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How'd He Do That?

Tolkien Forever

Jan 30 2013, 8:34pm

Views: 2956
How'd He Do That?

In re-reading TLOR's for the 69th time, I came upon something ~ or it dawned on me for the first time, that something ain't right...

Firstly, The Fellowship enters Moria & Gollum starts following them, correct?

How the heck does Gollum get out of Moria and follow the company?

For starters, he's following the Company & the Chamber of Mazarbul is blocked from behind.

This requires another route...

But, the Bridge of Khazad-Dum has hundreds of Orcs and at least two trolls on that side, & on top of it, collapses, so isn't assessable.

Thirdly, Boromir plainly states that coming down the back way out of the Chamber of Mazarbul, now blocked was the only route: "The fire has cut them off. We are on the wrong side.".. And Gandalf states: "If we had come by the main road down from the upper halls, we should have been trapped here.. Let us hope the fire has cut off the pursuit." (which it indeed has without the trolls aid)

So since Gollum is on the wrong side, filled with Orcs & Trolls, no bridge over the chasm anyhow, how does Gollum get past the Orcs, out of Moria & right back on the remaining members of the Fellowship so quickly?

It seems rather implausible.

To top it off, Gollum arrives in Lorien ahead of the gang of Orcs ~ Frodo sees his pale eyes hours before the orcs arrive & Haldir leads them off..

Any comments/answers?

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Jan 30 2013, 8:57pm

Views: 1955
The orcs got out rather quickly

It doesn't seem they had to build a new Durin's Bridge after Gandalf destroyed it, or maybe they did VERY fast. So if they could get out quickly, my guess is Gollum was right behind them, then got ahead of them. He wasn't ahead of them by much, and large armed parties usually travel more slowly than individuals. I'm thinking of armies in history that might cover 10-15 miles in a day, whereas solo travelers could do twice that.

Gollum was extremely sneaky without the Ring. I think he could have been behind the orcs on their exit without them knowing it. Or maybe they had word from Sauron to let him pass? I think that comes up much later that Mordor orcs were told to leave him alone.

Tolkien Forever

Jan 30 2013, 11:00pm

Views: 1922
No Time...Plus....

Gollum waits until BOTH the sun and moon have gone down to move at night...

The text says so in several places.

Back to square one.

This one keeps unraveling faster than Sam's coil of rope I'm afraid. Crazy

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The Shire

Jan 30 2013, 11:24pm

Views: 1954

I think the problem comes in with where we assume Gollum is in relation to the party at any given time in the mines.

We know Gollum is sneaky, we know he can climb well and slither around in all kinds of dark and secret places. I would say that he was a lot closer to the company than you are assuming, was on the right side of the fire and scrabbled across somehow. Perhaps via the ceiling, I don't know. Or indeed, being small and tricksy, was on the wrong side of the fire but slithered his way through some unknown, otherwise impassable passage. That's something he's credited as doing a lot.


Jan 30 2013, 11:44pm

Views: 1943
The mountain seemed to be riddled with tunnels and passages...

.. as you'd expect with a mine, and Gollum is small, skinny, used to living underground and very resourceful. So far as I remember, he isn't mentioned after the fight around Balin's tomb. When the Company went into the Chamber, who knows where he went or what he did? He certainly wouldn't have gone near any fighting and I don't see any problem in the idea of him finding his own way out, and then lying in wait.

Tolkien Forever

Jan 31 2013, 1:24am

Views: 1923
Silly Me

I'm actually going by the text & not drawing my own conclusions as per usual these daze.

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(This post was edited by Tolkien Forever on Jan 31 2013, 1:25am)


Jan 31 2013, 5:06am

Views: 1939
So he beat them all out.

Yes, I can see that. The most satisfactory explanation, I think.


Jan 31 2013, 3:35pm

Views: 1889
I'm very sorry that Tolkien didn't spell everything out for you.

