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Chamber of Mazarbul

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The Chamber of Mazarbul was the old Chamber of Records of Khazad-dûm. Probably built during the earlier years of Khazad-dûm, it was later used as a base by Balin when he began his ill-fated attempt at recolonization in the late Third Age.



Mazarbul means "records" in Khuzdul. This name was used in connection with the Chamber of Records of Khazad-dûm and the Book of Records found in that chamber.

The Books

Illustration of the skirmish between the Fellowship and the hordes of Moria in the Chamber of Mazarbul, by Angus McBridge (Iron Crown Enterprises).


The chamber itself was probably built at around the same time as the Twenty-first Hall. This would have been slightly later than the earliest Dwarven delvings, which were to be found in the lower levels near the Great Gate. In Third Age 2989, Balin led a group of Dwarves to recolonize Moria. Balin chose the Twenty-first Hall as his headquarters and set up his seat in the Chamber of Mazarbul. When Balin was killed a few years later, he was laid to rest in a tomb inside the chamber. The Fellowship found the chamber thirty years after Balin came to Moria and it was here that Gandalf found the Book of Mazarbul, a record of Balin's recolonization efforts. It was in the Chamber of Mazarbul that the Fellowship engaged in a brief fight with a band of Moria orcs and a Cave-troll and where Gandalf made his first stand against the Balrog (see Battle of the Chamber of Mazarbul).

Geography & Appearance

The chamber was located to the right of a pathway that branched off the north end of the Twenty-first hall. When the Fellowship found the chamber as they passed through Moria, Balin's Tomb was located inside it, and a bright shaft of sunlight streamed in from outside the mountain to land directly on the tomb. It is not clear whether the shaft was an original feature of the chamber or whether it was added later by Balin's group of dwarves. It seems more likely that it had been an original part of the chamber construction. There were two stone doors leading into the chamber (one entrance from the Twenty-first Hall, one from the stair tunnels that the Fellowship later used to flee the Balrog). Many deep recesses were cut into the chamber rock containing chests that had been recently looted by the Orcs inhabiting Moria. A deep dust had fallen upon the entire room by the time the Fellowship entered it, and the remains of a long-abandoned battle site were to be seen strewn across the floor.


The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Book II: Chapter 4: A Journey in the Dark and Chapter 5: The Bridge of Khazad-dûm

The Films



In Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring, the Chamber of Mazarbul is presented much as it is described in the books, with a few notable exceptions.

  • First, its geography has been slightly altered. It is placed in the center of the Twenty-first Hall, rather than on the right of a corridor running off the hall to the north.
  • Second, there is only one proper doorway leading into the chamber, rather than the two described in the book. This door is also made of wood in the film, rather than stone.

These alterations are likely the result of geographical simplification and enhancement of geographical drama. Placing the chamber in the center of the Twenty-first Hall gives it greater prominance and significance and provides a less cumbersome position than that of the book. The elimination of one of the doorways allows the chamber to take on an even more unique design than that found in the book (while, again, simplifying it for dramatic purposes). Changing the door material to wood makes it easier for the door to be opened and closed.

  • A well is also introduced into the layout, directly below the shaft of light. This well was found in the guardroom of the Moria Crossroads in the book, but was transplanted here to serve greater dramatic purpose. (A well may also exist in the guardroom of the Moria in the films, however.)

The design of the chamber follows the general Dwarven design ideology employed by the filmmakers for all of the Moria sets.


The Use of English

The use of English to represent the Common Speech in primary sources such as the Mazarbul wall runes is in keeping with Tolkien's own vision of completely translating all Westron into modern English, even in authentic documentation, although upon reflection Tolkien said that this translation was "an erroneous extension of the general linguistic treatment" (The_Peoples_of_Middle-earth, pp. 298-9: "Of Dwarves and Men"). The filmmakers obviously followed Tolkien's original intent, representing what would have been Westron on the "original" Mazarbul walls as English.


Justification for the variances that appear in the Mazarbul wall text comes from Tolkien himself. He specifically claims having used a similar methodology when creating samples of the Book of Mazarbul: "...the text was cast into English spelt as at present, but modified as it might be by writers...who where transliterating the English into a different alphabet"; "...since documents of this kind nearly always show uses of letters or shapes that are peculiar and rarely or never found elsewhere, a few such features are also introduced..." (same reference as above, pp. 298-9). Thus, the variances found in the Chamber of Mazarbul wall runes represent, as closely as possible, the idiosyncracies found in the original Westron.

Behind the Scenes

File:Mazarbul concept.jpg
Concept illustration of the Chamber of Mazarbul by Alan Lee.

The Chamber of Mazarbul was commonly referred to by the filmmakers as "Balin's Tomb" (as it was, more specifically, the site of said tomb).

The Chamber of Mazarbul was a locale that the filmmakers took special care to match carefully to the book descriptions. As with many other locations, Peter Jackson and his team tried to bring a sense that this was indeed the place that Tolkien had described.

Alan Lee was likely the primary conceptualizer of this location. The architecture of the Mazarbul chamber followed the filmmakers' general rules for Dwarven architecture. (for more information, see Dwarven architecture).

Grant Major specifically tried to retain the evocative image of the shaft of light landing directly on Balin's Tomb, though there was a need to shift the geography of the chamber slightly to make this idea work dramatically on screen.

Andrew Lesnie has commented on the challenges he faced while trying to light the set, while maintaining the sense of a shaft of strong white light. His camera team eventually followed the idea that the shaft's light would bounce off the rest of the chamber, creating a glowing ambience that would work well for that specific sequence of the film.

For the shots looking up into the roof of the chamber, the visual effects team had to digitally extend the chamber architecture, because the physical set only extended to a certain height, above which was the lighting grid.

Grant Major authored the English text that would be carved in runes onto the chamber walls by carefully scoring the books for information about Moria's history. His findings were transcribed into the runes that adorn the walls, along with translations of certain sentences into Khuzdul by David Salo.

The runes on the chamber walls were the catalyst for one of the biggest fiascoes for the art department during production. A visiting Tolkien scholar claimed to have seen inane comments written on the walls. The art department searched the wall runes carefully but could find no offending sentences. The scholar revealed that he had simply been told this by a member of the crew. Grant Major and Dan Hennah assumed this was said crew member's idea of a joke. But the scholar later said that he had heard this from a member of the Weta Workshop minatures crew and that the offending comments in fact appeared on the miniature of the Second Hall of Khazad-dûm, though they were unable to be read in the final film and could not be translated using the Dwarvish runes anyway. (See Second Hall). In truth, no such "inane comments" exist on the Mazarbul Chamber wall runes.


See also