Neo-Khuzdul comes to LoTRO

Well met all!

As part of the updated neo-khuzdul material (that has been finished and will be available in the very near future)… lessons will be offered to all you dwarves out there that are a bit rusty on the dwarf-tongue of old.

The lessons will be given in online form (replacing the current ones on the youtube channel), as regular LIVE Skype classes AND as classes in the Lord of the Rings Online Game.

Learn Dwarvish

Learn Dwarvish

Our first LoTRO lesson (done completely in RP) will start October 16th. at 3PM Server Time.  As Khuzdul is a secret language it goes without saying that ONLY Dwarf characters will be welcomed (time to roll a dwarf on the Laurelin Server if you don’t have one yet).

More news on the online and LIVE Skype classes will follow in the days and weeks to come, stay tuned!

Every at your service.

Posted in Durin's Folk Kinship, Events, Language | 3 Comments

A present for you….. at last.

After a hiatus of a few months, finally a full length post on the Dwarrow Scholar blog.

Reason why I shamelessly abandoned the fabulous readers of this blog ?

I was utterly consumed by a present.

“A present?”, you say.

Yes, call it a very late Durin’s Day gift…

As a gift from me to all who have been extremely patient in the past months (and year).

I am referring to the Neo-Khuzdul dictionaries and documents, which I’ve made available to all that have requested it via email (check your mail if you are one of them).


E-K Cover

Ever since I first read dwarvish words in Tolkien’s works I couldn’t help but attempt to figure out the secret language behind them. It took years before I eventually started (in 2008) to note down some of my thoughts on Khuzdul, which eventually lead to the upload of a first Neo-Khuzdul dictionary in late 2010.   The day I uploaded this tiny online version I was actually already actively working on a revision.  This revision ended up on in 2012.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought these documents would receive over half a million views a year later. A fact that continues to humble and baffle me.

From today you’ll no longer find this version on Scribd, as I don’t like the fact that this site charges for documents I make available freely. If I had known that at the time, I would undoubtedly have posted them on another site. As I believe all should enjoy these files without any charge.

Much like the previous version, as soon as it was released I started working on an update.

What started out as a small update turned out to become the biggest dwarf-related project I have ever completed.

Not only has the size of the dictionary expanded, it grew to massive proportions including many additional support documents, in addition to quite a few related extras.

Before I go into the details of what has exactly changed,

I wanted to take a bit of time to answer an important question about this release.

Some have wondered why it has taken over a year to release this new version of the Neo-Khuzdul dictionaries.

Unfortunately I had to reschedule the release date of these documents no less than 5 times since my first announcement of this update.  There have been a few reasons for this, the main one is that I underestimated the amount of work that needed doing.  I didn’t want to publish a version with one or two updated words, I wanted to make a full fledged dictionary, with added material, nearly turning into a book of its own.  Secondly, I had to rethink my Neo-Khuzdul version.

My initial Khuzdul version was based on Tolkien’s writings (obviously), the Neo-Khuzdul of David Salo, LotRO place-names and the little I knew of Semitic-languages. My own imagination filled in the many blanks I best I could.

The main challenge was to combine all these sources into a version that could stand on its own as an actual conlang.  This was as difficult as trying to fit four large square pegs into one tiny round hole.

Obviously I could not and would not sacrifice any of Tolkien’s original ideas and those had to be preserved 100%, which wasn’t a problem at all, as all other sources had obviously started from Tolkien’s works as well.  The issue was to make coherent the versions of Salo, LotRO and my own ideas on Khuzdul.  This resulted in the version that was published in 2012, including many documents that detailed how words were constructed.  The language had a root in Hebrew and Arabic, yet became a very artificial language – inspired by the fact that Aulë (Mahal – creator of the dwarves) “created” the language for the dwarves for them.


Though I was initially content with this version, the more I read and studied Semitic languages the more it screamed for a revision.  In between two major computer crashes, a mail hack and new professional and personal endeavors I continued to work on this version relentlessly. In January 2013 I even enrolled in Arabic classes, followed by Hebrew classes in May 2013, lessons I took (and still take) to ensure the new version would have a more natural Semitic structure and feel.

