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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Lord of the Rings:
Tolkien's mistake ???
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The Shire

May 27 2014, 6:47pm

Post #1 of 27 (1435 views)
Tolkien's mistake ??? Can't Post

Today I was watching LOTR The Two Towers and I Realized something. The famous balrog, Gothmog was killed by Ecthalion when he knocked him into the water. In both movie and the book Durin's Bane falls into water in lowest dungeon with Gandalf while fighting him but "from the lowest dungeon to the highest peak" they still fought. So how did the Lord of all balrogs die when he fell into the water and durin's bane survive thousand meter fall into cold water in the lowest dungeon. Wink


May 27 2014, 7:16pm

Post #2 of 27 (999 views)
Good point....see [In reply to] Can't Post


"...The waters quenched the flames of Gothmog that kept him alive and drowned Ecthelion.."



IF this is accurate...."The water quenched the Balrog's fire, reducing it to "a thing of slime, stronger than a strangling snake". In this relatively weak state, Durin's Bane fled, and Gandalf pursued the creature out of Moria and up the Endless Stair. The chase ended atop the peak of Zirakzigil, or Celebdil, when the Balrog's bodily flames were renewed, restoring much of its power."

The Shire

May 27 2014, 8:08pm

Post #3 of 27 (957 views)
Is it that easy to kill balrogs [In reply to] Can't Post

Well I'm pretty sure Gothmog drowned with him !!! (search Ecthelion on that same website). But even if he didn't its obvious that water weakened the balrogs by puting out their fire so how come no one ever used water to fight them, because they were a big problem for everyone. how come dwarves of moria never tried to pour some water at him :-D !!! imagine how much easier would everything get if every dwarf in moria just took a glass of water and killled balrog. Wink


May 27 2014, 8:20pm

Post #4 of 27 (925 views)
Balrog and Dragon Fire Department Response Team [In reply to] Can't Post

Get the hoses (material?) working! Every time a beast opens his mouth hit him with sprays from different angles.

The Shire

May 27 2014, 9:59pm

Post #5 of 27 (890 views)
Perhaps the water didn't kill Gothmog directly [In reply to] Can't Post

I'll find the relevant bit of the Silmarillion to check soon, but on the wiki page it doesn't say the water kills Gothmog, merely extinguishing the flame. The water also doesn't kill Durin's Bane. So perhaps water just weakens them a lot; it took Gandalf a while to kill his balrog because he was just one person, and was also weakened from the fall.

Gothmog is perhaps surrounded by the garrison of Gondolin, who can step in and finish the job once he has lost his flames. That's the best I can think of; just sheer outnumbered once his flames are gone and he's weakened by Ecthelion's attack

The Shire

May 27 2014, 10:06pm

Post #6 of 27 (871 views)
Agreed [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes you're probably right but BDFRT (Balrog and Dragon Fire Response Team) could've been worth a try though :-D !!!
don't bother checking out the sillmarilion it doesn't say much about the fight, more details are written only in history of middle earth I think! !!

Grey Havens

May 27 2014, 10:07pm

Post #7 of 27 (892 views)
early Balrogs [In reply to] Can't Post

Ecthelion, with the spike of his helm, stabbed Gothmog in the breast before drowning in the fountain...

... but this is not the creature Gandalf fought, for example.

'The early conception of the Balrogs makes them less terrible, and certainly more destructible, than they afterwards became: they existed in hundreds and were slain by Tuor and the Gondothlim in large numbers.' Christopher Tolkien, commentary, The Fall of Gondolin, The Book of Lost Tales II

In this early tale, the Balrogs have whips of flame, but are not creatures of flame and shadow, for instance, so I'm not sure why the article includes that line about its fire being quenched.

And the only reason I 'know' Ecthelion still slays his Balrog with his spiked helm [meaning that I don't really know, but I'm guessing] is that decades after writing this tale, after Tolkien wrote the chapter in which Gandalf encounters a Balrog, he began to update The Fall of Gondolin, and chose to describe Ecthelion's spiked helm when Tuor meets him.

JRRT abandoned this rewrite, the long prose version, well before the battle however.

