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Old 10-20-2002, 02:32 PM   #1
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Sting The Westgate Pool and the Watcher in the Water

When the Fellowship came to the location of the former Sirannon, Gandalf was surprised to see it dried out, and the Westgate valley in front of Moria flooded. This very ignorance of the wizard seems surprising in itself – since the water and the Watcher had already reached the western gate at the end of the colonizing attempt by Balin and others in 2994, almost 25 years before the Fellowship came there.

“The pool is up to the wall at Westgate. The Watcher in the Water took Óin. We cannot get out” is what is written in the Book of Mazarbul, and Gandalf does not share much more information about either the pool or the Watcher with the reader, either.

Therefore, the questions remain, how come the valley was flooded, and how did the Watcher, leaving aside its mysterious origin and nature, get there?

What the text of The Lord of the Rings somehow seems to imply is that the Watcher itself steadily dammed the Gatestream, and when it had become the lake that filled the valley, it resided there. However, at second looks, I begin to wonder whether that is really the most plausible explanation for the flooding of the valley, and I am not sure the Watcher would have been independent from the ongoing war between the dwarves and the orcs, only taking the toils of damming the stream in order to catch Óin or another dwarf or orc, when it did not appear in records before that and therefore apparently did not need much contact with the world outside the cavernous streams of Moria.

If it was the orcs who dammed the river in order to keep the dwarves shut in from the west, they did not really succeed; in fact, they only lessened their way of assault (and they left the hollin trees at the gate stand, highly unlikely).

Telchar made the interesting point that the dwarves probably were able to flood the valley of the Westgate at will as a defense mechanism. From what I’ve read, I like the idea and find it well possible. We would have to imagine that something went wrong, the Watcher came and made the flooding irreversible. The idea seems supported again by the Mazarbul: “They seem to have made a last stand by both doors.” Defending the narrow causeway must have been easier than defending the whole valley. Incidentally, it would only be too interesting to know what side the Watcher would have fought on, if any.

But what of the Watcher in the Water itself? It seems very unlikely that the dwarves wanted it to be in the pool to ward of the orcs, but it seems well possible the other way around. How, and if, the orcs could have lured a creature far beyond their power would remain speculation. The Watcher most likely just found a convenient way to the surface and a supply of prey in form of the pool, I’d say.

Apart from the side remarks, it boils downs to the question of what came first, and whence – the pool or the Watcher?
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Old 10-20-2002, 04:36 PM   #2
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Telchar's explanation, that the dwarves were able to flood the valley seems likely. Note that Thorin employed this very technique at the Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit.

I doubt that the West Gate was built with such a mechanism in mind, given the peaceful times in Hollin. More likely Balin himself ordered it, remembering Thorin's method of defending against greater numbers. He was there after all, and witnessed its effectiveness. Likely they were preventing attack and orc reinforcements from the west gate, hoping to defend the east gate, which was also their escape back to the Lonely Mountain. What was to the west for them - Rivendell? Hobbits?

A hurried job with little knowledge of the current denizens of Moria could have had some unintended bad results. Were there caves perhaps, or mine shafts in the valley, leading to the depths of Moria, that normally weren't flooded?

I can see it now.

The dwarves dam the river. But nothing happens, the water drains first into caves, mineshafts and unknown pits in Moria.

Their plan apparently failing, orc reinforcements enter the west gate, and the dwarves are pushed back to the greater halls of Moria.

Then the dwarves are attacked with fury on the other side at the east gates. After the fall of Balin the dwarves lose heart, and are forced to defend themselves to the east.

The dwarves hold out, defeat the lesser number of orcs from the west (the main attack fell at the east gate) and send dwarves to hold the west gate, just in case they can't win back the east.

They return to find that their plan has belatedly succeeded. Now trapping them.