Every time I came close to releasing a new version, I wasn’t completely content with it or wanted to add something else to it, which added another month and yet another month to the project.  Until one day I said to myself… “you’ve kept people waiting long enough, just set a date and release it”.  To be honest, the weight of the project was consuming me and for my own peace of mind I had to post this version.  I say this version, as I will likely continue to update it as I see little errors or things I believe should be added.


Now what exactly has changed:

* General

* Verbs and conjugation

* Word structures

* Semitic and Scandinavian influence

* Jawbreakers?

* Additions

* Khuzdul for all


* General:

As I made the decision to turn the Neo-Khuzdul dictionary into a much larger project, I also had to make a decision of another sort.  The previous version had been mainly based on David Salo’s old neo-Khuzdul version. With the Hobbit movies in full swing, I had to consider making it (even more) in line with Salo’s current neo-Khuzdul version. Mister Salo has been absolutely brilliant in letting me have a closer look at his neo-Khuzdul work, either via his website midgardsmal, mail or Skype – Thank you again for your time, effort and patience David.  It was however never my intent to just copy his neo-Khuzdul version, as his interpretation of Tolkien’s dwarven tongue, though brilliant, is not always in line with mine. To clarify, there are elements of his neo-Khuzdul version that (I believe) do not fit with Tolkien’s writings on Khuzdul – an example of this is are the verb forms CaCaC+ / +aCCaC+, while some of Tolkien’s writings speak of other verb structures (Felek, gunud, etc..) clearly using other vowels. Yet at the same time I did not want RP-ers to have to make a choice between multiple Khuzdul versions.  I remained convinced that in the version I needed to make everything should somehow “magically” fit together. I believe I’ve managed in that intent and eventually was able to blend various concepts I used as inspiration, while (which was always my aim) remaining true to every single letter of Tolkien’s one and only real Khuzdul version.

* Verbs and conjugations:

The previous verb structure (how verbs are formed) has been nearly completely abandoned.  Reason for this is three-fold. Firstly, though it was my initial intent to make the language feel more constructed than other middle-earth languages, the rules for verbs made it over-complex, to the point that an outsider would have had tremendous challenges to understand them and use them. Secondly, it had to come much nearer to Tolkien’s intended Semitic-structure.  And lastly, it needed to be more in line with Salo’s neo-Khuzdul version used in the Hobbit movies (see General).  The end result, is something I’m particularly pleased with (if I may say so myself), as Khuzdul fanatics will see Tolkien’s verb structures (gunud, felak) return while remaining true to other existing concepts seen in Semitic languages.


* Word structures:

Likely the biggest change made.  Unlike the previous versions, which was almost exclusively based on singular root forms, word structures are now based on the word types.  A concept that is key to Semitic languages and something I believe was a must in this revision (and my main motivation for it).   Meaning that I’ve gone from 15 rules to forming words, to 25 different word types.  Sound more complicated, but in fact, it’s much more simple to understand and learn.


* Semitic and Scandinavian influence:

It cannot be denied that this version feels more like a natural Semitic language than the previous one, something I’m thankful for.  My studies of Hebrew and Arabic have undoubtedly contributed to this, as many changes were made once I delved deeper into existing Semitic languages.   The main difference between my previous Khuzdul version and this one, is that in the previous versions I mainly used Semitic roots to form new words, while in this version I have drawn from Semitic languages to create the word structures and used other languages to create the roots behind each word. One of those languages was Icelandic, likely the biggest non-Semitic linguistic influence in this revision.  As Tolkien used the dwarven outer names from the Old Norse Poetic Edda, I found it a fitting tribute to do the same with many words.  An example of this influence.  The word for “permission” became êfâl – from Icelandic “leyfa”, transformed with the structure “aCCâC” (which we see in the Khuzdul word “aglâb” – a structure used for abstract type words), making it ayfâl.  Like in Arabic the “ay” changes into “ê”, giving us our end result.  As you can see the influence of Icelandic is there, yet very subtle, hidden underneath a few Semitic and Khuzdul layers.


