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Grey Hunter 88
08-12-2010, 16:20
Hello everyone,

I will admit that I'm not much more than a slightly educated initiate when it comes to the Lord of the Rings. I have seen the films (who hasn't) and read up to the end of Two Towers a couple times, and had some friends who were huge Tolkien buffs back in the day, but something has always eluded me.

What exactly is the Balrog? I've heard that it was some sort of General, like an evil daemon that led armies back in an ancient age? Something to that effect? How did it get stuck in Moria?

If it was a general of sorts, and if nothing on Middle Earth (bar Gandalf) can really hope to stand against it, how were those armies even defeated if the Balrog was supposed to be one of many?

I know I could probably get an answer from Wikipedia, but I always prefer getting information about these sort of myths from other people.

RMacDeezy
08-12-2010, 17:29
it was one of a group of beings summoned by Melkor. i think its a maia, so on the same power level as saruman and gandalf. i don't remember how many there were but they did fight for melkor as generals. the chief balrog was one of melkor's highest ranking underlings and had a bodyguard of several hundred trolls. sure, the balrog is basically unstoppable in the 3rd age, but millenia ago, the elves and such were MUCH more powerful, able to at least not be pushed over by the balrogs. it is never specifically mentioned how it came to moria but someone (gandalf?) speculates that it hid there when the valar came to middle earth and defeated melkor and his followers

ForgottenLore
08-12-2010, 19:12
I recall reading somewhere that Sauron fled a battle in the first age and was hiding from Morgoth for a while. During that time a balrog happened upon him and they fought, because Sauron could not have the balrog go back to Morgoth and report that Sauron was actually stll alive. Sauron was not able to kill the balrog but he did drive it deep under the mountains. Shortly after that the Valar intervened and overthrew Morgoth and his armies. The implication being that that was the balrog of Moria. Don't remember where I got that though.

Nuada
08-12-2010, 21:22
As others have said, there were lots of Balrogs in the 1st Age. The Captain of Angband was a Balrog called Gothmog, i remember he lead an army of Balrogs against Gondolin (i love the image of an army of Balrogs) :)

The War of Wrath is when all the Balrogs are destroyed or flee. On the evil side is Balrogs, Orcs, Men and a truck load of Dragons led by Ancalagon the Black (the biggest Dragon ever to have lived) Good side is a half elf in a flying ship (forgot his name) Elves from the Undying Lands (lots of Vanya) Noldor Evles, Eonwe (he's the best amongst the Maiar at fighting. Sauron hides from him), and an army of eagles. The reason for Balrogs being killed is because the 1st age elves are rock hard. Feanor marches to Angband to get back the Silmarils on his own, and it takes a host of Balrogs surrounding him to bring him down.

No one knows what happened to any of the fleeing Balrgos, apart from one........ the one that fled to Moria. He hid there for thousands of years.

Chaplain of Chaos
09-12-2010, 01:01
there original quenya name is Valarauker which means something like power of fire, or daemon of fire.

They were spirits of fire much like the Maia that eventually became the Sun. They were corrupted by Morgoth in the earliest age of Middle-earth.

Whitwort Stormbringer
09-12-2010, 02:15
Everyone has pretty much covered what you'd probably want or need to know about them, but I thought I'd toss out these few tidbits of info all the same:

Gothmog, captain of the Balrogs, killed and was killed by the elf lord Ecthelion during the fall of Gondolin. While leading a group of escapees through a mountain pass, Glorfindel was also attacked by a Balrog. He killed the Balrog, but fell off a cliff-face during the fight and died as well (this is presumeably the same Glorfindel who we meet later - when elves "die" they are simply exiled from the rest of the physical world and they dwell in the halls of Mandos, the Valar of death, a lot like Valhalla in norse mythology).

I'm pretty certain no definitive number of Balrogs is ever given, but I tend to envision them appearing in small numbers rather than armies or the like. In any case, Encyclopedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/b/balrogs.html) (which is an excellent online resource for LotR lore, by the way) speculates that there were no more than 7 of them. I think they mostly just acted as commanders for Melkor's armies. Additionally, even though maia were much more common in Beleriand/Middle-Earth during the first age, they're still almost universally depicted as very, very powerful beings, and not the sort that you would find running around en masse.