The denizen of the deep, the Watcher in the Water, like any predator would naturally swim up the caves/mine shaft to roam its new territory in search of prey. Obviously with those tentacles and stealth it relies on grabbing prey as it stops to drink from its pool. Probably the dwarves flooded its usual hunting grounds. With the Watcher the dwarves could not un-dam the river.

It would snack on a dwarf or two, before those who escaped could return to the interim Lord of Moria, to tell him the bad news that the west gate was closed to them: they had to win back the East Gate or die. Clearly they no longer had the numbers to go against the main assault of the orcs, and there was no escape. So they did an Alamo-esque last stand in the Hall of Records.

As for Gandalf not knowing the river was dammed, that is clearly the result of the lack of satellite imaging. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] Seriously though, in wilderness areas even today people have to go to a place to see the trail conditions.

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Old 10-20-2002, 05:00 PM   #3
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That sounds like a probable outline.

But perhaps the dwarves' flooding the valley was not intentional at all, and it happened when they struck a wrong tunnel or cavern while excavating; who knows. That way, the colonizing attempt could be seen as parallel to the original fate of Moria, with the greed of mithril leading to unlucky or imprudent actions which result in the awakening and ensuing confrontation with an "ancient evil".

And I forgot to mention that whoever replies with "The Watcher and the Balrog are one and the same" gets a bonus point. Bone, I mean.

[ October 20, 2002: Message edited by: Sharkū ]
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Old 10-20-2002, 07:56 PM   #4
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I have some speculation on a different track, make of it what you will.

The way that the dwarves referred to the creature as "the Watcher in the Water" always made me think that the pool had been there before Balin's company arrived, and they found the creature there before them.

The word "Watcher" is what grabs my attention. It makes me think of something that was there already, waiting for something or someone to come by for dinner.

Also, if the Balin's Dwarves had created the pool themselves as a defense mechanism and then the Watcher came, I'm not sure that "Watcher" is the word that they would use to describe it. "Intruder" might be the word that they would use.

Of course, I suppose that it is possible that this was a creature that the Dwarves had prior experience with back in their glory days in Khazad-dum, and it picked up the name back then.

So, the pool might have been the result of an earlier natural event and the Watcher came up after that, or maybe the pool was the work of the Watcher itself.

Anyway, that might be poorly reasoned speculations as a result of the connotation of the word "Watcher," but I thought that I would throw it out there for discussion since it presented an alternative theory.

(Although this theory does ignore the possibility that the Watcher is the Balrog, so I guess I don't get a bone. )
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Old 10-20-2002, 09:51 PM   #5
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Well, I have no use for a bone, so I won't suggest the Balrog. But I can just see it now: new topic name, "Did the Watcher Have Wings?????"

I just want to say, Maril, that sounds like the beginning of an action packed fanfic. Battles, strategy, a my. Something along the lines of, "Several Ways Not to Go About Reclaiming an Ancestral Home." Or: "How Dumb Dwarves Die."

(Hm, I don't know why that came across sounding so anti-dwarvish.)
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Old 10-21-2002, 03:53 PM   #6
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My theory is that the Orcs, hearing that a force of Dwarves had occupied part of their old halls at Khazad-dūm, decided to exterminate them all; both to avenge Azog and his bloody and humiliating defeat at the Battle of Azanulbizar and to discourage any further attempts to re-colonise the Mines.

If this was indeed their goal, damming the Sirannon would be the best action to take, cutting off as it did the Dwarves' most logical direction of retreat from a Westward attack "up from east up the Silverlode".

My version of events is that the Orcs didn't attack from two directions at all. They sent a small force to dam the Sirannon, under strict orders not to arouse any suspicion, which would explain why they left the trees alone. Once this was done, Balin was assassinated either as a premeditated opening move or, which I think more likely, a deft piece of opportunism by one Orc. Then the main assault began.

