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Minas Tirith Forums » Library Council of Minas Tirith » The question of Balrog wings (Page 10)
Author Topic: The question of Balrog wings
Dark Lord Andúril
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I liked PJ's wings. They were 'wings of shadow'...
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Dolmed
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I propose that whether a balrog has wings or not is entirely in the eye/mind of the reader. One will read into something what they will, especially when the words are as ambiguous as those in the passages sited.
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Faramir Took
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I kinda think PJ was aware of the debate, so he made "wings of shadow", to be neutral.

[ 12-31-2005, 11:00 AM: Message edited by: Faramir Took ]

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ZENITH
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Yet, the toy's do have wings []

[ 11-12-2003, 06:02 AM: Message edited by: ZENITH ]

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Daenar
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The wings do come off, you know...

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Roll of Honor Thorin
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Believe it or not, there may (possibly) be new information to this old debate. Our very own citizen Michael Martinez has published a new article here:

http://www.merp.com/essays/MichaelMartinez/flyingaway

Meanwhile, the article itself is being discussed at the moment here in the Reference Material Forum:

New essay at MERP: flying away on a wing and a hair...

Edit: It is a long article, so to whet your appetite to actually read the thing here is a teaser: Christopher Tolkien.

[ 12-30-2005, 01:25 AM: Message edited by: Thorin ]

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The Witch-King of Angmar
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quote:
I liked PJ's wings. They were 'wings of shadow'...
No, they were bat-like wings-- on a two-legged MOUNTAIN GOAT.

In the book, they were first stated to be like wings-- that's a clear use of simile, and anyone who doesn't recognize it should take English-lessons. The fact that they were afterward reference as "wings," is simply a reference to that prior simile; the alternative would be "those shadows that looked like wings".

(And as I've often found to my extreme frustration, graphic artists aren't particularly well-known for their literary English skills).

Finally, here's a question no one asked: if he could fly, why would he spend all those years at the bottom of Khazad-dûm, waiting for Durin's folk to release him-- instead of just flying up?
And if he couldn't fly, why would he have wings? Decoration?

As for the Silmarillion's statement about "winged speed:" Tulkas was stated to be faster than any other living creature-- just on his own two feet. The Balrogs could easily have been similarly fast; otherwise, why didn't Gandalf and the party just run? It was because Gandalf knew it was no use, since balrogs were too fast; so he chose to try to hold off the balrog in a stalemate, while the rest of the party escaped.

[ 01-01-2006, 03:26 AM: Message edited by: The Witch-King of Angmar ]

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Alatar the Wizard
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I agree that Balrogs don't have wings and that darkness merely spread "like wings", though I have to admit that I thought Peter Jackson's solution to the problem was elegant. []
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The Witch-King of Angmar
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Yeah right-- beats being true to the BOOK by putting SHADOW wings on him.
I just can't agree that getting it DEAD WRONG was "elegant."
Even TV sci-fi has decent "shadow" effects; how hard can it be?
The book simply flew over PJ's hairy little noggin-- as well as that of the ALL-WETA crew. So they set a puppet on fire, and said "there's your balrog." Sure-- and Sauron was a flaming red eyeball, right? Makes sense.

[ 01-01-2006, 07:41 PM: Message edited by: The Witch-King of Angmar ]

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Alatar the Wizard
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quote:
Yeah right-- beats being true to the BOOK by putting SHADOW wings on him.
I just can't agree that getting it DEAD WRONG was "elegant."

Prove with the passage that the shadow that stretched out from the Balrog "like wings" looked like something other than shadow wings, and was therefore "DEAD WRONG". Go ahead. I'll wait.

Peter Jackson simply made one possible and reasonable interpretation of a passage. The darkness spread out "like wings", but Tolkien does not mention just HOW MUCH like wings that was. Perhaps the shadow did indeed look "like wings". That leaves some wiggle-room in interpretation.

[ 01-02-2006, 09:26 AM: Message edited by: Alatar the East-helper ]

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The Witch-King of Angmar
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quote:
Prove with the passage that the shadow that stretched out from the Balrog "like wings" looked like something other than shadow wings, and was therefore "DEAD WRONG". Go ahead. I'll wait.
You got me; they looked NOTHING other than shadow-wings. That's NOT what was in the movie-- he had very visible, bat-like, stick-kite wings stuck to his back.

quote:
Peter Jackson simply made one possible and reasonable interpretation of a passage. The darkness spread out "like wings", but Tolkien does not mention just HOW MUCH like wings that was. Perhaps the shadow did indeed look "like wings". That leaves some wiggle-room in interpretation.

