The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Balrogs



imin
Valinor


Mar 28 2013, 1:51am


Views: 969
Balrogs

I am guessing this has been asked before and is famous among fans of Tolkien's works but....Did Balrogs have wings?

Can be for any Balrog or more specifically Durin's Bane.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Mar 28 2013, 2:11am


Views: 570
This is a favorite debate here.

I will take either side, depending on the day of the week. Or since it's the middle of the week, I'll take the middle view that Durin's Bane appeared to have short-flight wings, since he flew over the flaming chasm (or maybe he jumped). And maybe he had wings and they were merely ornamental, because Tolkien sure seemed to say he had wings.

If he had real, operational wings, he shouldn't have fallen all the way to bottom of Moria with Gandalf.

Also, when Glorfindel slew the Balrog at Gondolin, they also both fell over a cliff. I guess you could say the Balrog's wings were injured, so that doesn't count. But at no time do Balrogs launch an aerial assault, including in Morgoth's last battle with the Valar in Beleriand when dragons flew, but there's no mention of flying Balrogs.


(This post was edited by CuriousG on Mar 28 2013, 2:13am)


Ardamírë
Valinor


Mar 28 2013, 2:14am


Views: 538
Yes and no

I'm in the middle. I certainly think they can't have full physical wings that allow them to actually fly because then they wouldn't have fallen with Gandalf and Glorfindel. But they're also clearly described as wings.

I guess I would say that I always picture them with wings, but somehow or other those wings aren't used for flight.

"Now this babe was of greatest beauty; his skin of a shining white and his eyes of a blue surpassing that of the sky in southern lands - bluer than the sapphires of the raiment of Manwë; and the envy of Meglin was deep at his birth, but the joy of Turgon and all the people very great indeed." -The Fall of Gondolin


Ardamírë
Valinor


Mar 28 2013, 2:16am


Views: 546
Flying

I seem to recall somewhere in The Silmarillion where the balrogs are described as "flying" across the plains. Now, I've always taken that to mean that they traveled swiftly, not necessarily flying like a bird or a plane. Actually, I imagine them more like gliding, but that's probably just me.

"Now this babe was of greatest beauty; his skin of a shining white and his eyes of a blue surpassing that of the sky in southern lands - bluer than the sapphires of the raiment of Manwë; and the envy of Meglin was deep at his birth, but the joy of Turgon and all the people very great indeed." -The Fall of Gondolin


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Mar 28 2013, 2:17am


Views: 550
Now this takes me back :-D

About ten years ago there was a virtual drinking game on TORn, and when someone brought up a frequent question, everyone would post *glug*. I suppose it wasn't very nice, but it was meant in good fun. The balrog wings question was one of the most popular :-D

I've always thought they had wings, but it doesn't really matter to me. The other question is, do they have furry slippers


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Brethil
Half-elven


Mar 28 2013, 2:34am


Views: 523
I am a wing-girl myself

Always pictured them with wings. I think that the fall does not present a contradiction because once falling in a relatively narrow chasm it would be unable to achieve a glide and/or flap the size wings needed (quite long proportionally) to fly considering its mass.

What's your feeling Imin?

Hell hath no fury like a Dragon who is missing a cup.


imin
Valinor


Mar 28 2013, 2:44am


Views: 524
I am more in the no wings camp

I think it had wings but they weren't physical but more made from shadow from the line - "the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings"

I never pictured them with proper wings but more just a mass of cloud/shadow/smoke that could take on the form of wings or anything else it wanted to create intimidation.

Also i don't see any evidence where they have ever been said to fly - Unfinished Tales, when Voronwe says, "as yet no servant of the Enemy has dared to fly into the high airs" at this point there were no flying dragons but there were Balrogs.

Though i guess a balrog being a maiar could potentially just fly without the need for wings?

Ardamire points to the only reference of flight - Morgoth's Ring:

Far beneath the halls of Angband... the Balrogs lurked still.... Swiftly they arose, and they passed with winged speed over Hithlum, and they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire.

Winged speed - for myself i take this to mean they travelled extremely fast - as fast as something flying but of course others can make their own claims and lets see where we end up Tongue


(This post was edited by imin on Mar 28 2013, 2:44am)


imin
Valinor


Mar 28 2013, 2:51am


Views: 527
*glug* haha

I didn't know that but it is funny!

I have known it's a favourite topic to people in Tolkien fandom but i had not seen any on here for a while so i thought - why not? Smile

It is not a serious question but i do find it interesting how people interpret the same sentences and come up with totally different visual images.

That picture is great btw! Smile


imin
Valinor


Mar 28 2013, 2:52am


Views: 517
Maybe clipped wings? lol. //

 


Brethil
Half-elven


Mar 28 2013, 2:52am


Views: 515
Hmmm - I suppose potentailly flight could be less of a wing device than a power

but I like the winged picture though. Smile I remember it was very debated quite a few years ago. I also like "winged speed" in the literal sense; I read it that way and it has formed that image in my mind ever since. The Film version felt very fitting to me. What did you think of it?
From all the discussion through the years it is an area with much room for exploration.

