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Minas Tirith Forums » Library Council of Minas Tirith » The question of Balrog wings (Page 2)
Author Topic: The question of Balrog wings
Dingalen
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That is a good point. Why not describe that the Balrog was "cloaked in shadow"? Because the wing metaphor sounds better?
And how did the Balrogs follow so fast Morgoth's call in his confrontation with Ungoliant in the Silm, if they couldn't fly? Because it was a plot element Prof. Tolkien couldn't work out properly and the story was dus published that way posthumuosly?
Who knows.
But coming back to the point that the Balrogs were Maiar, being able to "pick" a form ("fana") - and becoming stuck in it subsequently (or atleast limited by it), like the werewolves, vampires, Morgoth himself: The Balrogs appear to be creatures of shadow & fire - so their form seems to be rather supernatural - not really following the laws of the physical world. So assuming that their forms were of supernatural substance - their wings (or whatever you would describe them) would be, too. So whether they could be used to fly is then a question of whether the Balrog had the power of making them work that way. Maybe the had it in the first age, but with the passing of Morgoth and the changing of the world, they might have diminished in power, loosing their ability to fly. But that is purely speculative, as from even in the Silm such indications are rare.

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Mithrandir
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No, there were more than a couple balrogs, Sauron (or Morgoth i forget) attacked Gondolin "with an army of balrogs"
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Miturian
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Yes, and if I'm not wholly wrong, it's told that Fingon slew a great deal, which he couldn't have done if there only was a few.
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Roll of Honor Fingolfin of the Noldor
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But since we know for a fact that tolkien used "wings" as a simile for the shadow then is it really that far fetched to believe he used the same term to decribe the sme thing(though this time as a metaphor)?
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Mithrandir
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well, as i briefly skimmed over the appendices last night, i came across this:
quote:
"thus roused from sleep a thing of terror that, flying from thangorodrim, had lain hidden at the foundations of the earth since the coming of the Host of the West: A Balrog of Morgoth"

Well, at some points where he uses wings and flying as a simile its very easy to see....its very hard to tell here...dont you think?

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Galdor of the Tree
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but once again mith i think fly in that quote was like fly in fly you fools
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Mithrandir
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well, if in FoTR it had said "and the company flew away from that place" then maybe it'd be the same, but i dun think so
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Warg
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Who sais that it coldnt have fallen into the abyse. Birds fall out of their nests all the time. full grown birds with the capability to fly.

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Anar caluva tielyanna!


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Mithrandir
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a week ago i woulda told you for sure balrogs had wings but couldn't fly, and i still think some may not be able to...but i dunno...
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Gil-galad999
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when Beleriand was sunk at the end of the 1rst age the Elves and Men left on boats now im sure some Orcs had boats to but xactly how did the balrog get to the mainland? it said that the Dragons flew from Angband but the Balrog and Sauron left too..... would the Balrog have enough insight to build a boat thinking Morgoth would lose? even if it knew the battle was coming ...... right after the great battle his power was still fresh as was Sauron's maybe he did not "fly" with his wings but moved by Spirit form? he may have been strong enough if consider that the Balrog must have been pretty rusty during the fight with Gandalf its power in its prime must have been much greater now if ur thinking "why couldnt the balrog have moved its spirit in its fall?" then let me remind you that Gandalf couldnt move his spirit during the fall and the Balrog in the fight with Glorfindel "fell" to his death too...and when Sauron did it he had some warning of what was going on, like in the Fall of Numenor and when his ring was cut by Isildur (not to mention at the end of 1rst age) so that could explain why the Balrogs could move long distances so fast....
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Mithrandir
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a very good perspective, and so far, i cannot think of anything that disproves it.
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Turgon King of Gondolin
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i believe it is said in silmarillion that the servants of morgoth never used boats because they were afraid of Ulmo
but the drowning of berialand must of been a slow process or none would escape

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Miturian
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If the balrog had wings, usable or not, it couldn't have moved them much in the abyss, it was only fiftyfeet broad. I know that fifty feet is much, but when you think about how huge the wings must have been(if it had any) then they wouldn't have been for much use in there.

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Mithrandir
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another good point, and regarding the balrog-glorfindel fight, maybe glorfindel damaged his wings?
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Turgon King of Gondolin
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Very possible Mithrandir. I never thought of that before.
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Roll of Honor Fingolfin of the Noldor
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Wings on Balrogs would be a very promenant feature but in the silm there is no mention of them ever being present on a Balrog, nor in HoME. The only time wings were described on a Balrog the term was used in the presence of the same word used as a simile for the darkness.

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Roll of Honor Fingolfin of the Noldor
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Inconsistant, maybe; altogether absent, I don't think so.
If tolkien had any intention of putting wings on balrogs there would be a mention of it some where in HoME, UT or silm. There is none, not even in "The Return of the Shadow". We know that tolkien remained true to all other origional concepts why would he suddenly change gears here?

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Mithrandir
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no, i don't believe a writer as great as tolkien could have "forgot" to make it clear they had wings. It might be a Sauron like issue, where its the fear of whats not there...for how much more menacing would the balrog be with wings? alot i think...so it's just sorta hanging, it also allows you to think maybe he had other important features unmentioned, besides a tail.
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Warg
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That is a good point Wooksie

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Anar caluva tielyanna!


