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It is confirmed- Balrogs do have wings!
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Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Feb 11, 1:46am

Post #1 of 41 (607 views)
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It is confirmed- Balrogs do have wings! Can't Post

I am reading "The Bridge of Khazad-dum" in LOTR, and this is how the passage confirming it went:

'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;'

So...balrogs have wings Cool

My writing and novels:

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You can also find my novel at most major book retailers online (and for those outside the US who prefer a print book, you can find the print version at Book Depository). Search "Amazing Grace Amanda Longpre'" to find it.

Happy reading everyone!


(This post was edited by Cirashala on Feb 11, 1:47am)


Ethel Duath
Half-elven


Feb 11, 2:00am

Post #2 of 41 (499 views)
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Let the games begin. :D // [In reply to] Can't Post

 



squire
Half-elven


Feb 11, 3:03am

Post #3 of 41 (502 views)
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Oh, yea, Baby! [In reply to] Can't Post

Just before the passage you cited, we read:

"His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings." (LR II.5)

So the reference to the "wings" that were "spread from wall to wall" picks up on this earlier sentence. The "wings", so-called, are, apparently, made of nothing but shadow.

Are they 'real' or are they 'shadow'?

The debate echoes down the halls of Tolkien scholarship and fan studies, even now.

In the words of one anonymous scribe, whose late Third-Age graffiti. from the privies of the Guard in Minas Tirith has been preserved:

When in harmony each Ainu sings
"Say, Melkor, did Balrogs have wings?"
Hear Varda's suggestion:
"That's not the real question!
Please tell us, did Balrogs have things?"




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Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Feb 11, 3:17am

Post #4 of 41 (507 views)
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Nope. [In reply to] Can't Post

You passed over the first descriptions.


Quote
What it was could not be seen: it was like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater...



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


The shadow around the Balrog reached out LIKE wings. Simile. Once established, all further references refer to the wing-shaped shadows. What wings there are, are formed of shadow rather than the being of substance within the shadow.

And so the debate goes ever on....Wink

Silverlode

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.




(This post was edited by Silverlode on Feb 11, 3:19am)


Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


Feb 11, 3:43am

Post #5 of 41 (499 views)
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It took a similar post from Kimi [In reply to] Can't Post

way back in the day for me to finally buy that Tolkien's Balrog doesn't have wings (although *my* Balrog stubbornly does). Tongue

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.


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Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Feb 11, 4:39am

Post #6 of 41 (495 views)
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Yes, I suspect [In reply to] Can't Post

A large part of the longevity of this debate is the fact that so many people just like the idea of wings better. Well, that, and the finer points of reading comprehension getting lost while racing through a tense passage. It might help if more artists had attempted to depict the Balrog this way. I saw one once (I think it was Nasmith?) that did, but that didn't really live up to my internal vision. It makes me wish I were an artist with the skills to put my imagination on paper.

Silverlode

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.




NottaSackville
Tol Eressea


Feb 11, 1:09pm

Post #7 of 41 (448 views)
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But it is a creature of shadow and flame [In reply to] Can't Post

And therefore those shadows may indeed be part of the balrog itself, not just tricks of light.

And by "may indeed", I mean "of course they are". Wink

Notta

Happiness: money matters, but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important and so are friends, while envy is toxic -- and so is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude. - The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner as summarized by Lily Fairbairn. And a bit of the Hobbit reading thrown in never hurts. - NottaSackville


Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Feb 11, 8:46pm

Post #8 of 41 (412 views)
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That is not said in the book [In reply to] Can't Post

Even though it is a line from the movie. In the book, there is a dark form within the shadow. His weapons are "like fire", and his "mane" catches fire as he leaps over the chasm where fires are blazing up from the deeps, but when he falls with Gandalf into the water, he is described as "a thing of slime". Neither fire nor shadow turn into slime when wet. The actual substance of the Balrog is solid enough to grab and hew with a sword. The shadow and flame are what it projects and surrounds itself with, but not the sum total of its makeup.

Silverlode

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.




grammaboodawg
Immortal


Feb 11, 11:20pm

Post #9 of 41 (404 views)
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My cats shed, and my Balrog has wings. [In reply to] Can't Post

Ok... when I very first LotR, I had no idea what it was about, didn't have access to artwork, there were no movies (Bakshi or others). When I read this part in Moria, I imagined the Balrog with wings. So... ever since, my Balrog has wings. I understand the writings and interpretations; but my puppy could fly if he wanted to ;)

I've got to say, though, that I have the statue of the Balrog and Gandalf falling and fighting, and those wings are immense! And the statue is AWESOME!!!! *geeky hand-clapping*







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squire
Half-elven


Feb 12, 12:08am

Post #10 of 41 (402 views)
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Wait, why does the box's caption say "Fellowship of the Ring"? [In reply to] Can't Post

That scene the sculpture depicts so cleverly is from "The Two Towers", is it not?

