Minas Tirith Forums Create a New Topic  Reply to this Topic
profile | register |
search | faq | avatars | citizens
donate | about | library
  This topic is comprised of pages:  1  2  3  ...  8  9  10  11  12 
Minas Tirith Forums » Library Council of Minas Tirith » The question of Balrog wings (Page 11)
Author Topic: The question of Balrog wings
The Witch-King of Angmar
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 4899
posted      Profile for The Witch-King of Angmar   Email The Witch-King of Angmar   Edit/Delete Post 
The shadow was definitely the spell of the balrog, who were known to wield both shadow and flame.

Thorongil:
quote:
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.

Shadow isn't difficult to CGI-- and it would be much scarier than a flaming goat-puppet; the enemy you can't see, is much scarier than one you can! This was the very reason that balrogs wielded shadow to begin with: as well as the reason that Sauron and the Nazgûl operated in darkness-- as Anborn explains:

quote:
Faramir went about among the men, questioning each as he came in, in a soft voice. Some came back from the pursuit of the Southrons; others, left behind as scouts near the road, came in latest. All the Southrons had been accounted for, save only the great mûmak: what happened to him none could say. Of the enemy no movement could be seen; not even an orc-spy was abroad.
'You saw and heard nothing, Anborn?' Faramir asked of the latest comer.
`Well, no, lord,' said the man. `No Orc at least. But I saw, or thought I saw, something a little strange. It was getting deep dusk, when the eyes make things greater than they should be. So perhaps it may have been no more than a squirrel.'

Since Sauron and his servants-- as well as most of the servants of Morgoth-- operated through creating fear and intimidation, then they were "shadow" operatives, using darkness to inspire fear.
As Tolkien writes in Letters #210:
quote:
the Black Riders ....peril is almost entirely due to the unreasoning fear which they inspire (like ghosts). They have no great physical power against the fearless; but what they have, and the fear that they inspire, is enormously increased in darkness.
Hence, by simply blocking the light in the hall-- and remaining silent rather than answering Gandalf-- the balrog is able to inspire great terror in the entire party-- even Legolas, who laughed at the Army of the Dead, where the Dunadan and the Sons of Elrond feared to tread; in contrast, even the great dragon Smaug, by being glowing and loquacious, is unable to scare the lone hobbit Bilbo! And Smaug is probably no less powerful than the balrog: Gandalf devoted the Dwarves' expedition out to dealing with the threat of Smaug, in order to keep Sauron from using him, and yet Gandalf had no real thought towards Durin's Bane (though granted he did not know it was a balrog, I'm sure he knew about its existence).

Even a "blacked out" section of a television screen or picture, used to hide something (like a person's identity, product-name etc), would cause many people to feel very afraid and disturbed; this has since been replaced by the practice of simple video-distortion, probably for this very reason.

[ 01-05-2006, 04:53 PM: Message edited by: The Witch-King of Angmar ]

From: Los Angeles, CA, USA | Registered: Oct 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Sarah the Good Witch
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11219
posted      Profile for Sarah the Good Witch   Email Sarah the Good Witch   Edit/Delete Post 
I was reading an inerteresting article about this here, which reads:

quote:
If the Balrog's wings were real, and literally spread 'from wall to wall' (2), its minimum wingspan is also somewhere approaching one hundred feet.
With wings that size, the balrog couldn't possibly move due to air-resistance. However he runs, jumps over the fire, and "leaped full onto the bridge." And I don't believe that Tolkien would be so absent-minded as to not think of that factor, if he wrote the balrog with real physical wings.
In contrast, shadow-wings would block light but not air.

[ 03-12-2009, 07:26 PM: Message edited by: Sarah the Good Witch ]

From: Vancouver | Registered: Feb 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
White Gold Wielder
Steward of Minas Tirith
Citizen # 2

posted      Profile for White Gold Wielder   Author's Homepage   Email White Gold Wielder   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
There are some well thought-out ideas presented in that article that I've never heard discussed before. Interesting.
From: Chicago | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Roll of Honor Athene
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 3473

posted      Profile for Athene   Email Athene   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Although I'm firmly in the anti-wings camp, there is one point that the article fails to make, and that is the question of scale. The conclusion is that, if the wingspan was 100 feet, then the Balrog must have been about 30 feet tall. That is not so.

