I’ve been thinking a lot about the fall of Khazad-dum to Durin’s Bane. And honestly I’m very angry with how the Dwarves are blamed for this: that they were greedy and so they got what was coming. That’s more or less how the narrative on this goes. I’ve seen this thought in analyses I’ve read and it’s pretty plain in the books. Look at this quote from Gandalf:
“The Dwarves tell no tale; but even as mithril was the foundation of their wealth, so also it was their destruction: they delved too greedily and too deep, and disturbed that from which they fled, Durin’s Bane.” (Fellowship of the Ring)
I’m not saying that the mining of the Dwarves didn’t cause the Balrog to reappear (whether the mining woke him up from sleep or made it possible to escape from where he was). But I’m angry at they way it’s talked about. No one knows better than the Dwarves the calamity that waking the Balrog was. But instead of talking about how it was a tragic accident, people talk about how it was the greed of Dwarves that caused it and I take serious issue.
First off, how could the Dwarves have known the Balrog was there? Do you think they would have kept mining in that direction if they knew? How were they supposed to know how deep was too deep? It would have been bizarre for them to all of a sudden be like “ahh yes, we’ve dug deep enough, no more mithril mining for us.” I don’t think the other races of Middle Earth, especially Elves, would appreciate that (I’ll talk about this a bit later).
So it comes back to greed and the idea that coveting something so much will ultimately lead to your downfall. It’s a popular trope (the trope is literally named Dug Too Deep and I’ll give you one guess at the trope namer) and honestly, it’s a tired one. Almost everything bad that has happened to Dwarves has supposedly happened out of their greed, at least according to outside perspectives on the events. A dragon came to Erebor resulting in a huge number of deaths and the subsequent exile of the survivors? Yeah, all because King Thrór
was too greedy and coveted riches too much. Thorin and his nephews died in Battle of Five Armies? Definitely because Thorin got too greedy with the gold in the mountain and coveted the Arkenstone too much. A Balrog reappeared and drove the Dwarves of Khazad-dum out? Well, you can see where I’m going. The idea that bad things happen to Dwarves simply because they were greedy is not a unique idea and it is also an antisemitic one.
Another thing that irks me is how sort of high and mighty people of other races get when talking about it. Like I mentioned before, you get the feeling that people don’t really sympathize with the fact that a hell demon just appeared in their home and killed dozens of their people, including their king, and drove the survivors out of a place sacred to their people. Honestly, what the fuck? How can you reduce that level of horrifying tragedy down to “they were greedy and that’s why this happened”?
And beyond the seeming total lack of sympathy for the Dwarves, consider the fact that there was probably a huge market for mithril. We know the Elves wanted it:
“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. The Elves dearly loved it, and among many uses they made of it ithildin, starmoon, which you saw upon the doors.” (Fellowship of the Ring)
So of course the Dwarves were mining for more. Lots of people in Middle Earth wanted it. It probably brought in a lot of wealth, and I’m going to argue that prosperous Dwarven colonies increase the prosperity of surrounding settlements. Look at how while Erebor was wealthy, men in Dale were also prosperous based on trade. Even the Elves of Greenwood were probably better off while Erebor was prosperous. But besides that, why would the Dwarves randomly stop mining for mithril when there was such a demand for it? It wouldn’t make sense and I have no idea how that could really be called Dwarven greed. Besides, who is giving these weird retellings about how their greed for mithril caused the Balrog to wake up? Not Dwarves, that’s for sure, and throughout the books other races continuously have poor opinions of the Dwarves and treat them terribly. So I’m extremely skeptical of this idea.
Basically, I seriously mistrust anything an Elf or Man has to say about Dwarves and take it with a huge grain of salt because they have continuously demonstrated an unfounded disdain towards them. How can they blame the fall of Khazad-dum on the Dwarves getting greedy for mithril when they themselves were creating a large demand for mithril? How is it that all they can say about the fall of Khazad-dum is that the Dwarves were greedy? So many Dwarves died. The ones that didn’t lost their home. All Dwarves lost a sacred place. Citing greed as the reason for the Balrog every time the story is told is heartless, misguided, and antisemitic.
Tolkien either stated or implied that Dwarves were primarily interested in their Crafts. From that, the absolute worst you could really say is that they worked hard so they could spend their money on good hobby supplies. How is that a bad thing? Hell, sounds like the basis for a pretty decent economy and some happy citizens, IMO.
that moment when Aule, one of the Valar, a godlike being of Middle Earth, so important that only the King and Queen of the Valar are above him, creates the earth and everything precious in it and then creates a people who he teaches how to get all that precious stuff out of there…. and somehow they are greedy and bad and wrong. because they do what a god literally created them to do.
And do we even have mithril objects mentioned that were actually used by the Dwarves? Other than the doors to Khazad-Dûm and there an Elf had a hand in building them.
never over that tidbit
Dwarves are alt-Jews and I love them. “Work hard and make money and spend it on art supplies” is basically my life.
“The dwarves of course are quite obviously – wouldn’t you say that in many ways they remind you of the Jews? Their words are Semitic obviously, constructed to be Semitic.” – BBC interview
“I do think of the ‘Dwarves’ like Jews: at once native and alien in their habitations,
speaking the languages of the country, but with an accent due to their own private tongue…..” – in a letter
First off, how could the Dwarves have known the Balrog was there? Do you think they would have kept mining in that direction if they knew? How were they supposed to know how deep was too deep? It would have been bizarre for them to all of a sudden be like “ahh yes, we’ve dug deep enough, no more mithril mining for us.”
Imagine the next elven trade delegation showing up for mithril.
“Ah yes, I’m sorry to say we’ve none to sell you.”
“Did the precious metal run out? I need two ingots for a crown, another for the filigree on my grand daughter’s knife and I know for a fact that the Lord of the Blue is in the market for enough mithril to fashion a chain shirt for his son, the prince, which I’d hoped to buy here and gift to him.”
“Sorry, I truly have none to sell but it didn’t actually run out as such, we just decided that we’d made enough money so we don’t need any more. You’ll have to look elsewhere – perhaps melt down some of the mithril art you’ve already fashioned?”
The elves would be livid.