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Minas Tirith Forums » Library Council of Minas Tirith » What was the Secret Fire that Gandalf said in Moria that he served? (Page 3)
Author Topic: What was the Secret Fire that Gandalf said in Moria that he served?
Dingalen
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"Nimruzir's knowledge is impressive,
but not as excessive as he thinks.
Even his humility is agrandizing,
and you can see his ego on the brinks.
Maybe, if he was not so patronizing... "

Just teasing. You're good in the mythology - admittedly more well read than me - but don't let the praise get to your head so obviously.

quote:

Gandalf claims to be a servant of it, and curiously a weilder of the flame of Anor.

I agree with your interpretation of this statement. But why "curiously, a wielder of the flame of Anor". As far as I understood Anor is sindarin for the sun (derived from sindarin 'nor'('naur')or quenya 'nar' - "fire" or "hot like the sun").

So Gandalf claims to wield 'the fire of the sun'.
This could be a warning based on the powers granted to him by wielding the elven ring of fire ('narya'). As many creatures of Morgoth fear the sun, because it hurts them - as they were created before it was created andset by the valar into the sky - it would make sense to use its name to threaten the Balrog with it.

The interpretation can be taken a bit further, though:

Gandalf calls Balrog "Flame of Udun". I would guess, that 'Undun' is derived from Quenya 'und(u)': down, i.e. meaning abyss, depth, underdeeps, i.e. the place where the Balrog had lain hidden since Morgoth was overthrown. ("Udun" is also the name of the valley connecting the plain of Gorgoroth (in Mordor) to the Morannon (= The black gate), but this wouldn't make much sense in this context.)

So Gandalf's bantering with the Balrog could be translated as Gandalf reminding the Balrog, that
A) he (the Balrog) had been defeated already and hid himself (and his fire) in the underdeeps before the wrath of the valar.
B) Gandalf as a "servant of the secret fire (of Eru) and wielder of the flame of Anor (the sun, i.e. the fire and light of the valar)" was a maia and in possession of the stronger 'fire'.
C) the sun was the dominant 'fire' of the surface world, while the Balrog was a 'flame from the underdeeps' - hidden there, because he was afraid to show himself outside after the defeat of Morgoth, his Master.

------------------
As silent as greenwood the great.

This message has been edited by Dingalen on 05-18-2001 at


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Fëanáro
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In the Lost Tales 1, it says somewhere that the Secret Fire (Flame Inperishable) is that which gives life and reality.
I believe that Gandalf was stating to the Balrog that he was a servant of the Flame Imperishable, and therefore a servant of Eru who created all things (including the Balrog). As for the Flame of Anor, I always took this to mean Narya: Gandalf wields Narya but does not wield either the sun or the Secret fire.

I do believe that the Valar did have some access to the Flame Imperishable, but whether this was intentional or not, or if the Valar new this, I'm not sure. The reason I believe that this may have been an accident of Eru's, is that when Aule creates the Dwarves, Eru comands him to destroy them, and only lets them live when he sees that they have free will. I take this to mean that either Eru did not realise he had given this power to the Valar, or, to teach them how to use it.


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Dingalen
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As everybody is happily babbling again, I'll take the effort to give my two cents of wisdom and see, if enlightenment hits us like a ton of bricks:

About the sun part:
Gandalf was threatening the Balrog with:
"You cannot pass. I am a servant of the secret flame. I am a wielder of the flame of Anor."
My point is "Anor" is the singdarin word for the sun. And I think, Gandalf intention was to say, that he was wielding more powerful fire than the Balrog (sun fire!). First of all, he would not tell the Balrog directly that he had Narya - second it might have been pointless, as the Balrog might have little (or no) knowledge of the rings of power (he was hiding under the mountain since the first age). So Gandalf employed a metaphor the Balrog would understand. My interpretation, anybody's guess.