Hell hath no fury like a Dragon who is missing a cup.


imin
Valinor


Mar 28 2013, 3:03am


Views: 503
I quite like it - film depiction

Though it is not how i feel Balrogs are, lol. To me they look more creepy when the 'wings' are made of shadow. Still it is impressive and looks good on the screen and i think i would have gone for the same if in his position as it looks 'cooler'.

To me the winged speed just doesn't work in the literal sense if taking all the other factors/quotes into consideration, but as you say there is much room for exploration and many different views can all be right as there isn't quite enough to go on. I was swayed by one post i saw on another forum though to go from - i dunno to more firmly in the no wings/shadow wings camp - which seems to have only me in it at the mo! I don't think i would be able to post it though as it's from another forum. I was just curious to know what people on this forum thought and how they took certain lines - such as you take the line as literal where as i don't.


Brethil
Half-elven


Mar 28 2013, 3:13am


Views: 497
Actually I am delighted at the swap in approaches...

we finally have flip-flopped on interpretive versus literal! Wink Haha!

Hell hath no fury like a Dragon who is missing a cup.


imin
Valinor


Mar 28 2013, 3:24am


Views: 491
That is true :)

Though i view the Eye as interpretive rather than literal so i have two including that, lol.

Probably my only two that are none literal! Tongue


Brethil
Half-elven


Mar 28 2013, 3:28am


Views: 490
Two indeed!


In Reply To
Though i view the Eye as interpretive rather than literal so i have two including that, lol.

Probably my only two that are none literal! Tongue




Write this day down ! Wink

Hell hath no fury like a Dragon who is missing a cup.


imin
Valinor


Mar 28 2013, 3:31am


Views: 489
A red letter day

In more ways than one Smile

Nothing else to think of metaphorically is there? Tongue


Brethil
Half-elven


Mar 28 2013, 3:42am


Views: 484
Think we are covered on metaphors!

Smile But certainly an excellent day!

Hell hath no fury like a Dragon who is missing a cup.


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Mar 28 2013, 4:09am


Views: 508
The picture is from Bakshi's LotR.

I didn't come up with the "fuzzy slippers", but I always thought it was funny.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Elizabeth
Half-elven


Mar 28 2013, 7:57am


Views: 509
A beloved/dreaded topic!

A Google search on "balrog wings" yields about 271,000 results.

Here are a few links:

An analysis by Tolkien scholar Martin Martines, author of 3 books on Tolkien.

"The Truth about Balrogs"

My all-time favorite

I leave you to follow up the rest.








imin
Valinor


Mar 28 2013, 8:38am


Views: 472
So do you think they have wings or not? :p

Thank you for the links btw i read tolkien.slimy quite a bit and out of the three feel it gives the best analysis without having an opinion from the start.

I just came across this link which illustrates how i visualize the wings.

http://balrogwings.webs.com/

My all time fav is on another Tolkien fan site so don't think i can link it, lol.

Would be interesting to know where you stand on the wings debate - i am gonna guess that you.........do think they have physical wings, just to make it more interesting, lol.


DanielLB
Immortal


Mar 28 2013, 9:52am


Views: 488
Agreed

I am in the yes and no camp too.

I don't fully think they had actual physical wings, like an eagle or a moth. They clearly have wings. The wonderful thing about Tolkien is that many things are left unanswered and open. You can read the Balrog passage both literally and metaphorically.

Since I tend to read things literally, I tend to think they did have wings.

Even if they did have wings though, they might not have been able to fly (like an Emu or Dodo).


CuriousG
Half-elven


Mar 28 2013, 10:44am


Views: 488
It's those aerial topics that haunt us

The other is: "Why didn't the Eagles fly the Ring to Mt Doom?"

Winged creatures and unanswered questions. Phooey.


arithmancer
Grey Havens


Mar 28 2013, 12:27pm


Views: 459
Yep! Fer Sher!!

I think they had wings.

But I think getting airborne required considerable effort/the aid of wind, updrafts/elevation. When traveling distances above Middle Earth's surface they could use them to fly, but they weren't going to be flitting about a cave like a bat, alighting hither and yon.


Brethil
Half-elven


Mar 28 2013, 2:13pm


Views: 465
It is a very funny picture....


In Reply To
I didn't come up with the "fuzzy slippers", but I always thought it was funny.




especially since I sort of picture them igniting *poooofff** every few seconds and the Balrog irritably roaring for a new pair....!

Hell hath no fury like a Dragon who is missing a cup.


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Mar 28 2013, 2:25pm


Views: 448
Thank you so much for preserving Reverend's post. <3 //

 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



telain
Rohan

Mar 28 2013, 4:14pm


Views: 449
Wings? A good question to be sure. But did they roar?