Take the sparrow. The sparrow is a small bird, and has proportionately stubby wings. Its little body is light, so its wings do not have to have a great surface area in order to give it the required lift.

Take now the swan. A swan's body (not including neck) is about 8 times longer than that of a sparrow. However, the swan has increased in size by the same factor IN ALL THREE DIRECTIONS, which means it should be 8x8x8 (512) times heavier than a sparrow.

(In fact, the average weight of a fully-grown male mute swan is 12kg, and the average weight of a fully-grown male house sparrow is 34g, making the swan only 352 times heavier than the sparrow.)

A bird's body is a three-dimensional object, and its wings are, effectively, a two dimensional plane. There's a dimension missing between the increase in weight and the increase of surface area needed to lift it. This means that in order to get enough lift, for every increase in body size you need the wings to increase TWICE as much.

In reality, the shape of the wings and differences in the feathers can give a lot of extra lift without the wings having to grow prohibitively large, but the fact still stands: little birds have stumpy wings and big birds tend to have very long, broad wings, relative to their bodies.

So what does this mean for our Balrog? Let's assume he is the height of a man, say 170cm, and let us charitably assume that he has hollow bones like a bird does. Our sparrow is 14cm long and weighs 34g. If he is 12 times longer than a sparrow, then he weighs 1,728 (12x12x12)times more: 58kg.

The surface area of a sparrow's wings is approximately 80cm² for both wings. In order to provide the same amount of lift, the Balrog's wings would have to be 13.8m². If the average width of the Balrog's wings is 1m, that means his wingspan is approx 14m. It's about 46 feet.

In other words, a Balrog of ONLY six feet would already have half the wingspan required to reach 100 foot. And you just keep scaling up. A thirty foot Balrog would have a wing surface area of 5x5x5 times 13.8m², or 1,725m². At a wing width of 5m, that would make a wingspan of 1,132 feet.

In reality, there is a limit to how big a flying creature can get; as its weight and its wingspan increases, so the stresses on the bones and tendons of the wings increases proportionately (as tends to happen with levers), meaning that for anything with a wingspan of over 45 feet, the wings would snap as soon as the animal took to the skies. The largest known flying creature ever is Hatzegopteryx thambema, a Pterosaur, whose maximum wingspan is believed to have been 40 feet.

Therefore, my conclusions are as follows:
A Balrog wouldn't have to be 30 foot tall to have a 100 foot wingspan. However, he wouldn't be able to fly anyway, because his wings would break.

E: Don't even get me STARTED on dragons. []

E2: The first person who makes a crack about the velocity of an unladen African swallow will get a clip round the ear. []

[ 03-13-2009, 10:11 AM: Message edited by: Athene ]

From: Hades, UK | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Sarah the Good Witch
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11219
posted      Profile for Sarah the Good Witch   Email Sarah the Good Witch   Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
Although I'm firmly in the anti-wings camp, there is one point that the article fails to make, and that is the question of scale. The conclusion is that, if the wingspan was 100 feet, then the Balrog must have been about 30 feet tall. That is not so.

It doesn't follow that it "must have been" 30 feet tall, since those hall-dimensions seem accurate; "wall to wall" wings are wall-to-wall wings. More like they simply can't have been real physical wings. Balrogs are about 12 feet tall, from previous discussions.

The point is that even if its wings were only 12 feet tall, and 100 feet wide, then you're talking 1200 square feet of wing-area, or 16,000 psi of air-resistance. I'm not saying it could fly, I'm saying it couldn't move with those wings.
However again, the balrog is able to move so fast, that Gandalf has to hold the bridge against it following them across it, even though the exit is nearby. So they could not be real physical wings.
"Wingers" also claim that balrogs, being maiar, are able to change their shape, so that it could have "conjured" the wings. But if they were physical wings, they couldn't move at all, due to air-resistance.
While Tolkien might not have known the physics about falling a mile into water, I'm sure he knew that it's hard to move a 1200 square-foot sail.

quote:
E2: The first person who makes a crack about the velocity of an unladen African swallow will get a clip round the ear.
I only know that it's enough to carry a coconut. []

