The Balrogs of Middle-Earth – Lord of the Rings Lore

The Balrogs of Middle-Earth – Lord of the Rings Lore

The Balrogs of Morgoth, Demons of shadow and
flame. Creatures of Immense power and among the most
deadly beings to ever walk Middle-Earth. Hello friends it’s Karl here and in today’s
video we’ll be delving into the lore of the Balrogs of Middle-Earth. So the name Balrog is Sindarin that means
Demon of Power and they were also known Valaraukar in Quenya. These monstrosities were once Maiar spirits,
angelic beings that serve the Valar. When Morgoth rebelled against Eru Iluvatar
and his fellow Valar, some Maiar spirits followed him, and among these were the Balrogs. They were said to have a humanoid shape and
yet were greater in size than a man, with a streaming mane of fire that blazed behind
them. A mixture of Shadow and Flame enveloped them
and they emanated an aura of power and terror. It’s debatable whether they had wings or
not though I’ll be discussing this towards the end of my video. Regarding their weapons, their primary weapon
seemed to be a whip of flame, though they were also known to use axes and swords as
well. So after Morgoth’s rebellion, he gathered
the Balrogs in his fortress of Utumno , and in the year 1099 of the Years of the Trees,
the Valar besieged it and laid waste to it. Morgoth was then dragged in chains to Valinor
and imprisoned there for some time, while his balrogs fled and hid in the pits of Angband
another fortress and armoury of Morgoth, They lay dormant there, waiting for their Master’s
return. In the year 1495 of the years of the Trees,
Morgoth allied with Ungoliant, an evil creature that took the form of a massive spider, and
together they poisoned the two trees of Valinor, slew the high elven king of the Noldor and
stole the 3 silmarils, the most beautiful gems that were ever created. They then fled across an icy wasteland called
the Helcaraxe towards Middle-Earth, but before Morgoth reached Angband Ungoliant turned on
him, demanding the Silmarils from him as she wanted to consume their light. Morgoth refused to give them up, and in retaliation,
Ungoliant attacked him and encased him in webs of darkness. In his anguish, Morgoth let out an ear piercing
cry and we’re told that “the mountains shook, and the earth trembled, and rocks were
riven asunder. Deep in forgotten places that cry was heard. Far beneath the ruined halls of Angband, in
vaults to which the Valar in the haste of their assault had not descended, Balrogs lurked
still, awaiting ever the return of their lord; and now swiftly they arose and passing over
Hithlum they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire.” The Balrogs then approached Ungoliant and
using their whips of fire they tore asunder her webs, freeing their Master. Seeing that she was now outmatched, Ungoliant
fled to the Mountains known as Ered Gorgoroth. Now these Silmarils were created by the elf
Faenor, and after they were stolen he led a force of the Noldor to Middle-Earth where
they waged war against Morgoth. Though they were outnumbered, the Elves defeated
their opposition with ease, and this filled Faenor with confidence as he rushed forward
towards Angband ahead of his men. This overconfidence would be his downfall,
as during the Battle under the Stars he was surrounded by Balrogs. Despite his dire situation Faenor fought on,
taking many wounds and being wrapped in fire, though at the last he was smitten to the ground
by Gothmog, the Lord of the Balrogs. Before Gothmog could deliver the killing blow,
Faenor’s sons arrived with the rest of the Noldor host and they fought off the Balrogs,
though despite their timely rescue, Faenor dies from the wounds he had sustained. The Balrog, Gothmog that was mentioned in
this passage was said to be the High captain of Angband and the Lord of the Balrogs. In one of Tolkien’s early writings called
the Lay of the Children of Hurin, another Balrog called Lungorthin is said to be Lord
of Balrogs. This is a common point of confusion for readers
as they are at times uncertain whether Lungorthin and Gothmog referred to the same Balrog, however
Christopher Tolkien believes that it simple meant he was ‘a balrog lord’ and so still
beneath Gothmog in the hierarchy. Following Faenor’s death, Morgoth sent an
emissary to Faenor’s eldest son, Maedhros acknowledging his defeat and offering terms
of surrender. Maedhros then decided to send an embassy to
treat with him, though both parties planned to trick one another, which resulted in a
battle between them. Morgoth had the greater force which included
the Balrogs and all of Maedhros’ company were slain, though he was taken alive back
to Angband as a prisoner. In the year 455 of the First Age, Morgoth
unleashed his forces to break the siege of Angband. This was known as the battle of sudden flame,
which is quite fitting considering the fiery destruction that the Balrogs and Glaurang
the first Dragon inflicted upon the Noldor and their allies. The next battle the balrogs took part in,
was the battle of Unnumbered Tears in the year 472 of the First Age. During this battle, the high King of the Noldor
called Fingon lead a charge and ambushed the Orc host which sundered their defenses. In desperation, Morgoth emptied Angband and
unleashed all his forces, including his dragons and balrogs upon his enemies. Gothmog, the Lord of the Balrogs drove a wedge
between the Elven hosts, and Morgoth’s forces surrounded King Fingon. Gothmog and Fingon then fought one another,
until Fingon was caught unawares as another Balrog approached him from behind and ensnared
him in a whip of Fire. Gothmog then slew him with his black axe,
