BALROG


BALROGS
Tolkien's conception of Balrogs changed over time. In all his early writing, they are numerous. A host of a thousand of them is mentioned in the Quenta Silmarillion, while at the storming of Gondolin Balrogs in the hundreds ride on the backs of the Dragons. They are roughly of twicehuman size, and were occasionally killed in battle by Elves and Men.They were fierce demons, associated with fire, armed with fiery whips of many thongs and claws like steel, and Morgoth delighted in using them to torture his captives. They were loyal to Morgoth, and once came out of hiding to save him from capture.

In the published version of The Lord of the Rings, however, Balrogs became altogether more sinister and more powerful. Christopher Tolkien notes the difference, saying that in earlier versions they were "less terrible and certainly more destructible". He quotes a very late margin note that was not incorporated into the text saying "at most seven" ever existed; though in the Annals of Aman, written as late as 1958, after the publication of The Lord of the Rings, Melkor still commands "a host of Balrogs". In later writings they ceased to be creatures, but are instead Maiar, lesser Ainur like Gandalf or Sauron, spirits of fire whom Melkor had corrupted before the creation of the World. Power of the order of Gandalf's was necessary to destroy them, and as Maiar, only their physical forms could be destroyed.

Tolkien says of the Valar (including the Maiar) that they can change their shape at will, and move unclad in the raiment of the world, meaning invisible and without form. But it seems that Morgoth, Sauron, and their associated Maiar could lose this ability: Morgoth, for example, was unable to heal his burns from the Silmarils or wounds from Fingolfin and Thorondor; and Sauron lost his ability to assume a fair-seeming form after his physical body was destroyed in the downfall of Númenor.

Tolkien does not address this specifically for Balrogs. In "the Bridge of Khazad-dûm" in The Fellowship of the Ring, the Balrog appears "like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater". Though previously the Balrog had entered the "large square chamber" of Mazarbul, at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm it "drew itself to a great height, and its wings spread from wall to wall" in what was a vast hall.



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