Between Bakshi's version (thank you Aunt Dora, that image is great!) and Jackson's, I'm pretty sure they did roar. But what did it sound like? Bakshi makes me think "lion", but Jackson makes me think "volcano"... Wink


imin
Valinor


Mar 28 2013, 4:25pm


Views: 365
yeah that question seems to come up even more often

Over on hobbit/lotr movie boards.

For me - not to side track the discussion too much, lol, but for me the eagles question seems easier to answer where as the balrog one seems to genuinely have no answer and can just be taken in different ways.

Similar to you i sometimes change sides and think, hmm maybe they did have wings, lol. Though i think my default is for shadow wings - which i would call no wings but others (such as Daniellb) seem to be suggesting they think those none physical wings are still wings - at least that is my take on his post, lol.

I have read some of the very early threads online about balrogs and some are hilarious in how angry people got! All very interesting thoughSmile


imin
Valinor


Mar 28 2013, 4:31pm


Views: 382
Hmm i have never really thought of that

I think in the film it basically had to make some kind of noise to be more menacing as the film is very bombastic and it suddenly going all quiet there would have either worked amazingly well or terribly - safer to keep with lots of music.

I guess i have always took it that they do make some kind of noise as it just seems natural that it would, lol. But i can't find anywhere that says 'balrog roared', if anyone else can that would be good.

What do you think? Tongue


ElendilTheShort
Gondor


Mar 29 2013, 12:13am


Views: 361
"The Balrog never speaks or makes any vocal sound at all." - John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, June 1958

This was part of Tolkiens response to a film script of LOTR he didn't much like due to the lack of understanding the script writer showed of the original material. Little things like turning Weathertop into a fight scene (sound familiar). The only sound the Balrog makes is it's cry as it falls

The balrogs had no physical wings, the shadow is described as "like" wings, and the shadow is not part of the Balrog but an effect created by it as evidenced by his chnage in appearance after falling into the water.

When it's wings are described as "spread from wall to wall" that would imply it was a massive creature if it's wings were proporionate to it's body. And it could not be a massive creatue otherwise it could not have stepped onto the bridge which was noted as being only wide enough for one person to cross at a time, way too small for a creature that is so big that it's wings fill the width of a very large hall. The fact it is described as "drew itself up to a great height" means little, as Gandalf did a similar thing at Bag End and Gandalf is only somehwat marginally taller than 5'6" stooped over.

So no roar according to JRRT, no wings IMO. Doesn't mean I don't like the PJ movie Balrog, I do, but it's not canon and still miles better than the standy up lion thingy with big fluufy boots from the 70's.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Mar 29 2013, 12:44am


Views: 352
My personal notion of any demon

is that they don't appear in a fixed form. I think there should be an aura around them that makes them hard to see in every detail, something atmospheric that adds to their presence, and generally anything you can't fix your eyes on is pretty scary, which is why snakes are scary when they're coiled and rippling. So for that reason, I like the "shadow wings" option best as something undefined. The Balrog would have a cloudy essence around it that followed its will and could spread out like wings to scare its prey (real birds do that), but could take on other non-concrete aspects as well. Maybe the wings become physical at one point, then evaporate at another.

The other fanciful thing about Balrogs (at least in The Silmarillion) is that they usually have whips of fire. Not normal whips of leather or some other substance that happens to be on fire, but whips where the thongs themselves are flames. But flames, of course, only burn and have no physical form, so how would you lash someone with burning air, or even whip the flames around quickly without extinguishing them? I think that's when getting too literal and concrete gets in the way of the story, which is fantasy, after all. Balrogs are supposed to be otherworldly, so not all of our world's rules will apply to them. If they have fluffy slippers, I bet those slippers could still let out a fierce growl and bite your toes.


Ataahua
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 29 2013, 2:02am


Views: 347
I have always been a wings girl - although

a few years back, when this was debated quite thoroughly, Kimi finally convinced that Tolkien was writing in metaphor so I grudgingly admitted that Tolkien's balrog in the time of LOTR does not have wings.

*My* balrog, however, does - and I'm entirely comfortable with those two worlds occupying the same space on the page.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


ElendilTheShort
Gondor


Mar 29 2013, 2:20am


Views: 331
I actually grew up

with the giant, horned, winged demon thanks largely to John Howe and an excellent painting by Ted Nasmith. These are usually what I visualise but they are pretty far from what JRRT wrote. I would love someone to portray what he wrote but it would take someone with incredible talent because I think it would be very difficult to do correctly and effectively.


Morthoron
Gondor


Mar 29 2013, 2:27am


Views: 343
If a Balrog wanted wings...

...it would have them. Balrogs are of the Maiar, after all, and can shapeshift to suit their purpose - much like a few Istari we know who fashioned themselves to look like old men (which in fact they certainly were not).

I have taken the stand that Balrogs had wings ever since reading the Silmarillion in the 70s:


Quote
...“in vaults to which the Valar in the haste of their assault had not descended, Balrogs lurked still, awaiting ever the return of their Lord; and now swiftly they arose, and passing over Hithlum they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire.”


Taken in conjunction with the Durin's Bane of Moria in FotR:


Quote
“The Balrog made no answer. The fire in it seemed to die, but the darkness grew. 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…”


I have always pictured Balrogs with wings. It is indelible in my mind. I am not changing my opinion. You may hold an opposing opinion, and try to give me a lesson in metaphors and similes. It is not necessary, I assure you. The wonderful thing about reading great books is the powerful pictures they conjure in your mind, and that perception is usually not consistent from reader to reader.

Please visit my blog...The Dark Elf File...a slighty skewed journal of music and literary comment, fan-fiction and interminable essays.



Luinnár
Rivendell

Mar 29 2013, 2:53am


Views: 325
The eagles only come when there is no other option.

They are not there to make things easy, but to help them in their dire need. Tolkien always likes to connect the story with religion.


ElendilTheShort
Gondor


Mar 29 2013, 3:58am


Views: 342
Morthoron

I may be misunderstanding your meaning but the Istari were the form chosen by certain Maia, they did not exist as the Istari prior to that. The forms they took were essentially permanent in that incarnation and to change they would have had to voluntarily forsake those forms, which JRRT defines as dying, with a period of rebuilding required if they wanted to create another body to exist as an incarnaye form. Generally speaking spirits rhat clothed themselves in an incarnate form were then subject to earthly limitations. If the Balrogs at their inception as incarnates had chosen to give themselves wings in principle they could have done this, but they have no shape shifting abilities written of so they could not create themselves wings at will once they had adopted a form without them. I say all this not sure if I correctly take that as your meaning with that statement.

Wirh regards to wings or otherwise I understand peoples imagination comes into it as with any other aspect, and that is very important and makes the experience more enjoyable, to fill in the gaps in accordance with your own creation. But I also try to look at what JRRT wrote to try and get as complete as possible a lore based vision to try and better understand what he was trying to create as an author. I do not do this to diminish any one elses opinion or devalue what they have imagined, but when others undertake to say this or that is "fact" in accordance with what is written I try to bring JRRT's writing to the fore to help explain points. Once again this is partially different to what you have expressed as what you have imagined re balrog wings, and I say partially because you do quote in part canon work and although there is other supporting text that may in part expand and counter argue this, I fully admit that for me this a contentious subject for fans and one that can not be thoroughly and completely proved one way or another.

As another separate example of imagination, opinion and fact based on the somewhat limited descriptions JRRT gives in his work, I have an interest in swords and have examined a lot of what he has written to try and give Narsil/Anduril context and summarise what sort of sword it is, to have a reproduction made, this includes not only descriptions of the sword itself but other weapons armour, the technology and evolution of Arda, and the only reasonable conclusion I can reach is that it is a single handed weapon, and even that runs counter to a couple of descriptions of Anduril.

So no wonder we can't conclusively say whether Balrogs had wings or not and have to rely on our imagination. The whole line about wings spread from wall to wall creates a very powerful image of just that, the big question remains what are these wings. I am suprised this question didn't come up during JRRT's lifetime and result in a published response, he is surely laughing about all this debate about wings or not, it is the biggest I am aware of amongst people interested in his works.


(This post was edited by ElendilTheShort on Mar 29 2013, 3:59am)


Morthoron
Gondor


Mar 29 2013, 7:23am


Views: 343
I respectfully disagree...

There was not necessarily such permanence of form when the Maiar appeared in a corporeal manifestation. Sauron, another Maia, shapeshifted into several forms: a werewolf, vampire bat, Annatar, etc. It was only when his physical form was utterly destroyed that he could no longer adopt another form, such as after the destruction of Numenor. There is no canonical precedent that shows this was exclusive to Sauron. In fact, Melian abandoned the physical form she used in Doriath, without it being destroyed, after the death of Thingol.

As far as the Istari, I would suggest that they did not appear in the form of old men in Valinor, but neither were they entirely invisible, for they interacted with the Elves during their stay there. They could wander the world unseen or veil themselves in physical form. These "veils" were referred to as fanar (singular fana).

Please visit my blog...The Dark Elf File...a slighty skewed journal of music and literary comment, fan-fiction and interminable essays.



FarFromHome
Valinor


Mar 29 2013, 10:35am


Views: 331
What are balrogs made of anyway?

Your points about shapeshifting make me wonder what exactly a fire-demon like a balrog would be made of. Why should they be made of flesh and blood at all? In fact, how could they be and not burn up? Tongue Maybe they are "made" of fire and smoke - or perhaps we could say that their projection into the physical world might be as fire. In which case they could have been "shape-shifting" continuously, just as flames do - sometimes extending tongues of flame or clouds of smoke into wing-shapes, and sometimes drawing themselves in again. They wouldn't need to literally fly, but they would still be able to move at "winged speed" just as forest fires and volcanic debris do - and like them, would arrive as a "tempest of fire".

Works for me, anyway! And it avoids having to take a stand in the wings/no-wings debate...

Tongue

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



Felagund
Lorien


Mar 29 2013, 12:21pm


Views: 342
flying across the plains

The passage you're after is in the pre-Silmarillion version of the quarrel between Morgoth and Ungoliant. It reads:

"...beneath the halls of Angband..., the Balrogs still lurked still, awaiting ever the return of their lord. Swiftly they arose, and they passed with winged speed over Hithlum, and they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire."

The passage was altered in The Silmarillion to read "...and passing over Hithlum...".

I suppose 'winged speed' could literally just refer to the speed rather than the means of travel. That said, I'm a 'balrog with wings' man myself.

Welcome to the Mordorfone network, where we put the 'hai' back into Uruk


Felagund
Lorien


Mar 29 2013, 1:35pm


Views: 330
Maiar, incarnate forms and 'death'

I'm not sure the example of Sauron proves your point about permanence. A few thoughts:
  1. Sauron's the only concrete example we have of a multiple shape-shifter amongst the Maiar. There are examples of other Maiar shifting between spirit (fëa) and physical (hröa) form in Valinor - Olórin, for instance - but not the sheer diversity of forms adopted by Sauron. Contra, the Balrogs remain Balrogs throughout the Wars of Beleriand, indeed since their original Rebellion against Eru. Tolkien also explored the idea of Huan and the great eagles being Maiar in permanent physical form.
  2. Regarding 'death', in the 'Myths Transformed' collection of Tolkien's essays, there seem to have been different rules for those Maiar who had rebelled. The 'death' of their incarnate forms had a greater consequence - damnation, "ie. reduced to impotence, infinitely recessive: still hating but unable more and more to make it effective physically...". That covers the Balrogs and, at least as far as the First Age is concerned, Sauron too. At the resolution of the duel between Sauron and Huan, Lúthien points out to Sauron that if he allows his current body to die, he would be "everlastingly... naked" - ie. unable to reconstruct himself in the physical world. The fact that Gothmog, mightiest of the Balrogs, isn't listed as present at the final battle of the War of Wrath implies that his 'death' at the hands of Ecthelion was permanent. Olórin, on the other hand, was still in a 'state of grace' when his Gandalf form was destroyed, and was able / allowed / empowered to adopt a new hröa in Middle-earth.
  3. In my view, the One Ring changes the above rules, so making Sauron a true exception. He imbues the One Ring with so much of his own power that his physical destruction (on Númenor; and then at the hands of Gil-galad, Elendil and Isildur) is no longer enough to end his effective existence in Arda. The One Ring itself has enough of Sauron's essence in it that it serves as a link to his reincorporation as a physical entity. Thus the whole point of the Quest for Mount Doom - the One Ring must be destroyed if Sauron is ever to be removed permanently from the equation. Prior to the forging of the One Ring, however, Sauron could be reduced to permanent 'impotence', as Tolkien put it - as demonstrated by his fear of 'death' at the hands (jaws, paws??) of Huan. You mention Númenor but I think this is actually an example of the new rule in action for the first time - Sauron can rebuild a new (albeit degraded) form precisely because of the existence of the One Ring.

Also, The Silmarillion says that Melian vanished from Middle-earth but that's not necessarily the same as relinquishing her physical form. I've had a quick scan of the earlier versions of text used in The Silmarillion and there's nothing explicit about her surrendering her hröa. That said, as she wasn't strictly speaking an outcast or rebel, Tolkien's 'damnation' theory presumably wouldn't apply to her? As an aside, it's possible she was more vulnerable to physical destruction than Maiar back in Valinor, as she'd expended some of her power on the protection of Doriath.

On your point about the manifestation o Maiar in Valinor, I reckon you're spot on - Olórin is described by Tolkien as walking unseen amongst the Eldar, or "in the form as one of them". So seems unlikely that Olórin wandered around as Gandalf in Valinor!

Welcome to the Mordorfone network, where we put the 'hai' back into Uruk


Felagund
Lorien


Mar 29 2013, 1:45pm


Views: 310
inner fire & outer darkness

Not that the description in my subject heading solves anything much! I really like your idea of continuous, flame-like shape-shifting though!

Anyway, I pulled those lines from the only description of the Balrogs' physical form that hasn't already been cited in this thread is the pre-Silmarillion: "their hearts were of fire, but they were cloaked in darkness" ('Later Quenta Silmarillion', as it appears in Morgoth's Ring).

Welcome to the Mordorfone network, where we put the 'hai' back into Uruk


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Mar 30 2013, 12:07am


Views: 296
Manifested wings rather than natural ones...

The way that I read the description of the Balrog of Moria is that it did not possess natural wings, but manifested them out of shadow when it desired them. If it was indeed a massive creature then it may have needed the wings for balance on such a narrow bridge. Balrogs might not have been very good fliers, which might account for the Balrog of Moria falling after Gandalf broke the bridge.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


squire
Half-elven


Mar 30 2013, 3:02am


Views: 312
Beautiful imagery, but...

I love your idea of 'shape-shifting' rendered as an embodiment of the essence of flame, giving Balrogs an indeterminate form. However, although I don't believe 'flesh and blood' is a useful concept in imagining a Balrog's anatomy, neither will I go with the idea of a being made entirely of (or manifesting itself entirely as) fire and flame. Because Tolkien didn't. We should remember Gandalf's description of the creature when its fire had been 'quenched' by the pool in the abyss below the Bridge:

‘Thither I came at last, to the uttermost foundations of stone. He was with me still. His fire was quenched, but now he was a thing of slime, stronger than a strangling snake.
‘We fought far under the living earth, where time is not counted. Ever he clutched me, and ever I hewed him, till at last he fled into dark tunnels. They were not made by Durin’s folk, Gimli son of Glóin. Far, far below the deepest delving of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he. Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day. In that despair my enemy was my only hope, and I pursued him, clutching at his heel. Thus he brought me back at last to the secret ways of Khazad-dûm: too well he knew them all. Ever up now we went, until we came to the Endless Stair.’
‘Long has that been lost,’ said Gimli. ‘Many have said that it was never made save in legend, but others say that it was destroyed.’
‘It was made, and it had not been destroyed,’ said Gandalf. ‘From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak it climbed, ascending in unbroken spiral in many thousand steps, until it issued at last in Durin’s Tower carved in the living rock of Zirak-zigil, the pinnacle of the Silvertine. ‘There upon Celebdil was a lonely window in the snow, and before it lay a narrow space, a dizzy eyrie above the mists of the world. The sun shone fiercely there, but all below was wrapped in cloud. Out he sprang, and even as I came behind, he burst into new flame. There was none to see, or perhaps in after ages songs would still be sung of the Battle of the Peak.’ Suddenly Gandalf laughed. ‘But what would they say in song? Those that looked up from afar thought that the mountain was crowned with storm. Thunder they heard, and lightning, they said, smote upon Celebdil, and leaped back broken into tongues of fire. Is not that enough? A great smoke rose about us, vapour and steam. Ice fell like rain. I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin.’ (LotR, III.5, underlines by squire)

Clearly this is a physical being with physical form, that fights as a man fights. So as far as physical anatomy goes, I vote that the Balrog's incarnation is in the same class as the Ents and the Trolls. All these creatures are of man-shape and move according to a man's frame and musculature, but they do not possess what we would call today a standard mammalian or even animalic anatomy. Questions of respiration, energy consumption, circulation and nervous organization are highly suspect, and in the end, unwelcome. They are of matter, and are animated by spirits who cannot activate a form that is not in some sense humanoid, but that's as far as it goes. In the end, Tolkien's creativity for monsters such as these is just as limited as that of most human cultures, who cannot project their fears and worshipfulness onto anything that does not, outwardly, resemble Man - while ascribing powers to them that cannot be contained in any real human body.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Mar 30 2013, 3:48pm


Views: 282
Thanks for reminding me

to read the text! I was so focused on the few hints about balrogs to be found elsewhere, that I forgot about Gandalf's own account right there in LotR.


In Reply To
...although I don't believe 'flesh and blood' is a useful concept in imagining a Balrog's anatomy, neither will I go with the idea of a being made entirely of (or manifesting itself entirely as) fire and flame. Because Tolkien didn't. We should remember Gandalf's description of the creature when its fire had been 'quenched' by the pool in the abyss below the Bridge...


The idea of the balrog as a "thing of slime" is certainly very striking, especially in contrast to the fiery creature he was in the air above. We are in the "elemental" world of earth, air, fire and water, I think - in which each of those elements has form and substance (fire isn't just a chemical reaction in this pre-modern world but is an element in its own right). I think the balrog may be "made of" fire when it is in the air of the outer world, but within the "foundations of stone", the depths of the earth, it seems to take on a watery substance instead. It reminds me of the "Fire and Water" essence of Smaug (as well as of Beowulf's watery and fiery antagonists, Grendel's mother and the dragon). Maybe the balrog is an elemental shape-shifter rather than just the fiery shape-shifter I theorised about earlier.

As far as the physical "reality" of the balrog goes, the clutching and hewing that Gandalf describes are in fact his own words, not those of the narrator or any other witness, and may be his way of putting into words what was actually happening on another plane. That's what I get, anyway, from the way he compares the final battle with how it would have looked to an earthly observer:
Suddenly Gandalf laughed. ‘But what would they say in song? Those that looked up from afar thought that the mountain was crowned with storm. Thunder they heard, and lightning, they said, smote upon Celebdil, and leaped back broken into tongues of fire. Is not that enough? A great smoke rose about us, vapour and steam...'
In other words, there would have been nothing to see but a violent storm - the rest would not have been visible to ordinary eyes. I think it's no coincidence that Gandalf's other great battle, against the Black Riders on Weathertop, also looks like a lightning storm. The idea perhaps is that storms are (or at least might be!) the manifestation in our world of some great otherworldly battle. Even the description of the balrog breaking the mountain-side where he "smote it in his ruin" is consistent with the result of a violent storm as well. As in Tolkien's evocative description of Thor and the thunderstorm in On Fairy Stories, there's more to storms than meets the eye once you're in Faerie!

