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<   No. 605   2004-09-22   >

Comic #605

1 {scene: back in the tavern, the four adventurers without Alvissa}
1 Kyros: Yeah, I killed a Balrog once.
2 Kyros: From the deepest pits of Moria we climbed the Endless Stair to the peak of Zirak-Zigil, where we fought ten days and nights.
3 Kyros: Until at last I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin on the mountainside.
4 Lambert: You climbed this Endless Stair from the bottom to the top? So it actually has two ends?
4 Kyros: You calling me a liar?

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This has always bothered me.

And I think Kyros' opening by itself is almost good enough to stand on its own.

It's amusing that I received several possible "explanations" for the Endless Stair from readers. The most popular being that it is in fact two sets of stairs, joined at the top and the bottom, so that one can climb up one and down the other in an endless loop. Another option was that the stair really was endless and continued up into the sky beyond the peak of Zirak-Zigil, and into the ground below the deepest pits of Moria.

Of course the simplest explanation for the Endless Stair is that Tolkien was just using a literary device known as hyperbole, assigning an exaggerated adjective to a descriptive passage for dramatic effect. "Endless" doesn't literally have to mean "having no end" - it's almost certainly simply a poetic way of saying "extremely bloody long."

2013-10-04 Rerun commentary: In fact Kyros's opening line was so good I riffed on it later. Twice. It became one of Kyros's signature lines.

I've thought of another way the Endless Stair could be endless. The top of the stair could connect to the bottom through some sort of dimensional folding or wormhole or magical gate, so that if you climb up past the step at the top of the peak of Zirak-Zigil, you emerge on to the bottom step in the pit of Moria.

Of course this has the additional advantage that Gandalf (who is an old man after all) and the Balrog can get from the bottom of the pit to the top of the mountain simply by going down one step, rather than having to climb up all that way. Because gosh, if they had to climb up all those steps it'd probably take them weeks, with rest stops along the way to catch their breaths.

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