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The balrog and the Chamber of Mazarbul

dik-dik
Lorien


May 25 2013, 6:55pm

Post #1 of 18 (321 views)
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The balrog and the Chamber of Mazarbul Can't Post

This is something I've wondered about since I read Tolkien's Letters.
I used to be fairly sure that the 'great commanding voice' echoing through the halls belonged to the balrog, and that it was him who entered the chamber and challenged Gandalf's spell. Gandalf's description fit at least the latter quite well.
Tolkien's comment on the proposed FotR script made me pause though: "The Balrog never speaks or makes any vocal sound at all." (letter 210)
This comment made me re-evaluate my initial impression about the commanding voice (presumably then belonging to a troll?), and I hesitate about the part on counter-spell. If the creature that entered the Chamber was the balrog, and if the balrog didn't utter a word, would Gandalf be able to actually feel that "the counter-spell was terrible"?
Or is it possible that the incomer wasn't the balrog, but another dark creature that was hiding in the Mines, much like the nameless creatures below Moria? Not too plausible though, given the hints in the chapter's text ("Now I understand", the similar descriptions at the Bridge and in the Chamber, etc.)
How do the other TORNers read this passage?

"A journalist once asked me what I would like my epitaph to be and I said I think I would like it to be 'He did very little harm'. And that's not easy. Most people seem to me to do a great deal of harm. If I could be remembered as having done very little, that would suit me." ~ Paul Eddington


Brethil
Half-elven


May 25 2013, 7:12pm

Post #2 of 18 (186 views)
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Who's that at the door? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Good question, and since JRRT had such a detailed response to the Zimmerman treatment we get a lot of good information in there (on an adaptation that makes me feel very thankful for what we have today!) This is something I've wondered about since I read Tolkien's Letters.
I used to be fairly sure that the 'great commanding voice' echoing through the halls belonged to the balrog, and that it was him who entered the chamber and challenged Gandalf's spell. Gandalf's description fit at least the latter quite well. Tolkien's comment on the proposed FotR script made me pause though: "The Balrog never speaks or makes any vocal sound at all." (letter 210) This comment made me re-evaluate my initial impression about the commanding voice (presumably then belonging to a troll?),
In the context of the grinding laughter, I read it as one of the Uruks in command. You are absolutely right, I have read the same Letter in reference to another query recently, and indeed the Balrog should not be seen to laugh or speak. Not sure if the Trolls would have any command position - I feel like they are more big, dumb muscle than in charge? and I hesitate about the part on counter-spell. If the creature that entered the Chamber was the balrog, and if the balrog didn't utter a word, would Gandalf be able to actually feel that "the counter-spell was terrible"? I think it was silent and he did 'feel' it, based on how the door shatters with the counter spell - maybe being able to sense the stress of the counter-spell in the material of the door itself? So my feeling would be that the Balrog is on the other side of the door, especially since the Orcs go silent and are afraid as it moves through, having made a reference to 'ghash' (fire) which is maybe what they would refer to the Balrog as.


Manwe, when asked a simple "Yes" or "No" question, contemplated, and responded "the middle one."


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


May 25 2013, 7:36pm

Post #3 of 18 (176 views)
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The "Beater of the Drums" is who Gimli thinks is at the door [In reply to] Can't Post

The "Beater of the Drums" is who Gimli thinks is at the door. It's it clear whether that's the Balrog- which escapes from the collapse if the Camber, or whether Foe I gets buried in the chamber (as Gandalf thinks) & Foe II is the Balrog....

But I've never been to convinced- Gandalf feels something extraordinarily magical through the door: it seems very plausible that it must be the Balrog.

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

"nowimė I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


May 25 2013, 7:46pm

Post #4 of 18 (172 views)
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it's clearly [In reply to] Can't Post

 
....lobelia.


cheers --

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


elaen32
Gondor


May 25 2013, 7:47pm

Post #5 of 18 (183 views)
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Gandalf & the Balrog [In reply to] Can't Post

Both Gandalf & the balrog are Maiar spirits and live within the seen and the unseen world. I imagine that they can communicate without the need for words, or at least can feel each other's power and presence. It would make sense in the context of what we are told, but it is far from explicit
Another question for everybody- if Gandalf and Saruman, knew of the balrog's presence in Moria- which they do in the movie and which I think was the case in the book (I cannot remember), then why was Gandalf so surprised to encounter a balrog in Moria? He says " A Balrog! Now I understand..." or words to that effect. Just wondering.....