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



noWizardme
Half-elven


Mar 30 2013, 5:33pm


Views: 272
"Balrog wings - is it not a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt for so small a thing? So small a thing!"

I wonder why this issue seems so perennial?

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....
Feel free to meddle in the affairs of noWizardMe by agreeing or disagreeing (politely...) with my posts! I may not be subtle, but at least I'm usually slow to anger...


imin
Valinor


Mar 30 2013, 5:54pm


Views: 264
Not sure really

Brings up a lot of discussion and interesting posts - thanks to everyone for contributing, i like thinking of the balrog is made of shadow and flame but as it has been shown the balrog had a physical roughly humanoid shape.

For me i think it had this and then around it, it could create a shadow - kinda like ungoliant could but perhaps smaller than she did. I like the idea of the balrog being able to change the shape of the shadow/cloud to suit - becoming more imposing when it went to stand on the bridge.


Brethil
Half-elven


Mar 30 2013, 6:15pm


Views: 264
I like this idea a lot


In Reply To
The way that I read the description of the Balrog of Moria is that it did not possess natural wings, but manifested them out of shadow when it desired them. If it was indeed a massive creature then it may have needed the wings for balance on such a narrow bridge. Balrogs might not have been very good fliers, which might account for the Balrog of Moria falling after Gandalf broke the bridge.




From a purely practical point the wings for balance (or intimidation) make sense; very neat visual to picture them unfurling from shadow.

Hell hath no fury like a Dragon who is missing a cup.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Mar 30 2013, 6:17pm


Views: 257
It gives us something to fight over. Which are better: dogs or cats? :) //

 


noWizardme
Half-elven


Mar 30 2013, 6:24pm


Views: 258
How it draws one to itself! Have I not felt it?

OK I give in - just cause something has wings doesn't mean it can fly. There are lots of flightless birds. So a balrog could have wings & still not be able to save itself falling off a bridge.

They probably throw the slippers as a secondary weapon.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....
Feel free to meddle in the affairs of noWizardMe by agreeing or disagreeing (politely...) with my posts! I may not be subtle, but at least I'm usually slow to anger...


CuriousG
Half-elven


Mar 30 2013, 6:41pm


Views: 258
Maybe you also need furry slippers

because you can't fly with your wings and need something to cushion all the falling you do. Gotta admit, that old cartoon made some good sense.


imin
Valinor


Mar 30 2013, 6:58pm


Views: 247
Everybody knows its dogs :P //

 


imin
Valinor


Mar 30 2013, 7:00pm


Views: 253
That is how i see them

not physical wings but wings of shadow. Though i dont see them as then growing physical wings out of the shadow as i don't think a balrog can change it's physical shape only the shade around it.


Ardamírë
Valinor


Mar 30 2013, 11:30pm


Views: 352
Thanks for digging that up

I knew I was getting that from somewhere.

I've never thought of them actually flying like an eagle or a bat, but I do think of them with wings. I think John Howe's illustrations have influenced my picture of them a lot.

"Now this babe was of greatest beauty; his skin of a shining white and his eyes of a blue surpassing that of the sky in southern lands - bluer than the sapphires of the raiment of Manwë; and the envy of Meglin was deep at his birth, but the joy of Turgon and all the people very great indeed." -The Fall of Gondolin


Ardamírë
Valinor


Mar 30 2013, 11:32pm


Views: 343
Do not go to the Elves

for they will say both 'yes' and 'no'.

I really think that's the answer to this question (at least for me). I don't like the idea of them being flightless like an emu or a penguin, but I also don't picture them as flying as an eagle or moth. I guess I think of them similarly to how I view angels (only of course made of fire and demonic).

"Now this babe was of greatest beauty; his skin of a shining white and his eyes of a blue surpassing that of the sky in southern lands - bluer than the sapphires of the raiment of Manwë; and the envy of Meglin was deep at his birth, but the joy of Turgon and all the people very great indeed." -The Fall of Gondolin


noWizardme
Half-elven


Mar 31 2013, 11:04am


Views: 375
Tolkien - inconsistent?

Thanks Elizabeth for pointing us towards "The Last Word on Balrog Wings"

I found this passage rather striking

Quote
"in this matter, as on almost every matter of dispute in Tolkien, the author changed his mind, changed it more than once, and made no effort to impose consistancy on his past writting. Early Balrogs definitely did not have wings and did not fly. Late Balrogs did have wings and definitely flew. This should not surprise us. Tolkien was willing to even change things already in print when it suited him, as when he altered the text of the Hobbit (as first published Gollum GAVE Bilbo the Ring for winning the Riddle Game, as he told the Dwarves), or when he revised Celeborn’s clan affiliation without notifying Galadriel."