In my opinion, GW vastly over-stated their power, though (or maybe PJ did, hard to tell how strong it's intended to be based on that brief scene). Yes, they ought to be tough, but for me not as tough as Sauron (certainly not at the height of his power with the Ring), and if an elf, even a very powerful one, was able to kill a Balrog in one-on-one combat, then it seems that they ought to be toned down a bit. Just my 0.02.

Also, I'd never heard that bit of info that Forgottenlore mentions, but it certainly sounds believable and if anyone else knows where it can be found, I'd love to read it!

ForgottenLore
09-12-2010, 04:39
Also, I'd never heard that bit of info that Forgottenlore mentions, but it certainly sounds believable and if anyone else knows where it can be found, I'd love to read it!

Keep in mind that I don't remember where that little piece of memory comes from. It could very well be some obscure bit of fan fiction I came accross on the web sometime. I certainly haven't been able to track it down.

Nuada
09-12-2010, 08:09
I'm pretty certain no definitive number of Balrogs is ever given
I'm very dubious about that webpage resource, we've had incorrect info from it before.
There's a few quotes from Middle-Earth books that suggest there's more than seven...
...."There came afresh a hundred thousand Orcs and a thousand Balrogs, and in the forefront came Glomund the Dragon, and Elves and Men withered before him."
........"But at length after the fall of Fingolfin, which is told hereafter, Sauron came against Orodreth, the warden of the tower, with a host of Balrogs" (definition of host is horde)



The reason that webpage quotes seven Balrogs is because of a small marginal note from Christopher (way after LotR, in 1984) He included it attached to his commentary in the Second Book of Lost Tales;

"The idea that Morgoth disposed of a 'host' of Balrogs endured long, but in a late note my father said that only very few ever existed - 'at most seven'."


Don't know why he wrote that. I find seven Balrogs impossible to comprehend, they don't come back to life after they are slain.
Here's just one example of Balrogs killed ....."Of those demons of power Ecthelion slew three"
The men of Rog allied with elves kill lots more. If you add up the number of Balrogs killed it comes to way more than seven.





Keep in mind that I don't remember where that little piece of memory comes from. It could very well be some obscure bit of fan fiction I came accross on the web sometime. I certainly haven't been able to track it down.
It could be from Merp, if you ever played that roleplay game. I've also got loads of info that isn't from LotR :)

Wade Wilson
09-12-2010, 09:11
The men of Rog allied with elves kill lots more. If you add up the number of Balrogs killed it comes to way more than seven.

The Tolkien family...fantastic writters of Fantasy Adventure...not so hot with maths...

RMacDeezy
09-12-2010, 13:24
well chris tolkien claims that there was only seven but all of the language in the silmarillion indicates that there were more. as mentioned the number of instances where balrogs are killed adds up to more than seven and tolkien used words like 'host' to describe their number. i doubt such a master of the english language would use the word 'host' to describe seven individuals. that would have been more like a 'fellowship' of balrogs. i always figured them to be kind of an 'elite corps' in melkor's forces, holding high-ranking positions and groups of them forming small units.

canucklhead
09-12-2010, 18:36
In answer to the idea that the Balrog was over powered, since the 1st age saw them getting hacked up by elves, there is this important fact to keep in mind. During the 1st age, Elves were not the same. Elves are tied to Arda (middle earth), and reflect it in themselves. So by the time we get to LOTR, they have become weary and filled with sorrow, almost ghostly, as their power in the world wanes and Valinor calls to them. They are shown as wise and fair, but sad and few in number.

Now let's look at 1st age. The world is in it's youth, fresh and filled with power and light and life, and so are the elves. Feanor was the brightest light among them, and his family, (Galadriel included) were a nigh unstoppable group, fairly the equal of Maiar. They did not know despair, filling themselves instead with zeal and vengeance. This was a very powerful tool against the power of Morgoth, who most relied on fear and despair to weaken his foes. Morgoth, and thus all who served him, was basically a coward, happy to sneak and steal and stab his enemies in the back, but completely servile when brought to heel.