and he then captured Hurin, a lord of the Edain and took him to Angband, hoping to interrogate
him for information regarding the hidden elven realm of Gondolin. Though Hurin refused to disclose Gondolin’s
location, Morgoth succeeding in discovering it through other means. In the year 510 of the first age, the hidden
city of Gondolin was besieged by Morgoth’s forces. Gothmog was the captain of this host, and
it is said that during the battle the Balrogs rode upon the backs of dragons. After the city was breached, Morgoth’s forces
pushed towards the Square, where one elf stood defiantly near the Fountain of the King. He was The Lord of the House of the Fountain,
Ecthelion, and it was here that he faced and duelled Gothmog. Though he fought valiantly, Gothmog succeeding
in disarming him, and as he got ready to deliver the final blow, Ecthelion charged at him,
and drove his helmet’s spike into the Balrog. After, they both fell into the fountain, where
the Balrog perished and where Ecthelion drowned. As Gondolin burned, some refugees attempted
to flee, and Glorfindel was among them. As they fled, a Balrog approached them, and
Glorfindel rushed forward to face it. During their fight, Glorfindel seemed to get
the upper hand, as he drove his sword into the Balrog and pushed it towards a cliff,
however as it fell it grabbed hold of his hair and the two of them fell and perished
in the abyss below. During the War the War of Wrath, Morgoth was
finally defeated, and we’re told that all of his balrogs were slain, apart from a few
that fled and hid themselves in deep caverns near the roots of the Earth. One of these balrogs was Durin’s bain, who
in the year 1980 of the third age was awoken by the dwarves of Khazad-Dum as they dug for
Mithril. This balrog slew their king Durin the sixth,
thus earning itself the name Durin’s Bane. Though the dwarves managed to persevere for
another year, they eventually accepted that they must abandon Khazad-Dum, after the Balrog
slew their new king, Nain the first. When the Fellowship passed through Moria they
encounter Durin’s bane and Gandalf faces it at the bridge of Khazad-Dum. After breaking the bridge, the Balrog falls
into the abyss below though it succeeds in pulling Gandalf down with it. Together they fell into a pool of water which
quenched the Balrog’s flames, and they fought at the roots of the Earth, until the Balrog
fled down dark passages and up the Endless Stair. Gandalf chased him till they reached the peak
of the mountain-top Zirak-Zigil, where the Balrog was finally defeated and he was cast
down onto the mountain side below. Now regarding their number, Tolkien wrote
that “3 or at most 7 ever existed”. So assuming that the maximum possible number
existed, we know that 3 Balrogs were slain and at least 1 more perished in the War of
Wrath. Since Tolkien says that “save some few that
fled and him themselves” it seems to imply that more than 1 Balrog survived other than
Durin’s bane, hidden deep within the Earth. I’d also like to point out that the Balrogs
weren’t bestial on the contrary they were quite intelligent. When Gandalf tries to hold off the Balrog
in the chamber of Mazarbul, he puts a spell of sealing on the door. We’re then told that the Balrog perceived
his spell and cast a counterspell that nearly overwhelmed Gandalf. This intelligence is further seen by how they
were the captain and leaders of Morgoth’s armies. What I also find incredible interesting, is
that they also seemed to be Morgoth’s torturers. In the book of Lost Tales, Tolkien says “and
one worthy of the tortures of the Balrogs” and in the Lay of the Children of Hurin we’re
told “long years he laboured, under lashes and flails, of the baleful Balrogs, abiding
his time. And now we come to probably the most debated
topic when it comes to balrogs. Did they have wings? So there are a couple of quotes in Tolkien’s
works that link Balrogs to flight, such as saying that they passed with winged speed,
or “a thing of terror that, flying from Thangorodrim”, however this is only the
case if they are taken literally. In Moria it’s said that “suddenly it drew
itself up to a great height, and its wings spread from wall to wall” however a few
lines before we’re told that “and the shadow about it reached out like two vast
wings”, so once again this can’t be used to confirm that they had wings. Now considering that two Balrogs met their
demise after being thrown into an abyss, one might reason that they couldn’t have wings,
otherwise they would have simply flown back up. Also if they had wings, why were they said
to be riding dragons during the fall of Gondolin? So I don’t feel that the first argument
is enough to say they wingless, it could be they were too wounded or busy fighting to
fly back up, while for the second argument, Balrogs riding dragons would be quite a terrifying
sight to behold, perhaps they could even cover more ground faster this way, or it could allow
the balrogs to lash out at enemies similar to cavalry. It’s quite a neverending debate, though
since we know that Maier spirits could change their physical form, I don’t see why they
couldn’t change their form to have wings. Also when Ungoliant attacked Morgoth, I can’t
see the balrogs slowly climbing up the pits of Angband and then proceeding to walk to
their Master’s aid. It would seem awfully slow compared to flying,
though this is simply my own speculation. Anyway friends this wraps up the video and
I hope you enjoyed it! If you can leave a like cause it helps this
channel immensely, and subscribe to join our fellowship today! I hope to see you all in my next video, where
together we will once again explore the magical world and lore of Middle-Earth!

