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LoTR: A Bad Place to Dig Too Greedily and Too Deep – The Khazad-dûm Breakdown

5 Minute Read
Apr 9 2024

The mines of Moria are a dark and dusty place, but the city that came before it? Khazad-dûm was the greatest of the Dwarf cities.

Khazad-dûm isn’t just a place where Gandalf liked to call people fools. It was also once the capital of the Dwarven people. It’s at once their greatest pride and deepest despair. And the city has a long and winding history.

The Founding

Khazad-dûm was founded by Durin I, also known as Durin the Deathless. Firstborn of all the Dwarves, he wandered the world before the creation of the sun and moon. Eventually, he arrived at Lake Mirrormere. When he looked in the lake, the stars behind him seemed to form a crown. So my guy was like, “yeah, okay, let’s build me a kingdom here!” And he did.

Durin built his city into the three mountains surrounding the lake: Barazinbar, Zirakzigil, and Bundushathûr. He built the greatest Dwarven kingdom of all time. This was a massive flourishing kingdom of Dwarves. In particular, they drew their wealth from being the only place you can find mithril, the strongest metal in Middle Earth. Under Durin I, the Dwarves enjoyed a golden age and mostly stayed out of events during the First Age of the world.

I just love destroying cultural relics of other races! 

Durin the Deathless was a great king. Then he died. Guess it was just a name after all. Many of Khazad-dûm’s most famous features were built during his reign, like the Endless Stair and Durin’s Bridge. Both of which would survive for thousands of years until some dang Grey wizard showed up. Even after his death, the city did well.


Khazad-dûm in the Second Age

The Second Age saw a major expansion of Khazad-dûm. Its population was swelled by refugees fleeing the destruction of the final battle against Morgoth. About 700 years into the Second Age, the Dwarves started making friends with the nearby Elves. This allowed even more expansion and the building of the famous Western Gate. A gate which almost (almost!) kept that dang wizard out.


It was through these gates that the Lady Galadriel passed on her way to Lothlórien. With friendly Elves on both sides, things were really good… for a while. But it was during the reign of Durin III that stuff started to go bad. This dude Sauron showed up and started a war with Men and Elves. The lands to the west of Khazad-dûm were destroyed. Durin III did send troops to help the Elves, and that saved Elrond. Sauron, unhappy with this turn of events, ordered his Orcs to attack Khazad-dûm. Which they did for basically the rest of history.

Durin III also came into possession of a ring of power around this time. It’s not clear if Sauron or Celebrimbor gave it to him. But this takes place during the time covered in the new Amazon show, The Rings of Power. From this point on, Khazad-dûm would become more insular, and start to diminish. A short time later, under Durin IV, the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm joined the Last Alliance and helped cast down Sauron.

Khazad-dûm in the Third Age & Beyond

For the first two thousand years of the Third Age, things went pretty well for the kingdom. Though the population was in decline, they were richer than ever. Then they dug in the wrong spot. Dwarven greed unleashed a hidden horror: a Balrog. This daemon killed King Durin VI and his son. Thanks to its rampages, the Dwarves were forced to flee their ancient home. After thousands of years, the city was deserted and renamed Moria.


Soon Goblins, Orcs, and cave trolls moved into the old Dwarven Halls and pillaged them. Nearly 800 years after its fall the Battle of Azanulbizar, the largest battle of the War of the Dwarves and Orcs was fought outside the Eastern Gate. Despite winning the battle, the Dwarves did not attempt to retake the city. Nearly 200 years later, a group of Lonely Mountain Dwarves under Balin did attempt to retake the city. Their colony lasted for 5 years… until they were all slain.

Famously, the Fellowship of the Ring passed through Moria. During this passage, the Wizard Gandalf destroyed a number of famous locations and killed the endangered Balrog. With the Balrog dead, the Dwarves under Durin VII were able to resettle the city in the Fourth Age. Past this, we know nothing more.

Khazad-dûm in the Rings of Power

During the time frame of Amazon’s The Rings of Power, Moria is shown to be a rich and powerful city. Unlike later ages, it is filled with light and greenery. All this is made possible thanks to Dwarven engineering. Shortly before the start of the show the Dwarfs, ruled by Durin III discover Mithril, however, they keep it a secret.

The city is drawn into wider events when Elrond Half-Elven shows up. He meets up with his friend the future Durin IV and learns of Mithril. Though mithril could be used to save the Elves from an oncoming calamity, Durin III ultimately refuses to mine it. He closes the mines and the city seems to take a turn away from the outside world.


Let us know if you could take a Balrog for all that loot!

Author: Abe Apfel
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