[ 03-13-2009, 11:08 AM: Message edited by: Sarah the Good Witch ]

From: Vancouver | Registered: Feb 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Roll of Honor Athene
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 3473

posted      Profile for Athene   Email Athene   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
It doesn't follow that it "must have been" 30 feet tall
That's exactly my point: the article indicates that a Balrog with a wingspan of 100 feet must have been "the size of a house". My calculations were to demonstrate that that was completely wrong, if we make the following assumptions:
  • The Balrog is a real, tangible creature with weight proportional to its size
  • It has real, tangible wings
  • It flies only under the influence of its own power, and not by any kind of magic
  • Its anatomy is structured somehow that its wings would not buckle under the pressure of lifting it

For myself, I don't think those are valid assumptions. Other considerations may be more relevant:
  • Balrogs don't have wings
  • Balrog wings are made of shadow, and do not produce lift in an ordinary way
  • Balrogs have stunted wings and cannot fly (maybe flew in the past?)
  • Balrog flight is not powered by simple lift, but by a form of magic
  • Balrogs themselves are not tangible creatures and they do not confirm to the laws of physics

I don't think it will ever be fully resolved. I'm happy to go with Christopher's interpretation, that it's just a simile.

E: If the Balrog did have actual wings, it doesn't follow that he had them outstretched permanently. In fact, we know he couldn't have done because he squeezed through into Khazad-Düm in the first place. He would have folded them up like a bat.

E:
quote:
I only know that it's enough to carry a coconut.
Don't make me come down there. [] []

[ 03-13-2009, 11:35 AM: Message edited by: Athene ]

From: Hades, UK | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Sarah the Good Witch
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11219
posted      Profile for Sarah the Good Witch   Email Sarah the Good Witch   Edit/Delete Post 
There was no statement about folding up or withdrawing his wings, rather the opposite.

quote:
Balrogs have stunted wings and cannot fly (maybe flew in the past?)
They're ageless maia-spirits, not evolved offspring. But those wings are big, and there was no mention of their creating any wind whatsoever. In contrast, Smaug said that his wings were "hurricanes," i.e. he could use them to create a strong wind.
From: Vancouver | Registered: Feb 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Roll of Honor Athene
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 3473

posted      Profile for Athene   Email Athene   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
But if you take the two relevant quotes:
quote:
'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 shadow "reached out" indicating that the Balrog had spread its "wings", from a previously unspread position. Therefore, if the Balrog's wings were real, they must have been at least partially folded most of the time.

By the way, I agree that the idea that Balrogs had stunted wings and couldn't fly is ridiculous. As you pointed out, they hadn't evolved. That is one of the arguments put forward in favour of the 'Balrogs have wings' theory though.

If the Balrog was walking forward at a normal man's walking pace, or thereabouts, and had its wings spread, they would not necessarily create wind.

[ 03-13-2009, 11:56 AM: Message edited by: Athene ]

From: Hades, UK | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Sarah the Good Witch
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11219
posted      Profile for Sarah the Good Witch   Email Sarah the Good Witch   Edit/Delete Post 
"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;"
"With a bound the Balrog leaped full upon the bridge."

Conclusion: no physical wings, by leaps and bounds.

From: Vancouver | Registered: Feb 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Roll of Honor Athene
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 3473

posted      Profile for Athene   Email Athene   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Oh, I absolutely agree, although I can see how people can take the opposite position.

I guess it comes down to the same thing as always; applying real world physical constraints to something in a fantasy novel doesn't work. This is why my fantasy novel hasn't gotten beyond the prologue. []

E: On the other hand, I had a hell of a lot of fun working this out this morning instead of doing my job. Of course, all the bills of quantity that I was supposed to send back to my client now have diagrams of sparrows all over them. []

[ 03-13-2009, 12:53 PM: Message edited by: Athene ]

From: Hades, UK | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Sarah the Good Witch
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11219
posted      Profile for Sarah the Good Witch   Email Sarah the Good Witch   Edit/Delete Post 
Be sure to charge extra for value-added []

quote:
guess it comes down to the same thing as always; applying real world physical constraints to something in a fantasy novel doesn't work.
It's a matter of constancy, since Tolkien calculated other figures for winged creatures, and balrogs would not be an exception if they had real physical wings. Of course balrogs and wizards are fantasy-characters, but they don't operate under different sets of standards within the same story-world.
From: Vancouver | Registered: Feb 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Dread Pirate Roberts
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 2117
posted      Profile for The Dread Pirate Roberts   Email The Dread Pirate Roberts   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
I apologize if this has been addressed ( I haven't read the entire thread yet ). Has an insect-type body and wings been considered for the balrog, as opposed to a fleshy mammalian body with bird/angel wings?