And yes, if you're going to go against the text and give the thing wings, you could do worse than Weta did!



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Elthir
Grey Havens


Feb 12, 1:11am

Post #11 of 41 (388 views)
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sails, eagle clouds, wings [In reply to] Can't Post

I think you've shown that this Balrog, at one point in the confrontation at least, had something around it that could be called wings. Sails on a ship could be said to have wings . . .



Quote
" . . . for the Sea-men spread great cloths like wings to catch the airs . . ." [a little later in the description] "The foul wings of the Sea-men have not been seen . . ."

JRRT, Tal Elmar



Clouds that look like eagles can have wings . . .


Quote
"And out of the West there would come at times a great cloud in the evening, shaped as it were an eagle, with pinions spread to the north and the south; and slowly it would loom up, blotting out the sunset, and the uttermost night would fall upon Númenor. And some of the eagles bore lightning beneath their wings,..."

JRRT Akallabęth"



And in my opinion, a Balrog with an Unlight/Shadow about it, can have this Unlight take the shape of wings -- if the Balrog desires this shape, though the Unlight/shadow need not always have the shape of wings.

And so when the shadow looks like wings, the Balrog has something reasonably referred to as wings.


"They reckon ill, who leave me out; when me they fly, I am the wings." Smile


(This post was edited by Elthir on Feb 12, 1:20am)


Ethel Duath
Half-elven


Feb 12, 2:00am

Post #12 of 41 (384 views)
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All right, all right, I'll trot it out again [In reply to] Can't Post

http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=262381#262381



squire
Half-elven


Feb 12, 2:10am

Post #13 of 41 (373 views)
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Very artful [In reply to] Can't Post

And, of course, you've pointed out the basic problem, even as you've summoned sources not usually summoned in this question.

In the end, the examples you cite are metaphors. Clouds, shadow, or smokes - or ships' sails - that look like, resemble, or evoke wings will, naturally, be referred to as 'wings' once the writer has has made the connection. Why not?

However, we contrarians might stubbornly insist that actual wings are anatomical members, evolved from the arms or forelimbs of quadrupeds, with the function of enabling flight in past or present form (penguins and ostriches still have wings, although they are flightless). From that point of view, the question of whether Balrogs have wings returns to the question of whether, when the creature crashed into the primeval waters with Gandalf, and had its fires quenched, so that it became a monster of strangling slime, did it still have slimy wings rather than forearms with which it 'clutched' Gandalf?



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Elthir
Grey Havens


Feb 12, 6:39am

Post #14 of 41 (344 views)
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Unlight [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes I danced around your actual distinction, in order to say that, in my opinion, the quote in the first post illustrates that the Balrog has wings according to this definition (which is part of the various definitions of wing in any case): "anything suggesting a wing in form, function, or position, such as a sail of a windmill or a ship."

Tolkien also notes Felarof's wings as a metaphor for speed for instance, where there isn't even anything that looks like wings.

For myself, I think the wings are "real" as in: made of shadow -- but not in the sense of shadow as lack of light, which is why I note Ungoliant's Unlight -- and yet not real too, in the sense that this shadow didn't always need to look like wings. With other shapes possible, in Moria, the Balrog chose "vast" wings.


Also (just my opinion), I don't think Tolkien would have added flight to creatures who "became" (in an external sense) powerful Maiar. Eagle air space is daunting no doubt, but Balrogs are powerful Maiar too, and for example, I note the winged dragons do not make an appearance until after the Fall of Gondolin.

Perhaps if Tolkien had finished the 1950s Fall of Gondolin . . .


(This post was edited by Elthir on Feb 12, 6:54am)


grammaboodawg
Immortal


Wed, 11:31am

Post #15 of 41 (280 views)
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*gapes at pic* Lookit that! :o [In reply to] Can't Post

*stifles snigger* OMG! Good catch! That's not on the box, but it's all over the place on pics like that one! WUPS on someone!




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NottaSackville
Tol Eressea


Wed, 1:15pm

Post #16 of 41 (276 views)
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Ahh, but the book does say more [In reply to] Can't Post

When Gandalf is describing his encounter when attempting to block the door to the Chamber, whatever breaks down the door:


Quote
Something dark as a cloud was blocking out all the light inside


And the first visual description of the balrog is


Quote
...it was like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man-shape maybe


And when Gandalf confronts it on the bridge


Quote
The fire in it seemed to die, but the darkness grew


So I think the quote accurately describes it - the creature has some sort of dark, shadowy cloud that is a part of it, or surrounds it.

