The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
In use from the First Age to III 1981; briefly revived by Balin between III 2989 and III 2994
Origins
The first Lord was Durin the Deathless
Race
Division
Family
Settlements
Pronunciation
Moria is pronounced 'mo'ria'
Meaning
Other names
Title
Durin and his descendants to the time of Náin I, and later Balin

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  • Updated 3 October 2010
  • This entry is complete

Lord of Moria

A title given to Balin and his predecessors

Encyclopedia of Arda Timeline
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"The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Say 'friend' and enter."
Alternative translation of the inscription on the West-gate of Moria
The Fellowship of the Ring II 4, A Journey in the Dark

A title for the Kings of Durin's Folk, rulers of Khazad-dûm through its long history, who were descended from its ancient founder, Durin the Deathless. In Elvish, the title was Aran Moria, and the original Dwarvish form was Uzbad Khazaddûmu. Though the title is used to refer to the historical Kings, it is most prominently associated with Balin, who reclaimed Khazad-dûm for a brief time between III 2989 and III 2994.


Ennyn Durin Aran Moria

These four words are transcribed from the Elvish inscription on the West-gate, as illustrated in The Lord of the Rings. Their meaning breaks down like this:

Ennyn 'Doors' or 'Gates', the plural of the word annon, seen for example in Morannon, the Black Gate of Mordor.
Durin A reference to Durin III of Khazad-dûm, who ruled at the time the doors were made.
Aran 'Lord' or 'King'.
Moria An Elvish name for Khazad-dûm, derived from mor iâ, meaning 'Black Chasm'.

So, the whole phrase translates into English as 'Doors of Durin Lord of Moria'. It turns out that this is a curious anachronism, because in principle the names Durin and Moria should both have been completely unknown to Celebrimbor, the Elf who wrote the inscription.

The Question of Moria

The use of Moria here is probably the most widely recognised inconsistency. The problem is that Moria was apparently the name used for Khazad-dûm after the Balrog was awoken and the Dwarves driven out of their city, when the deserted darkness was called 'the Black Chasm'. The Doors and their inscription, though, were made several thousand years before this, when the halls of Khazad-dûm were still populous and full of light. On that basis, we'd expect Celebrimbor to have used the earlier Elvish name for Khazad-dûm, which was Hadhodrond.

From a certain point of view, it can be argued that this isn't necessarily as inconsistent as it appears. Considered alone, The Lord of the Rings nowhere states when the term Moria came into use, and indeed there is even a passage in Appendix F II suggesting that name Moria indicates no more than an underground dwelling-place, without being connected to any particular historical event. If the Elves used the name in a general sense like this, then it might date back to the time the Doors were made, so that there is no contradiction. However, The Silmarillion flatly denies this possibility, stating that Khazad-dûm was '...afterwards in the days of its darkness called Moria...' (Quenta Silmarillion 10; our emphasis).

Given the inconclusive comments in The Lord of the Rings on the one hand, and definite statement in The Silmarillion on the other, it's probably fair to consider the name Moria as being out of place. This would seem to be Christopher Tolkien's view, too: in the index of The Silmarillion, he defines Moria as the '...later name for Khazad-dûm (Hadhodrond)' (our emphasis).

The Question of Durin

If the status of Moria is at least open to question, no such doubt exists over Durin - there is simply no way that Celebrimbor could have known that name. It comes from Old Norse, a language that didn't even exist when Celebrimbor wrote the inscription above the Doors. Like most of the Dwarf-names in his work, Tolkien took Durin's name from real Norse legends, so that it merely represents the Dwarf's earlier 'real' name (which is in fact never recorded). The same problem arises with Balin's tomb inscription (as Tolkien explicitly recognised), whose runes include 'Balin', even though he wouldn't be given that name until thousands of years after the tomb was made.

Towards a Solution

It's hard to find an explanation for these curiosities. One common suggestion is that the problem is merely one of translation, so that the Elvish characters above the Doors contained the true names, with the inconsistencies being introduced in the transcription. Unfortunately, this isn't the case: the Elf-letters above the Doors, as shown in The Lord of the Rings, spell out 'Ennyn Durin Aran Moria' just as the transliterated versions do (which is a pity, because otherwise we could read Durin's original name there).

Another tempting explanation, for Moria at least, would be a mistake on Frodo's part (Frodo's diary must have been the original source of the illustration). He was much more familiar with the name Moria than Khazad-dûm or Hadhodrond, so the possibility arises that he simply misremembered the actual name when he later drew the doorway in his diary. Unfortunately, this idea can't be correct: when he first sees the characters above the Doors, he states 'I thought I knew the elf-letters but I cannot read these.' (The Fellowship of the Ring II 4). If he couldn't understand the script over the archway, he couldn't have mistakenly inserted a name in the same script.

Another possible internally consistent solution might lie in the history of the documents behind The Lord of the Rings (in the story's own terms, the Red Book of Westmarch and its copies). Indeed, the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings refers to '...much annotation, and many corrections, especially of names, words, and quotations in the Elvish languages...' being made to the book in Minas Tirith. If this process continued throughout its history we might imagine copyists and scribes adapting the illustration over the centuries, perhaps by mistake, or perhaps to make it easier to understand. After all, if the inscription was 'Doors of Somebody2 Lord of Hadhodrond', though it might be more accurate, it would make little sense to a casual reader.

Notes

1

For the original line of Lords, the title was apparently interchangeable with 'King of Khazad-dûm'. There is no evidence, however, that Balin claimed the title of King during his brief time as Lord of Moria.

2

Durin's 'real' name (the name he used publicly, that is) remains a complete mystery.

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