BALROG

BALROGS
The Balrog's size and shape, therefore, are not given precisely. When Gandalf threw it from the peak of Zirakzigil, the Balrog "broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin".

Whether Balrogs have wings (and if so, whether they can fly) is unclear. This is due partly to Tolkien's changing conception of Balrogs, but mostly to his imprecise but suggestive and possibly figurative description of the Balrog that confronted Gandalf in Moria.

The two key quotations:

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

… suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall …

The argument hinges on whether the "wings" are physical wings or simply figurative wings of shadow. Many additional facts are adduced to the argument, but there is not enough firm description in Tolkien's writing to settle the argument definitively.

The Balrog of Moria used a flaming sword ("From out of the shadow a red sword leapt flaming") and the characteristic many-thonged whip of flame in its battle with Gandalf. In The Silmarillion, they also used black axes and maces. Earlier writings also speak of steel claws and iron mail.

In Christopher Tolkien's study of his father's earlier Lord of the Rings drafts, some further indications of Tolkien's evolving conceptions appear. Notably,

A figure strode to the fissure, no more than man-high yet terror seemed to go before it. They could see the furnace-fire of its eyes from afar; its arms were very long; it had a red [?tongue].

At this writing Tolkien contemplated an edict of the Valar concerning Balrogs, having Gandalf challenge the Balrog by saying:

It is forbidden for any Balrog to come beneath the sky since Fionwe son of Manwe overthrew Thangorodrim.


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