Why a single-pronged attack? My opinion is that the Orcs had formed an unholy alliance with some primordial creature, which they set to watch the Gates, preventing any escape in that direction. They did this as quietly as possible so that the Dwarves would fall back before the larger force, thinking their point of egress clear. Thus by the time the Dwarves realised that they were trapped it was too late to do anything but hole up in the Chamber of Mazarbul, the Orcs having carried the Bridge by sheer weight of numbers.

Now, in my view the only reason why the Orcs should have employed this strategy, which must have been terribly costly in terms of lives, is if their only intention was destruction. They knew that there would be a last stand, and they knew that it would entail heavy losses on their part, but Orcs aren't ones to care about the numbers of their dead, presumably taking their lead from Sauron. Since any Dwarven losses at the Bridge would mean weaker resistance at the end they decided to chance it, relying on their numeric advantage. This advantage carried them to victory, as we have seen.

I agree with Kuruharan about the use of the word "Watcher" in the Book of Mazarbul; it does seem to imply that at the very least the defenders interpreted the creature's role as that of sentry, preventing their escape. It could even be that the Orcs were aware of something nasty in the Mines that the Dwarves had yet to discover, and decided to free it to aid them in accomplishing their objectives. I recall no mention of any Orcs being taken by the thing in the water.

In my view, therefore, the last lines in the Book mark the culmination of a cunning piece of crowd-control and extermination:
...the pool is up to the wall at Westgate. The Watcher in the Water took Óin. We cannot get out. The end comes.
I think that the drums in the deep were a taunt; a final psychological blow to demonstrate that this was the plan all along; that now the end had finally arrived.
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Old 10-21-2002, 04:54 PM   #7
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I think the orcs would have flooded the area themselves not the dwarves, to block them in as others have said. I also beleive the Watcher to be like the Balrog but not the Balrog. just something ancient and evil that lived deep in the mines or below them and appeared after the flooding, as a sentry. Of course the Dwarves may have known of the Watcher from earlier in their history of Moria but it played a new role in the last battle with the orcs. I feel it was on no side inparticular just an evil being.
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Old 10-21-2002, 08:40 PM   #8
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Bone! Bone! Rowrf!

Hmm, well, Gandalf said that the Balrog was a thing of slime when his fire was put out. It had spent all those centuries in the deeps of the word sunk in that underground lake. The watcher and the Balrog had identical attitudes, both attacked the party. Was it too much of a coincidence that two large nasty creatures from earlier ages occupied the same mine?

Problem: the Balrog seems to have needed Pippin's stone to alert it, as the watcher it should already have known of their presence. Solution: the Balrog thought it had buried them in the stonefall at the entrance when it pulled down the trees with its Balrogian tentacles. Pippin's stone alerted it that the job was not done, therefore when the chamber of records collapsed, it knew the company would probably escape again and circled round to catch them.

So, where would a Balrog get tentacles and why wouldn't the company notice same at the bridge?

The Balrog's 'mane' could have been Medusoid (although we aren't told that those locks were of a size to drag Hobbits around, we aren't told they're NOT, and the Balrog was big). Thus, bad hair day: slimy tentacles. Good hair day: flaming mane. No, I don't really like the hair theory.

Possibly at the bridge, the Balrog in its excitement at the immanence of prey was whirling its shadowy shoulder-tentacles so incredibly swiftly they blurred into the ILLUSION of shadowy spreading wings much as a hummingbird's does? That's a nice picture.

Or, the Balrog's whip, in its slimed form, coated thickly with mud and lakeweed, might have been mistaken for tentacles by the over-excited party. That seems likeliest.

The one conclusive piece of evidence is that the Watcher and the Balrog are NEVER seen together in the same room. Not once. Very suggestive.

[ October 21, 2002: Message edited by: Nar ]
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Old 10-22-2002, 07:26 AM   #9
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Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Kuruharan is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.

Alas! There is no appreciation for natural phenomena in Middle Earth today! *weep*weep*

Nar: Good job on combining a "The Watcher was the Balrog" argument with a "The Balrog had no wings" argument.

You definitely get a bone.
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