* Jawbreakers:

“A fair jaw-cracker dwarf-language must be.” – Sam’s opinion of Khuzdul when he heard Gimli speak of the majestic Mountains of Moria. And I think my initial version of Neo-Khuzdul might have been a tad too heavy with the “jaw-crackers”, to the point is was extremely challenging to pronounce.  It was based on the letters found in the Appendices of LoTR, which I later realized were not all required to form the actual language.  Quite a few of these were only used by Tolkien in his other languages such as Quenya and Sindarin. In this version quite a few letters were killed off, that is to say not used to create Khuzdul native words.  Another major change to the sound of this Neo-Khuzdul version is the loss of the harsh fricative sounds (represented in IPA by /θ/ and /x/). Appendix E’s pronunciation guide clearly states Khuzdul does not possess the sounds. So even though I mainly used these in the eastern pronunciations (not the Longbeards), I chose to remove them completely.  You’ll also notice most of the Germanic sounding vowels (such as “ö”) have been removed for the same reason. I believe the result is a Khuzdul which is more natural sounding, more powerful and easier to pronounce.

* Additions:

Just too many to list here to be honest.  The total size of the dictionary has gone far beyond what I ever intended (currently 10 times the size of the previous released version), including over 100.000 nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, etc…

To name a few of the important additions briefly: gerund form, adverb forms, intensifier, energetic nouns, intimate diminutive, etc…

* Khuzdul for all:

Though I have always loved languages, I’m not a linguist, and don’t pretend to be one either. Hence the documents I’ve created have always been meant for anyone with an interest in the language, not for your average linguist.

With this version I have however included the proper “linguistic labels” (at least where I found them of use). When I used linguistic terminology in this version I have however always tried to explain it in accompanying documents.  To make my point, the Neo-Khuzdul lessons I made available for all via YouTube nearly two years ago are being updated – the first lesson of a whole series is available now HERE.

Lastly, those that really can’t get enough of Neo-Khuzdul (if you are as mad as me), I’m starting an interactive and free class (spanning several sessions) via Skype (on top of the interactive classes we are already having in LoTRO).

More news on dates and times later, but those that have an interest in signing up are free to let me know by replying to this post.

If you’ve enjoyed The Dwarrow Scholar Neo-Khuzdul dictionaries and accompanying documents and video content please take a moment and donate. By doing so you will be ensuring the site and documents remain add-free and future updates will be able to continue, in addition to new video lessons, free classes and much more.

Thank you and enjoy!

Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments

Goal! By Thorin Oakenshield

With the FIFA World Cup about to kick off I thought this might be an excellent idea for a bit of Middle Earth trivia about football.
For those of you outraged at the very idea that I dare mention football and Middle Earth in the same sentence… this bit of trivia might just give you a shocker.
Did you know that football was around in Middle Earth?
Poppycock I hear you say. No, I couldn’t be more serious, it was… furthermore, it was known to the dwarves… and I quote from the Hobbit, Chapter 4 Over Hill and Under Hill:
“This won’t do at all!” said Thorin. “If we don’t get blown off or drowned, or struck by lightning, we shall be picked up by some giant and kicked sky-high for a football.”
One of the Stone Giants in the first Hobbit movie.
And from down the same book (Chapter 8 Flies and Spiders): “There was a noise like the kicking of a flabby football, and the enraged spider fell off the branch, only catching itself with its own thread just in time.”
Not only did the dwarves know about a football, the fact that they know it is supposed to be kicked seems to indicate they played it themselves, or at least saw it being played. Thorin Oakenshield is the only Tolkien character that personally mentions the attribute of the sport. Who knows, perhaps Thorin was the striker in the local Thorin’s Hall “Ai-Mênu FC” football squad. Nah, surely he was the manager with Bombur in the goal and maybe one of them quick hobbits up front.
Seriously though, why does Tolkien mention “football” at all in his works? Well, most likely J.R.R. Tolkien (who wrote The Hobbit for his young boys initially) wanted to put a few familiar objects into the text.
So, go out there and enjoy the World Cup and just imagine Thorin shouting by the sideline and Bombur getting the golden glove award. 
By the way… one rule if you wish to post reply to this post, YOU MUST tell us who your favorite team is for the upcoming world cup.  
Mine is….. BELGIUM (what did you expect folks?)
Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Insulting Elves

Update: June 20th: David Salo has since published a detailed explanation of the phrase seen in the films.   Thank you for that David.   All updates in the below article are placed in italic.