And if Tolkien doesn't explicitly explain something in the text, then of course it's inapporpriate to consider everything that might be true of the situation to figure it out. Because if Tolkien didn't tell us exactly how something happened, it's a plot hole.

I'm confused about what you want - people have been speculating about answers to your question and you scold them for doing so, insisting that since Tolkien didn't give the answer, there must be none. So why ask in the first place? What exactly do you want?

all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us...

Tolkien Forever

Jan 31 2013, 4:45pm

Views: 1893
My Reply

Is directed at Mimn's reply (and to a degree the one following) which says I am assuming that I know where Gollum is at all times.

Actually, THAT'S the assumption, not the question I asked, which IS based in the facts, not assumptions, which HIS answer totally is.

I'm simply writing down what Tolkien wrote, which always states Gollum is following the Company for starters.... and that leaves some major holes in getting Gollum out the Door of Moria, let alone to Lorien hours ahead of hundreds of Orcs of their tail.

So what do i want? Perhaps a logical answer, not conjecture that has absolutely no textual backup?

How about this:

'great question.. I never thought of that. I guess Tolkien dropped the ball on this one.' Wink

Until I see something more concrete, I'm sticking with that one.

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Feb 3 2013, 1:18pm

Views: 1844
explanations and speculation - something the Tolkiens started!

"I am not at all sure that the tendency to treat the whole thing as a vast game is really good - certainly not for me, who finds that kind of thing only too fatally attractive. It is, I suppose, a tribute to the curious effect that story has, when based on very elaborate and detailed workings of geography , chronology and language, that so many should clamour for sheer 'information', or 'lore'.

The Introduction to my edition of Unfinished Tales, quoting from a letter written by JRRT in 1955, written before the publication of the Return of the King

So yes, I think its quite likely that JRRT did not think about when and how Gollum follows the Fellowship out of Moria, and that the matter maybe didn't occur to him later or was one of the "appalling mass of letters I receive [from] people who like that kind of thing". So well done - prettty hard, after all this time to find a new issue like this.

What do we do in situations like that? The fatal attraction to "tendency to treat the whole thing as a vast game" and try to fill in any gaps seems to have won over the Tolkiens in the end (of course - it's too much fun). Both JRRT and for his son Christopher, who has prepared a lot of his father's unpublished works, usually with an editorial apparatus commenting on inconsistencies and any attempt he (Christopher) has made to plug them. A fair old bit of work seems to have gone into filling plotholes, and this is important, I think - too big a plothole and the fiction crumbles (though this effect overtakes different readers at very different points). A lot of threads on The One Ring end up carrying on this (good?) work.

It seems like the whole back-story to Gollum being in Moria may be a bit retrofitted In The Hunt for the Ring (with appears in Unfinished Tales) there are extensive notes (from Christopher Tolkien I beleive) trying to explain how Gollum got into Moria (hiding from pursuit by forces of Sauron and/or the Elves) what he was doing there (speculation - trying to find his way West to get to "Shire" for himself) and why he got no further (speculation and/or gleanings from Prof Tolkien's notes about the mechanics of the Hollin-end doors needing the pushing power of two or more dwarves, and so not being openable by a single scrawny Gollum. But I don't see any reference to the problem raised here; how Gollum gets out after the Nine Walkers.

So carrying on in the great tradition of two generations of Tolkiens, this thread has been playing the game we often like here - find a reasonable explanation. It is of course speculation, and its for anyone to give up on it if it becomes unsatisfying to them. I think we have two reasonable suggestions already mooted. Both are based on the idea that Gollum realizes that following the Fellowship closely is going to be too dangerous once they are being attacked. Then either:
  1. He gets out of Moria ahead of them over the bridge before it is broken, and relies on picking up their trail later . Or;
  2. He knows an alternative, non-bridge way out.
Further speculation about alternative ways out: Having the bridge as the only way in/out on the Lorien side would not be very wise or practical a step for the dwarvish architects to have made. Militarily, a single-file bridge is a great obstacle if you envisage an enemy getting in through the Lorien side, but a complete deathtrap if the enemy has broken in from the Hollin side and if any substantial number of dwarves are trying to retreat or evacuate Eastwards out through the Lorien gate. In peace time, I believe Moria was a vast commercial enterprise, principally mining and processing mithril, in exchange for many other goods. So the bridge would have been mightily inconvenient as a goods entrance. It seems reasonable that there might have been other Lorien-end exits to get goods in and out without having to route them over or around the Misty Mountains. In times of war or threat, these could all be blocked up.

