Gandalf suggests an alternative path to cross the Misty Mountains by traveling underground through the Mines of Moria. Aragorn does not want to take this route, but it is the only option. He warns that Gandalf in particular should avoid Moria, but does not explain why. Feeling differently, Gimli is excited by the opportunity to visit the abandoned dwarf kingdom of his forefathers. He also wants to seek his missing friend Balin, who set out on a quest to reclaim the ancient kingdom and has not been heard from since.
Aragorn’s warning that Gandalf should not enter the Mines of Moria proves prescient, for the wizard will be lost to Fellowship there. This is one of many moments of accurate prediction by various characters in the novel. Such foresight suggests there is an overarching power of fate that drives the events of Middle-earth, thereby troubling the concept that individuals have free will.
The Company moves away from Caradhras quickly when they hear the howling of wolves nearby. The creatures attack that same night. Backing the Fellowship against a great bonfire they have built, Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas, and Gimli each fight with skill and bravery—Aragorn and Boromir use their swords to lethal advantage, Gimli staunchly wields his axe, and Legolas fires volleys of arrows into the wolf pack. When Gandalf casts a great spell of fire, lightning, and thunder to set the surrounding trees ablaze, the group finally manages to beat the great host of wolves back. The hobbits have drawn their swords but have not taken part in the battle, and are in awe of their fellow warriors. The aftermath of battle reveals that the wolves were actually magical wargs, for there are no bodies on the ground belonging to the slain creatures.
Using a combination of arms and magic, the wargs are defeated. The story’s established pattern of protection of the hobbits continues, as their survival at this stage depends entirely on other, more powerful allies rather than own abilities or heroism. This will change as they face more varied situations that require other skills than mere strength.
In the light of the morning, the Fellowship advances to the western gate of Moria. Sam is distraught to let Bill the Pony loose, but the packhorse cannot be taken through the Mines. Gandalf solves a riddle to open the great doors, and just in the nick of time, for a monstrous creature rises out of the deep pool beside the gate to attack the Fellowship. One of the monster’s great tentacles drags Frodo into the water, and it is only quick action with a knife from Sam that saves the Ring-bearer; the rest of the Company are momentarily frozen in shock. Then Gandalf orders them all inside the gate, where they are trapped, for the great creature uses its strength to permanently shut the doors on them before retreating to its pool.
After catching their breath in the darkness, Gandalf leads the Company into Moria using a dim light atop his staff to guide the way. The nine walk through miles of intricate passages that are littered with great pits that drop into the deep. They are aiming for the eastern gate as their exit. Except for Gimli and Aragorn, the Fellowship’s anxiety heightens with each crossroads in which Gandalf stops to take time to choose his direction. Aragorn assures the hobbits that they do not need to be afraid—he has faith in Gandalf’s navigation, for the wizard has undertaken far mightier and more complex feats. However, Frodo feels certain of evil ahead, and the Ring weighs heavily around his neck. He also hears the possible patter of faint footsteps tracking their journey.
Trapped in Moria, the Fellowship have no option but to move forward through the darkness. The increasing threat of evil is felt most keenly by Frodo as Ring-bearer, as he is consistently portrayed as extremely sensitive to external forces. The sound of footsteps following them is the first mention of what is later revealed to be Gollum.
After several more hours of travel, they reach a crossroads where Gandalf struggles to choose which of three passages to take. Deciding to halt for the night while the wizard considers the possible decisions, the Fellowship sets up camp in an old guardroom to the side of the passages. Pippin throws a pebble down a deep well shaft, and it echoes loudly deep into the Mines. Gandalf berates Pippin for his foolishness, and in the aftermath of the falling stone, rhythmic sounds like the taps of a hammer echo up the well before dying away. The wizard takes the night watch, for he is too anxious to sleep.
Gandalf awakens his companions after six hours, having decided on a path using his feelings and sense of smell. After marching until the hobbits are exhausted, the members of the Company suddenly find themselves in a great empty hall where they spend the night huddled together for warmth. Gimli entertains the hobbits by singing Durin’s Song, a chant that tells of the ancient splendor of the dwarf-king Durin’s realm before its great fall into ruin. Gandalf then describes the history of the dwarves in mining the wondrous and rare metal called mithril, which is prized for its unparalleled beauty, lightness, and strength. Frodo realizes that the chain mail he wears beneath his clothes is made from the priceless metal. On guard that night, Frodo thinks that he sees luminous eyes watching the Company from across the hall.
Gimli’s recital of Durin’s Song is another example in the novel of song as a method of keeping memories of the past alive. The song furthermore reflects the repetitive nature of history, for the decline of Durin’s kingdom is paralleled by the current decline of the Third Age of Middle-earth. Song is therefore a medium that expresses both nostalgia and the idea that history is cyclical. Frodo also realizes that there is more to Bilbo’s gift of chainmail than he first realized, for it is a priceless item that will likely prove valuable in protecting the Ring-bearer from harm. The watching eyes again foreshadow Gollum’s eventual appearance.
Following breakfast the next morning, some light brightens the hall slightly through deep window shafts built into the mountain. While exploring the cavernous room, Gandalf leads the Company into a large side chamber where they find a tomb. The members of the Fellowship grieve to learn that the tomb is Balin’s, with Gimli casting his hood over his face.
The Company’s grave fears for the plight of Balin and his people have been realized. Readers familiar with Balin from The Hobbit will relate more to the character’s deep grief here.