Second the secret flame is an elusive topic. Highly metaphysical. It is the difference between true sentient, divinely blessed life and just lifeform existence (like an animal or plant).
The best idea is the concept of the soul. the imperishable spark, that is divine in a creature beyond whatever counts as its intelligence and spirit. God's touch. So a servant of the secret flame is a protector of god's interest in humanity. Tricky to explain...


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Dingalen
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(Gniii! [] ) Ok, Tuor, but still that is not making your theory more convincing.
"Anor" is still the sun - and not related to the secret fire directly!
Because the fire of the sun is mythologically linked to the two trees, which where created by the Valar - so it could not be the secret fire (to which the Valar had no access to for their creations (purportedly)). And your implication to a "second fire" still lacks a reference (I couldn't find it in the Silmarilion in the passage where Eru speaks about the second song).
So the best interpretation for "the secret fire" is either
A) that it is a reference to Narya (which is hidden and grants power over fire)
B) that it really refers to the secret fire of Eru Iluvatar. With all the implications that will contain.

Still the "flame of Anor" is a more worldly fire (as the light of the golden fruit) - so I do not think, this is another reference to the 'secret fire' of Eru, but rather a reference to Narya! Or do you want to imply, that he adresses the Balrog as "wielder of the flame of Anor"? Although it is a possibility, I cannot imagine, that Gandalf would associate the fire of the Balrog with the fire of the sun. The sun is a present of the Valar - blessed in its nature and a blessing to the world. I'd rather assume, it is a title Gandalf gives himself to reveal himself partially and to threaten the Balrog.

[ 02-01-2002, 06:53 AM: Message edited by: Dingalen ]

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Gandalf the Grey
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Greetings, Tuor and Dingalen.

First let me say that I stand in admiration of the fine posts which the two of you have been making throughout this discussion, and have very much enjoyed reading the worthy insight you offer. Thus, please accept my compliments.

... Of course, I am only putting in an appearance at this time to nitpick. * grins good-naturedly, lights a conversational bowl of pipeweed, offers to share tobacco with the two of you *

Tuor: Given the quote: "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor."

The subject of the sentence is "SERVANT." The object of the preposition "OF" is "SECRET FIRE." Thus, grammatically speaking, the wielder of the flame of Anor is NOT the secret fire itself. Instead, the servant is the wielder. "WIELDER" modifies "SERVANT" ... I think the proper grammatical term for this is apposition.

Dingalen: Regarding your stance that the secret fire refers to Narya, I disagree, again from a grammatical standpoint.

Once more given the quote: "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor."

Let's logically parse the above quote for semantic value (meaning) according to the light of your interpretation:

POSIT: I serve the Secret Fire.
POSIT: The Secret Fire is the ring called Narya.
CONCLUSION: Therefore, I serve the ring called Narya.

Now personally, I have some trouble accepting the above conclusion. I will leave it to you to discern any reasons why.

* affable smile accompanied by an unassuming, courteous bow *

At your Service,

Gandalf the Grey

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Roll of Honor Fingolfin of the Noldor
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My own prsonal opinion:

flame of Udun= Balrog (spirit of fire) of Utumno(Udun)

flame of Anor- Arien perhaps (spirit of fire) of the Sun(AnarAnor) but more likely the actual fire of the sun given reference to the "flame of Anar" in the AAm:

quote:
...being drawn by the splendour of her beauty, though the flame of Anar scorched him[Tilion]...pg 131 Morgoth's Ring
But than it again may be a reference to Arien as preceding that is a reference to her as a "flame:"

quote:
and leaving Valinor she forsook the form and raiment which, like the Valar, she had worn, and she was a naked flame, terrible in the fullness of her splendour. pg 131 Morgoth's RIng
Either way I believe that we have an allusion on our hands either to:

a parallel "HISTORY"(as opposed to the traditions presented in the QS) of which elven and maiar should be aware as opposed to the traditions as in the case of Finwe's banner:

(notice the Sun )

In one of the later developments of this (which initially TOlkien adopted as a radical change to his legendarium but later, it seems, realized would be impossible to imcorporate) Morgoth of Utumno attacked Arien after she refused to join him and so he was forever scourched. Perhaps Gandalf was alluding to this and basically saying well nigh the same which happened to Morgoth would happen you[the balrog] as you are of udun and hence of that darkness with which the light is diametrically opposed:

quote:
It[Narsil] thus symbolized the chief heavenly lights, as enemies of darkness...~letter 347
I believe the whole point of "...udun" and "flame of anor" COULD be such a reference utilized as a metaphor in an attempt to "bluff."