As many have requested my view on the neo-khuzdul insults Thorin delivers to Thranduil in the second installment of the Hobbit movies, I thought it might be interesting to make a post on the topic.

The first insult Thorin makes to Thranduil in neo-khuzdul is Imrid amrâd ursul! which is “Die a death of flames!” (lit: “Die a fiery death”). “Ursul” means “fiery” and in typical khuzdul (semitic) fashion it is placed after the noun. This phrase can also be found on page 97 in the Weta AUJ: Chronicles II. Though they seem to have forgotten the “^” on the second “a” in amrâd (which takes the aCCâC form – usual for abstract concepts – seen in khuzdul words such “aglâb” (language).


The second phrase has actually changed in meaning over the course of history.  As David Salo’s neo-khuzdul version has changed significantly, it’s original meaning (what Gimli says in the Extended Edition of Fellowship of the Ring) could no longer fit into his current neo-khuzdul version. (Apparently he never even wrote the line himself).  Originally it was: “Ishkhaqwi ai durugnul” and translated into “I spit upon your grave” (according to a German fan site).  This earlier neo-khuzdul version is not Salo’s own creation and obviously not the one used in the Hobbit movies.

Meaning that David Salo had to come up with something that sounded very similar but had an actual meaning in his current neo-khuzdul version.  The current phrase became: “îsh kakhfê ai’d dur-rugnul!” Witch sounds very similar but has a different meaning altogether.

It means (according to me – which is backed up by Richard Armitage’s own words and Salo’s site – see link above): May my excrement be poured upon the naked-jawed (ones) – Ish = likely a gerund form meaning “pouring” – and fits nicely into Salo’s overall scheme for imperatives, CiCiC; it could come from a root ʔAYAŠA , kakhfê (kakhf = excrement ê = my), ai = upon (as seen in khazâd ai-mênu), ‘d = id = objective article (“the”), Dûr simply means bare, naked, or uncovered, from a root √DAYARA (*√DAWARA) “strip, shave, make naked” (some have suggested this means “head”, but I do not agree as the mountain “Bundushathûr” means “cloudy head”, head would be “bund”); rugn (plural ragân) is the lower jaw (or chin).

So, that’s my* lesson in insulting elves, I hoped you all enjoyed it friends.

*Updated by the teachings of mister Salo of course.

Note: I do not support insulting elves, half-elves or elf-friends in any way, form or fashion and shall not take any responsibility for any physical injuries (or injuries of any kind) upon using the above insults.  😉

Posted in Language | 28 Comments

The Dwarrow Scholar needs you!

Well met!

Those that are giving me a somewhat angry look… mercy please! *starts waving a little white flag*.  It has indeed been a tremendous long time since my last post… and I’ve kept everyone waiting for the updated materials… however… I hope you’ll be thrilled to hear that the updated neo-khuzdul material is getting its last finishing touches. Hence the reason I have not been putting up any new posts on this blog recently… as I’ve used up every spare second of my free time to update and create new neo-khuzdul material for you! … yes you 😉

I’m not going to go into too much detail on the new material in this post (saving that for later), but those that have signed up should be more than happy with the result (if I may say so).

So why this teasing post ? Well… spending months updating and creating new documents has also made me have a closer look at the YouTube lessons I had made in 2012 (those currently online).  As all those needed urgent revision as well.  The result is that I’m in the midst of completing an entire “lesson pack” – containing no less than 24 individual neo-khuzdul lessons.  To make it a bit more interesting than before several stories have been created (finishing some of those now), which will form the backbone of the lessons.  For these stories I hope to find several people to voice the characters.

Dwarrow Scholar Needs YOU

Dwarrow Scholar Needs YOU

What exactly am I looking for:

* 4 to 6 people to voice-act the various characters in the lessons, both men and women of all ages are welcomed.

* People that speak English (does not need to be native, yet needs to have a very good understanding of the language) – if you are reading this without the use of Google translate I guess that means you!   You do not need an understanding of Khuzdul or Semitic-languages, though it’s a plus.

* People with a passion for languages and learning.

* People that are able to record .mp3 audio (via audacity or other) and a have a good quality microphone.