100 thoughts on “The Balrogs of Middle-Earth – Lord of the Rings Lore”

  1. Saying Ungoliant turned on Morgoth seems a bit unfair. Morgoth had agreed to feed her. Ungoliant was a creature of darkness. The Silmarils, being light, would be her natural food. It would be like allying with a spider, then saying "well, no, I want to keep /this/ fly."

  2. "Why were they riding dragons"? Who the hell wouldn't ride a dragon??

    More seriously, I can walk, but I prefer riding in a car. It uses the car's energy rather than mine, which I can save for later use.

  3. What really happened to create balrogs was that after the first time eating magic spicy foods and getting really gaseous some one lit a matchstick after a fart to clear the air. The fire still burns today and you know the rest.

  4. I live in South Florida and I think that Balrogs are like the ducks that we have here. They have wings and are entirely capable of flight, but due to their heavy bodies and weak wings they only do so for short bursts (for example, from roof to roof). Balrogs likely weighed an absurd amount and would need wings the length of football fields to lift them high into the sky, and probably would have just used them for quick flights to cover ground as swiftly as possible. Just my personal belief anyways

  5. Well i mean just cuz you have wings doesn’t mean you can use them

    Most likely the Balrogs HAVE wings but they might be too heavy to actually use them to fly
    That’s just my theory

  6. To me, they did have wings. If they’re creatures of shadow and flames, their wings could have been seen as shadows or flames. As for the flight part, they either could have not flown out of choice or unable to fly (the wings were just for show). Since, as you point out they were sentient, intelligent, and army commanders, I would say they just preferred not to fly because their position made them feel like they didn’t need to fly. It follows the same logic why modern military officers get greater perks than enlisted. Their minds and bodies need to be rested to command or else a poor decision will be made and people die.