Glorfindel's battle was also with an 'old conception' Balrog.

(This post was edited by Elthir on May 27 2014, 10:17pm)

Grey Havens

May 27 2014, 10:15pm

Post #8 of 27 (916 views)
Gothmog himself wasn't on fire... [In reply to] Can't Post

... or was he? I don't recall without checking, but judging by CJRT's commentary I think just the whips were fiery in the early conception... no?

Or did I miss this in The Book of Lost Tales?


May 27 2014, 10:50pm

Post #9 of 27 (896 views)
Another take on the fight.... [In reply to] Can't Post

"...But then Ecthelion leaped forward, and stabbed Gothmog in the breast with the spike atop his helm. They both fell into the Fountain of the King, where Gothmog, if not already killed by the spike, drowned with his opponent."[7] **If not killed by the spike it seems hard to believe he would drown in a fountain.

Attributed to: ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "The Fall of Gondolin" , pp. 183-184


May 27 2014, 10:52pm

Post #10 of 27 (897 views)
Lord of the Balrogs does not necessarily mean he was a Balrog. [In reply to] Can't Post


"..Balrogs, or Balrogath ("Balrog-kind") were menacing creatures about twice the height of a man consisting of fire and shadow. ..."

"..Gothmog was apparently one of the Maiar that followed Melkor to exile, and because of either his brilliant mind or because of his ability to assume an immensely powerful physical form, he was made the Lord of Balrogs."


(This post was edited by Eruonen on May 27 2014, 10:53pm)


May 27 2014, 10:54pm

Post #11 of 27 (895 views)
I think we may have hit on a conspiracy here [In reply to] Can't Post

Is nothing sacred! Evil Now you have me questioning my existence.


May 28 2014, 5:48am

Post #12 of 27 (880 views)
1. True. 2. But - [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree that Gothmog need not be a Balrog. In The Book of Lost Tales, he was (if my memory serves me) considered to be the the son of Melko (the Valar did procreate in that version), and something different; and in the 20s and 30s, Thu the wizard (Sauron) was considered to be "Lord of the Werewolves" - which I don't think anyone reads as implying he was one himself.

However, in the published Silmarillion he seems clearly to be a Blarog himself; so at the very least, Christopher Tolkien visualised him as one, and he probably had manuscript authority for it.
I base this on a passage from chapter 20:


At last Fingon stood alone with his guard dead about him; and he fought with Gothmog, until another Balrog came behind and cast a thong of fire about him. Then Gothmog hewed him with his black axe...

So DaughterofLaketown's impression is well-founded.

Grey Havens

May 28 2014, 1:03pm

Post #13 of 27 (837 views)
Gothmog in Gondolin [In reply to] Can't Post

Hmm, well the Gothmog of the published Fall of Gondolin text [as published in The Book of Lost Tales], at least, is described as a Balrog [during the fight with Ecthelion: '... and then the Balrog yelled and fell forward; but these two dropped into the basin of the king's fountain which was very deep], and he has a whip like other Balrogs, but unless I missed it, he is not described to be himself on fire; again at least in the fight with Ecthelion anyway.

I haven't done the work to see if the idea of Gothmog/Kosomo[t]ko as the son of Melko fits or doesn't fit with this text. As a son of Melko Gothmog could could be characterized as a 'demon' in my opinion, and in this phase, if I recall correctly, Melko creates the Balrogs [they are not Maiar for example]. Actually I'm not sure this can be known even if one were to try and research the matter from The History of Middle-Earth series, as Tolkien's ideas could be fluid here.

About the height of Balrogs that you cited, this wiki-description seems once again partly taken from the version of The Fall of Gondolin as published in The Book of Lost Tales II, where the Balrog is said to be twice Glorfindel's height. One may wonder if Tolkien would have stuck to this detail decades later, but in any case, the question becomes, how tall was Glorfindel then...

... keeping in mind that, again in the early tales, although the question of Eldarin height versus Men is a bit murky, there is some text that implies the Gnomes of Gondolin [Glorfindel was a Gnome] were notably shorter than Tolkien would later imagine the towering Noldor.

