Gandalf: You shall not pass! Hey SubFuries! We’re talking about Lord of the Rings today. That’s why I’m wearing my One Ring and this is my Balrog. It’s one of my favorite models and it’s what we’ll be talking about today. Undoubtedly, the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm is one of the most iconic moments of the story, where Gandalf confronts the Balrog to say: “I am a servant of the Secret Fire,” “wielder of the flame of Anor” “The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn.” “Go back to the Shadow.” Now this particular phrase, a lot of people don’t know, Actually references a lot of things to do with Balrogs Like why does he say the flame of Anor or talk about the secret fire? Because as awesome as Balrogs are we aren’t actually given that much in Lord of The Rings about what on earth they are or where they came from. So it’s time for your Tolkien lore nerd to start rambling. Now the story of the Balrogs takes us right back to the Music of the Ainur or the creation of all of Eä and Middle-Earth. and I need to introduce you to a character called Melkor. So Melkor was one of the many Ainur who were the “offspring of Eru Illuvatar’s thought, and they were with him before aught else was made.” Now the Ainur can be split up into two groups: the Valar and the Maiar. The Valar were the highest ranking, or most powerful of the Ainur, while the Maiar were the lower ranking or less powerful of the Ainur, kind of like low ranking angels. Now we don’t have time to get into all of Melkor’s story, But essentially he was one of the closest Ainur to the creator, Eru Illuvatar. Now Tolkien wrote that as all of the Valar and Maiar were singing together in the song of creation, “Melkor began to interweave matters of his own imagining…” “for he sought therein to increase the power and glory he had.” In other words he sang his own song of creation, he wanted to create his own things, his own beings, his own worlds even. He didn’t just want to fulfill the purpose laid down for him by Eru Illuvatar. Now Melkor may have wanted to have created things himself, but this isn’t where Balrogs come in just yet. No. There is a reason that Gandalf proclaims: “I am a servant of the Secret Fire” to the Balrog. The Secret Fire in Tolkien’s legendarium is essentially the power to create something, something original, something out of nothing. Tolkien wrote: “Illuvatar shall give to the Ainur’s thoughts the secret fire, being well pleased.” But Melkor wanted to create things of his own design outside of Eru Illuvatar’s. So “he had often gone off into the void places seeking the Secret Fire;” “for desire grew hot within him to bring into being things of his own.” But he couldn’t find it. Melkor lacked the ability to create things of his own design but he eventually learned that he could corrupt the other creations of Eru Illuvatar or the other Maiar around him. Tolkien wrote: “For of the Maiar, many were drawn to Melkor’s splendour in the days of his greatness…” “Dreadful among these spirits with the Valaraukar, the scourges of fire” “that in Middle-Earth were called the Balrogs, demons of terror.” The Balrogs are not creations of Melkor because he didn’t have the Secret Fire that would allow him to do that. They were corruptions of other Maiar around him. That’s what Gandalf, another Maiar, is meaning when he says “I am a servant of the Secret Fire.” That I am just as powerful as you, Balrog, and I am backed up by the ultimate power that your Master never had. Gandalf also identifies the Balrog as “the Flame of Udûn.” Udûn being the Sindarin word for hell and alluding to Utumno, Melkor’s fortress before the First Age. He’s saying “I know what you are and who you serve.” In the Silmarillion it’s implied that Balrogs weren’t just Maiar that turned to serve Melkor, But they were the first to turn to serve Melkor. Tolkien wrote: “Those spirits who first adhered to him in the days of his splendor… Balrogs they were named.” So it is possible, though not definite, that being a Balrog is also something of a position under Morgoth, rather than just a certiain type of creature. That, like Sauron gave more power to the Ringwraiths, Melkor gave more power to his Balrogs. Now this story often means that people tend to perceive Balrogs as mindless evil demons enslaved to the will of Morgoth but they’re actually a lot more than that. As we discussed before, Balrogs are Maiar on par with Sauron, though not as powerful, or Gandalf, who helped shape and create the world. They are imaginative and intelligent beings. They’re even described as having magical abilities akin to that of Gandalf: “It perceived me and my spell. What it was I cannot guess, but I have never felt such a challenge. The counter-spell was terrible.” Gandalf literally cast a spell, and the Balrog perceived his magic and him and cast a counter to it. These two look different, but they are technically the same kind of being: Maiar. Speaking of the way they look, there is a reason that Balrogs look the way they do, as creatures of shadow and flame. Because Maiar have the ability to “clothe themselves in their own thought,” shape-shift into other forms that reflect who they are and their mood. We can probably assume that, just as Melkor, another Ainur, was once incredibly beautiful and became dark and twisted, the Balrogs too went from majestic and beautiful to terrible, that they “became most like Melkor… hearts of fire and they were cloaked in darkness” to reflect who they were during the first war with Morgoth. There is also a reason that Gandalf proclaims he is a “wielder of the flame of Anor.” Anor means sun in elvish, and alludes to Arien, a spirit of flame that was appointed by the Valar to be the guardian of the sun. Morgoth wished to corrupt her, She was incredibly powerful, but he never managed to. Now typically speaking, a Maiar is affiliated with one of the Valar. For example, Ossë served Ulmo, the Valar of the oceans and seas. Now while it’s never explicitly stated what kind of spirits Balrogs were or who they served before, It is implied that they were spirits of fire, like Arien. By proclaiming the “flame of Anor” Gandalf was reminding the Balrog that he was wielding the power of a spirit that not even their master, Melkor, was able to corrupt. But there you go: Balrogs were probably the first spirits to turn to serve Melkor after the music of creation. They were not created by Melkor, but probably corrupted spirits of flame that had their forms changed to reflect their evil hearts. They were cunning, intelligent and cruel, able to use magic and knowledge like Gandalf. But that’s all from me SubFuries. My question to you is: what do you think is one of the most iconic moments in film history? Any movie you like. Tell me down in the comments below. I’d love for you to join other SubFuries following me on Twitter, Wattpad, Facebook Links down there, supporting me on Patreon, emailing me, or sending me stuff you’ve made, at the links and address in the description below. Stay nerdy, SubFuries and I’ll see you in the future.