Whitwort Stormbringer
09-12-2010, 18:49
Here's just one example of Balrogs killed ....."Of those demons of power Ecthelion slew three"
The men of Rog allied with elves kill lots more. If you add up the number of Balrogs killed it comes to way more than seven.
Oh wow, is that all in the Silmarillion? It's been such a long time since I've read it that I had forgotten the descriptors he uses. From those quotes, it certainly does sound like there must have been a fair few more than 7.

If Christopher is correct, and JRR really did indicate in a later note that he intended there to be no more than 7, I wonder what changes he would have made to the Silmarillion to maintain consistency?

EDIT: with regards to Balrogs, I don't really want to drag a bunch of rules and profiles into a background forum topic, but essentially even if the elves of the First Age are meant to be far more powerful than the elves of the Third Age, the idea of one of them taking down one of GW's Balrogs (let alone three, or a captain-level Balrog) is hard to swallow. Different strokes for different folks, though.

Nuada
09-12-2010, 19:44
If Christopher is correct, and JRR really did indicate in a later note that he intended there to be no more than 7.

Yeah, Christopher found one of his Dads notes that said there were 3 balrogs, at most 7.

Problem is there's lots of these notes lying around, as you can imagine for an author that's invented so much background. Your original ideas often change. For example the terror in Moria was going to be a Nazgul, and Striders character was originally a hobbit with wooden shoes. JRR is playing around with ideas, he ditches some and decides to go with others.

He seemed to change the power of the Balrog, LotR didn't start out connected to the Silmarillion. The Silmarillion was a seperate world to start with. My guess would be (and this is a guess) that he saw the fire demons as equal to an elf character in the Silmarillion. But then he increased the Balrogs power when he wrote LotR, so it would be a worthy foe to kill Gandalf.

Whitwort Stormbringer
09-12-2010, 23:10
Haha, yes, I love the notion of Arahobbitagorn. Thank goodness it didn't make the "final cut" so to speak. And yeah, the plethora of notes, unfinished manuscripts, and first halves of stories definitely makes the early histories a muddled mess.

I guess when reading LotR I always got the impression that the Balrog wasn't significantly stronger than the ones in the Silmarillion, just that no one in the Fellowship other than Gandalf was anywhere near a match for it. I'd definitely buy that Tolkien hadn't really cemented his ideas on them and their power-level, though.

Verm1s
10-12-2010, 22:14
The War of Wrath is when all the Balrogs are destroyed or flee. Good side is a half elf in a flying ship (forgot his name) Elves from the Undying Lands (lots of Vanya) Noldor Evles, Eonwe (he's the best amongst the Maiar at fighting. Sauron hides from him), and an army of eagles. The reason for Balrogs being killed is because the 1st age elves are rock hard.

I'm not saying the elves and Erendil (the half elf) weren't hard and didn't have their moments, but the former did get systematically whupped in most of the battles of the First Age. I'd say the main reason the War of Wrath turned the tables so hard was because the Valar, the 'gods' of Arda themselves, decided it was time to get personally stuck in and take care of Melkor (Morgoth) once and for all. Being at a pretty much unassailable level of power, it's not too difficult to see how they took care of the balrogs too. Like swatting flies, I'd imagine. Hot, spiky flies.

Chaplain of Chaos
14-12-2010, 16:38
I was always given the impression that in general it was the hosts and hosts of Maia and the Valar themselves that carried the fight.

Also the entire armed host of Vanyar who hadn't gone through the long war of attrition that the Noldor had and still existed in the full light of Aman.

Grey Hunter 88
15-12-2010, 15:22
Thanks guys, you are brilliant.

Can a Balrog be hurt by mundane means? I got the impression that arrows/swords/catapults etc might pass through him or bounce right off?

If so, how did armies of them get obliterated? Did the Noldor or Elves of Old equip all of their soldiers with enchanted blades?