Though this concept was not as fully developed to the point of being writtien out during the formation of LOTR it is still possible that the idea existed in some form especially as this "history" has roots which preceded publication of lotr but it is still nevertheless unlikely. A general reference to the opposition of light and the dark and the superior power of the former over the latter especially given Morgoth's fear of the former imho seems the most likely.

or it could simply be a reference to the Ban of Balrogs from going under the sky which is present as a direct reference in an earlier draft of that specifc part such that the Balrog being identified as a Balrog: "Flame of Udun" = Spirit of Fire of Utumno; Gandalf giving his status: "Servant of the secret fire"= one of the Ainu; and the instrument of judgement= "weilder of the Flame of Anor" perhaps being a dual reference to the discovery being akin to that under the sky(also under the sun conceivably) and the superior power aforementioned (I believe someone else put forth this as a possibility but I am not sure who)

[ 02-02-2002, 08:05 AM: Message edited by: Fingolfin of the Noldor ]

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Roll of Honor Nenya
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I do agree with Fingolfin. Since I re-read the Silm last time and noticed that Arien was the same kind of Ainu as the balrogs (a spirit of fire) my thougts has gone that way.

quote:
Arien the maiden was mightier than he, and she was chosen because she had not feared the heats of Laurelin, and was unhurt by them, being from the beginning a spirit of fire, whom Melkor had not deceived nor drawn to his service. Too bright were the eyes of Arien for even the Eldar to look on, and leaving Valinor she forsook the form and raiment which like the Valar she had worn there, and she was as a naked flame, terrible in the fullness of her splendour.[Silm Ch 11]


[ 02-02-2002, 02:00 PM: Message edited by: Nenya ]

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Dingalen
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I am amazed of the power of discommunication! As always some people are far more eager to write posts than to properly read & digest the immediately previous ones!
Gandalf the Grayed - I commend you for pointing out correctly, that Gandalf would never say that he would serve a worldly power (i.e. the elven ring he wore). So the interpretation "secret fire" = "Eru's secret fire" seems most feasible - as an istari send to preserve the world, he would see himself as a servant of Illuvatar. Still I would like to point out, that he has wielder of Narya would refer with "wielder of the flame of Anor" most likely to his ring. And his previous statement "servant of the secret fire" might be already hinting (i.e. that as a servant of Illuvatar he would command over far greater strength and powers, than his human form would suggest), that he had another secret that would give him an advantage over the Balrog (i.e. "the flame of Anor"). And from his use of "fire" related metaphors, it is clear that he implied that he would fight fire with fire: I.e. that he was a maia able to stand up to another maia (the Balrog) - and that he possessed fire to fight the Balrog's fire.

Cheers to Nenya & Fingolfin. Good point!

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Durin's Bane
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I admit, I have'nt read the Silmarillion yet, but, my first impression of "the secret fire" was all that was good. Non evil. Keeping God's interests.
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Dingalen
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"... all that was good, non evil, ..."
I don't know what concept of the secret fire you have picked up from this discussion, but the "secret fire" or "the flame imperishable" is not "goodness" or "beauty" or some other concept of ideality. From what I read in the Silm, it is rather that what distinguishes culture-building races (men, elves, dwarves) from animals and monsters. It seems to be the source of true sentience. I would almost say it is the soul, but somehow the concept of the christian soul and the "flame imperishable" as described in the Silm show some differences.
It is more like the concept of the soul in the norse eddas: Humans possessing a soul are spiritually immortal and blessed with true life - while humanoid abominations without soul return upon destruction to the matter they were made of (i.e. norse trolls).

[ 02-06-2002, 04:46 AM: Message edited by: Dingalen ]

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Durin's Bane
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quote:
Humans possessing a soul are spiritually immortal and blessed with true life
This is the the same concept as the Christian/Jewish/Islahm soul.
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Rothrandir
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I have always considered the flame imperishable to be the will of Ilúvitar. As for the flame of Anor, although other theories might be applicable, i don't think we can overlook the obvious reference to the sun, "Anor"
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Durin's Bane
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Why don't we see what the majority thinks about the secret fire. As I did with the mysterious citizen #1 thread I made a poll so you can vote just click the link!

Click Here

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Roll of Honor Thorondor
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We really cannot analyze Gandalf's line out of its context. He is confronting a very powerful entity that has been hiding in a mine for two ages. He recognizes it for what it is, but we can expect that the Balrog does not recognize him. He appears to be an old man, but in truth he is a being of power in disguise, an "undercover agent" of sorts. Remember that the Istari did not go to ME "clothed in form" as they might have in other circumstances, they went fully incarnated.

In a crime film or TV show the undercover agent might pull out his badge and shout, "Stop! I'm a federal agent and I'm armed". Well Gandalf does something similar. He tells the Balrog to stop, that he is a servant of Eru and that he armed and is dangerous.

The Secret Fire reference shouldn't be difficult. Tolkien uses it repeatedly to refer to a unique aspect or power of Eru, as others have pointed out. There is an interesting question about whether the Secret Fire, also called the "Flame Imperisable" represents the power to confer free-will or the larger power to create new things altogether, but there shouldn't be any question that it refers to the unique power of Eru. Gandalf is letting this demon know that he (Gandalf) is not the frail old man he appears. He tells the Balrod that "the dark fire will not avail you", warning him that the fire which would drive off or destroy a man or elf will not work against him.

The "Flame of Anor" reference is a bit more obscure but there are clues. There is a special kind of light and fire in these stories. It has special properties. The light of the two trees was no ordinary light, clearly. A Silmaril, which contains this light, ends up in the sky and the elves recognize it immediatly.

quote:
Maedhros spoke to Maglor his brother, and he said: 'Surely that is a Silmaril that shines now in the West?'
The Sun is kindled from the same light, and it has an effect on Morgoth and his servants.

quote:
Then indeed Morgoth was dismayed, and he descended into the uttermost depths of Angband, and withdrew his servants, sending forth great reek and dark cloud to hide his land from the light of the Day-star
Arien, who shepards the Sun, is an uncorrupted fire-Maia. She has this special fire as well.

quote:
And Arien Morgoth feared with a great fear, but dared not come nigh her,...

With shadows he hid himself and his servants from Arien, the glance of whose eyes they could not long endure;

This special fire or light is something of a weapon against the Balrog. Gandalf has the power to bring light and has special skills with fire, as has been mentioned in this thread.

To my ears the second part of his statement sounds like he is warning the Balrog that he has a powerful weapon against it. ("This staff is laoded and I'm not afraid to use it!" [] .) As they fight he uses his special fire, which is different from the fire of the pit and the Balrog:

quote:
...Glamdring glittered white...

...There was a ringing clash and a stab of white fire...

...A blinding sheet of white flame sprang up...

I don't see where reference to Narya would be meaningful in this context. The Balrog probably didn't know of the ring and probably didn't care. The elven rings are not weapons, they are used to preserve. Gandalf's ring is used to maintain and restore courage and confidence. And the locations of the rings is a great secret, especially from evil things like a Balrog. I do not see that Gandalf would mention it at all to servant of Melkor. That could be more dangerous than helpful.

And Tuor, I see your point, and agree that what you propose is a "possible" interpretation, but I do not think that Eru can be said to "wield" the Flame of Anor, or that that was Tolkien's intent. As I said I see the Gandalf's challenge on the bridge, in its context, as a warning to the Balrog that he was an enemy and was prepared to impede it.

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Roll of Honor Thorondor
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Yes, but the Dwarves were created from the material of Arda, that makes them a "sub-creation", which essentially means "remaking" or reshaping. The Valar, Elves and Man are all limited to sub-creation; they can remake the world created by Eru, but cannot create anything entirely new. Aule can give the dwarves form, and animate them with his own life, but he cannot create a new soul himself.

Melkor cannot either. He must "corrupt" and "breed" new forms, he cannot make them. He has to start with beings who have acquired the Flame Imperisable through the normal means. This is a subtle difference, I admit, but important. A comparison of Aule and Melkor has been an important to my understanding of the nature of evil in Tolkien's stories.

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Roll of Honor Thorondor
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Tuor: I'm entirely in agreement with you. There are some who interpret "free will" to mean a conciousness and self awareness, but I believe it can be extended to any life. A form without the Flame is a puppet.

There are others who see a conflict between the idea of free will and the idea of beings existing within a fate derived from the song (the song of the Valar). I don't see the conflict, but that is another discussion.

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Dingalen
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Nice summary, Thorondor! Alas, it does not take us further. With some people, it is more difficult to open up a new idea than punching a fourth hole into a bowling ball with your finger.

I still adhere that the "secret fire" is related to the soul - humans & elves (& dwarves after Eru's intervention) posssess it - animals, trees and other plants (should) not. This is actually the link to my "souls in the norse edda" remark. The point is not that beings possessing are soul are blessed and immortal - the point is that creatures without a soul are NOT! So for example trolls in the edda do not possess a soul (turning back to the substance they are made of ... dirt, stone or wood) - so they envy and hate those creatures with a soul deeply! (In christian, jewish or islamic approaches, the existence of creatures without soul is accepted - most animals are not granted any - but what this means is not considered further.)

And that is the point that distinguishes creatures given the "flame imperishable" from those without: They also exist beyond their physical life - not only their soul, but also their minds: They can think beyond immediate physical needs, they can imagine beyond what they know from their surroundings. They can understand concepts like beauty, grace and justice - because their existence is not limited to the physical reality of this world. They are like the Ainur also part of the purely spiritual side of creation. And this is forever denied to soul-less creatures - and maybe also to those whose spirits that are twisted beyond redemption by the dark lords.

Sorry for the lengthy rambling. But I had to get that bit in: Soul-less creatures are not puppets - they are just easier to control, because they do not have a concept of ethics or justice. They only know survival - the stronger rules the weaker.

[ 02-12-2002, 08:28 AM: Message edited by: Dingalen ]

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TM
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Gotta dig up this thread! []

I agree with Thorondor's nice and correct summary.
But there is one slight matter that I cannot explain to myself:

"Gandalf has the power to bring light and has special skills with fire."

How so? Is it because the Ainur have the access to the Flame Imperishable?

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Orome
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The logical explination would be through Narya. Though there is no specific evidence as such.
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Dingalen
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To be able to use "magic" on middle earth, you must possess the "inborn" ability to do so. Gandalf can use the ring Narya to its full potential, because as a maia, he is a magicallly gifted being himself.
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ElessarsFan
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to quote Dingalen:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nice summary, Thorondor! Alas, it does not take us further. With some people, it is more difficult to open up a new idea than punching a fourth hole into a bowling ball with your finger.

I still adhere that the "secret fire" is related to the soul - humans & elves (& dwarves after Eru's intervention) posssess it - animals, trees and other plants (should) not. This is actually the link to my "souls in the norse edda" remark. The point is not that beings possessing are soul are blessed and immortal - the point is that creatures without a soul are NOT! So for example trolls in the edda do not possess a soul (turning back to the substance they are made of ... dirt, stone or wood) - so they envy and hate those creatures with a soul deeply! (In christian, jewish or islamic approaches, the existence of creatures without soul is accepted - most animals are not granted any - but what this means is not considered further.)

