How did it happen in the movies?
After a breathtaking panoramic shot of the mountains, we descend into the dark mines of Moria, where we pick up Gandalf where “The Fellowship of the Ring” left him, falling into the abyss, fighting with the Balrog.
In a haze of fire we see them fall, Gandalf retrieving his sword, struggling with the evil creature until Frodo wakes up and it all seems to have been a nightmare.

How did it happen in the books?
We only get to know the story of Gandalf after he meets Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas again in Fangorn Forest. Until then there is no reason to believe that he survived.
This scene is actually a part of the story that Gandalf tells the three hunters, the other part is told in the scene The White Rider”.
He fell deep, into a pool of water and there he fought with the Balrog, in the deepest darkest tunnels of Durin’s mountain. In his despair, he followed his enemy in a pursuit through the caves under Moria, hoping to find a way out. High they climbed, upon the Endless Stair, until they came at the top of Durin’s tower, Zirak-zigil. There Gandalf threw down his enemy, who fell to his ruin.

The wizard then passed out and after an undetermined period of time, was sent back. “Naked I was sent back – for a brief time, until my task is done.” Naked he was lying on the top of the tower, until Gwaihir, the great eagle came and lifted him up, to bear him to Lothlórien. There he rested for a while, before travelling once again, to find the remainders of the company.

Bookie details:
– The Balrog wasn’t burning anymore after they fell into the pool… ‘His fire was quenched, but now he was a thing of slime, stronger than a strangling snake.’ As a matter of fact, more scenes were planned with what the designers called ‘The Slimy Balrog’, but the special effects would cost too much. You can still see how he looks in this shot.

– There is of course the small problem of physics, velocity and Gandalf falling a lot faster than his sword…

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Related Information
Related Books vs. Movies Articles:
- 2.04. The Bridge of Khazad-dûm by Figwit
- 3.05. The White Rider by Morwinyoniel

- Gandalf in FOTR by atalante_star
- Gandalf the White in TTT by Eruantalincë

Interesting Links:
Our Gallery has has screencaps of the theatrical version, as well as the extended edition.

A transcript of 'The Lord Of the Rings: The Two Towers' can be found in our Film Fun & Facts section.

A summary of 'The Lord Of the Rings: The Two Towers' can be found in Elrond's Library.

Some articles that are related to this sequence:
- Our Middle-Earth Section has articles about Balrogs and Gandalf.
- In the Film, Fun & Facts section you can read an Analyzation of the Bridge of Khazad-dûm scene by Faramirs_first_kiss.

Forum threads related to this sequence:
- You can discuss this sequence in detail in TTT Sequence by Sequence #1: Prologue in the Movies Forum.

Take a look at how some artists saw this part in the book:
- Gandalf Falls with the Balrog by John Howe
- Gandalf battles the Balrog on Zirak-zigil by John Howe

Looking for something more creative - you may find it here: