Another of my favorite chapters. Really, my favorite section of this vast story is the part where the unbroken fellowship is having their adventures. So basically the two previous chapters and this one. Not that I don't love the rest, cuz I do, but this is what I love the best.
How calm Gandalf is at the beginning of this chapter. Everyone gets trapped in the Chamber of Mazarbul, and Gandalf says, "Here we are, caught, just as they were before. But I was not here then" (p. 315). It must be so cool to be Gandalf, knowing you can make that big of a difference.
So then we get lots of excitement as we battle some orcs. And Sam kills one! "Boromir and Aragorn slew many" (p. 317), Gimli gets one, and then Gandalf takes over and gives them time to flee down the stairs. He did make all the difference after all!
The Balrog is just insanely cool. Horrid and dreadful, of course, but so, so fascinating. I love how Tolkien describes it: "Something was coming up behind them. What it was could not be seen: it was like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater; and a power and terror seemed to be in it and to go before it" (p. 321). It's vague and formless, so scary because you can't really make out what it is. Also, it has wings? Very scary and horrible.
And man, Gandalf's last stand still gets to me, even though I know what happens. I've got goosebumps again just thinking about it. This part is especially awesome: "It stepped forward slowly on to the bridge, and suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall; but still Gandalf could be seen, glimmering in the gloom; he seemed small, and altogether alone: grey and bent, like a wizened tree before the onset of a storm" (p. 322). I love how that one image kind of encapsulates the whole book: one tiny, seemingly helpless bit of resistance against a towering, seemingly all-powerful foe. Awe-inspiring, I have to say.
There was a rush of hoarse laughter, like the fall of sliding stones into a pit (p. 315).
"You cannot pass," he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass" (p. 322).
Aragorn smote to the ground the captain that stood in his path, and the rest fled in terror of his wrath (p. 323).
Why do you suppose Aragorn picked up Frodo and carried him with them, when he thought Frodo was dead? Wouldn't it be easier to just grab the ring and carry it, not a whole hobbit?