"Striking" because my early impressions of Tolkien (still holding up despite all the affectionate peering into crannies we like to do here) is that the whole thing seems to hang together with few holes. Tolkien was much more consistent than one might expect, given Tolkien's "very organic" writing process (as Brethil, in another recent thread, aptly calls it).

I'd love to discuss further how Tolkien didn't end up with a universe littered with Balrog wings - started a thread for it over here

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....
Feel free to meddle in the affairs of noWizardMe by agreeing or disagreeing (politely...) with my posts! I may not be subtle, but at least I'm usually slow to anger...

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Mar 31 2013, 11:06am)


noWizardme
Half-elven


Mar 31 2013, 8:55pm


Views: 342
Asbestos socks with cushioned soles! //

 

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....


NZ Strider
Rivendell

Apr 7 2013, 2:56am


Views: 307
Ah, Balrog Wings!

Just browsing a bit and enjoying the reprise of this discussion... Thank you, Elizabeth, for the link to Reverend's wonderful post on the matter. Since Reverend, God rest his soul, did me the favour back then of referring to the backwards "Antipodean" view of matters by mentioning my personal theory, that Balrogs had no wings, but could fly with them anyway; and since it brought back memories, I was inspired to dig out the doggerel which I put together back then in order to propound that view.

So here it is, under the title "Monday Morning Balrog Verses":

Monday Morning Balrog Verses

The Lord of the Rings is one of those things
Which inspires the greatest debates.
And the fiercest of all the debates this past Fall
Has shown not a sign it abates.

The one side maintains (and stoutly refrains
From yielding an inch of its ground)
That a Balrog’s two wings are functional things
In the view of all critics who’re sound.

Yet the sceptics refuse to countenance views
Which they deem so surely absurd,
Alleging the thing’s that Tolkien wrote ‘wings’
As a pure metaphorical word.

“And if not,” they’d say, “why on that grim day,
When the Balrog fell down the stair
Did the beast not spread those wings so dread
And glide away on the air?”

The believers then cried, “but the pit wasn’t wide
Enough for a Balrog’s proud wings
To spread out in glory! A different story
We’d otherwise tell of these things.”

So the two sides debated, their views firmly stated,
For those who desired to hear,
Yet no answer was found nor any new ground
For resolving the matter that year.

Yet some visions have taught me by night how we ought
To solve what has vexed not a little.
For me dreamt that I saw an assemblage at law
Convened for to answer the riddle.

As the lawyers debated and loudly orated,
In the dream I saw in May,
Lo a Balrog appeared and though they all feared
He menaced them not on that day.

Quite calmy he spake, and offered to shake
– a gesture of peace, as he said –
Each man by the hand that they’d all understand
He’d touch not a hair on their head.

“My body inspect, but do not expect,”
He stated in tones quite morose,
“To find e’en a trace of wings any place,”
Then bad them all to look close.

The believers then cried – for no Balrog e’er lied –,
But great was all sceptics’ glee,
As they chortled with joy, “my lovely dear boy,
We were right all along as you see!

“Our view categorical on words metaphorical
Was utterly justified;
This phantasmagorical beast allegorical
Could not fly if he tried!”

But their mirth soon abated as the Balrog constated,
They were telling a base pack of lies!
Their words he refuted – their views all confuted,
Soon the sceptics were rubbing their eyes.

Yea they all stared aghast and their jaws dropped at last,
As that beast from time prehistorical
Slowly rose up on high and then flew through the sky
On his stately two wings metaphorical.


Ataahua
Forum Admin / Moderator


Apr 7 2013, 3:02am


Views: 292
*huge applause*

What a delight! Your gift for rhyme is unmatched on TORN - who else could find a rhyme for phantasmagorical?

:D

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


sador
Half-elven


Apr 7 2013, 7:04am


Views: 276
As far as I know, you can.


In Reply To
My all time fav is on another Tolkien fan site so don't think i can link it, lol.

Perhaps a mod will correct me - but I've seen other fan-sites linked to pretty often over here. I think it's far better than just copying another's argument and taking credit for it yourself, or denying us some valuable resource. Wink


sador
Half-elven


Apr 7 2013, 7:15am


Views: 316
Thank you!

Michael Martinez is a very interesting scholar, who actually posts here once in a blue moon. People who are interested in question of the "solidity" of Tolkien's creation (as in nowizardme's thread) will find in his website an invaluable resource (possibly, his books are even better - but I haven't read them Angelic).

I am also very grateful to you for linking to Dunkerson's summary: it is very clear and the closest thing I've ever seen to a fair, objective presentation. The appendix in which he states his own views is also quite important.

However, it seems that neither a couple of points which I consider relevant. Perhaps I also need some time to write down my ideas about this issue...