  7. Just saying, I can think of at least a dozen things that having wings but are incapable of flight. Perhaps the Balrog had wings but lacked the ability to fly.

  8. Ah kinda wish balrogs were left a mystery 1st time i watched fellowship (it was the extended edition i had no idea the movies were based on books) gandalf telling frodo about how there were still creatures he had not been tested to yet and then the reveal of the balrog just made it seem these shoulda been the most feered creatures to have ever existed making sauron look like a sissy by comparison rhen i learn about morgoth and all the other creatures who might have been above him abd im like "well the balrog looks like a wimp now." ?

  9. I don’t think they can fly. In battle for middle earth 2 the balrog can only leap. I think it’s because of the their massive body those wings couldn’t hold their own wait but for a minute or so I’d say bet your ass they could climb tho that’s how the Balrog probably got around. My opinion tho but it makes more sense to me for it to be that way.


  11. So….basically Balrogs = Victory lol
    For the most part. And if you do beat them, they’re gonna pull you down some kinda cliff

  12. It is quite possible that the wings were made of Shadows not true wings. The shadow wings can make them appear to be bigger than they are. Morgoth and latter Sauron were known to use lies to get what they wanted. Since the Balrogs were creatures of hat and lies. Using shadows to make one even more imposing would make since. At least that is my take on the Balrogs.

  13. Never read a single tolkien book but I think its all pretty cool, these videos are pretty helpful with helping me analyze what makes it all so fantastical, so I thank you. Also hella helpful with designing the history of my D&D worlds.

  14. Is that a different Glorfindel?
    Because you said he perished and yet in the Fellowship there also is Glorfindel as well as in the war against Angmar

  15. Shapeshifting wings sounds the most likely, the line about great shadows formed two wings makes it seem like they could extent their power to form wings. My meaning is that they don’t have wings by default, like all the time, but can when a situation calls for it.

  16. 😛 wings could be decoration You know. To intimidate and look cool.

    If something that big was looking down at you with fire behind it wouldn't you be afraid?

  17. 8:15 It's been a few years since I've played, but you can view the slain Balrog in LOTRO in the location you mention.

  18. They may had wing like appendages but, they were not capable of any kind of lift or even glided decent like a flying squirrel. More like tattered moth wings

  19. I appreciate the detailed analysis of the physiology of the Balrogs, but I want to point out that nowhere in this narrative is there any mention of horns. It is assumed by artists that demons must be pictured possessing horns.

  20. Why wouldn't you ride dragons if you could
    And I think they appear to have wings they just can't be used

  21. TO EACH HIS OWN — Having said that – I have read The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings DOZENS OF TIMES and in my opinion Peter Jackson SCREWED UP –HE CHANGED and ADDED WAY TO MUCH MOVIES ARE NOT THE SAME AS THE BOOKS — HE CHANGED TOO MUCH

  22. There is reference in the First Age that regiments of Balrogs were present at the critical battles. From the top of my head, the Dangor Bragollach (check the book guys!) makes mention of this.

  23. How can something as short as Balrog mean something as long as "Demon Of Power"? That doesn't seem possible, bloody languages in middle earth man.

  24. @ 4:09 demon of blood, brass and skull taking.
    Greater deamon of Khorne.

  25. The Balrogs seem to have this weird habit of falling off of high places, pulling their enemies with them to both their ends.

