The journey gets so desperate so fast. The last chapter ended with "Caradhras had defeated them," and this one begins with the Now what
question which doesn't seem to have much of an answer beyond Give Up or Certain Death. The sense of dread about tackling the Moria route has been built up pretty impressively, especially now that that they all nearly died going the "easy way".
I like it that Gimli is eager to go, not because he's expecting a royal welcome but because he feels a need to find out what happened to his kindred. Actually, I just like it that everyone is expecting the worst, because they're not idiots. Gimli's poem has stayed with me in the form of the one line that Sam repeats, and when I got to that part in the story it was bedtime, so I read it out loud as my bedtime poem, which was nice.
I'm sure that in other contexts we all love wolves for the beautiful creatures they are, but boy are they effectively scary here. Hound of Sauron, indeed.
So let's talk about ponies. This time it's not just me, there's actually a lot to be said about ponies in this chapter. I mean, one pony, obviously. Sam's attachment to Bill is touching, but it's more touching that it's played seriously and the other characters feel for him and regret endangering a domestic animal. I don't remember if we learn Bill's ultimate fate, but based on the last few lost ponies in this book, it seems like we can hope for the best.
The riddle of the password is nerve-wracking in context but still pretty funny. Gandalf being a grouch about it is awesome. He's a mellon of mine.
Chapter is aptly titled -- cripes, all that darkness. Can you imagine traveling through that for days on end? So miserable.
Frodo seems rather embarrassed about the value of the mithril corslet he's been wearing, and it struck me as kind of a hidden commentary on material wealth, because honestly, so what? The only reason it really matters now is that it affords him some much-needed protection, and anyway it's not like the whole of the Shire and everything in it can be bought at any price.
I haven't read The Hobbit
in yeeeears and I prefer to pretend the movies don't exist, but I sort of remember Balin being my favorite Dwarf. Even without getting any of that history, though, finding his tomb is a tragic moment and extremely foreboding. Hope we're all braced for some serious fight scenes next chapter!
For the convenience of our audiobook reader, here's the illustration (by Tolkien's own hand, I believe) of the Doors of Moria:
And here's the runes on Balin's tomb that appear at that part in the story, plus the translation because why not: