1218: Doors of Durin

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Doors of Durin
If we get the doors open and plug up the dam on the Sirannon so the water rises a little, the pool will start draining into Moria. How do you think the Watcher would fare against a drenched Balrog?
Title text: If we get the doors open and plug up the dam on the Sirannon so the water rises a little, the pool will start draining into Moria. How do you think the Watcher would fare against a drenched Balrog?


The comic is based on the Lord of the Rings, specifically a scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, where the eponymous fellowship is trapped outside the door to the Mines of Moria. There's a spoken password to open the doors, an Elvish inscription on them provides a clue: "Speak friend, and enter". The party leader (Gandalf) initially interprets this to mean that a friend could speak the password and enter. Only after many unsuccessful efforts does Gandalf realize it is actually a very simple riddle: The password is the Elvish word for "friend" ("mellon"), and the inscription should in fact be interpreted as "Speak [out loud the word] mellon [(the Elvish word for friend)], and [you will be able to] enter". See the Wikipedia article Use–mention distinction.

In this comic, Cueball, White Hat, and Megan reenact the scene, with Cueball taking the role of Gandalf. The doors apparently open off-panel when the password is spoken. White Hat then wonders aloud what the Elvish word for "frenemy" is, and Cueball postulates "mellogoth". This is a portmanteau of "mellon" and "coth", much like how "frenemy" is a portmanteau of "friend" and "enemy". The Sindarin word-root coth, in its lenited form goth, is best known as part of the name of Morgoth (literally, "Black Enemy") of the Silmarillion. The doors apparently immediately slam shut the moment Cueball says mellogoth. It is unclear whether this is because the opposite of the password has been spoken, or because the doors take offense to the word/concept frenemy, of which xkcd has previously made fun in 919: Tween Bromance.

According to Fiona Jallings's textbook A Fan's Guide to Neo-Sindarin, -n + c- would cause nasal mutation at the word boundary when forming a compound word, so a more correct compound word formed from mellon + coth would be mellochoth.

The title text ponders what would occur if the Sirannon, a stream running adjacent to the path leading to the doors, were to be completely blocked with the doors left open. The already partially blocked Sirannon had formed a pool before the doors; which contained some sort of monstrous horror from the depths of the Earth, referred to as the Watcher in the Water. Randall seems to think that the pond draining into the mines would connect the Watcher with another horror within: the Balrog (a high-level servant of Morgoth) living within the depths of the mines. Balrogs are primarily creatures of fire and shadow, so having a bunch of water dumped on it is unlikely to please it but may weaken it. He then goes on to wonder about the outcome of a battle between the two monsters.


[White Hat, Megan, and Cueball stand. Megan has her finger up.]
Megan: I've got it!
Megan: What's the elvish word for friend?
Cueball: Mellon.
[The trio stand. A off-panel door opens.]
[White Hat has his palm out, while Cueball has his palm on his chin.]
White Hat: So what's the elvish word for "frenemy"?
Cueball: ...Mellogoth?

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Is it relevant that there is actually a font named "Mellogoth"? https://www.google.com/search?q=mellogoth 10:57, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

Morgoth actually means "Dark Enemy" in Sindarin, "koth" meaning "quarrel" or "enmity".

Forgive me if I'm wrong as I was never able to read past the house of Tom Bombadil in the actual book but, in the film at least, wasn't it Frodo who solved the riddle? Gandalf merely answered Frodo's question of what the word for friend was which triggered the door but it was Frodo who worked out the meaning of the riddle. 16:06, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

You are correct. Frodo solved the riddle in both the book and the film. 16:11, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

No, in the book it was Gandalf.
'I was wrong after all,' said Gandalf, 'and Gimli too. Merry, of all people, was on the right track. The opening word was inscribed on the archway all the time! ...'
Wwoods (talk) 16:51, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

On the idea of "who would win", one discussion board seems to thinkit would be the Balrog, hands down.

When Gandalf fights the Balrog, they do at one point plumment into an underground lake. The Balrog's fire gets quenched, but he becomes "a thing of slime, stronger than a strangling snake." The Balrog subsequently bursts into flame again when Gandalf chases it back outside, so perhaps its incendiary quotient is a measure of its current health? 23:35, 8 June 2013 (UTC)

Is it worth noting that "mellon" is Sindarin, since "Elvish" could refer to other languages as well, such as Quenya. (The word for friend in Quenya is meldo.) Tharkon (talk) 19:45, 8 August 2014 (UTC)

I think it is worth noting that the idea of forcing water into areas to annoy evil supernatural forces is a bit of an XKCD theme. It is also referenced in #969 and #1330. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Balrogs are by no means "lowly servants" of Morgoth- they were among his most powerful servants, second only to dragons, and were originally maiar (as gandalf is, and Sauron was). 15:17, 4 January 2017 (UTC)