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Minas Tirith Forums » Library Council of Minas Tirith » The question of Balrog wings (Page 12)
Author Topic: The question of Balrog wings
Aiwrendel
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I liked your calculations on air-speed velocity and weight ratio of an unladen Balrog uh I mean flying creatures, Athene!

Three incarnations, Wandering Tuor? On page 11? Well, I thought I knew them all and thought there were only three.

::Still can't figure out the other two on that page. hmmmm.::

Edit: This post started a new page so I changed "this page" to "page 11".

[ 08-22-2013, 07:37 PM: Message edited by: Aiwrendel ]

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Roll of Honor Wandering Tuor
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quote:
Still can't figure out the other two [Wiki incarnations] on that page.
Really? Sarah the Good Witch and The White Hand.
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Aiwrendel
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So I'm not as quick on the up take as others. []
[]

Okay, I was pretty sure about The White Hand and had my suspicions about Sarah, but the gender change thew me.

But should we be chatting in the Library? This kind of chatter belongs in The Pony, not here.

So what did you think of my Balrig Wings contribution?

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Roll of Honor Wandering Tuor
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I'm not sure I completely understood your point. If it is that the balrog did not have physical wings, and that the line, "its wings were spread from wall to wall" does not prove otherwise, Tolkien having already introduced the simile "shadows like wings" and now simply referring to it without an express signifier (like, like) — and see here for Fingolfin of the Noldor's catalog of similar usages — then I agree. []

More generally, I agree with this post (The Laurenendorian's).

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Aiwrendel
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You got the point perfectly. I didn't mention Fingolfin of the Noldor by name and only referred to examples on "page 4".
His examples were better than mine and I was just reinforcing his conclusion that Balrogs didn't have physical wings by adding some similar examples.

Sorry if I wasn't clear.

Where did Tolkien write Maia can shape shift at will? If that was true then the battle between Gandalf and the Balrog could have turned into a contest of one changing form then the other over and over again until he best shape won. Perhaps only certain Maia could change their form at will? Or is the shape change just a trick on the mind?

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Tuor
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The Istari (been a while so not sure if that exactly the right word) were in human form and could not shape shift. Their powers were limited so that they would not fight and win with pure force.
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Hamfast Gamgee
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Some Maia's were shape-shifters, Sauron certainly was, he changed his body quite a few times until he was stuck with the one in the third age. I don't know if Melian was, but her daugher, Luthien changed shape often in Beren and Luthien. The Istrai didn't because they were fated to look like men when they came to middle-earth and had an earthly body whilst they were there. Quite why, I'm not quite sure, changing shape might have been useful but they were not given that ability. I don't know about Balrogs. If they were of Maia, I don't think they could change shape, no examples were ever given. I suppose they simply couldn't.
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Roll of Honor Athene
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quote:
If that was true then the battle between Gandalf and the Balrog could have turned into a contest of one changing form then the other over and over again until he best shape won.
Merlin and the Marvellous Madam Mim?

[] [] []
[]

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Roll of Honor Wandering Tuor
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Discussion of Wiki --> discussion of shape-shifting. []

Maiar could change their form, though they lost this ability after a long time in one form. There is an essay somewhere that discusses this, which I remember because it contains a comment that this ability is like men wearing clothes — if they long wear the same clothing it becomes a habit. (Get it? Habit? Tolkien was such a jokester.)

This partially-lost ability to shape-shift fits well with the wings of shadow description, IMHO.

YMMV.

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Roll of Honor Athene
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MMDV.

I don't think it's necessary to try to find an explanation for the "wings of shadow" within the Legendarium. I think the passage works as a standalone simile/metaphor without further rootling around.

Assuming that Balrogs are Maiar the same as any other, they don't seem to have felt the need to change their form at any other time.

"And the dread Balrog, after laying waste to armies with his whips of flame, came home and changed into a giant fluffy bunny in time to listen to Women's Hour on Radio 4."[/flippancy]

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Roll of Honor Wandering Tuor
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A bunny or Madam Mim transformation would represent an undiminished shape-shifting power, and the balrogs almost certainly no longer had that; having long taken the basic form described in LotR (note that Legolas immediately recognizes the balrog, presumably from having seen one long ago), they are mostly stuck with that form. I would guess (there is obviously no clear answer on this) that they had only a remnant of this ability, and this enables them to show wings of shadow, suddenly appear much larger (Gandalf also uses the latter trick with Frodo), etc.

Anyway, here is the passage I remembered:
quote:
Here Pengolodh adds a long note on the use of hröar by the Valar. In brief he says that though in origin a "self-arraying", it may tend to approach the state of "incarnation", especially with the lesser members of that order (the Maiar). "It is said that the longer and the more the same hröa is used, the greater is the bond of habit, and the less do the 'self-arrayed' desire to leave it. As raiment may soon cease to be adornment, and becomes (as is said in the tongues of both Elves and Men) a 'habit', a customary garb.
— Osanwe Kenta

P.s. And here is Madam Mim.

P.p.s. Re-reading the Osanwe Kenta passage, I see that Tolkien wrecked the joke by using "habit" in "bonds of habit" before the punchline. Humor really wasn't his thing. []

[ 08-28-2013, 04:08 AM: Message edited by: Wandering Tuor ]

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Aiwrendel
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Heh. Thanks, Wandering Tuor! I had no idea what Athene meant by "Merlin and the Marvellous Madam Mim" (and didn't Google it.)

Athene! [] I have never seen that before, but it was a perfect fit.

[ 08-30-2013, 07:34 PM: Message edited by: Aiwrendel ]

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Hamfast Gamgee
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I still think the idea of wings that are not easily used is best.
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Aiwrendel
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With so many examples of Tolkien using analogies why would you think the Balrog had physical wings?

Here’s another example of Tolkien’s use of analogies.

RotK - Many Partings

...the King of the West sitting upon his horse with his knights about him; and the falling Sun shone upon them and made all their harness to gleam like red gold, and the white mantle of Aragorn was turned to a flame. Then Aragorn took the green stone and held it up, and there came a green fire from his hand.

Was Aragorn a victim of spontaneous human combustion when his cloak was turned to a flame?

Was the green Stone made of copper and magically burst into green flame?

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