"Beneath the roof of sleeping leaves the dreams of trees unfold"


Brethil
Half-elven


May 25 2013, 8:02pm

Post #6 of 18 (173 views)
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I wonder if it's that remark Aragorn makes... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Both Gandalf & the balrog are Maiar spirits and live within the seen and the unseen world. I imagine that they can communicate without the need for words, or at least can feel each other's power and presence. It would make sense in the context of what we are told, but it is far from explicit
Another question for everybody- if Gandalf and Saruman, knew of the balrog's presence in Moria- which they do in the movie and which I think was the case in the book (I cannot remember), then why was Gandalf so surprised to encounter a balrog in Moria? He says " A Balrog! Now I understand..." or words to that effect. Just wondering.....




..and if it's a bit of prophesy: "and I say to you Gandalf: if you pass he doors of Moria, beware!" (memory ? quote). So maybe even knowing the Balrog was in there, Gandalf felt the doom of that statement, and saying 'now I understand" acknowledges that what may destroy him is this Balrog, in this moment, when he is already weary?

Manwe, when asked a simple "Yes" or "No" question, contemplated, and responded "the middle one."


Brethil
Half-elven


May 25 2013, 8:04pm

Post #7 of 18 (160 views)
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Searching for spoons? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
....lobelia.


Manwe, when asked a simple "Yes" or "No" question, contemplated, and responded "the middle one."


dik-dik
Lorien


May 25 2013, 9:54pm

Post #8 of 18 (148 views)
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Re: [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Not sure if the Trolls would have any command position - I feel like they are more big, dumb muscle than in charge?


True. I think JRRT wrote something about the trolls becoming cunning by the time of the War, but still the orcs appear smarter in general, so I guess you're right about the Uruk chieftain.


In Reply To
I think it was silent and he did 'feel' it, based on how the door shatters with the counter spell - maybe being able to sense the stress of the counter-spell in the material of the door itself?


What confuses me there a bit is Gandalf's muttered spell as opposed to the balrog's wordless one. Didn't the balrog need a voiced spell, having never needed to learn to speak to communicate with Morgoth - or was it that he just couldn't utter it? It makes me wonder if balrogs were perhaps a bit like Huan, and couldn't speak even if they wanted to.

"A journalist once asked me what I would like my epitaph to be and I said I think I would like it to be 'He did very little harm'. And that's not easy. Most people seem to me to do a great deal of harm. If I could be remembered as having done very little, that would suit me." ~ Paul Eddington


CuriousG
Valinor


May 25 2013, 9:57pm

Post #9 of 18 (164 views)
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Possibly he didn't know [In reply to] Can't Post

Good question, Elaen. From my viewpoint about what the books say, Gandalf had to make a trip to Dol Guldur to find out who was in power there, so it wasn't possible to identify the unseen spirit from afar. He had ventured well into the interior of Moria before but never encountered the Balrog on that trip. For all he knew, Durin's Bane was one of those older, fouler creatures in the world that the Dwarves had stirred up.

After driving out Durin's people, the Balrog remained curiously shy and didn't venture outside, possibly not wanting anyone to be sure of its identity. So up to that point in the story, the Wizards couldn't know what Durin's Bane was for sure. I think that was why Gandalf was surprised by it.

I also think that the Maiar who became Wizards were seriously handicapped and didn't have all their regular powers and perception of the Seen/Unseen, so that would be another reason for Gandalf to sense and glimpse the Balrog in the Chamber of Mazarbul without knowing exactly what it was. I think the movie had to fill in a lot of gaps of uncertainty to keep the story rolling.

Which makes me think of the following scenario. How about a theater showing of the movie trilogy for Tolkien book fans who all have a pause button at their chairs? The movie sweeps along and then someone shouts "Stop! Accuracy check." A hundred flashlights emerge in the dark as people read their books and ebooks on their laps, cross-referencing and verifying, then having a debate followed by an onscreen poll to reach a consensus, then the movie resumes. It could take an entire weekend just to get through a single movie!

PS> Does it seem odd that Legolas instantly recognizes the Balrog though he'd never seen one, and Gandalf is a little slower in the uptake? But again, maybe it was the Wizard handicap.


dik-dik
Lorien


May 25 2013, 9:59pm

Post #10 of 18 (164 views)
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He didn't seem surprised to me in the movie. [In reply to] Can't Post

In response to Boromir's query, he appeared resigned as he said 'A balrog', even before he actually saw the creature. It was as if Gandalf knew precisely what he was dealing with, unlike in the book and in Bakshi's LotR. There noone seems quite sure as to what the evil force beneath the Mountains was. Aragorn's words sound like no more than a premonition to me, although he must have also known there was something evil and powerful down there.