It DID mention that they were shadows, however-- not wings at all:

quote:
The Balrog reached the bridge. Gandalf stood in the middle of the span, leaning on the staff in his left hand, but in his other hand Glamdring gleamed, cold and white. His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings. It raised the whip, and the thongs whined and cracked. Fire came from its nostrils. But Gandalf stood firm.
`You cannot pass,' he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. `I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass.'
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; but still Gandalf could be seen, glimmering in the gloom; he seemed small, and altogether alone: grey and bent, like a wizened tree before the onset of a storm.

Now unless you're suggesting that the wing-like shadow mentioned in the first passage were different than the "wings" which spread from wall to wall, filling the entire hall of Khazad-dûm-- the chasm alone of which was spanned by a bridge of 50 feet-- then we're talking solely about SHADOWS-- not solid, tangible wings. Likewise, the fact that the shadow about the balrog "reached out like two vast wings," eventually to fill the entire hall-- shows that the shadow grew-- which it couldn't do, if they were solid wings instead of just a shadow.

There is no other way to interpret this passage-- they were simply made of a shadow-- not real, visible wings; a shadow, by definition, is NOT visible!

[ 01-02-2006, 03:44 PM: Message edited by: The Witch-King of Angmar ]

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Joe Stupid KingofBelfalas
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It would look a hell of a lot better with wings, then without.
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Roll of Honor Lassë
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quote:
a shadow, by definition, is NOT visible!
Where did you see that definition? []
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Roll of Honor Sauron's Secret Agent
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quote:
a shadow, by definition, is NOT visible!

[]

That one is surely going in my collection! ROFL

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Roll of Honor Éomer
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quote:
a shadow, by definition, is NOT visible!
quote:
Where did you see that definition? []

Good question. It isn't among any of these. []
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The Witch-King of Angmar
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Really?

Let's check out the pertinent definitions:

quote:
1.An area that is not or is only partially irradiated or illuminated because of the interception of radiation by an opaque object between the area and the source of radiation.
2. The rough image cast by an object blocking rays of illumination.

Now the balrog cast a magical shadow, so we have to take that into account-- it wasn't blocking light by an opaque object. Therefore the "object" blocking the rays of illumination (from the fires in the hall), was the balrog's power, thus forming an area of darkess against the light.
Only light is visible; a shadow is the absence of light, and therefore is not visible-- except in contrast to the light around it. Capiche?

So the "shadow" was an area of darkness which blocked the ambient light in the area-- it was thus non-visible except as just that, i.e. the absence of light.

Hence, a "shadow" cannot look like stick-and-paper kite-wings, stuck to the back of a likewise flaming puppet! It's just empty blackness without form, lines or color.

I can't believe I have to explain all this-- what did you think the phrase meant, "the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings"?
I'm curious about how this can be interpreted as some visible object-- particularly kite-wings, other than simply an area of darkness.
(So much for "speed-reading comprehension!" [] )

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Q
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I agree with Wiki,

But did anybody think of this...could the position of where Gandalf stood have anything to do with his or anyone else's perception in connection with the Balrog's "wings"?

It wouldn't make any sense for the shadow of the rog to grow after the light comming from Gandalf's staff was objected against his enemy. Unless the greater light from Gandalf's staff was subverted somehow by the rog's and turned into shadow (which doesn't seem possible), or possibly turned into a warning signal to Gandalf, like what happens when you poke a wild cat with a stick, it seems to get bigger and more excitable the more you provoke it. Therefore, since the shadow effect of the rog was the only alternative to using fire (or claws with the cat illustration), it's pretty unlikely that actual wings grew bigger, since that would mean it could do alot of damage with them...which it didn't.

Perhaps black things make darker shadows than light things (very light being clear, so no shadow), so a rog's winglike shadow would appear close to it's own body hue if the rog was dark to begin with, and so be mistaken as real wings. Darker things do block more light...once I had a friend who eclipsed the sun a good six inches longer than me (than mine, not than my whole shadow, that would be statistically impossible) when he stood up against it with his big burly afro.