I understand why some marry descriptions from different periods in Tolkien's life, but I like to look at the external distinctions too.

(This post was edited by Elthir on May 28 2014, 1:14pm)

Grey Havens

May 28 2014, 1:07pm

Post #14 of 27 (846 views)
Children of Hurin [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting that this similar sentence does not read 'another' in the version published in The Children of Hurin.

Grey Havens

May 28 2014, 1:59pm

Post #15 of 27 (799 views)
drowning balrogs and [early] fiery Balrogs [In reply to] Can't Post

"...But then Ecthelion leaped forward, and stabbed Gothmog in the breast with the spike atop his helm. They both fell into the Fountain of the King, where Gothmog, if not already killed by the spike, drowned with his opponent."[7] **If not killed by the spike it seems hard to believe he would drown in a fountain.

Ecthelion had 'twined his legs about his foeman's thighs' before he [Ecthelion] sank 'steel-laden' into the fountain, and perished. Admittedly it's not certain what killed the demon specifically, but I'll put it this way: yes, if not killed right away by the spike Gothmog could have got out of the fountain I think, but Ecthelion might also have been holding a sorely wounded Gothmog -- perhaps even a dying Gothmog -- down under the water long enough too.

As to fire, a quick look at the early text reveals the interesting line: '... Of those demons of power Ecthelion slew three, for the brightness of his sword cleft the iron of them and did hurt to their fire, and they writhed.'

Were the early Balrogs themselves, fiery? I can't find [yet?] an instance where they are for certain [where one bursts into flame, for example] despite this suggestive description, as not only do the Balrogs have whips of fire, they [earlier] shot darts of fire and flaming arrows. What then, is the meaning of doing 'hurt to their fire' here?

I note that in his summation of the early Balrogian attributes Christopher Tolkien does not note that they themselves were fiery, if noting the whips of fire were to remain a later detail -- while seemingly, the claws of steel were later dropped, for instance.



May 28 2014, 3:38pm

Post #16 of 27 (811 views)
Sauron was a shape shifter before the Ring and could [In reply to] Can't Post

take on the form the "Thu - Wolf More Great."

It seems Gothmog, as a maiar, took the appearance of a Balrog in similar fashion. They were essentially "demons of the underworld".....


May 28 2014, 3:39pm

Post #17 of 27 (807 views)
My sense is that Glorfindel would be in the tall elf range of 6'6". [In reply to] Can't Post

Setting aside JRRT's early conceptions and going with his later more fully formed version.

(This post was edited by Eruonen on May 28 2014, 3:40pm)

Grey Havens

May 28 2014, 5:26pm

Post #18 of 27 (794 views)
Glorfindel the Gnome [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay but what I'm trying to point out is that things can get murky when the Wiki-information cites description which essentially 'tricks' the reader into thinking it, at least certainly, pertains to Tolkien's later view of the Noldor: in other words, how tall is the Balrog at the time when Tolkien imagined that Glorfindel's Balrog was twice the Elf's stature?

By simply taking this very early description as is, unless warned, the reader cannot help but imagine the Elves as Tolkien would later imagine them, and then we get an arguably skewed picture.

'Tis written that in those days the fathers of the fathers of Men were of less stature than Men now are, and the children of Elfinesse of greater growth, yet was Tuor taller than any that stood there. Indeed the Gondothlim were not bent of back as some of their unhappy kin became, labouring without rest at delving and hammering for Melko, but small were they and slender and very lithe.' JRRT, The Fall of Gondolin, The Book of Lost Tales

Nuin's words to Tu on the stature of the sleepers in the vale of Murmenalda are curious. In A is added: 'Men were almost of a stature at first with Elves, the fairies being far greater and Men smaller than now. As the power of Men has grown the fairies have dwindled and Men waxed somewhat.' Other early statements indicate that Men and Elves were originally of very similar stature, and that the diminishing in that of the Elves was closely related to the coming of, and the dominance of, Men.