"A journalist once asked me what I would like my epitaph to be and I said I think I would like it to be 'He did very little harm'. And that's not easy. Most people seem to me to do a great deal of harm. If I could be remembered as having done very little, that would suit me." ~ Paul Eddington


(This post was edited by dik-dik on May 25 2013, 10:03pm)


Elizabeth
Valinor


May 25 2013, 10:47pm

Post #11 of 18 (158 views)
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Elves know about balrogs. [In reply to] Can't Post

They fought them in the First Age, and the tales are still around, as there are probably living Elves who remember. Gandalf wasn't in ME during those wars. I agree that Gandalf didn't know exactly what Durin's Bane was.

Also, your point about the Istari being very limited in their powers is an important one to remember.








Yngwulff
Gondor


May 26 2013, 4:00am

Post #12 of 18 (135 views)
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Durin's Bane [In reply to] Can't Post

The Dwarves knew it was something bad and remained stubbornly tight lipped about it. They may have known what it was back when killed Durin drove the Dwarves from Moria, but over time they simply referred to it as Durins Bane and left it as that forgetting what it was but not its evil and dangerous nature.
Otherwise Balin probably would not have went to retake it.

It seems obvious to me as well, that Gandalf through his reading, research, and learned ways (in addition to his time spent at Rivendell with the Elves), had heard of a Balrog while never encountering one until FOTR events unfolded, but had a pretty solid idea of what one was.

Also on spells ... do they necesarily need to be spoken? Can a spell be cast with a gesture or simply with a force of mind or will without verbal incantation?
I would have to say yes it is possible, and it was the Balrog's power he felt initially in the Chamber of Mazarbul.


Take this Brother May it Serve you Well
Vote for Pedro!


Elthir
Gondor

May 26 2013, 1:56pm

Post #13 of 18 (130 views)
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the letter Z [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Tolkien's comment on the proposed FotR script made me pause though: "The Balrog never speaks or makes any vocal sound at all." (letter 210)





I'm wondering if the proposed script had the Balrog making some comment after Gandalf stopped to face it on the bridge, something that not only annoyed Tolkien, but he thought the scene worked far better as he wrote it -- as the creature did not speak at this point in any case.

But even in the books it did make [what I would call] a vocal sound at least. Tolkien seems to have forgotten that much and not to have checked his book before he responded... unless he disagrees with me about the Balrog and the following description...

'With a terrible cry the Balrog fell forward, and its shadow plunged down and vanished.'





dik-dik
Lorien


May 26 2013, 8:49pm

Post #14 of 18 (108 views)
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Maybe JRRT meant 'any specifically human' vocal sound? [In reply to] Can't Post

From the context, it appears the scriptwriter made the balrog sneer/laugh. I'm happy that the only sound PJ's LotR movies give the balrog is the sound of a large fire (at least to my ears).

"A journalist once asked me what I would like my epitaph to be and I said I think I would like it to be 'He did very little harm'. And that's not easy. Most people seem to me to do a great deal of harm. If I could be remembered as having done very little, that would suit me." ~ Paul Eddington


PhantomS
Rohan


May 27 2013, 5:02pm

Post #15 of 18 (94 views)
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the one-Balrog identity parade [In reply to] Can't Post

Legolas does know what a Balrog is, and given that Elves have the best story telling and the most vivid of dreams and imagination of the Free Peoples, he put two and two together. The Balrog is also the only flaming character in all of Tolkien, plus Legolas might have seen something else with his Elvish perception compared to Aragorn and Frodo.


CuriousG
Valinor


May 27 2013, 7:26pm

Post #16 of 18 (89 views)
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Yes, but [In reply to] Can't Post

Legolas was from Mirkwood, which seems pretty isolated from the rest of the Elven world, and certainly it had no connection to Beleriand where the Balrogs were. Would he have received detailed descriptions from anyone to recognize a Balrog on the spot? Though as you point out, they're the only fiery beings in M-E, so maybe that was enough of a clue to figure it out.


Elizabeth
Valinor


May 27 2013, 7:37pm

Post #17 of 18 (86 views)
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I'm sure the tales get around. [In reply to] Can't Post

As I noted above, there are living Elves who fought First Age balrogs. Even if they don't live in Mirkwood, I'm sure there's communication, and sharing tales of this sort would be a popular occupation in Elvish culture, I'm sure.








PattyJB
Rivendell


May 27 2013, 7:54pm

Post #18 of 18 (122 views)
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As he tells Galadriel and Celeborn [In reply to] Can't Post

"It was a Balrog of Morgoth," said Legolas; "of all elf-banes the most deadly, save the One who sits in the Dark Tower."

He clearly knows exactly what it is. Plus, I imagine the story of Glorfindel and the Balrog is close to universally known among all elves. Young elves may well have played at "elven warriors and balrogs"!


 
 

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