Given the complexity of Tolkien's writings, the number of versions and the many years over which he wrote, its quite surprising how seldom we can't find some kind of promising explanation. Obviously there is no longer any possibility of trying such explanations out on the author to see what he thinks, so we have to play our game by ourselves, with only each other to mark our work.

Of course, beyond conjecturing explanations comes writing your own - fan fiction either filling in events which the original story tells us must logically have happened somehow, or inventing entirely new plots, consistent with the original story but not required by it. I say "beyond" in that the author of such a fan fiction has to choose a particular explanation, rather than say it could be this or that.

Tastes vary on when this all becomes a silly or uninteresting exercise - luckily there is always another thread to try instead.

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Feb 3 2013, 2:30pm

Views: 1856
Other uses of the Bridge of Khazad-dum

Although it is one of the rarer topics, I believe we have tackled the problem of Gollum's escape from Moria before this. Only N.E. Brigand, perhaps, could find those posts for you.
Your closing notes, on the availability of fan fiction to work out solutions to plot holes, reminded me of this short attempt from one such discussion in the time of the first release of the Fellowship of the Ring movie by New Line:

The balrog in the movie is plainly a juvenile. There are only two horns, and the hoofs are underdeveloped. The wings are still ethereal shadow, rather than the full-grown functional ones the adults sport in Silmarillion.
Most importantly, it is somewhat unstable and emotionally overwrought. It is unsure whether to attack the company at all, judging by the time it takes to get at them. A mature balrog would have caught them all before they got out of that multi-columned hall, but this one rather shyly (and endearingly) hid behind the columns, and meandered through Moria, barely making it to the Bridge in time to catch Gandalf.
Ah, the Bridge of Khazad-dum! How many young dwarves and dwarf-maidens hurried back over it into the Palace after a late night out spooning down by the Mirrormere? Little used as a defense since the First Age, it had become THE romantic spot of all of Dwarrowdelf. Could you indulge in one last immodest embrace and also keep from falling to your doom? That was a challenge met by many, and failed by some, throughout the great years of Khazad-dum.
The Balrog, poor thing, knew this. Its elders, deep in the bowels of the Mines, kept alive the poetic and romantic traditions of the Dwarves, although the Dwarves themselves had long ago been charred into pencil lead.
The conclusion is obvious: our Balrog was a female, a girl, a blossoming beautiful adolescent Balrogette of some 800 years or less. Raised to consume all mortal trespassers in gouts of hell-fire, she had instead fallen in love with love, and longed for that death-defying embrace that proved one's devotion, on the center of a 3-foot wide stone bridge over a 10-mile-deep abyss.
Gandalf. Not a young man. But shot through with Power, with the Flame of Anor. It seemed so right. She stepped forward, she offered her Flame of Udun.
He, misunderstanding, rejected her. Puzzled, she blew him a fiery kiss. He, unaccountably, showed fear and said NO, Let's Just Be Friends in a tongue only an Elven blade of Gondolin can speak.

Rage overtook her. Balrogs are not calm creatures even in maturity. She determined to hug him if it killed her and him -- and it did. She achieved her wish, even as she and he joined the unhappy toll of lovers who failed the test of the Love-Span of Moria, of Khazad-dum (literally, "Kissing Doom").