And that is the point that distinguishes creatures given the "flame imperishable" from those without: They also exist beyond their physical life - not only their soul, but also their minds: They can think beyond immediate physical needs, they can imagine beyond what they know from their surroundings. They can understand concepts like beauty, grace and justice - because their existence is not limited to the physical reality of this world. They are like the Ainur also part of the purely spiritual side of creation. And this is forever denied to soul-less creatures - and maybe also to those whose spirits that are twisted beyond redemption by the dark lords.
-------------------------------------------------
you are correct on most points except for the fact that i do believe that middle earth was given some of this secret fire deep within itself. Kind of a soul for the land. That the secret fire is what binds the souls and bodies together i am on complete agreement. the secret fire is something that is the spark or fire of life. Feanor had a huge abundance of it inside of himself. Now to the statement that He is a servant of the secret fire. He is clearly stating that he serves the entity that created the world. That he is a wielder of the flame of anor means that he wields the most powerful magic available to anyone. The most brilliant and powerful of the things in middle earth was Anor. now if someone were to compare the magical power that they had to the sun, and you compared your own power to say ... a lightbulb, that would be a direct challenge to the right the other person had to dominate and rule over you. Gandalf was just in fact trying to provoke the balrog, a fallen memeber of his own people, to a fight to allow the ring to escape moria. He knew something was going to happen to him in moria. So he did what he could to make sure frodo got to his destination. Simple as calling the elementary school bully fatty. You know that he really cares so hes going to slug you one. I find it very comical that the balrog attacked and ended up falling, but i dont think it really was from anything gandalf did necesarily, but maybe because the power that was starting to be released by the two powerful beings effected the area they were fighting in. Gandalf would know not to fully put all of his power to attack, but i do believe the balrog was because he was the bully called out to the fight, forgot where he was and didnt plan for his defense adequatly.

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Dingalen
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What an interesting introduction []
quote:
you are correct on most points except for the fact that i do believe
Middle Earth is indeed a magical world imbued with more conscious sentience in its wildlife than in almost any other mythology. It is an aspect otherwise only found in fairy tales.
About the nature of the "secret fire", we do know too little to say how it infuses middle earth and its creatures. It is a concept even more vague than that of the soul. It is true though, that by invoking it, Gandalf indentified himself as a servant of Eru (a maia) to the Balrog - and his statement is doubtlessly a challenge to the fallen maia. But whether Gandalf would rely on the Balrog loosing its temper?

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Bean0r
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Whoever said (and forgive me for not noting names) that Gandalf was 'revealing himself' to the Balrog, or threatening him, I think, is correct. I thought about this just the other night before I was going to sleep and I figured the purpose of the passage for Gandalf is to attempt to deter the Balrog from Frodo and the Ring. I think the Balrog sensed the power of the Ring, for what else was it planning to do? Gandalf told it that it could not pass, so clearly Gandalf thought that the Balrog was chasing the Ring (or was at least protecting the Ring from the Balrog).

I'd say it makes the most sense to say that the "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor," bit is just Gandalf taunting it. The part I'm a bit confused about is "The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun!" Clearly flame of Udun is a simple name for a balrog, but what's the dark fire in this context? I'm guessing it's basically Gandalf saying "Your service to the dark powers of the world will not save you against my power, balrog!" But I'm unsure.

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Olorin3
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BeanOr - The "dark fire" remark probably just refered to the "dark" shadow surrounding the balrog and the underlying "fire" of its being.
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Lúthien Tinúvial
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I always thought that it was in Illuvatar but it was sent into Arda.

-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-
Eärendil was a mariner that tarried in Arvernien;
he built a boat of timber felled in Nimberethil to journey in;
her sails he wove of silver fair, of silver were her lantrens made,
her prow was fashioned like a swan, and light upon her banners laid.....

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Create a New Topic  Reply to this Topic Minas Tirith Forums » Library Council of Minas Tirith » What was the Secret Fire that Gandalf said in Moria that he served? (Page 3)
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