ForgottenLore
15-12-2010, 16:11
I would say that yes, technically, but that it would be like trying to kill an elephant with mosquito stings.

Also, remember that basically everything that elves make we would consider a magic item, and in the first age they were able to make MUCH more powerful weapons than were present during the War of the Ring.

Svorlrik
16-12-2010, 15:59
It's also worth bearing in mind that Tolkien writes the elves as far more powerful than we have come to know them.

We're used to elf armies being fairly balanced against other races because of warhammer and the lotr sbg. Even the Two Towers movie makes it seem like elves are comparable to mortals. They're portrayed as skilled soldiers with high quality weapons, but don't really come across as immortal magical warriors.

In the books we only get good descriptions of the elves going to war during the first age in which the greatest amongst them are powerful enough to duel balrogs. I think elves are supposed to be a bit more "superhuman" in the books than just pointy eared old dudes with fancy weapons and armour.

I kind of see it the same way Space marines are portrayed in warhammer 40,000. In the novels, they're rediculously powerful, yet on the tabletop it's perfectly normal for a space marine to be killed by a couple of guard/gaunts/lesser creatures.

--- sorry if i went a little off topic :P

Arnizipal
17-12-2010, 11:59
I recall reading somewhere that Sauron fled a battle in the first age and was hiding from Morgoth for a while. During that time a balrog happened upon him and they fought, because Sauron could not have the balrog go back to Morgoth and report that Sauron was actually stll alive. Sauron was not able to kill the balrog but he did drive it deep under the mountains. Shortly after that the Valar intervened and overthrew Morgoth and his armies. The implication being that that was the balrog of Moria. Don't remember where I got that though.Maybe I'm remembering it wrong, but wasn't Sauron present at Angband when the Valar besieged it?
Or maybe I'm just confused by that piece of flavour text at the start of the Nightfall in Middle Earth CD where Melkor releases Sauron from his duties.


I was always given the impression that in general it was the hosts and hosts of Maia and the Valar themselves that carried the fight.

Also the entire armed host of Vanyar who hadn't gone through the long war of attrition that the Noldor had and still existed in the full light of Aman.I always thought it was strange for an army of pacifistic Elves who had never seen combat and lived on an isolated island-paradise, to be effective warriors in a large battle. But maybe that's just me :p

Nuada
17-12-2010, 13:25
I'd say the main reason the War of Wrath turned the tables so hard was because the Valar, the 'gods' of Arda themselves, decided it was time to get personally stuck in
Yeah totally agree, does help having the Gods on your side. But you'd be surprised how many mentions elves get of personally turning the battle to their advantage. I think the Gods are very reluctant to go round beating up mortals, they don't mind capturing Melkor though.


The bit i find quite interesting is when the gnomes all leave middle-earth after this battle. Never thought they had any gnomes in Middle-Earth.




Maybe I'm remembering it wrong, but wasn't Sauron present at Angband when the Valar besieged it?

Yes Sauron was there. After the overthrow of Morgoth, Sauron approached Enw, hoping to secure some kind of "amnesty" from Enw, but the latter was not authorized to pardon a Maia like himself, so he ordered Sauron to return to Valinor to be judged by the Valar. In the event, Sauron hid in Middle-earth when Enw departed.

Arnizipal
17-12-2010, 18:04
The bit i find quite interesting is when the gnomes all leave middle-earth after this battle. Never thought they had any gnomes in Middle-Earth.
Gnomes where what Tolkien originally intended to call the Noldor. May it's an old reference to that.

Nuada
19-12-2010, 09:51
Here's the quote ........"In this year Fionwe departed and went back to Valinor with all his folk, and with them went most of the Gnomes that yet lived and the other Elves of Middle-earth. But Elrond the Half-elfin remained, and ruled in the West of the world."

Arnizipal
19-12-2010, 14:06
Since it says "Gnomes and other Elves" that seems to support my earlier theory.
Also, see the history section here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnome).

