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"LotR - Stalag 17 inspired silly question" Topic

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Korvessa02 Sep 2023 11:10 a.m. PST

Although I consider mayself a fan of LotR, having read many books and watched all the movies (I even find the Hobitt triology entertaining enough), I decided to reread the books for the first time since the 70s. Just finnished the Moria chapters.
Which is where Stalag 17 comes in. In that movie, they take the time to show had the prisoners hid the dirt when the excavated the tunnels. They had to move a lot of dirt.
Which got me thinking. Moria was HUGE. Where did the dwarves pile all the dirt and rock they excavated to make those caverns? I live in the Calif Gold Rush country. There's very large piles of rocks here just from miners working the river. As much as the dwarves dug out, the refuse pile must have been as large as the mountain itself.

Silly question I know, but it's a rainy day and enquiring minds want to know.

14Bore02 Sep 2023 11:22 a.m. PST

Good question

Kropotkin30302 Sep 2023 11:28 a.m. PST

Indeed a good question. Perhaps the majority of the Moria caverns were natural voids already.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP02 Sep 2023 12:06 p.m. PST

The mountains could be limestone, in which case rain dissolved much of the limestone and it was carried down the Anduin and the Grayflood over thousands or tens of thousands of years. (Note that there are tributaries by both gates.) Carlsbad Caverns and Mammoth Cave are like that, and roughly the same size as Moria. There's also a cave like that near Budapest actually developed into bomb shelter, armory and hospital, and it got a full episode of Cities of the Underworld.

To the extent that's not the case, you're looking at immense spoil piles/slag heaps extending from both the East and the West Gates. My guess would be that Frodo & company were walking on "made ground" for about a day before they entered Moria and a day after they left. Tolkien never mentioned them, but I think you'd have to consider rails, carts and donkeys given the scale of things during the serious mining and excavation.

Of course, The Balrog was woken more than a thousand years before the opening of LOTR--plenty of time for dirt to accumulate, trees to take root and the terrain to look natural to anyone not a trained geologist. Probably only the eagles could still see the artificial nature of the nearby terrain.

Zephyr102 Sep 2023 1:17 p.m. PST

"Where did the dwarves pile all the dirt and rock they excavated to make those caverns?"

Found a valley or canyon (or several) they didn't much care for, and filled those up…? ;-)

Tgerritsen Supporting Member of TMP02 Sep 2023 2:30 p.m. PST

How do you think the Misty Valley became the Misty Mountains? 😀

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP02 Sep 2023 4:23 p.m. PST

Trying to get a feel for scale. Gandalf says 40 miles east-west. If we imagine a 10' wide corridor, you wind up at about 2 million square feet, or approximately 1/3 the square footage of the Pentagon. (I imagine to the extent the Dwarves had to carve them, the ceilings might have been a bit lower.) So if there were three passages per level, it was more or less one Pentagon's floor space. How many levels? And how many passages per level? Probably less in the highest and lowest? Caving is not a safe hobby even if you exclude Orcs and Balrogs. Easy enough to get lost even in the Pentagon.

Again remember timescale. More than 2,000 years of digging in addition to any dissolved limestone, and then 1,000 years of deferred maintenance. It's a wonder Boromir didn't just drop through the floor at some point.

Hmph. I didn't mention that the first railroads were just what I described--wheeled carts on tracks taking ore an spoil out of mining and construction sites. And don't forget ventilation. Gandalf didn't.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP02 Sep 2023 4:43 p.m. PST

Dwarves live for 250 to 300 years. The only race with a more long-term view of things are the elves. So when a dwarf builds something, he builds it to last. And dwarves aren't miners as humans are; they are "delvers", whose "mines" are actually dwelling places for their kind. They don't do "slag"— they are the ultimate "recyclers" of stone. They also aren't in a rush to acquire the mineral wealth of a mountain. They're dwarves, not men. As Gimli describes later in the novels, they are the caretakers of the spaces inside the mountains, spending years to harvest a single gem, while shaping their dwelling spaces as equally carefully. Khazâdum is not a mine— it's a city, and a work of art.

D6Craig02 Sep 2023 8:18 p.m. PST

They dug a big hole to put it all in, obviously!

Hitman02 Sep 2023 9:47 p.m. PST

I just drove through Dawson City a couple of weeks ago, and the entry into the city had massive piles of stones from the dredges(up until the 1960s) after the initial mining in 1896 to 1902. It was unbelievable!! So there must gave been the same thing by the dwarves, somewhere…or perhaps the rock fell down into a deep cavern to wake up the giant beasts!!

Andrew Walters03 Sep 2023 9:03 a.m. PST

I salute you for asking the question.

Sci fi and fantasy worlds often make me ask economic questions, like "where are they getting the food for all this?" And when I pose such questions I usually get shouted down. I think it's fun to think about how this stuff would work.

It's reasonable to assume that they didn't start from scratch, but that they finished out a lot of existing caverns. That would mean a lot less spoil than otherwise.

Zephyr103 Sep 2023 1:22 p.m. PST

"Moria – The Original Minecraft"


Deucey Supporting Member of TMP03 Sep 2023 3:01 p.m. PST

Are you questioning the Dwarves when it comes to mining?

Andy ONeill06 Sep 2023 10:43 a.m. PST

An assumption in the question is that Tolkien considered the excavated rock question.

Korvessa06 Sep 2023 3:44 p.m. PST

Perhaps that's where the magic dwarven rings come in.

David Johansen17 Sep 2023 12:29 p.m. PST

Cahadras was a valley when Durin got there.

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