So if it had wings they didn't grow. The whole shadow bit wasn't a good defence, and the rog knew it. So judging from Gandalf's show of power, he could have made a fool out of the rog after the rog increased his shadow by saying something like: "I see that you are very mighty and I'm no match for you, so I'm just going to leave now." To which the rog would reply: "Glad to hear it you overgrown dwarf! (the beard would give that away)", because he knows that he is actually no match for Gandalf and would want to see him leave!

[ 01-03-2006, 04:33 AM: Message edited by: MANDOS ]

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Roll of Honor Lassë
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Wiki, you're fighting shadows [] I think most people agree with you. This last part of the discussion is completely unfruitful for "the question of balrog wings" since the only disagreement between you and what you imagine to be the rest of us is that you found PJs shadow wings unelegant. If you were able to take just one step back and ignore the fact that 'elegant' is a word with positive connotations then you'd surely see that there isn't any disagreement, since technically none of us can grab into the movie and actually feel if the shadows imagined by PJ are tangible.

What I think people don't agree with is your 'emotional' way of arguing. Is it nor possible for you to disagree with people without getting hot-headed?

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Roll of Honor Thorin
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What do people think of Christopher Tolkien's (apparent) opinion?
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Alatar the Wizard
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Two points of clarification:

1) I never said that I thought the Balrog had tangible wings, but rather may have had remarkably wing-like shapes of "shadow". [See (2) below.]

2) It seems that, in Middle-earth, shadow can have a positive nontangible existence of its own, and not act like the shadows we are familiar with. You could call it "supernatural shadow", for lack of a better term. Consider these quotes as evidence:

"There he met with Ungoliant, a terrible spirit in spider-form, and she consumed all the light she could find, and her webs were darker than darkness itself. [...] After some time, Ungoliant wove a cloak of darkness around her and Melkor, and the two then traveled through mountains and over plains, and they headed for Valimar."

"But still [Shelob] was there, who was there before Sauron, and before the first stone of Barad-Dûr; and she served none but herself, drinking the blood of Elves and Men, bloated and grown fat with endless brooding over her feasts, weaving webs of shadow; for all living things were her food, and her vomit darkness."

3) My interpretation of the movie is that the Balrog's wings were not tangible. At their most tangible, they were smoke, which may have been a creative way of providing a "rational explanation" for the darkness the Balrog exuded, or possibly a way to portray that darkness in film without it looking silly or confusing.

[ 01-03-2006, 01:43 AM: Message edited by: Alatar the East-helper ]

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The Witch-King of Angmar
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No, they were very-visible stick-and-paper kite-wings, IIRC-- not shadow-wings at all.
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Alatar the Wizard
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That's not how I interpreted what I saw in the movie. In any case, you may assume I'm defending shadow wings, and not ordinary solid wings.
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Roll of Honor Thorongil
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I don't remember any mention of Gandalf's staff giving forth much light at this point. The only light mentioned was that of the goblin torches, and a white light from Glamdring. So I doubt that the shadows were from that. As far as the 'wings' I think PJ did what he could, probably could have done better, but certainly could have done much worse. Considering that the wing-shadows grew, they could not have been composed of anything tangible, especially since anything that big would not have been able to fall into the chasm if it were solid.

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Thingol of Doriath
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A great fissure with red light and flames was in the middle of the hall IIRC. It would have been behind the Balrog when he faced the Company...
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Michael Martinez
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Gandalf was "glimmering in the gloom" between the company of the Ring and the Balrog. No matter how you try to slice the text, that dark region around the Balrog cannot be rationalized or explained away.

Something I've never addressed (or seen anyone else address) is the depth of the gloom. That is, when we read the passage and see the "wings" in our minds, we all probably envisage something not extending too far back. But what if the darkness was enveloping every portion of the cavern? How are we to know?

It's a winged Balrog only in the sense that it extends something (a darkness) outward from itself. But if the darkness is not tangible then, as The Witch-king of Angmar says, it was the Balrog's power (or will) which prevented light from entering the region of its "wings". They don't have to be shaped like a bird's (or bat's) wings to be wings.

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