Nuada
19-12-2010, 15:52
Yeah spot on. Gnomes were the old name for the Noldor Elves

crandall87
11-01-2011, 16:59
Here's a quote that may be handy also. It's from a book called 'A Tolkien Bestiary'

"In each of Melkor's risings and in each of his battles, the Balrogs were amongst his foremost champions, and so, when the holocaust of the War of the Wrath ended Melkor's reign for ever, it largely ended the Balrogs as a race.

It was said that some fled the last battle and buried themselves deep in the roots of the mountains, but after many thousands of years nothing was heard of these evil beings and most people believed the demons had gone from the earth for ever. However during the third age of sun the deep-devling Dwarves of Moria by accident released an entombed demon. Once unleasged, the Balrog struck down two Dwarf Kings,and, gathering Orcs and Trolls to aid him, drove the Dwarves from Moria forever. As it told in the Book of Westmarch, the Balrogs dominion remained uncontested for over two centuries, until he was cast down from the peak of Zirakzigil by the Wizard Gandalf after the battle on the bridge of Khazad-dum."

ForgottenLore
11-01-2011, 19:14
I've always thought, since the Balrog is what drove the Dwarves out of Moria, that they actually had a good chance to take back the city once the Balrog was defeated and the goblins greatly weakened by the War of the Ring.

No mention of that is ever made though, sad.

Nuada
11-01-2011, 19:55
I thought the Dwarfs did take back Khazad-dum. Didn't they have a new Durin in the 4th Age?

Or am i remembering something from a different book?

Arnizipal
12-01-2011, 10:33
it largely ended the Balrogs as a race.
I never considered them a separate race. In my opinion they are still regular maia with a slightly more demonic and fiery shape :p

C-Coen
12-01-2011, 11:42
I thought the Dwarfs did take back Khazad-dum. Didn't they have a new Durin in the 4th Age?

Or am i remembering something from a different book?

From tuckborough.net: "according to one source (HoME XII, p. 278) there came a time when a king named Durin VII returned to Khazad-dum and its halls were filled with light and music and the sound of hammers once more and the realm endured until the world grew old and the days of Durin's race were over."

ForgottenLore
12-01-2011, 14:55
Interesting. I have never had a chance to read any of the HoME series so that would explain why I didn't know about that.

That makes me happy. Its nice to know the Dwarves eventually get a happy ending.

canucklhead
12-01-2011, 19:59
It makes sense as well. Dwarves endure, if nothing else. Time passes, hardships are endured, battles are fought, the dead are mourned, and the Dwarves continue on.

Greyghost
10-02-2011, 07:52
Awesome information here.

But since this post is the topic of a Balrog, I have to ask something that really bothers me in the PJ's LOTR. If a Balrog has wings (or appear to have wings), why did it fall down the chasm?

Did Tolkien describe the Balrog as having wings? I remember someone telling me that they can take on different "looks" because the Maia are spirit-like? For instance, after falling from the chasm and into the lake, the Balrog took on a shape more of a sludge "monster"...sorry if I'm totally off base.

Just curious if anyone knows. Thank you.

C-Coen
10-02-2011, 08:05
The first question one should ask is whether a balrog actually has wings. The only thing we know are the following two quotes from FotR:

"His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings"

"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..."

The wings from the second quote are probably the shadow-wings of the first quote, which would mean that a balrog may very well not have actual wings.
One may assume the wings are still nothing but shadow, and so are more to intimidate than to fly.

And even if the balrog would have wings, he may still not be able to fly. Maybe just glide, like a flying squirrel, or nothing at all, like a kiwi. Yes, I'm comparing a balrog to a squirrel and a kiwi here.

Finally, and not unimportantly, his pseudo-wings were huge. The second quote shows they stretched from one side of the room to the other. With such big wings, he wouldn't be able to fly in that limited space regardless wheter he was able to fly or even had wings.

ForgottenLore
10-02-2011, 14:31
Well summarized C-Coen.

I remember there was a lot of debate before the movies came out about whether a Balrog should have wings or not.

Basically it is an unresolvable question, but regardless, it is not difficult to imagine that he just didn't have room to fly in the chasm.