Many insects can fold their wings up and look as if they have no wings at all until they need them. Also, an insect-like exoskeleton would be ready-made battle armor.

For the record, I don't think this was the case. I'm in the "no wings" camp. But it's an idea worth considering for the pro-wing people. With some research, there may be some support for the idea.

From: Blacksburg, VA | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Roll of Honor pi
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 5374

posted      Profile for pi   Author's Homepage   Email pi   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
That seems hard to swallow with a description of being man-like. I'm in the "no wings" camp as well.
From: Virgo Supercluster, 40º N 75º W | Registered: Mar 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Tigranes
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 9076
posted      Profile for Tigranes   Email Tigranes   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
Has an insect-type body and wings been considered for the balrog, as opposed to a fleshy mammalian body with bird/angel wings?
Interesting thought, but an insect-type body doesn't work with anything bigger than a rat, at least not under Middle-Earth's climatic conditions (it's a matter of pressure, temperature, percentage of oxygen in the air etc.).
From: anywhere | Registered: Nov 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Roll of Honor pi
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 5374

posted      Profile for pi   Author's Homepage   Email pi   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
as well as an open vs. closed circulatory system.
From: Virgo Supercluster, 40º N 75º W | Registered: Mar 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Hamfast Gamgee
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 5528

posted      Profile for Hamfast Gamgee   Author's Homepage   Email Hamfast Gamgee   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Can they climb?
From: Bagshot Row, Hobbiton, The Shire! | Registered: Sep 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Roll of Honor pi
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 5374

posted      Profile for pi   Author's Homepage   Email pi   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Who, balrogs? Can't imagine why not. Why do you ask?
From: Virgo Supercluster, 40º N 75º W | Registered: Mar 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Sarah the Good Witch
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11219
posted      Profile for Sarah the Good Witch   Email Sarah the Good Witch   Edit/Delete Post 
Paper-thin wings certainly wouldn't block much light, anyway, which was the only apparent function of the balrog's "wings." The wings were shadows that were darker than anything around it. Now some "Wingers" might say that the physical wings emanated magical shadows: but that would simply beg the question of why the wings couldn't be magical shadows themselves. The difference is that physical wings would block air, as well: shadows wouldn't. Again, physical wings that spanned from "wall to wall" wouldn't allow the type of movement that the balrog displayed, due to aerodynamic factors: in fact, they wouldn't allow for any movement at all.

[ 03-24-2009, 07:14 PM: Message edited by: Sarah the Good Witch ]

From: Vancouver | Registered: Feb 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Dread Pirate Roberts
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 2117
posted      Profile for The Dread Pirate Roberts   Email The Dread Pirate Roberts   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
My suggestion wasn't that the balrog IS an insect, just the wing-type and possibly skeleton, though in a big man-shape, might be postulated by pro-wingers as a way to explain away what happens to the wings as it moves around.
From: Blacksburg, VA | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Sarah the Good Witch
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11219
posted      Profile for Sarah the Good Witch   Email Sarah the Good Witch   Edit/Delete Post 
And they only worked indoors? Yeah ok.
From: Vancouver | Registered: Feb 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Captain of Gondor
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 5254

posted      Profile for Captain of Gondor   Author's Homepage   Email Captain of Gondor   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Balrogs most certainly did not only work indoors. In the Silimarillion, where they were very prominant, they are very rarely seen indoors. The Fall of Gondoloin, the rescue of Morgoth from Ungoliant,the list goes on and on of outside ventures.
From: Ririe, Idaho | Registered: Oct 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The White Hand
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11334
posted      Profile for The White Hand   Email The White Hand   Edit/Delete Post 
I saw an interesting page on balrog-wings here.
From: Memphis | Registered: Nov 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Aiwrendel
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 965

posted      Profile for Aiwrendel   Author's Homepage   Email Aiwrendel   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
I just re-read this entire thread. I wrote the following before re-reading it. I found back on page 4 several examples that show Tolkien’s style of using a simile then immediately referring back to it with a metaphor. Very good reading! Someone else mentioned that more is better. Here are some not mentioned and some other examples.

