|“||Then something came into the chamber - I felt it through the door, and the orcs themselves were afraid and fell silent. It laid hold of the iron ring, and then it perceived me and my spell.||”|
–The Lord of the Rings, "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm"
Balrogs were the Valaraukar (Quenya; vala "power" + rauko "monster"), spirits of the Maiar that were seduced and corrupted by Melkor to his service. There were never more than seven, according to Tolkien's son, but in earlier versions of Tolkien's writings there are references to entire armies of Balrogs, at least before the destruction of Utumno. Gothmog was their captain during the First Age.
- (Note: Many pictures on this page are of Durin's Bane, the Balrog of Moria, the best-known example of a Balrog.)
- Note: For theories about whether Balrogs had actual wings, go to the Did Balrogs have wings? page.
Balrogs were "scourges of fire, ... demons of terror." They were Maiar, originally of the same order as Saruman and Gandalf, but they were seduced by Melkor, who corrupted them to his service in the days of his splendour before the creation of Arda. During the Music of the Ainur, the Ainulindalë, Melkor (Morgoth) began introducing themes of his own design into the Theme of Ilúvatar, causing great discord in the music. Balrogs were among those spirits near Melkor who attuned their own music to Melkor's theme rather than Ilúvatar's. Therefore, they not only existed before the creation of the world, they had a part in its creation.
During the First Age, Balrogs were among the most feared of Morgoth's forces. When his Fortress of Utumno was destroyed by the Valar, seven fled and lurked in the pits of Angband. If more existed before this time, they were slain by the Valar in Utumno. The Balrogs were first encountered by the Elves during the Dagor-nuin-Giliath (Battle-under-Stars) in the First Age. After the great victory of the Ñoldor over Morgoth's orcs, Fëanor pressed on towards Angband, but the Balrogs came against him. He was mortally wounded by Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs. Though his sons fought off the demons with an army of elves at their side, Fëanor died of his wounds soon after, and his spirit departed for the Halls of Mandos. Another major encounter was in the Battle of Unnumbered Tears (Nirnaeth Arnoediad). Gothmog, High Captain of Angband, led the invasion. He threw aside Hurin and Turgon, turned upon Fingon and killed him with the help of another Balrog, winning the battle for Morgoth's forces. During the Fall of Gondolin, Ecthelion managed to kill Gothmog at the cost of his own life. Another Balrog is confronted when he attacks Tuor and those attempting to escape the siege. Glorfindel fought the Balrog to give his friends a chance to escape. The battle ended with Glorfindel casting down the Balrog from the mountain but being pulled down along with the demon. The last Balrogs fought in the War of Wrath but were either slain or forced to retreat.
Most of the Balrogs of Morgoth were destroyed during the War of Wrath at the end of the First Age, but some few "fled and hid themselves in caverns inaccessible at the roots of the earth." During the Third Age, it was discovered that one of these had hidden deep beneath the Misty Mountains, near Moria. That was Durin's Bane, the best-documented of the Balrogs. The Dwarves of Khazad-dûm had accidentally awakened it while greedily mining too deep for Mithril. It was Durin's Bane that drove the dwarves from their homeland in Moria. Later, in his confrontation with the wizard Gandalf and the the Fellowship of the Ring, he pursued them to the bridge of Khazad-dûm. Gandalf fought the Balrog allowing the Fellowship to escape Moria. Both were slain, but Gandalf was "sent back" by the Valar (or possibly by Iluvatar).
A Balrog generally took the form of a tall, menacing being roughly in the shape of a Man, having control of both fire and shadow and wielding a fiery whip with several thongs (Gothmog, the Lord of Balrogs in the First Age, used an axe as well). They induced great terror in friends and foes alike. Many who faced Balrogs referred to them as "creatures of fire and shadow" or simply "shadow and flame."
In his published works, Tolkien depicts the Balrog as being barely a shape wreathed in shadow and flame - possibly man-shape, yet greater. Balrogs seemed to encapsulate and project power and terror.
Additionally, they were probably able to alter their body structures on occasions as being seen in the battle between Durin's Bane and Gandalf, when the Balrog fell into a water he could shift himself into something gelatinous.
In the film adaptations, the head somewhat resembles a skull with ram's horns, while being itself wrapped in its flames.