Nuada
10-02-2011, 22:30
It's a difficult question to resolve, but there are a few cases where Balrogs should have flown but they didn't.
I'll give you a few examples;

"Then the Balrogs continued to shoot darts of fire and flaming arrows like small snakes into the sky, and these fell upon the roofs and gardens of Gondolin till all the trees were scorched, and the flowers and grass burned up, and the whiteness of those walls and colonnades was blackened and seared: yet a worse matter was it that a company of those demons climbed upon the coils of the serpents of iron and thence loosed unceasingly from their bows and slings till a fire began to burn in the city to the back of the main army of the defenders."

The Balrogs are trying to breach the walls, and climb on the back of dragons so they can gain an elevated position.
(also, got to say.... i don't like the image of a Balrog with a bow or a sling!!)


There's also another when Glorfindel battled the Balrog at Gondolin, the Balrog fell to its death and did not save itself by flying as you'd expect him to do.


Personally, i prefer the image of Balrogs with wings.

Zogash
11-02-2011, 01:07
Actually, there is a great (and thorough) discussion about the Balrog-wing issue over at Encyclopedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/ARDA/b/balrogs.html), weighing all the "evidence" in favor of or against Balrogs having wings. It's a great read, but in the end, it is really up to the reader's imagination. And that exactly is why I prefer reading a book to seeing the same story in a movie - a movie is someone else's imagination, not my own.

When I first read LotR, I imagined the Balrog pretty similarly to the film version, minus the "real" wings, but far more scary and mysterious, if you know what I mean. It's hard to bring such a gut feeling to the screen.

Anyways, there are arguments in favor of Balrog wings, and since they were Maiar (like Sauron), and Sauron flew on at least one occasion (in Vampire-form after his defeat by Huan), there is reason to believe they might have been able to fly, too, if they had the chance.

Both Balrogs that are stated (or are they?) to have fallen to their deaths (Durin's Bane and the Balrog Glorfindel fought after the Fall of Gondolin) did so under special circumstances:
The Gondolin-Balrog is fought by Glorfindel in a high pass, and both fall to their death - it can be assumed that his wings (if he had any, that is) were incapacitated during the fight, or Glorfindel somehow kept him from using them mid-fall.

Durin's Bane falls on two occasions: down the chasm under the Bridge of Khazad-dm and then from the peak of Zirakzigil. The bridge is stated in the book to be 50 feet long, making the chasm only about 15m wide - hardly enough to use enormous hall-spanning wings! On the second occasion, Tolkien doesn't make clear what condition the Balrog was in when, as Gandalf puts it, "I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin."

At first glance it may seem obvious that the 'where he smote it in his ruin' part means that the fall is also the cause of death, however there is a very similar line in the Silmarillion:

"Before the rising of the sun Erendil slew Ancalagon the Black, the mightiest of the dragon-host, and cast him from the sky; and he fell upon the towers of Thangorodrim, and they were broken in his ruin."

Here, the slaying definitely preceeds the "breaking xyz in his ruin", so the same might hold true for Durin's Bane. It's up to your imagination, really! :D

TL;DR: There is a great discussion about Balrog wings over at Encyclopedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/ARDA/b/balrogs.html), however, no definitive conclusion is possible due to evidence supporting both sides of the argument. In the end it's all up to each individual's imagination, and that's what LotR (or great fantasy writing as a whole) is all about, anyway! :)

EDIT: Oh, and concerning the War of Wrath, IMHO it is unlikely that the Valar fought themselves. For one, the host was led by onw, a Maia, which would be rather weird, him being of a lower order and all. Secondly, neither Orom nor Tulkas are mentioned at all, and if they had fought I'm pretty sure Tolkien would have written at least a half-sentence about it. It is only ever the "host of the Valar", which is earlier established as Vanyar and non-exile Noldor, led by onw.

C-Coen
11-02-2011, 08:28
I think the best part of this whole debate is that there is not a definite answer, and there never will be. Nothing is written that directly confirms that they do or do not have wings.
And, I must add, I also prefer the winged image, if only because it makes a big creature even bigger and more menacing.