What that cloud is could be anyone's guess, but in my mental canon, the shadowy cloud is under the balrog's control, and it uses it to great effect to strike fear those around it.

And, of course, whatever substance it is made out of turns into slime on contact with water.

Just like the balrog is the dark flame of Udun, I'm guessing the cloud is actually formed from airborne particles of the Dark Cornstarch of Udun.

Happiness: money matters, but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important and so are friends, while envy is toxic -- and so is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude. - The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner as summarized by Lily Fairbairn. And a bit of the Hobbit reading thrown in never hurts. - NottaSackville


grammaboodawg
Immortal


Thu, 12:52pm

Post #17 of 41 (233 views)
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*applause* Classic :D [In reply to] Can't Post

Makes me almost feel sorry for the fiery beast ;)




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noWizardme
Valinor


Thu, 2:04pm

Post #18 of 41 (244 views)
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What keeps people going on this once they've realised the ambiguity? [In reply to] Can't Post

I can see how new people constantly 'discover' the Balrog problem (I suppose they read LOTR, see the ambiguity for the first time and ask about it; or they read it knowing there's a controversy, don't see the ambiguity and so ask how there can be a controversy).

I'd have thought though that once someone has had the ambiguity in the text pointed out to them, there's nothing much more to say other than 'oh I see'. Choosing to imagine wings (or no wings) yourself doesn't constrain what other people can or should imagine, I'd have thought.

So do people remain partisan for wings/no wings after realising the passage can be read ether way? If you do, I'd be interested to know why that seems important. Or is it just fun to argue ironically about something that nobody is really regarding as important?


As it's probably some kind of inferntal fiend, I suppose the balrogat least is happy at the mischief it has caused.

In fact, I think I hear it singing:

I am the very model of a creature diabloical
I tie up folks in contests of the literary and logical
My wings might be quite literal, or simply metaphorical
But there's always someone new along who's looking for the oracle.

Why cheer when galant Gandalf holds the bridge like some Horatio?
Who cares - let's argue endlessly about my lift/drag ratio!
Oh yes! In all things fantasy I can be categorical
I am the very model of a creature diabolical


~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Thu, 4:27pm

Post #19 of 41 (232 views)
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"Who cares - let's argue endlessly about my lift/drag ratio!" [In reply to] Can't Post

I am still laughing out loud at that one--thanks for the song.

I remember arguing quite passionately (in favor of wings) when I first saw this debate because that was my head canon, and I wondered how anyone could think otherwise. It was like saying, "Sam is obviously Aragorn's bastard son by a tavern wench--can't the rest of you figure that out?" Grab me my torch and pitchfork, there be a blasphemer among us!

But I was won over by the "ambiguity perspective," as well as the reflection that the balrog was a demon that was cross-dimensional (similar to Frodo at Bruinen seeing events unfold in a different dimension), so whatever we see, it doesn't fit neatly in a normal, This-World box. That actually makes the balrog seem spookier.


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Thu, 5:23pm

Post #20 of 41 (220 views)
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*applause* Excellent! [In reply to] Can't Post

Yep, it's that beastly "lift/drag ratio" tormenting us! Laugh


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"


noWizardme
Valinor


Thu, 6:44pm

Post #21 of 41 (225 views)
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Warning: cross-dimensional tavern wench balrogs (in drag) wanting a lift... [In reply to] Can't Post

Glad you liked the song. Don't feed the balrog; I'm sure it's got a whole 'Pedants of Penzance' up its sleeve (if balrogs wear sleeves?) Or it might be all ready for several more verses of Major-General, now you've reminided it that 'cross-dimensional' is a handy rhyme for 'Morgoth's henchmen all'.

You said something relevant to my more serious point though:


In Reply To
I remember arguing quite passionately (in favor of wings) when I first saw this debate because that was my head canon, and I wondered how anyone could think otherwise. It was like saying, "Sam is obviously Aragorn's bastard son by a tavern wench--can't the rest of you figure that out?" Grab me my torch and pitchfork, there be a blasphemer among us!


I can well imagine your initial 'huh'? How about once you re-read the passage: could you see how someone could feasibly parse it that way (instead of how you'd imagined it), or did it still seem 'Sam's parentage theory' levels of bizarre and not supported by the text at all?