* People that are willing to do this for the glory of it and the good of education (all those sick of hearing only my voice in the current lessons will be tremendously grateful).  This is all non-profit as you might imagine, though your name (or alias if you prefer) will be listed at the credits of each lesson.

How will this work:

* The chosen voice actors will receive materials (transcripts and audio files – to help with the pronunciation) via email (including details on the story, which part they should record, etc…).

* You record your part before the given deadline (you’ll always have a minimum of two weeks to record and send the material)

* The lessons will be audio only (in the style of the 2012 lessons), so no need for any video application.

* The voice actors can always contact me via email or Skype when running into challenges, you won’t be on your own with this material.

* These lessons will be recorded and edited over a period of 6 weeks, after which the project ends.  At the start of each two weeks the voice actors will receive new material (see above), meaning that they’ll need to do three recordings sessions in total, each taking about an hour in total (if that).

What part am I auditioning for ?

That’s difficult to say at this point really, as the lesson stories have several male and female dwarven characters.   These range from soldiers, traders, miners, tavern keepers to famous characters such Ori or Thorin Oakenshield himself.

Interested ? Now what ?

* send me an email BEFORE MAY 23rd at kstrongbeard[AT] with a recorded .mp3 file.  This audio file should tell me a bit more about you (your name and interest in khuzdul is a good start) and should include the famous phrase “Baruk khazâd, khazâd ai-mênu”.  This way I should be able to tell if your audio quality and voice are what I need.

Thank you all and keep you posted!

Posted in Language | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Kili’s Runestone


There has been some discussion of late related to Kili’s Runestone featured in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

The Big question most have is (apart from why doesn’t WETA™ already have this in their shop?)… “what do the runes say?”

As I received a kind request from Kristie Erickson to help out with the translation… that I couldn’t deny in the spirit of Christmas after all… I jumped right in and had a closer look at the stone.

First of all, the stone is not your regular find-in-your-local-stream-kinda-stone, but appears to be a very beautiful polished Labradorite, which is a feldspar mineral.

Kili's Runestone featured in the Desolation of Smaug

Kili’s Runestone featured in the Desolation of Smaug

If we take a closer look at the picture of the runes, we notice it appears to consist of 6 runes. I say “appears”, as I’m not sure that some of the markings here are not just wear and scratches. In fact I personally believe that the last rune has some markings that very likely are not part of the rune.

Khuzdul (and the film version neo-khuzdul) is formed as a Semitic language, meaning amongst other things that the type of vowels and order in which these are arranged among the consonants in a word dictate the exact meaning of it. The linguist charged with forming the film version of Khuzdul is linguist David Salo. One of the characteristics of his neo-khuzdul is the iCCiC form (C being a consonant) for the imperative form (form used for command, orders, requests, permission and prohibition).

An example of that is found in the line “Nî ikrit fund” (meaning: never trust an elf). In this example the word “ikrit” is the imperative form of the verb to trust. We are, in a way, “commanded” not to trust an elf.

Now, what does all this have to do with Kili’s runestone? Well, we can clearly notice the runes for “i” on the first and third rune. Plus the stone also seems to have six rune markings, again consistent with the imperative form of neo-khuzdul. So chances this is some form of command or request are extremely high.

Another hint for this is given when we look at the lines from the film (spoiler alert reminder):

Tauriel:The stone in your hand, what is it?
Kili:It is a talisman…. A powerful spell lies upon it. If any but a dwarf reads the runes on the stone, they will be forever cursed… or not. Depending on whether you believe that kind of thing. It’s just a token… a rune-stone. My mother gave it to me so I’d remember my promise.
Tauriel:What promise?
Kili:That I would come back to her…. She worries. She thinks I’m reckless.

Kili clearly states that it is a promise to come back. This fits with our assumption that these runes use the khuzdul imperative form. “Come Back” (or “Return”) is an imperative form.

The question now is, does this really say “come back”?
What can the other runes tell us ?

Unfortunately not much. The forth could be a “Kh” rune. I say “could be”, as the little dot next to it could be the “h” of the K, but it could very well be the separating word dot (used as a space) to indicate the following word.  Let us assume this is a separating marker, a space indicating two words. The others I can’t be 100% sure of. As the second rune seems to be a form of “N”, the extra stroke is likely a duplication mark, meaning it would be a double “N”. while the fifth rune seems to be a “d”. The last and sixth rune is the biggest question mark. It looks like the rune for the extended “e” (ê), but I cant be sure as the markings are quite unclear.

So if we put all of these assumption together we get “innik dê”.

The main problem off course is that we are not sure what are scratches on the rune or what are actual rune markings. But if by some tremendous amount of luck my assumption would be correct than this word has the radicals “N-N-K”.

The consonants (or radicals) of a Semitic word will determine the general meaning of a word (while the vowels will make it specific). An example of this is (staying with our previous example): AKRÂT, means “The Trust” (using aCCâC form – making it the abstract form), while “IKRIT”, means “Trust!” (using iCCiC form – making it a command). All of the above tells us that if there is another word with these same consonants, we can identify the exact meaning.

The radicals N-N-K seem to be inspired by the biliteral root N-KH, meaning “come” (related to the Adûnaic form “nakh-“).  This could be linked to a duplication pattern we often see in semitic languages which intensifies the verb.  Turing N-Kh to N-N-K, turning “come” to “come back”.

The second word “dê” could be a merger of the word “du” (meaning “to”) and the singular pronominal suffix -ê.  We see an example of the word “du” in Thorin’s battle cry “Du Bekâr (to arms!) in the first installment of the Hobbit movies (at the Battle of Azanulbizar).   So translating this would give us “to me”.

Thorin at the Battle of Azanulbizar ® & ™ 2012 Warner Bros, Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Thorin at the Battle of Azanulbizar
® & ™ 2012 Warner Bros, Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Though we can’t be sure of it at present, I personally remain convinced that it means “RETURN TO ME”

Update: David Salo has in the meantime confirmed our assumption:

Posted in Language, Writings | Tagged , , , , , | 33 Comments

Delving the Dwarrowdelf

When the fellowship journeys through the long dark of Moria they at one point arrive at one of the Great Halls of Khazad-dûm.  This is where Gimli sings to the fellowship of Durin and the Dwarrowdelf (changed to Gandalf briefly mentioning it in Peter Jackson’s adaptation).

The Dwarrowdelf in Peter Jackson's LoTR

The Dwarrowdelf in Peter Jackson’s LoTR

“There must have been a mighty crowd of dwarves here at one time ‘ said Sam; ‘and every one of them busier than badgers for five hundred years to make all this, and most in hard rock too! What did they do it all for? They didn’t live in these darksome holes surely? ‘     ‘These are not holes,’ said Gimli. ‘This is the great realm and city of the Dwarrowdelf. And of old it was not darksome, but full of light and splendour, as is still remembered in our songs.” [LoTR – FoTR – Journey in the Dark]

At which point our friend Gimli begins to chant of the city of old.

Reading this passage again recently, a tiny question popped into my mind… “could Khazad-dûm really have been built?”.  A question that didn’t go away either and starting gnawing at me until I finally did it justice by doing a bit of research and crunching some numbers.   Obviously we have (unfortunately, as usual) little factual numbers to work with from Tolkien’s writing, so we must base ourselves on what little we do know and what conjecture could be valuable for this exercise.

So, what exactly do we want to find out here…

Could Khazad-dûm actually have been built beneath the mountains?

To answer this question we have a multitute of variables to take into account, being amongst others: the density and weight of the Mountains, the amount of dwarven workers, dwarven excavating techniques, workhours per worker, strenght of each worker, system of rubble removal, etc… .

So let’s start with our facts and data we can deduct from these fact.

Khazad-dûm was delved under three mountains; Bundushathûr (Cloudyhead), Barazinbar (Redhorn) and Zirakzigil (Silvertine).  Unfortunately we do not know the actual height or base diameter of these mountains.  We could however base ourselves on maps to find out the base diameter of these mountains.  With a perfect conical mountain, the base diameter is usually twice the length of the actual height.  So, this means that if we found out the base lenght of these mountains by studying Tolkien’s map in more detail we would be able to deduct the estimated height.

Conical Shape

Conical Shape

With both height and base we could make a decent estimate at the weight of this range.