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Feb 3 2013, 3:21pm

Views: 1797
Nice one! I did say "tastes vary!"... //


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Feb 5 2013, 11:06am

Views: 1812
A bit of textual backup...

Here are a few quotes that may be useful in playing the "great game" of solving the riddles that Tolkien tends to leave in his story.

Here's the first hint that Gollum is following the Fellowship through Moria, in A Journey in the Dark:
"Yet Frodo began to hear, or to imagine that he heard, something else: like the faint fall of soft bare feet. It was never loud enough, or near enough, for him to feel certain that he heard it..."
Frodo doesn't mention it, either now or a bit later:
"Frodo’s spirits rose a little; but he still felt oppressed, and still at times he heard, or thought he heard, away behind the Company and beyond the fall and patter of their feet, a following footstep that was not an echo."
We know what it must mean of course, and so really does Frodo, but he's not prepared to bring the idea of Gollum out into the open yet - he's still hoping that he's just imagining things.

The next thing we learn is when Frodo is on guard while the others sleep in the great hall. This time Frodo actually sees something, or at least (he tells himself) perhaps only imagines he does:
"All his mind was given to listening and nothing else for two slow hours; but he heard no sound, not even the imagined echo of a footfall.
His watch was nearly over, when, far off where he guessed that the western archway stood, he fancied that he could see two pale points of light, almost like luminous eyes. He started. His head had nodded. ‘I must have nearly fallen asleep on guard,’ he thought. ‘I was on the edge of a dream.’"
The lack of even an "imagined echo of a footfall" tells me that Gollum must have caught up with the Fellowship earlier, probably while the company were awake and talking, and Gimli was singing his song. He waits until Frodo dozes off, then slips into the hall. Frodo sees Gollum, but still can't quite bring himself to believe it, or raise any kind of alarm. Even after he's relieved and lies down to sleep, he thinks he sees the eyes again:
"When he lay down he quickly went to sleep, but it seemed to him that the dream went on: he heard whispers, and saw the two pale points of light approaching, slowly."
So Gollum is still more like a bad dream than a reality to Frodo, and that's the way the story shows him. We get all our information through Frodo's eyes, so there can't really be a direct explanation of what Gollum actually did at this point since Frodo couldn't possibly know. But this little scene in the great hall gives us a nice little clue, I think. Gollum catches up with the Fellowship at this point, that's clear. But we could also surmise that he then makes his way out of Moria ahead of them. It's here that Gandalf tells the others they are heading for the Dimrill Gate, so the eavesdropping Gollum could have decided to go to the Dimrill Gate and pick up the party there. Gandalf also tells everyone at this point about the "great windows on the mountain-side, and shafts leading out to the light in the upper reaches of the Mines." He goes on, "I think we have reached them now, but it is night outside again, and we cannot tell until morning. If I am right, tomorrow we may actually see the morning peeping in."

And sure enough, after Frodo's dream (or is it a dream?) of Gollum's eyes,
"He woke and found ... that a dim light was falling on his face....High up above the eastern archway through a shaft near the roof came a long pale gleam..."
So there you have it. Based on the text, my solution to the "riddle" is that Gollum caught up with the Fellowship at the great hall, then found a way out through a shaft onto the mountainside. He missed all the excitement and was ready to pick up their trail at the Dimrill Gate. Frodo hears no more footfalls or sees any other sign of Gollum until he's on the flet.