  26. Have you ever seen demons move? I have. They may as well be flying. Even those that move across the ground do so at great speed. They may not be flying but they glide rather well, and with astonishing swiftness. Even these spiritual beings seem bound to conform to the contours of a material earth. And though many have wings I've only seen a handful fly, appearing through the clouds as great lights in an attempt to portray themselves as ufo's to deceive those who are perishing into believing in aliens so they can continue to deny God's Word. But I digress. O have to lean towards the idea that the Valarauko, from whence derives the Sindarin word Balrog, have wings but can only use them in a limited manner, such as for enhanced forward locomotion, even slight elevation, but not for true flight.

  27. All birds have wings, but not all birds can fly. It seems the bigger the bird, the less it has the ability to fly. The Ostrich and Emu make good examples of this. Balrogs may have wings, but they are not the kind that can ride the wind due to being, you know, on FIRE. This, and considering their considerable strength, if their bones were hollow, they'd snap them under their own strain.

  28. tolkien's works had christian themes among other mythologies, and i think he meant they DID have wings but like those who followed lucifer had been cursed and cased out of heaven or (fallen); metaphorically and literally rendering their once holy wings of divinity useless, and remain and a sign of their disgrace. but thats just my interpretation.

  29. Makes you think… how strong is the With King of Angmar? He almost murked Gangalf who slayed a Balrog as a Grey.

  30. I think the Balrogs definitely had wings, but the wings were made of sort of bones and fire, and thus not strong enough to carry the weight of a Balrog!

  31. You make great videos about The Middle-earth Lore, they feature some facts that I wasn't aware of that wasn't even told in The Silmarillion, though I admit that I haven't read Tolkien's Letters or other books other than The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin (though I plan to get a copy of Beren and Luthien the next time I'm in Stockholm). One minor critism is that you have a tendency say words and names with TH as a T. In english TH is prounonced as F therefore "earth" is prounounced "urf" and "goth" as "goff", and names like Morgoth is "Mor-goff". Otherwise you do prounounce a lot of Tolkien's names and words right, unlike the voice actors of Battle for Middle-earth II and it's expansion pack Rise of the Witch-King, where for example dunedaín is said as "duu-neh-day-n" instead of "duu-neh-dah-j-n", which bothers me to no end.

  32. I think it's simply that they were enveloped in fire and Shadow that formed winglike aspects to their bodies. They may not have been functional, but would certainly be terrifying to behold.

  33. Imo because they were creatures of shadow and flame, they were probably able to shape themselves as desired. As you suggested. I think the shadow wings the balrog employs in LOTR are just that – wings made of shadow.

  34. Bullrogs had the speed of wings. As Legolas could run upon the snow. They where a Mia..henceforth they could achieve great speed without wings..but the datkness of their spirit spreads out like wing's of fire and darkness..quite debatable..

  35. I think they had wings, but like an ostrich or emu they couldnt fly and would brutalise their enemies on foot

  36. Not sure if posted but here is a thought with how long Durin's Bane was in slumber the wings may have atrophied a little making it difficult to attain flight. Just a thought though.

  37. The riding dragons argument against Balrogs having wings seems stupid to me. It's like saying (humans have legs. So why would they ride horses?).

  38. Very well done! I loved the way you used certain drawings to really illustrate the terror and mystery of these fallen angels. I remember when I went to see Fellowship in theaters with my Dad when I was six (certainly one of my favorite memories), I was scared to death when Gandalf was fighting the Balrog. On the plus side, the only other thing I remembered for a long time were the pretty Elves! =)

  39. Just going to offer that the balrog which fought Gandalf (Durin's Bane) when he fell into the abyss, they were in an underground environment. Given the amount of wingspan required to lift a creature of that size, it's very likely that while there was plenty of room for it to fight and maneuver on foot, there wasn't enough room for it to actually gain any lift with its wings. Further, balrogs riding dragons makes sense given that a dragon is much better constructed for flight speed than a winged biped; balrogs might have been ABLE to fly but probably weren't very good or fast at it.