Balrogs were indeed very fearsome and powerful creatures. Once being unleashed on battlefields, these Maiar of hell-fires would have displayed such destructive powers to annihilate unlucky foes. They had been some of the most trusted and the oldest servants of Morgoth, and were one of the two strongest of the Dark Lord's forces along with dragons. These two were left to be commanders at wars, and would cooperate in needs. Balrogs were occasionally seen riding on dragons.
Balrogs' most renowned and feared behaviors were to create or summon efreetic weapons made of hell flames. Not only with their whips and swords of Udun, the fallen spirits could ignite and engulf themselves in flames. Their entire being were associated with flames as their simple breaths were extremely hot fire.
For what extent Balrogs' capabilities in terms of special abilities and magic could reach is basically unknown. For example, Istari at least could cause changes in the weathers at will, thus Balrogs could or could not do the same art. Furthermore, as when Morgoth was attacked by the Ungoliant, Balrogs could reach to rescue their master quite immediately. This was possibly due to their using of magic or supernatural power of Maiar in case if they cannot fly extremely fast.
It seems likely that they cannot be hurt with normal weapons as Gandalf said. Gandalf could fight against the demon because Gandalf himself is a Maia as well and the blade used by him was the Glamdring, a sword of Gondolin.
In one of Tolkien's pre-Middle-earth stories, Lay of the Children of Húrin, "Lungothrin, Lord of Balrogs," is mentioned. It is not certain whether this was another name for Gothmog, or whether it simply meant "a Balrog lord." According to Christopher Tolkien, the latter is more probable, as the name Gothmog was mentioned in the earliest Middle-earth writings, as well as in the final versions of Tolkien's mythology.
The early conception of Balrogs makes them less terrible, and certainly more destructible, than they afterwards became: they existed in 'hundreds' (p. 170), and were slain by Tuor and the Gondothlim in large numbers: "thus five fell before Tuor's great axe Dramborleg, three before Ecthelion's sword, and two score were slain by the warriors of the king's house." —The Book of Lost Tales 2, commentary by Christopher Tolkien on The Fall of Gondolin.
"There came wolves and serpents and there came Balrogs one thousand, and there came Glomund the Father of Dragons." The Lost Road, Chapter 16. (Glomund's name became Glaurung when Tolkien wrote the Silmarillion.
When Tolkien developed Middle-earth as the backdrop for The Lord of the Rings, Balrogs became more formidable and terrible, and their number was much reduced. In the end Christopher Tolkien stated that there were "at most" seven Balrogs:
|“||In the margin my father wrote: 'There should not be supposed more than say 3 or at most 7 ever existed.'||”|
–Morgoth's Ring, Section 2 (AAm*): Note 50
All the known Balrogs were seemingly males. It is even unknown there were even genders among them.
- Gothmog - the first Balrog to wield the title of the Lord of Balrogs (presumably the title was indeed created for him)
- Lungothrin - also claiming the title of the Lord of Balrogs and was the vital chief for guards of Angband with his piety to the Dark Lord rivaling that of Gothmog
- Durin's Bane - the only known individual survived after the War of Wrath, and also being the only Balrog not to being tied-up affirmatively with dark forces of his time.
Portrayal in adaptationsEdit
- In the video games The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth and The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II, the Balrog is a power of the goblins and Mordor which cost 25 Power points, with Whip, Sword, Wings, Firebreath and other weapons can cause devastating damage towards enemy units and structures.
- It is also a Boss character in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Video Game, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers on Game Boy Advance and The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age. In the latter, the Balrog is fought by Gandalf on the Player's side and becomes a usable hero for the duration of the battle. Though it is referenced in the video games based on the Films.
- It also appears in The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest, resembling the movie version.
- Two Balrogs also appear in The Lord of the Rings Online: Thaurlach, located deep within the Rift of Nurz Ghashu in Angmar, and Durin's Bane, encountered several times during introductive "quests" to Moria. An illusion of Durin's Bane is encountered in the Ost Dunhoth Instance Raid.
- In LEGO The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game, players can play as Gandalf and fight with, and eventually defeat the Balrog.
- The Balrog is also a playable Hero in The Lord of the Rings: Conquest in Mission 4 - The Mines of Moria and Mission 7- The Shire (Evil Campaign)
- Balrog (named Firelord Balrog) appears in the game The Legend of the Cryptids as a playable card.
