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"I shan't call it the end, till we've cleared up the mess." — Sam
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The name Balrog refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Balrog (disambiguation).
Rob Alexander - The Balrog of Moria.jpg
General Information
MembersGothmog, Durin's Bane
Physical Description
DistinctionsMan-like, surrounded by shadow and fire
Average heighttwice the height of a man
GalleryImages of Balrogs

Balrogs, or Balrogath ("Balrog-kind") were menacing creatures about twice the height of a man consisting of fire and shadow. Balrogs induced great terror in all and were among Morgoth's most feared minions during the First Age. The wizard Gandalf fell fighting a Balrog when the Fellowship escaped Moria in The Fellowship of the Ring. In the First Age notable Elf Lords Ecthelion and Glorfindel each fell fighting separate Balrogs during the sack of Gondolin.



Balrogs, also called Valaraukar, were originally Maiar spirits, of the same order as Sauron and Olórin (Gandalf), but they were seduced by Morgoth, who corrupted them to his service before the coming of the Elves. They were originally gathered by him in his ancient fastness of Utumno during the Years of the Lamps. When this fortress was destroyed by the Valar, they fled and lurked in the pits of Angband.

When Melkor and Ungoliant escaped from Valinor many years later with the Silmarils, the Balrogs were still to be found in these pits. Ungoliant trapped Melkor in her webs, demanding the Silmarils for herself, but the Balrogs issued from their hiding-place and rescued their lord.

The Balrogs were first encountered by Elves during the Dagor-nuin-Giliath ("Battle under the Stars") in the First Age. After the victory of the Noldorin Elves over Morgoth's Orcs, the Elf Lord Fëanor pressed on towards Angband, but Balrogs came against him. He was surrounded by Balrogs and fought long before being mortally wounded by Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs (the only Balrog known by name). Though Fëanor's sons fought off the demons of fire, Fëanor died of his wounds soon after, and his spirit departed for the Halls of Mandos.

When Morgoth's fortress of Angband was destroyed by the Valar in the First Age, most Balrogs were destroyed, but some fled and lurked in the pits of Angband or escaped across the Blue Mountains to eastern Middle-earth.

After the last battle of the First Age some Balrogs escaped the Valar's wrath and hid deep underground inaccessible at the roots of the earth. In the Third Age the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm unwittingly released a Balrog while mining for mithril and were driven out of Moria by the creature. This is the same Balrog that Gandalf ultimately encountered in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Just one Balrog appears after the First Age. If Sauron had any in his service during the Second Age or the War of the Ring, they were never revealed. The sole Balrog described by Tolkien after the War of Wrath was Durin's Bane.

Other versions of the Legendarium

In one of Tolkien's early Middle-earth writings, Lay of the Children of Húrin, "Lungorthin, Lord of Balrogs" is mentioned. It is not, however, certain if it was another name for Gothmog, or it simply meant "a Balrog lord". According to Christopher Tolkien, the latter is more probable, as the name Gothmog was mentioned in the earliest Middle-earth writings, as well as the final version of Tolkien's mythology.

The Balrogs were originally envisioned as being immense in number:

"The early conception of Balrogs makes them less terrible, and certainly more destructible, than they afterwards became: they existed in 'hundreds' (p. 170), and were slain by Tuor and the Gondothlim in large numbers: "thus five fell before Tuor's great axe Dramborleg, three before Ecthelion's sword, and two score were slain by the warriors of the king's house."
The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, commentary by Christopher Tolkien on "The Fall of Gondolin"
"There came wolves and serpents and there came Balrogs one thousand, and there came Glomund the Father of Dragons."
The Lost Road and Other Writings, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter 16, §15

As the legendarium became more formidable and internally consistent, and the Balrogs more terrible, this number was much reduced. In the end Tolkien stated that there were probably "at most" seven Balrogs:

"In the margin my father wrote: 'There should not be supposed more than say 3 or at most 7 ever existed.'"
Morgoth's Ring, Section 2 (AAm*): note 50

It should however be noted that these texts postdate the published The Lord of the Rings, but predate the materials from which the published The Silmarillion was drawn. The exact number of Balrogs is therefore very uncertain, but Tolkien's note above seems to have been his final word.


