The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
Durin the Deathless awoke during the Years of the Trees, after the awakening of the Elves
Race
Settlements
Historically, the main seat of the Longbeards was at Khazad-dûm; later they settled at Erebor, and in the Grey Mountains, the Iron Hills and the Ered Luin
Family
Descendants of Durin the Deathless
Other names

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  • Updated 9 April 2007
  • This entry is complete

Longbeards

A name for Durin’s Folk

"Durin, Durin! ... He was the father of the fathers of the eldest race of Dwarves, the Longbeards, and my first ancestor: I am his heir."
Words of Thorin Oakenshield
from The Hobbit 3,
A Short Rest

The oldest of the seven clans of the Dwarves, founded by Durin the Deathless before the rising of the Sun and Moon, and hence also referred to as 'Durin's Folk'. In Elvish they were known as the Anfangrim1. The name these Dwarves used to refer to themselves, like much else about the mysterious Dwarf-tongue, remains unknown.

The first Dwarves were made in the distant past of Arda by Aulë, but were set to sleep until the first Elves had awakened. The eldest of this race was Durin, called the Deathless, who discovered the crystal lake of Kheled-zâram and chose the Mountains above the lake as a dwelling-place for his clan.

Those Mountains, known to the Dwarves as Zirakzigil, Bundushathûr and Barazinbar, became the most famous home of all the Dwarf-clans, as the rock beneath them was mined into a mighty citadel by Durin's Longbeards, a citadel known in the Dwarf-tongue as Khazad-dûm. Begun in the dark years long before the beginning of the First Age, Khazad-dûm survived through thousands of years. At the end of the First Age, Dwarves from Belegost and Nogrod sought refuge there when their own cities were destroyed, making the greatest city of the Dwarves greater still. As the only known source of mithril in Middle-earth, the wealth of Khazad-dûm was spectacular.

By tradition, at times the royal house of the Longbeards would produce an heir so similar to their founder that he was also given the name of Durin. Of these, Durin III was a great friend to the Noldor who settled in Eregion to the west of Khazad-dûm, and he received a Ring of Power from Celebrimbor himself. This ring - the Ring of Durin - became an heirloom of the rulers of Durin's Folk.

The Longbeards' city was impregnable to outside attack: even Sauron's armies could not overcome its defences when they ravaged Eregion in the Second Age. It survived intact for thousands more years, but eventually it fell to a threat none of its defences could repel: a Balrog. It was afterwards known that this ancient demon had been hidden beneath the Mountains for much of Khazad-dûm's history. It had long remained undisturbed and unsuspected, but at the end of the second millennium of the Third Age, the mining Dwarves awoke it, or at least set it free. It slew many of the Longbeards, including their King, Durin VI, whose son Náin I was forced to lead his people away from their ancient and glorious mountain-city. Khazad-dûm became the Balrog's dark domain, and over the coming years Sauron filled it with his minions. Thus it acquired a new name: Moria, the Black Chasm.

After this time - the year 1981 of the Third Age - the Longbeards were dispersed across the northern lands of Middle-earth. Colonies sprang up in many locations. They settled among the Grey Mountains and the Iron Hills, and Erebor, the Lonely Mountain, eventually became the seat of the Kings of Durin's Folk. There the Longbeards recovered some of their former glory, and the work of their forges made them once again wealthy and famous. Ultimately, their fame became too great: the Dragon Smaug came to hear of the Kingdom under the Mountain, and swept down from the north to claim its treasures for himself. Once again, the Longbeards were dispossessed, and scattered into the Wild.

The misfortunes of the Longbeards continued to mount. Thrór, who had been King under the Mountain before Smaug's attack, set out to return to Moria, but he was killed by Azog, leader of the Orc invaders. Thrór's heir Thráin II rallied support from all the other clans of the Dwarves, and began a war of vengeance: the War of the Dwarves and the Orcs. In the climactic Battle of Azanulbizar, the Dwarves had the victory, but the Balrog still lurked in Moria, and they could not return there.

After the battle, Durin's Folk returned to their wandering. They passed through Dunland at one time, but Thráin's son Thorin eventually led them to the Ered Luin, the Blue Mountains in the far northwest of Middle-earth. There they remained for many decades, but they never forgot the Dragon that had captured their Kingdom in the east. At last, Thorin became determined to recover Erebor, and with the aid of the Wizard Gandalf and a Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, Smaug was defeated and the Kingdom under the Mountain was re-established.

Thorin did not survive the see his Kingdom reclaimed: he died in the Battle of Five Armies that followed Smaug's defeat. The new King under the Mountain was Thorin's cousin Dáin Ironfoot, and under his leadership the Longbeards prospered once again, though they came close to ruin during the War of the Ring. Sauron's forces invaded the valley of Dale, and Dáin was slain in battle there. Retreating into the Lonely Mountain, the Dwarves and their allies were besieged. With Sauron's defeat, though, the defenders of Erebor gained new courage, and routed the invading forces.

At the end of the War of the Ring, Moria had been lost to the Dwarves for more than a thousand years. There had been attempts to return: as well as Thrór's disastrous visit, Balin took a force long afterwards to resettle Khazad-dûm, but his colony lasted just five years before it, too, came to a disastrous end. After the War, though, the Balrog of Moria had been slain, and the master of the Orcs and Trolls had also been overcome, so the ancient home of the Longbeards lay open to recovery. It seems likely that Durin's Folk would have made a further attempt to return, though no definite record exists to confirm this.

Actually, the original drafts for Appendix A to The Lord of the Rings contain some hints that Khazad-dûm was indeed reclaimed, some centuries later, by Durin VII. This story did not survive into the published text, though, so it's unclear whether Tolkien intended it to stand.

The Other Clans

The Longbeards are the only one of the seven clans to be named in The Lord of the Rings, but we do have one source that gives the names of the other six. These come from a late essay, Of Dwarves and Men reproduced in volume 12 of The History of Middle-earth. There the clans that founded Nogrod and Belegost are named as the Firebeards and the Broadbeams (and remnants of both these peoples would have joined the Longbeards in Khazad-dûm after the War of Wrath). The other four branches of Dwarf-kind lived much farther east: the Ironfists, Stiffbeards, Blacklocks and Stonefoots.


The Real Longbeards

There was in fact a real historical people known as the 'Longbeards'. This was a Germanic tribe referred to in Latin as the Langobardi ('long beards'), and are better known as the Lombards. They coexisted with - and outlasted - the Roman Empire, and even successfully invaded Italy after the Empire's fall. It's unclear whether Tolkien intended any parallel between the Longbeard Dwarves and this historical people, but it's notable that the Lombards do appear in an incidental role in some of his earlier works.

Notes

1

The singular form is Anfang, 'long beard', and Anfangrim, 'long beard host', is the Elvish term for the entire clan of the Longbeards. A group of a few Longbeard Dwarves, as opposed to the entire people, would be referred to by a different plural form, as Enfeng.

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