairways to peaks touching the stars, and to depths unknown and terrible. They erected spans across bottomless pits and enchanting canyons, and fashioned vaults in caves larger than many citadels.
Now its chambers are dark and its builders are gone. The seven great levels of old remain, but they are cursed by the presence of Orcs, Trolls, Wolves, and other heinous denizens. Beasts guard the passages and prey upon whatever tools that challenge them, while undefined demons prowl the deeps below. Tales speak of a Balrog, a "Demon of Might" which once served the Black Enemy Morgoth. The hideous beast was inadvertently released by Dwarves obsessed with wealth, only to slay two Dwarfkings and rule over their realm with abhorrent horror and unforgiving fire. Thus, Khazad-dum has now come to be called Moria.

Khazad-dum's boundaries moved steadily north and westward during the first seven hundred and fifty years of the Second Age. With hammer and mattock, with ferocity and fire, the Dwarves beat back every obstacle and unearthed seemingly endless mineral wealth. As the centuries passed most of the stone beneath the upper Silvertine was touched somehow. Everywhere, the Naugrim delved relentlessly: rock was carved and modeled for support; caverns and fissures became halls and passages; the ores bound beneath the earth surrendered metals, both precious and practical. The greatest Dwarven hold became still grander.

Around S.A. 700, Dwarf engineers extended their iron and silver mines to the northern edge of the Silvertine and uncovered a vein of an entirely new metal. It could produce alloys harder, lighter, and stronger than steel, yet it was as malleable as copper. They called it "True-silver," or "mithril" (S. "Grey Brilliance") in the Elven-tongue, because it gleamed and did not tarnish or weaken when
worked. No metal possessed its combined properties of strength and beauty, and none inspired so much demand. The already affluent Dwarves of Khazad-dum became even wealthier.

It was in the time of Durin VI that the Dwarf-miners struck a natural fissure, a deep pit which seemed without end. Within it lay the hideous creature that was the Doom of Moria and Durin's Bane. The thing of horror was a Balrog, a "Demon of Might" which had escaped the fall of its master Morgoth at the end the First Age and flown to safety. Hiding deep within an abyss, it was removed from the world for over fifty-four centuries. Once unearthed, the Balrog wasted little time. It rose up, bearing a tremendous whip and a flaming sword as large as a man. The Dwarven miners at first stood in abject awe; but as the fiery demon approached, they ran in fright, only to be butchered like small beasts driven to slaughter. Those that survived warned King Durin VI, and an elite guard sallied forth against the intruder. This brave group of warriors prevented the Balrog from entering the inner city, hut the stand cost them their lives. The Dwarves' foe burst upon their line, struck down the King, and dispatched the noble retainers amidst a furious conflagration. As the fire receded, Dwarven bodies lay strewn about the Baraz Hall.

Dain I succeeded his father as King of Moria, and immediately set about defending the city. The Dwarves were determined to avenge the loss and rid the Kingdom of the wicked creature. Their sturdy ramparts and stalwart character proved no match against the Balrog, however, for the beast was an evil Maia, a spirit born before time and possessed of the gifts of the Undying Lands. When the Demon of Might stormed the Dwarven hold early the next year (T.A. 1981), it massacred Nain and his household guard and overwhelmed the defenders. Durin's Folk fled out of the East-gate of Moria, surrendering the city to the cruel legacy of Morgoth.

In T.A. 2989, a large number of its Dwarves agreed to follow Balin to Khazad-dum and build a colony in the ancient halls. That same year, Balin's group marched south to Dimrill Dale and entered the East-gate unopposed. All was quiet within Moria, so the well-provisioned Naugrim set about restoring the city. They crowned Balin King of Khazad-dum—the first who was not also Lord of Durin's Folk—and established a permanent, vigilant home.
Not long after the founding of Balin's Kingdom, Orcs, Trolls, and other beasts gathered in the depths of Moria and assailed the Dwarven colony. The Dwarves threw the assault back, but it was only the beginning: for the next five years, the evil throng harassed the Naugrim and picked away at their strength. Insidiously, the noose tightened around the settlement as more and more Dark creatures responded to the challenge. A great Kraken, the "Watcher in the Water," came up the River Sirannon and dammed its flow, creating a pool which closed Moria's West-gate. With each month's passing, Balin's Folk retreated until, at last, they were surrounded. The harried Dwarves eventually saw no recourse but to fight their way out. Striking eastward, they strove toward the East-gate, but they never reached their goal. A vast assemblage of Orcs met them just inside the entry and turned the Naugrim back after a bloody brawl. The Orcs wounded Balin and the Dwarves retreated northward to the hallowed Chamber of Records (The Hall of Mazarbul). Balin expired as the battered Naugrim prepared the final defense. Just as his Dwarfguard sealed the stone burial crypt, the Orc-host struck. No Dwarf survived. Moria had once again become a province of Darkness.

cover image The Doors of Durin, also called the West-door or the West-gate of Moria, were created in the Second Age by the Dwarf Narvi, as the western entrance to Khazad-dûm. The East-gate of Moria was known as the Dimrill Gate. This article shows how to make and set up both the east and west gates of moria.


cover image Balin's Tomb was a mausoleum of white marble that was located deep within Moria. This is an article that will show you how to make a modular Balin's Tomb board that is detailed and easy to store.


cover image Making Durin's Causeway which is the collapsing stairway the Fellowship traverse in the movie and the Bridge of Khazad-dûm.