Nuin's words are therefore puzzling, especially since in A they immediately preceded the comment on the original similarity of size; for he can surely only mean that the sleepers in Murmenalda were very large by comparison with the Elves. That the sleepers were in fact children, not merely likened in some way to children, is made clear in D: 'Nuin finds the Slumbrous Dale (Murmenalda) where countless children lie'

Christopher Tolkien, The Book of Lost Tales. Nuin had said...

'(...) nor any the more when Nuin made an end of his tale, telling of all he saw there -- and methought,' said he, 'that all who slumbered there were children, yet was their stature that of the greatest of the Elves.

So as I say, this detail alone is confusing enough, given the unfinished and fluid state of The Book of Lost Tales, but to pick 'twice Glorfindel's height' out of context and imagine we are dealing with a 6 and a half foot, or a 7 foot tall Noldo here [not that you are doing so Eruonen], is not necessarily what Tolkien ultimately had in mind. In other, other, words, when Glorfindel arguably got taller from an external point of view, did Tolkien imagine the Balrog was still twice his height? Who knows? In a very late note associated with the Glorfindel essays, Tolkien writes:

'The duel of Glorfindel and the Demon may need revision'

(This post was edited by Elthir on May 28 2014, 5:38pm)


May 28 2014, 6:03pm

Post #19 of 27 (764 views)
I understand, we are dealing with fluid ideas that were [In reply to] Can't Post

formed and changed over time. For me, in my imagination, I use the later ideas -

"Glorfindel was tall and straight; his hair was of shining gold, his face fair and young and fearless and full of joy; his eyes were bright and keen, and his voice like music; on his brow sat wisdom, and in his hand was strength. (5)

5. The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Many Meetings."


Also, consider the idea of Glorfindel II - the returned.

(This post was edited by Eruonen on May 28 2014, 6:05pm)

Grey Havens

May 28 2014, 6:30pm

Post #20 of 27 (753 views)
I also go with the later ideas... [In reply to] Can't Post

... for Glorfindel's height and reincarnation. For myself I would guess he is close to seven feet tall, if not fully seven feet tall.

But that doesn't mean I imagine that Balrogs are 14 feet high [or certainly twice Glorfindel's height, whatever we imagine within the later context] based on the very early description. Not that you do, but that's the point of all this: it's wiki-conflation in my opinion...

... essentially or arguably Wink

(This post was edited by Elthir on May 28 2014, 6:34pm)

Grey Havens

May 28 2014, 7:20pm

Post #21 of 27 (761 views)
another perspective [In reply to] Can't Post

Some think having Durin's Bane survive the fall was a 'mistake' by Tolkien, due to how deep the chasm appears to be...

... I'll not give my opinion on the characterization of 'mistake' here :ducks: ...Cool

... but we can see, at least, that in draft texts for this chapter, Tolkien once considered this question then noted the possibility that the fall was not so far as it seemed. Obviously Tolkien did not take his own advice here -- he still suggests this fall is very notable -- yet the Balrog and Gandalf survive the fall [water isn't so soft from great heights, so I'm told]...

... to both die later.


May 28 2014, 8:21pm

Post #22 of 27 (761 views)
Another famous duel from on high - The Final Problem [In reply to] Can't Post


The Foehammer
The Shire

May 29 2014, 12:37am

Post #23 of 27 (756 views)
Tolkien doesn't make mistakes, [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien doesn't make mistakes, he can do no wrong.

"My teeth are swords, my claws spears..." - Smaug, The Magnificent

Tol Eressea

May 30 2014, 3:37pm

Post #24 of 27 (700 views)
Maybe there is a connexion to Ulmo? [In reply to] Can't Post

This fountain was the one that formed when Luthien's tears fell as she and Beren were carried away from Angband. Perhaps this fountain had special properties then? Or a connexion to Ulmo's power, secretly aiding Ecthelion? Surely the Lord of the Fountains had a small relation to the Lord of the Waters.

What do you think?

Call me Rem, and remember, not all who ramble are lost...Uh...where was I?


May 30 2014, 9:00pm

Post #25 of 27 (708 views)
I like this. [In reply to] Can't Post

Reminds me of the Sil discussion (during which I lurked mostly) you all had about these topics.

And I'm sure Brethil would approve heartilly.

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