  40. If you get the chance, read 'The Fall of Gondolin" from Book of Lost Tales II. It was an earlier rendition than what was published in 'The Silmarillion". What was in "The Silmarillion" was really whittled down in length and had a number of changes made from the earlier version (the number of Balrogs for example. Before Tolkien changed it, there were HUNDREDS of Balrogs). BoLT II's version is FAR better than what we got in The Silmarillion. A serious page turner and it would make an epic movie!

  41. Balrogs flew on the backs of dragons!? That is the most awesome and terrifying sight I can imagine! I'm gonna have nightmares tonight.

  42. My question is where are the remaining balrogs? Like in what mountains would they most likely be? Maybe in the mountains of Mordor?

  43. Something having wings doesn’t necessarily mean that thing can fly. If you don’t believe me, go ask an ostrich.

    Anyway, I imagine Balrogs using their wings to glide for a short distance like a flying squirrel or one of the creepy rib cage spreading lizards. Their wings wouldn’t be able to give upward thrust. They could also use them for intimidation or even protection.

  44. Shadows above reached out, which seem to mean their shadowy aura reached out seeming like wings. not exactly literal wings.

  45. So what I’ve come to learn is that, to kill a Balrog, one must also sacrifice himself in battle to truly destroy it?

  46. So I've heard that Gandalf and the other wizards were Maiar as well as the Balrogs before the latter joined up with Morgorth. So…Gandalf and Durin's Bane were technically the same species then?

  47. I'd speculate some were winged while others weren't.Those who could fly would while the others depended on other means of faster travel.

  48. I do really like “PJs” version of Balrogs. I’m just wondering where the forms of the Balrog came from. I can find little description of the Balrogs in any of his works beyond them being “terrible and wreathed in flame”. Also, to give PJ credit for the Balrogs does so much disservice to the creative staff and the art of John Howe who first conceptualized the Balrogs.
    For me, Balrogs epitomized the darker world of ME as they hinted at an ancient world that existed within this already vividly realized fantasy world. The Balrog forced the realization that even the story I was reading at the time had a depth and history to it that was worthy of getting lost in and was like nothing I had read before. The idea that a fantasy could have a backstory was so thrilling to me and made the fantasy I was immersed in all the richer for it. The Balrog represents the tip of the iceberg and the depth and breadth of Tolkien’s works that no author to this day has been able to duplicate it to the extent that Tolkien died. GRRM does have quite a bit of backstory, but I find it more broad in that it’s often not history but rather Martin touching on other geographic areas that will likely have nothing to do with the central narrative in most cases. Even Martin’s history seems rather haphazard with respect to the current era and I would even go so far as to say the history of plantetos is often completely unrelated to the current theme. So while it’s nice to see, it’s simply not on par with Tolkien’s mastery in creating a world and that world’s history in accord with each other. There is none better than Tolkien, and the Balrog is a metaphor representing Tolkien’s mastery of fantasy history.

  49. Why do all the evil guys get the badass creatures? Balrogs RIDING Dragons?!?! Are you KIDDING ME!!

    Where are the Eagles? Where are Elementals? Or Ents? Don't the Eldar have any powerful Creatures or spirits on their side?


  50. Here's something to ponder: Deep in Moria there are older, worse things than the Balrog, the creatures that created the tunnels (Gandalf says he saw them as he fought the Balrog). Instead of being a one-dimensional ultimate bad guy, was the Balrog actually afraid of the older creatures and constantly trying to evade them too?

  51. People mention a Balrog riding a dragon being cool and hardcore… but did you think perhaps sometimes the dragons could have rode the Balrogs (not all the times, but sometimes)! Maybe just to amuse Melkor or as a punishment for disobeying orders. Or what if even the witch king rode on a Balrog!!! You know, as a favor, to get back to Mordor after what happened outside Rivendell. Woooow. Or… what if the witch king rode a fell beast riding a Balrog riding on a dragon (mind blown!). I think Tolkein really missed out on a high fantasy masterpiece by excluding this possibility…

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