Tolkien was the master of imagery and used many analogies, metaphors, and similes.

Examples:
- . . .the air of the room tingled.
Air can’t tingle. (Bilbo and Gandalf arguing about the Ring in Bag-End)
- The stream was there no more than a winding black ribbon...
- Glamdring, Foe-Hammer
A sword called a hammer.
- “Fly! This is a foe beyond any of you. I must hold the narrow way. Fly!” and “Fly you fools! Fly!”
He means run very fast, not, sprout wings and take to the air. (Okay, YES! I did look up “fly” and it can mean move quickly.) []

Saruman:
- about the body of Saruman a grey mist gathered, and rising slowly to a great height like smoke from a fire, as a pale shrouded figure it loomed over the Hill. For a moment it wavered, looking to the West. . .
Was there really a shrouded figure in the sky? Or smoke? Or was it a mist that behaved like smoke and looked like a figure?

About Sauron:
- Frodo felt this: Fear seemed to stretch out a vast hand, like a dark cloud rising in the East and looming up to engulf him.
Using “hand” and “dark cloud” to describe fear.
- “'His arm has grown long indeed, said Gimli, if he can draw snow down from the North to trouble us here three hundred leagues away.“
“His arm has grown long,“ said Gandalf

Gandalf’s not seriously suggesting Sauron has a 700 mile long physical appendage with a hand on the end.
- it seemed to them that, black against the pall of cloud, there rose a huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, filling all the sky. Enormous it reared above the world, and stretched out towards them a vast threatening hand, terrible but impotent: for even as it leaned over them, a great wind took it, and it was all blown away
No actual physical hand, just a part of a shadow that came toward them and seemed to be or was possibly shaped like a hand.

Balrog wings
- . . .it was like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater
- . . .the (shadow about it reached out like two vast wings)
. . .its wings were spread from wall to wall

Again a shadow that seemed to be or looked like wings. Not actual wings.


A couple notes on some of the links posted in this discussion:

The Encyclopedia of Arda mentioned in more than one post has always been a good resource in my opinion.

(On page 9 of this thread) Overall I liked the William Roper essay (especially the silly title) but he made a huge mistake: First he warns, Those who tell you of their leak-proof argument have probably plugged the holes with assumptions. and then completely blows his credibility by doing that very thing. He quotes FotR,
"His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings."

His interpretation of the passage is: So the Balrog can make these shadows take shape, and in this case, the shape is that of wings. How does he get the shadow can take shape from the shadow reached out like wings? A big assumption! Tolkien does not say the shadow took any shape whatsoever but simply reached out (grew?)
Other than that I liked the entire essay.

It’s too bad many other links are dead. Especially the links that point to this very board! []

[ 08-21-2013, 11:27 AM: Message edited by: Aiwrendel ]

From: Chicago USA | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Roll of Honor Athene
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 3473

posted      Profile for Athene   Email Athene   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
This thread is amazing. I had forgotten my epic geeking out about the lift created by Balrog wings. Haha, that's not embarrassing at all. [] []

Also notable for being the only time that WiKi and I were in complete agreement. []

From: Hades, UK | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Roll of Honor Wandering Tuor
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 1685

posted      Profile for Wandering Tuor   Email Wandering Tuor   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
There are three different Wiki-incarnations in this thread - hell, on this page []
From: My place | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Create a New Topic  Reply to this Topic Minas Tirith Forums » Library Council of Minas Tirith » The question of Balrog wings (Page 11)
This topic is comprised of pages:  1  2  3  ...  8  9  10  11  12 
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic       The Red Arrow!       Admin Options: Make Topic Sticky   Close Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic

About  ~ • ~  Contact  ~ • ~  Minas Tirith  ~ • ~  F. A. Q.  ~ • ~  Help

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.6.1