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Mithrandir
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but STILL! if he never mentions them, cept literally, how can you say he meant to? its like saying that the hobbits had tails, he just forgot to tell you...(i just realized i am arguing for both points of the story)
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Earendilyon
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quote:
"thus roused from sleep a thing of terror that, flying from thangorodrim, had lain hidden at the foundations of the earth since the coming of the Host of the West: A Balrog of Morgoth"

In Dutch we can say, when someone or something is making great speed, that he/she/it is flying. Like: Schumacher flew over the circuit. Isn't this possible (or used) in English as a methaphor?

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Patchwerk
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Good point. I think that Tolkien even used this expression himself, though I can't remember where in the books it is used.
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Roll of Honor Fingolfin of the Noldor
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Yes, tolkien used many a metaphor in his works and as I have said I believe "wings" was one of them.
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Earendilyon
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I found a great posting on this topic over at The White Council ( http://www.tolkienonline.com/thewhitecouncil/messageview.cfm?catid=6&threadid=9196 ). I hope Cerin doesn't mind me quoting him:
quote:
Dk_Strider

I think the word "shadow" is causing you problems. You seem to think that the text talks about something with wings where the wings cast a shadow, perhaps on the walls or floor of the cavern.

If we could leave everything else aside for a moment, please consider these two different meanings of the word "shadow":

1. comparative darkness within defined bounds

2. the dark figure cast upon a surface by a body blocking the light


I believe you are restricting yourself to the second definition, whereas it is actually the first definition that is intended. Now here are the uses of the word shadow describing the Balrog:

"... it was like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form ..."

Can you see that this word doesn't mean a dark figure cast upon a surface by an object blocking the light (like the shadow of a baseball bat on the ground), it isn't the shadow of something. It means an area of darkness, a dark shape existing in its own right, not cast by any object. To use your example of a baseball bat, it would be like darkness that was in the shape of a bat, that existed without an ordinary wooden bat being anywhere around. A bat made of darkness, of shadow. A shadowy baseball bat.


"For a moment the orcs quailed and the fiery shadow halted."

Here again you have a dark shape, rather than the shadow of something being cast (like the baseball bat). This is not the shadow of some creature, but the creature itself.


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

Now this darkness around the smaller inner form changes shape. It is the same shadowy presence as before, the same creature of darkness, but its darkness reaches out like wings. There is no reference to anything casting a shadow; in other words, this not a shadow on the floor or the walls, like your example of the shadow of the baseball bat on the ground. We are seeing a darkness take the actual form of wings.


"From out of the shadow a red sword leaped flaming."

Again, this does not refer to a shadow cast by an object, this refers to the entity that consists of a larger darkness around an inner, smaller form.


Am I getting through to you? You have to understand shadow as something other than a shadow cast by an object like your example of seeing someone's shadow on the ground. We're not talking about seeing someone's shadow on the ground or elsewhere, with wings or without. We're talking about a being whose outer form is darkness, and who can change the shape of that darkness to look like wings. It would be like seeing a darkness moving toward you in the form of your friend, rather than like seeing a shadow on the ground without anyone casting the shadow.

Good luck.


-------------------------
Cerin Hatfield


I Thought it very convincing.

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Nimruzir
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I see this has wound down quite a bit; so I will add a point that is generally overlooked:

The Balrog was a fallen Ainu.
The Ainu are roughly equated with Angels in Christianity.

An Angel is usually depicted with wings.

A 'Fallen Angel' (would have the wings; or a symbolism of holiness) removed to illustrate its rebellion from God. Some pictures have corruptions of these wings as Bat-like but that may simply for pictorial sake.

In LOTR; I believe the mention of a Shadow that looks like wings, is a dual subliminal clue as to the identity (in LOTR nowhere exapnded upon either for the Balrog OR Gandalf) of the TRUE NATURE of the Balrog.

By nudging the corners of the familiar (Angels with wings), it is shown with unspoken language of the immensity and gravity of the conflict. A 'Demon' of fire vs. an angelic opponent (equal in power) hiding in man-form.

The hint of the wings as shadows simply shows the 'Fallen Angel' status of the Balrog. The symbol of 'Holiness' removed from its being.

IMO; there are no 'actual' wings.

May I ask the point of 'real wings' growing from wall to wall?

Does this mean that a Balrog could NOT have wings? This all depends on how limited the fallen are to the bodies they have assumed on the material plane. Text shows that they are more tied to these forms than others, but is not absolute. I make no certain statements here.

Simple statements of Flying across the land are misleading. Water can run across the table, but still would not be required to have legs due to the descriptive - 'Run'.

About the numbers of Balrogs:
The Fall of Gondolin text is some of the oldest in The Silmarillion. A good portion of this text does not agree with later conceptions of The Silmarillion.

The good Professor did state that there may have been as many as 7 TOTAL Balrogs, or as few as 3.

As always on such speculative matters; these views are mine. Take them or leave them as you wish.


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