Though we are able to find maps that feature the Misty Mountains, of which these three peaks are part of, it’s a bit of a challenge to find an original map that features these three mountains prominently.

Hence me basing myself on a map featured on The Encyclopedia of Arda. Based on this map our mountains would end up with the following specifics:

Thanks to The Encyclopedia of Arda

Mountains of Khazad-dûm

Mountains of Khazad-dûm

Bundushathûr Height


Bundushathûr Base


Bundushathûr Cubic M


weight in tons


Barazinbar Height


Barazinbar Base


Barazinbar Cubic M


weight in tons


Zirakzigil Height


Zirakzigil Base


Zirakzigil Cubic M


weight in tons


Connecting Passage Weight (tons):


Kh-D Mountains weight (tons):


Total Kh-D Range weight (tons):


So, what do the above numbers tell us really?

In short, the range of the three mountains above Khazad-dûm (mountains and connecting passages and plains) would weigh 7.6 trillion tons.  With the ice and snow on top of these it would likely be closer to 8 trillion tons.

For those that wonder, I calculated the weight based on the average weight per cubic centimeter of earth (5.5gr) and granite (2.8gr), using a 75/25 ratio (a bit more then usual in most mountains – taking into account Sam’s comment “and most in hard rock too! ” ) Metals such as gold, silver or even mithril in this case would not even account for one thousand of a percent of the total weight of the mountains.   Yet to be as complete as I can be, I’ve taken all this into account, and came up with an average weight per cubic centimeter of 4.813 gram.

Now you might wonder what the weight of these mountains has to do with the whole question we’ve asked.. well we’ll come to that a bit later.

Let us focus first on the key question here.. How many Dwarves would we have needed to excavate Khazad-dûm to the size we know from the books?  Without question Khazad-dûm was beyond vast.  By the time of the Balrog (T.A 1980) thousands of smaller and larger mansions would have been build/excavated to house the growing number of Dwarves.  Bring into that equation the Great Halls and the Smaller Halls and the numerous passage ways, this mammoth construction task would make the Great Pyramid of Giza look like a tiny LEGO-set.  So, how many Dwarves would we have needed to actually have completed this “job” ? And would there have been enough of them around to build Khazad-dûm in the first place ?

In order to come up with an answer to this question I based myself on the Khazad-dûm we find in Turbine’s LoTRO.

Moria in LoTRO

Is this the definite answer to the inner size of Khazad-dûm ? No, it isn’t… that I fear rests forever in the genius mind of Tolkien himself.  But to be frank, Turbine did a brilliant job at capturing the vastness of the Dwarrowdelf and in my view comes close to the vastness described by Tolkien.   So let’s crunch some number shall we…

Sizing up and adding up all the Great Halls, Small Halls, mansions, passage ways and mines we find in our virtual LoTRO Moria a grand total of no less then 1.5 billion tons of excavated matter.  To give you an idea this rubble pile could have made a small mountain/large hill on its own with a height of about 500 meters.

We know that the vast majority of the Khazad-dûm would have been completed by the mid of the Second Age (when the friendship with the Elves of Eregion was at its height and the West-Gate would have been built).  Seeing that Durin the Deathless would have founded his seat of power back in the year of trees, we are looking at roughly 6000 years of construction time.

Moria West Gate

Moria West Gate

Now add to that the concept that Dwarves are very hardy beings, that live more then twice as long as men and are expert delvers, we start to get a good idea of how many delvers we would have needed to complete this epic monument that is the Dwarrowdelf.

Let’s say our average dwarf works for 150 years (excluding their youth and old age), hardy as he is he can work 12 hours a day (forget the Middle-Earth union for minute).. and would work about 300 days a year (apart from the Dwarven holidays these lads would be delving away).  Being stronger than men we can safely say these dwarves would have had no problem with cutting away 30 kilos per hour (which would be twice as much as what men would have been able to on a very good day, in present day).  So with all these founded assumptions… we can work out that we would have needed a work-force of 2381 dwarves (on average) each generation.   Each dwarf excavating about 16 tons of rock over their lifetime.   If the above were true, Khazad-dûm could indeed have been completely built by mid Second Age.