The Quenya form is Valarauko or Valarauco (IPA: [valaˈraʊko]), and the plural is Valaraukar or Valaraucar ([valaˈraʊkar]). The Sindarin form was "Demon of Might"; IPA: [ˈbalroɡ]; Sindarin plural Belryg; [ˈbelryɡ] or later [ˈbelriɡ])
- Almost all the known individuals were vanquished in terms of double suicides or falling together. All the Balrogs within their final battles end in falling. Gothmog sunk deep in the fountain, Glorfindel's Balrog fell over a cliff, and Durin's Bane actually fell twice (Fell with Gandalf from the Bridge of Khazad-dûm and thrown down from the top of Zirakzigil by the final blow of the wizard)
- At over 20 feet high, the Balrog is one of the largest characters in the Lord of the Rings franchise. Along with Gandalf, Saruman, Sauron, Radagast, Treebeard and possibly Tom Bombadil, he may very well be the oldest.
- Seemingly, there had not been dangerous conflicts between Balrogs and Dragons. It is unclear this was achieved because these fiery demons and monsters were indeed compatible and were sensible, or there were none community of interests, and both of them were unconcerned about each other. Or such situations might have been restricted and controlled by orders of their master to evade damaging by most mighty members to his own forces.
- Some fans of the Doom series claim that the Balrog of the movies looks similar to a cross between a D3 Cyberdemon and a D3 Maledict (Cyberdemon with Maledict Wings).
- A demonic monster in the popular 2D side-scrolling game Maplestory, bears many similar qualities and characteristics, and thus many believe the monster was represented on behalf of the fictitious one depicted in the Tolkien series.
- A certain red-skinned antagonist in the MMO-RPG Wartune is identical exactly to a Balrog but for his 4 black horns.
- A demon in Dungeon Hunter: Alliance called the "Cremator "has the same head and fiery presence as a Balrog, without wings.
- A demonic monster in another popular 3D game is called "Mabinogi."
- Many fans claim that the Balrog inspired Games Workshop's Bloodthirster in Warhammer, which is known as the Greater Daemon of Khorne (the Chaos God of Blood, Battle, War and Rage.)
- The main antagonist of Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, the Dahaka, strongly resembles the Balrog, but has one horn bent downward, and it does NOT have wings.
- The Balor from Dungeons and Dragons is clearly based on the Balrog.
- In early editions of the game, it was actually referred to as the Balrog. The name was changed due to copyright claims made by Tolkien Estate.
- The hero named Hellbringer from Heroes of Newerth (A game that is based on a popular Warcraft III mod known as Defense of the Ancients.) can summon Malphas which is clearly based on the Balrogs.
- War, the first horseman and main playable character from the game Darksiders has a chaos form that looks very similar to Durin's Bane.
- Balrog was the name of a boxer from USA who made his debut as the second boss in Street Fighter II. Although he cannot kick, he made up for it with pummeling punches. This name was originally part of a triangle of replacement; the original Japanese game credited him as M. Bison (after boxer Mike Tyson), leaving the character Vega named Balrog.
- In the manga and anime series Saint Seiya, Balrog Rune (or Balron Lune) is a servant of Hades clad in armor modeled after Tolkien's monster.
- The Juggernaut and its upgrade the Ravager in Heroes VI, also resembles the Balrog's looks, especially the head region. Whether this is on purpose or just a coincidence is not known.
- The boss Fyrus from Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, bears a slight resemblance to Balrog, in it's height and black fiery form.
|Ainur of Arda|
|Lords of the Valar:||Manwë | Aulë | Oromë | Irmo (Lórien) | Námo (Mandos) | Tulkas | Ulmo|
|Queens of the Valar (The Valier):|| |
Varda | Yavanna | Vána | Estë | Vairë | Nessa | Nienna
|Lord of the Valar (The Enemy):|| |
Morgoth (a.k.a. Melkor)
Eönwë | Ilmarë | Ossë | Uinen | Salmar | Melian | Arien | Tilion | Curumo (Saruman) | Olórin (Gandalf) | Aiwendil (Radagast) | Alatar (Morinehtar) | Pallando (Rómestámo)
|Maiar (Enemies):||Sauron | Gothmog | Durin's Bane | Ungoliant | Curumo (Saruman)|
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 The Silmarillion, Valaquenta: "Of the Maiar"
- ↑ http://alan-and-john.tumblr.com/page/21
- ↑ The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter XXIV: "Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"
- ↑ The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter V: "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm"
- ↑ The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Book Three, Chapter V: "The White Rider"
- The Truth About Balrogs essay series by Conrad Dunkerson.