I think what we have in the balrog case is a literary version of this famous optical illusion (old woman or young woman? instead of wings no wings?):

[Caption - Victorian optical illusion image which can be seen either as a picture of a young woman with her head turned away, or an older woman closer up and in profile.]

I spent many years satisfied with my first reading (which happened to be metaphorical wings) before finding out that there was a 'literal wings' school of thought. On re-reading the text I realised that it seemed a perfectly reasonable interpretation. Having realised people could think otherwise, I didn't see that I had to change my views if I didn't want to. Nowadays, 'my' balrog sometimes has wings and sometimes hasn't. It doesn't seem to mind.

So I suppose I'm a bit mystified if folks:
=>can't, after reading the explanations already posted in this thread, see that there is more than one feasible interpretation
=>having seen that, feel there's a problem with other people having a different interpretation.
=>...get so adversarial/Concerning wings and whether they might ever get me aerial (Oi balrog, shut up down there, I'm trying to type! On the other hand - what it said just then)

It seems to me that this is fiction not documentary, and so it ought to be OK - even encourged - for everyone to use their imagination. Tolkien, I think, makes good use of ambiguity in his story, and we lose the benefit of that if there has to be a single offical explanation for everything. If anyone wants to imagine balrogs as a natural history phenomonen, then I propose they have to go and get the type specimen.

I suppose that, with the PJ films having opted for wings, a lot of folks come to the book with that image in their heads already, rather than imagining the balrog from scratch as earlier readers had to. (On the other hand, I hear the balrog practicing a new verse about ...film as a turorial/When its maker's uncanonical and makes up things like 'Tauriel'.)

Ignore it, it just wants to make us mad.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Thu, 6:46pm)


Elthir
Grey Havens


Thu, 7:40pm

Post #22 of 41 (220 views)
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I engage in Balrog wing debates . . . [In reply to] Can't Post

 . . . because it reminds me of simpler times Smile

Also because I'm clearly correct Wink


CuriousG
Half-elven


Thu, 7:43pm

Post #23 of 41 (215 views)
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Mental images are fluid, while movies make things concrete [In reply to] Can't Post

Thinking through other scenarios of how fictional creatures are visualized, I was thinking how the movies had to show a consistent image of orcs. My mind, however, is not so constrained. So movie-orcs appear in my mind where there are lots of nameless, violent, animalistic orcs fighting the good guys in Moria and Helm's Deep. But while I'm reading "The Choices of Master Samwise," Shagrat and Gorbag don't look like movie-orcs at all. I'm not sure how they appear, but more human, more like ruffians than humanoid animals rabid with evil. So it's a good thing my mind isn't playing in theaters, or critics would complain about how inconsistent the casting and costuming are. On the plus side, my mind is remarkably free of commercials. Oh, wait, I'd like a Diet Pepsi now. Dang.

PS. In that photo you posted, I see Sam's mother. Evil


Kimi
Forum Admin / Moderator


Thu, 10:51pm

Post #24 of 41 (196 views)
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Most excellent! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


The Passing of Mistress Rose
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Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Fri, 12:22am

Post #25 of 41 (198 views)
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But- something to consider [In reply to] Can't Post

In Tolkien's works, "shadow" is frequently taken to be an actual entity, not just simply a lack of light but an entity unto itself.

So if the Balrog were shrouded in shadow and flame, and out of that shadow arose wings, or things that looked like wings to others, then couldn't we argue that the wings were, in fact, part of the Balrog- in whom shadow and flame are a part of it?

Think of Sauron. His spirit/fea or whatever it would be called in ME, is a shadow. When the ring is destroyed, a great shadow loomed above, with a hand that reached out to the armies of the Free Peoples (ROTK last stand at the black gate-not an exact quote again don't have book handy right now), before it was blown away by the west wind.

And Saruman too- when he perishes in the Shire, a shadow of sorts loomed upward and looked to the west, before again the west wind blew it away.

These shadows seem to encompass their very spirits, thus making the shadow a PART of them, not just an illusion. And since the balrogs were also Maiar, wouldn't the shadow be a part of them as well?

Hence, if the wings were of shadow, and the shadow was of the balrog/part of the balrog, then by extension balrogs DO have wings- shadow wings, but they are a part of the balrog nonetheless.

I said they had wings. I didn't say that those wings were made of flesh and sinew Wink

My writing and novels:

My Hobbit Fanfiction

My historical novel print and kindle version

My historical novels ebook version compatible with all ereaders

You can also find my novel at most major book retailers online (and for those outside the US who prefer a print book, you can find the print version at Book Depository). Search "Amazing Grace Amanda Longpre'" to find it.

Happy reading everyone!

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