The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria

Eric Weir

The Doors of Durin were the western entrance to Hadhodrond or Khazad- d(o)m, later called Moria. They were built in the Second Age of Middle Earth, probably before Year 1000, at the time when the friendship between the Elves of Eregion and the Dwarves of Khazad-d(o)m was greatest there has ever been between the two peoples. {1} They stood until 13 January, 3019 Third Age, when the Fellowship of the Ring passed through them, narrowly escaping the Watcher in the Water, which slammed the Doors shut and buried them. {2}

The Doors were built by the Elves and Dwarves in cooperation. Narvi, presumably the greatest craftsman of the Dwarves of that time, designed and made the Doors themselves; Celebrimbor, Lord of Eregion and a descendant of Feanor, drew devices on them in _ithildin_: The Emblems of Durin, a hammer and anvil surmounted by a crown with seven stars; The Tree of the High-Elves; and the Star of the House of Feanor. Written on the Doors were the words:

"The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Say 'friend' and enter. I, Narvi, made them, Celebrimbor of Hollin drew these signs.

" {3} The Doors were so constructed that one could open them from within by pushing on them. According to the Dwarves, the strength of two was needed to do this. The Dwarves always kept a guard inside the doors, so that a single person, or a person trying to escape, could not escape without the help of the guard. {4} However, there was no way to open them from the outside except by saying the password -- then the Doors would open by themselves. {5}

After the Doors were made, they stood open for many years as the Dwarves of Khazad-d(o)m and Celebrimbor's people engaged in trade and various projects to their mutual benefit. {6} About 1200 Second Age, Sauron, in his guise as Annatar (Lord of Gifts) started to teach the elves of Eregion secrets of putting power into objects. Sauron made the One Ring in about 1600 S. A., and the Elves perceived that they had been tricked and Sauron would enslave them. The War of Sauron and the Elves began, and in 1697 S. A., Celebrimbor was killed and the Elves of Eregion were defeated by Sauron. A host of Dwarves and Elves from Lorien issued through the Doors upon Sauron's rear in the battle, which enabled Elrond to escape, after which the Doors were shut against Sauron's army. {7} The Doors remained shut throughout the Dark Years (i. e. until the end of the Second Age). {8}

The Doors are not mentioned again in history until the time of the Fellowship, although they must have been opened and closed many times by Durin's folk before the Balrog came in 1980 Third Age. {9} After that, with the brief exception of the occupation of Khazad-d(o)m (now called Moria) by Balin's expedition {10}, they seem to have been closed. When the Fellowship stood before the Doors, no one knew how to open them from the outside. {11)

Gandalf wasted much time and the Fellowship nearly fell victim to the Watcher because he erroneously translated the inscription on the Doors as

"Speak, Friend, and enter.

" He concluded that there was a password, but did not realize that the word was in front of him. He solved the riddle when he said


", the Elvish word for friend, and the Doors opened. As Gandalf said,

"Those were happier times.

" {12} Happier and indeed trusting, to write the password on the outside!

There were various defenses built in, however. First, the lettering on the Doors only mirrored moonlight and starlight, and could not be seen until one had spoken words that would make it visible. {13} Therefore, enemies without did not have access to the password unless they were of considerable learning in the lore of the Elves. Even if the enemy outside the Doors knew the password, inside the Doors was a stairway of two hundred steps as a defense against enemies. {14} One might assume that the roof above the stairway was equipped with openings from which invaders could be attacked. In any event, the Doors were never breached in time of war.

The inscription said to be on the Doors is somewhat puzzling, because at the time the Doors were made,


" was called Khazad-d(o)m by the Dwarves (

"Khazad-d(o)m, the Dwarrowdelf, that is now called the Black Pit, Moria in the Elvish tongue

") {15}, and (formally) Hadhodrond by the Elves {16}, a word which is a rendering of Khazad-d(o)m into Sindarin sounds.


", meaning in Elvish

"the black pit

" or

"black chasm

" was an opprobrious name for Khazad-d(o)m used by the Elves, who were not fond of dwelling so far underground {16}. The Dwarves would probably have been insulted by the use of this name on their West-door, and since the name Khazad-d(o)m was no secret {18}, one might think that should have been used instead. The only explanation for this is the great friendship, previously referred to, between the Elves of Eregion and the Dwarves of Khazad-d(o)m at that time. (19)


1. LOTR, Appendix B, The Second Age
2. LOTR, I, Book II, Chapter 4, A Journey in the Dark
3. Ibid. This is a translation. A transliteration would be: Ennyn Durin Aran Moria: pedo mellon a minno. Jm Narvi hain echant: Celebrimboro o Eregion teithant i thiw hin.
4. UT, Part Three, IV, The Hunt For the Ring, Text and Note 12
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. LOTR, Appendix B, The Second Age; UT Part Two, IV, The History of Galadriel and Celeborn
8. LOTR, Appendix A, III, Durin's Folk
9. LOTR, Appendix B, The Third Age
10. LOTR I, Book II, Chapter 2, The Council of Elrond, et seq.
11. LOTR, I, Book II, Chapter 4, A Journey in the Dark
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid.
14. Ibid.
15. LOTR, I, Book II, Chapter 4, A Journey in the Dark
16. Sil., Chapter 10; Sil., Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
17. LOTR, Appendix F, II
18. Ibid.; Sil. Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
19. The author of this article thanks Lars-Einar Fryklof (Lars- for his kind assistance and criticism, which led to the correction of some errors.

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