These figures aren’t pulled out of thin air either as Gimli gave us a very decent hint at the construction fury of the dwarves:

At the Hornburg: “Ever my heart rises as we draw near the mountains. There is good rock here. This country has tough bones. I felt them in my feet as we came up from the dike. Give me a year and a hundred of my kin and I would make this a place that armies would break upon like water. …Sleep! I feel the need of it. Yet my axe is restless in my hand. Give me a row of orc-necks and room to swing and all weariness will fall from me!”  [LoTR – The Two Towers – 7 Helm’s Deep]

This may have been a bit of boasting on Gimli’s part, though I doubt it myself.  Still, Gimli seems quite convinced that a hundred longbeards could construct a massive defensive structure in only a year.  Which strengthens my earlier suggested numbers on dwarven work ethic.

The big question now is, would there have been at least 2381 dwarves ready for delving each generation ?

Dwarf miner by Vikingair Thane

Dwarf miner by Vikingair Thane

Short answer… eventually YES.   The first generations, at the time Durin the Deathless founded Khazad-dûm, would have been too few to complete anything more than a few mansions and perhaps a small hall.  But after about 30 generations the numbers would have been enough for the dwarves to go into overdrive and create massive construction works, such as the endless stair, many of the great halls and eventually passages to the West leading to the Hollin Gate.   So work on Khazad-dûm would have started very slow, due to the very slim number of dwarves around.  At the end of the first age, when many of the Firebeards and Broadbeams fled to Khazad-dûm (after the Halls of Tumunzahar and Gabilgathol fell to ruin), there would have been more than enough dwarves around to reach our minimum number of 2381 dwarven workers.

It would be fair to assume that the workers that actually delved the Dwarrowdelf would likely not have been the largest group of workers by the start of the Third Age.  As by this time most of the grand constructions of Khazad-dûm would have been completed and mining for Mithril would have become the highest priority.

Which leads me to a little bonus point in this article.

Bilbo/Frodo's Mithril Courslet

Bilbo/Frodo’s Mithril Courslet


How much mithril would the dwarves have mined by T.A 1980?

I know, I know, this is based on a zillion variables and would be as accurate as pinning answers on a board and throwing a few darts at them.  Still, that won’t stop me to have a bit of fun and come up with a somewhat educated guess.

“‘The wealth of Moria was not in gold and jewels, the toys of the Dwarves; nor in iron, their servant. Such things they found here, it is true, especially iron; but they did not need to delve for them: all things that they desired they could obtain in traffic. For here alone in the world was found Moria-silver, or true-silver as some have called it: mithril is the Elvish name. …… ‘Mithril! All folk desired it. It could be beaten like copper, and polished like glass; and the Dwarves could make of it a metal, light and yet harder than tempered steel. Its beauty was like to that of common silver, but the beauty of mithril did not tarnish or grow dim.” [LoTR – FoTR – Journey in the Dark]

What does the above tell us…  Mithril was a very light metal and the mining industry of Khazad-dûm was aimed at it exclusively.  We also know the dwarves were relentless at finding new veins of Mithril, eventually leading to their own doom.     So, without much shame, here come my darts…

1) Mithril was nearly as light as water (1.05 grams per cubic centimeter)

2) It was common at first in Khazad-dûm (likely slightly less common as gold would be, yet at lot less frequent than iron ore), but became ever more rare as time went on.

3) We know these mountains contained gold and jewels, so taking real life examples of mountains that also contain gold and jewels, we can estimate how much of these metals would have been in these mountains.

As a result: The three mountains of Khazad-dûm likely contained over 100 tons of Mithril.  That sounds like a tremendous amount at first, yet is not even one billionth of the total weight of these mountains, making it extremely hard to find.  And once the first larger veins were excavated the price of mithril would have gone “beyond price”, forcing the dwarves to delve deeper and deeper for it, as we know.  By T.A 1980, some 9000 years since the founding of Khazad-dûm, it is extremely unlikely the dwarves would have been able to find more then 1% of that total mithril weight.

Giving us a bit more than 600 kilos of true-silver.  If you think that thousands and thousands of dwarves would have been delving for generations to gather this “small” amount, you quickly think at how rare a mithril shard would have actually been. The average dwarven delver would likely not even have found a handful of it, over his entire lifetime.

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