Gandalf feels that the group’s only remaining option is a path beneath the mountains, through the Mines of Moria. Many in the group tremble at the mention of Moria, which is widely reputed to be an evil place. Only Gimli is eager, as Moria was once one of the greatest places in the realm of the Dwarves, and he is eager to enter Moria to look for any sign of the Dwarf-king Balin. Aragorn makes a mysterious comment, saying that Gandalf in particular should beware of Moria. The rest of the Company is forced to agree with Gandalf’s decision to enter Moria, however, when they hear the howling of wolves nearby and realize they must move on quickly. Indeed, that very night they barely stave off an assault by the wolves. Everyone in the group fights valiantly: Legolas with his bow, Gimli with his axe, Aragorn and Boromir with their swords, Gandalf with a spell that sets the circle of trees around them on fire.
In the morning, the Company proceeds to the western Door of Moria, which is near a dark lake by the side of the mountain. At this point, they decide, much to Sam’s chagrin, that they must let Bill the pony go. The Door is sealed with ancient magic, and it takes Gandalf some time and a great deal of thought to figure out the password—which, as it turns out, is actually written in a deceptively simple riddle on the Door itself. Just as the Company is about to pass through the Door, it is attacked by a tentacled creature from the lake that tries to drag Frodo into the water. The Company rushes through the entrance. The creature slams the Door behind them and piles on boulders and uprooted trees. The group is now committed to the journey through Moria.
Once inside the Mines, the Fellowship is glad to have Gandalf’s guidance, as the caves are vast and intricate. Since the wizard has been through Moria before, he leads the way, lighting the passages ahead with his glowing staff. They walk for miles, through twisting passages and over great, gaping pits. Frodo thinks he hears a strange pattering sound behind them, like quiet footsteps.
After several hours of walking, the Company comes to a fork in the path that stumps Gandalf. They decide to stop for the night while the wizard mulls the problem over. They spend the night in a room off to one side of the path. Pippin raises Gandalf’s ire by carelessly tossing a pebble down a seemingly bottomless well in the room; the noise of the pebble falling appears to awaken something far below. Later that night, Gandalf relieves Pippin of his watch, as the wizard cannot sleep for all of his worrying over which path to take. Gandalf decides that he needs a smoke to soothe his nerves, so he lights a pipe.
The next morning, Gandalf chooses a path. When the group finds itself in an enormous, splendid underground hall with great pillars and shining walls, the wizard says he has chosen correctly. The group stops, and Gimli and Gandalf tell of the history of Moria. The Dwarves mined the caves for mithril, a metal of almost magical beauty and strength. Gandalf mentions that the dwarf Thorin once gave Bilbo a shirt of mail made of mithril—a gift worth more than all the Shire put together. Frodo realizes that this shirt is the gift Bilbo gave him earlier in Rivendell. That night, Frodo thinks he sees two luminous eyes off in the distance, but he cannot be sure.
The next morning dawns, and some light shines into the hall from windows built into the side of the mountain. Gandalf believes he knows the correct path, but he decides he wants to take a look around first. The group comes upon a large, square chamber, dimly lit by the sun through huge shafts in the mountain above. In the middle of the room is a block of stone, inscribed with runes—it is the tombstone of Balin, the Dwarf-king. Gimli casts his hood over his face in mourning.