I had noticed this apparent "plot hole" in the past, but I've always thought of it not as a plot hole but a storytelling device. Gollum still seems to Frodo like a creature from a nightmare, seemingly on the edge between imagination and reality. Frodo is afraid to say anything to anyone and keeps trying to deny what he hears and sees. So the idea that Gollum can pop up again at the flet, even after what happened in Moria, is just another horrible detail of the nightmare. One of the scariest things about creatures in nightmares and horror stories is that they keep coming back, seemingly with no rhyme or reason, when you're sure you've escaped. Knowing how Gollum had done it would spoil the effect.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings


Feb 5 2013, 11:29am

Views: 1821
Really like your post... literal versus literary aspects

I really like that post, both because of the "detective work" and for raising literal versus literary aspects to this. The literal one (quite literally "how did he do it?") has to work out more or less: if there were no feasible explanation at all story would become unsatisfactory. The literary use of Gollum, as you say, is a different matter: it does seem like Tolkien wants to keep us guessing; he could easily have had Frodo, Sam and Aragorn have in Moria the conversation they have several chapters later on the bank of the Anduin where they all say they've been aware of Gollum following them (but can't think of anything practical to do about it). I do agree - explaining Gollumns movements clearly would spoil this effect, and Tolkien has had to balance these different needs.

Other parts of the Moria sequence are a bit like that too - Gandalf has a magic wrestle with something over the door of the Chamber of Records. He thinks that this ends up bringing the ceiling down, and maybe his opponent has been buried inside. But we never find out more. Either that adds to the sense of building menace up to the confrontation with the Balrog on the Bridge, or it has you wondering who the first adversary was: was it the Balrog (not buried, or easily able to get out?) Another creature, and if so, what? (I believe that has all been debated at least once here!)

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Feb 5 2013, 2:50pm

Views: 1801
About the shafts

Bravo on your post!

I always wonder about the shafts to the outside. Are they large enough for enemies to crawl through? Are they so high up that if you did crawl through, it would require rope to get down to the floor? If they aren't too high, why wouldn't the Fellowship use them to get outside at once?


Feb 5 2013, 5:06pm

Views: 1817
'Rope!' muttered Sam....


'Rope!' muttered Sam. 'I knew I'd want it, if I hadn't got it!'

I'm imagining that the light shafts are pretty difficult to climb up to, from either the inside or outside end. Gollum is an able free soloer (as we see when he climbs down the cliff after Frodo and Sam later). So I have no trouble imagining that he could make a climb that is no option for the Fellowship.

That's the literal reason, perhaps. And of course we don't want to miss Gandalf's heroic end with the Balrog, or we never get Gandalf the White

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Feb 6 2013, 2:05pm

Views: 1803

(to you and NoWizardMe) for your kind words!

I think I should add that I didn't intend my "solution" to sound as if it's some kind of "final answer" to the question of how Gollum did it (i.e. got out of Moria). It was just an attempt to see how far the actual text could help us if we want to come up with an explanation of the puzzle TolkienForever posed.

I like the idea of the shafts mainly because they are mentioned at just that part of the story where Gollum comes right up to the Fellowship. I can imagine him getting as close to Frodo as he dares in the great hall, but then deciding that he can't risk anything more at the moment and working out where to go from here. It's still early in the night when Frodo sees the eyes (he has the first watch), and by the time he wakes up to see daylight through the shafts, Gollum could be long gone.

As we find out later, Gollum is much more able to get around on sheer surfaces than the hobbits are, so I could imagine there being at least one shaft that he could get at. Of course, even if he does get out through one, he's still on the mountainside, higher up than the Gate, and will have to climb down, but again that's something he's pretty good at. The shafts could be completely impractical for the Fellowship (too high, too narrow, and leading to sheer mountainside) and still be okay for Gollum, I think.

But as dormouse says there are probably plenty of hidden tunnels and passages he could have used. I guess the main point here is that Gollum disappears after this, so there's plenty of time and scope for him to make his escape before things start hotting up!

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings


Feb 6 2013, 2:34pm

Views: 1821
Excellent, as usual! //



Feb 6 2013, 6:23pm

Views: 1837
There are no final answers, but that one is a good one :) //


Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....
Feel free to meddle in the affairs of noWizardMe by agreeing or disagreeing (politely...) with my posts! I may not be subtle, but at least I'm usually slow to anger...


Feb 8 2013, 5:03pm

Views: 2761
This +1 //