@Nuada: I must say that that part is from the earlier thought about balrogs, when there were not 7 (I think) but hundreds, and they were more like elite warriors than an army's worth of power in one creature. They were smaller, weaker, used different weapons etc. The later balrogs, as encountered by Ecthelion, Glorfindel and Gandalf were very different from these: maia. They used their fiery whips and axes usually. And were way to big to ride dragons...

Nuada
11-02-2011, 12:10
The later balrogs, as encountered by Ecthelion, Glorfindel and Gandalf were very different from these: maia. They used their fiery whips and axes usually. And were way to big to ride dragons...

Yeah, i think when Tolkien originally wrote the LotR it wasn't connected to the Silmarillion at all. (hence balrogs with different levels of power)

But i'm not 100% positive if i'm correct there.



That line about there being 7 balrogs was on a scrap of paper that Christopher found, it's nothing concrete. But he put it one of his books.

RandomSelect
11-02-2011, 17:35
I beleve they have wings and can't fly.
My chickens have wngs and all they do is flap short distances.
Lots of things have wings but can't fly.
Saying balrogs don't fly in the books doesn't mean they don't have wings.

Zogash
11-02-2011, 18:42
I beleve they have wings and can't fly.
My chickens have wngs and all they do is flap short distances.
Lots of things have wings but can't fly.
Saying balrogs don't fly in the books doesn't mean they don't have wings.

The thing is though: why would they even have wings if they can't fly with them?

Chickens have wings because their ancestors once were able to fly. In the course of millions of years, the line that would one day become your chickens, through selective evolution, lost the ability to fly because they no longer needed it, while still retaining 'wings' (same goes for Penguins, Ostriches, Kiwis, etc.).

Balrogs, on the other hand, are Maiar (spirits from outside Arda), meaning that they don't have ancestors. And if they don't have ancestors, how can they have evolved into flightless yet winged creatures? And being spirits that can turn into whichever form they wish, why would they choose to grow useless wings?

The one thing that makes me feel that at least the Silmarillion Balrogs could fly, though, is the situation when Melkor (http://www.glyphweb.com/ARDA/m/melkor.html), after the destruction of the Two Trees (http://www.glyphweb.com/ARDA/t/twotrees.html), is attacked by Ungoliant (http://www.glyphweb.com/ARDA/u/ungoliant.html). This happens at least a hundred miles from Angband, where the Balrogs are hiding, and on the other side of a mountain range, yet they still make it in time to save their master. I quote: "[...]and now swiftly they arose, and passing over Hithlum they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire." Note that they pass over Hithlum, not through it. Hithlum is a region, not a mountain range (Ered Wethrin is), so you can't really pass over it on foot. Also, it just feels much more plausible to quickly bridge that distance in flight rather than running 100+ miles in less time than it takes for a gigantic spider to strangle Melkor... ;)

Still, if anyone imagines it differently, that's fine by me! :D

canucklhead
11-02-2011, 21:09
exactly. It really is about you perception of it, since the descriptions are a little vague.

I've looked at it this way. Balrogs are Maia, and the form they appear in has little to do with how they interact with M.E. They 'pass' over it in the way of Maia, as spirits unfettered by the things which hinder mortals.

The actual form of the Balrog is about fear. A hulking demon of shadow and flame, wings of smoke and shadow spreading behind it; great reek of fire and destruction. All the things most likely to create despair and fear in mortals. This also explained to me why the elves were able to vanquish them. Elves are not easily made to feel fear of things like death, or darkness, or shadow and flame.

So it is less about whether or not a balrog's wings allow it to fly, but more whether or not a balrog is bound by it's form, and to what extent.

Greyghost
12-02-2011, 12:11
I think the best part of this whole debate is that there is not a definite answer, and there never will be. Nothing is written that directly confirms that they do or do not have wings.

Thanks for the all of the explanations of the Balrog's "wings", but I think this quote says it the best. This is why I enjoy Science Fiction and the discussion of Science Fiction as seen in each of our mind's eye.

But, since I personally did not have any factual understanding of the "wings", Thanks to all for clearing that up.