Balrog is Sindarin for "Demon of Might" from bal-, "power" and raug, rog, "demon".

The Quenya form Valarauko points to a possible Primitive Quendian form *balaraukô.

In the earlier Etymologies, the word Balrog was derived from ñgwalaraukô,[1] but this is inconsistent with Quenya Valarauko.

A list of Old English equivalents of Elvish words, glosses Balrog as having the equivalent Bealuwearg and Bealubroga. As noted by Christopher Tolkien, the Old English word contains the elements bealu ("evil"; as in bale(ful)) and wearg ("wolf, outlaw") or broga ("terror").[2]

Portrayal in adaptations

If adaptations were to be counted as canon, the matter of Balrog wings would be decided.

1978: The Lord of the Rings (1978 film):

The Balrog has wings and appears capable of limited flight. The head resembles a lion but the rest of the body was rendered in matte black, a technique commonly used for shadowy surreal effect in rotoscope animation.

2001: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:

Durin's Bane has wings, albeit wings that were purely decorative as the Balrog could not fly. Jackson's Demon of Might was indistinct, a real blend of shadow and fire. Only its horned head, cloven feet, and clawed hands could clearly be seen.

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game):

The Balrog has, once again, wings. The fight sequence, in which the player is Gandalf, takes considerably longer: only after a short fight on the bridge does Gandalf let it collapse.

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:

The chase up the Endless Stair and the slime Balrog were omitted due to budget constraints.[source?] However, part of Gandalf's battle with the Balrog is shown at the beginning of the film, and the fight atop Zirak-Zigil is seen in a flashback after Gandalf's return.

2003: Sierra's The War of the Ring:

Balrog is the most powerful magical power available to Servants of Sauron. They have horns and wings.

2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age:

The players assist Gandalf in his fight with the Balrog.

2004: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth:

Balrog is the most powerful magical power available to both Mordor an Isengard faction. Visual appearance follows the movie version.

2006: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II:

Unlike the original game, Balrog is not available to Isengard faction, but only to Mordor and the new Goblin factions.

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Durin's Bane can be observed in two "session plays" (player character not present): one depicts the awakening of the Balrog by Dwarves under Durin VI, the other depicts dwarves of Balin's company fleeing from the ancient evil. After Gandalf defeats him, the lifeless body of Durin's Bane can be found on the slopes of Zirakzigil. Despite the players knowing the Balrog dead, another Servant of Sauron tests their will and fears, by portraying an illusion of it. In the illusion, the fight between Gandalf and the Balrog on the Endless Stair is recreated, until it ends the opposite way of the actual event: the Balrog defeats the Wizard, throwing his lifeless body from Zirakzigil. Players have to defeat the Balrog in order to combat the illusion.
The game also features another Balrog: named Thaurlach, he can be found in the Rift of Nûrz Ghâshu, where Angmar meets Misty Mountains. He fled there are the breaking of Thangorodrim, but was followed by an elf-maiden Glathlírel who was determined to end him. The Balrog eluded her for millennia, until she was able to face him in combat and defeat him. Rather than kill the Balrog, the two Blue Wizards decided to imprison him in the Rift, so that he could await his judgment at the end of days. However, by the end of the Third Age his chains were loosing and a band of players was sent to defeat the weakened Balrog - something, that as Gandalf remarked, should have been done ages ago.

2009: The Lord of the Rings: Conquest:

Balrog is one of the "heroes" available to Servants of Sauron during evil campaign. Appearance reflects the movie version.

See Also


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, The Etymologies, RUK
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "III. The Quenta: Appendix 1: Fragments of a translation of The Quenta Noldorinwa into Old English, made by Ælfwine or Eriol; together with Old English equivalents of Elvish names", p. 209

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