User:LotRfan01/essays/The Number of Balrogs
A question that has never and can never be fully resolved is the matter of how many Balrogs there are. Please note: this essay will go into the realms of guessing and leave the area of canonized works.
First we look at references in the early works of Tolkien:
“… yet others were creatures of pure flame that writhed like ropes of molten metal . . . upon them rode Balrogs by the hundreds . . . the most dire of all those monsters which Melko devised against Gondolin”
--BoLT2 “The Fall of Gondolin”
“There came wolves and serpents, and there came Balrogs one thousand, and there came Glómund the Father of Dragons.”
--LRoW “Quenta Silmarillion ch. 16 ~15”
As we can see here the original concept of Balrogs made them greater in number but weaker than they currently are. In a note by J.J.R. Tolkien, it is expressed that there should be fewer Balrogs, “at most seven”. A possible reason for this is that if all Balrogs were as powerful as the Moria Balrog was, then the elves would have stood no chance, not when they are coming by the thousands. At the point of his death he had not cut it down to seven, but how many was it cut down to? We will now look at the Canon Silmarillion.
It mentions the battle of Ecthelion and Gothmog. This is also added to the battle between Glorfindel and the Balrog on the pinnacle. All told there were two Balrogs that assaulted the city and died, along with at least five more that were still alive after the battle. It is however possible that only two Balrogs were sent, Gothmog and the slayer of Glorfindel. This would mean two Balrogs were sent and both died. Not very likely of Morgoth to do, he would send a large force so that there would be no chance of escape. At the very least the number of Balrogs sent was five, in my opinion.
Later it says that the Balrogs were destroyed. Pay attention to the plural there. And some few escaped. Again note the use of a few. Now under this reasoning we can assume at least three Balrogs escaped, but probably more like four, five or six. Now the number of Balrogs destroyed was at least five, but more probably seven eight or nine. This would allow for a total of 15 Balrogs in the War of Wrath. More than one Balrog escaped, because it stated that a few Balrogs fled and escaped destruction, so at least two, but most likely three fled. And as the Balrogs were all destroyed, save a few. That implies that those escaping were in the minority, so if two or three fled, it is logical to assume that five or six at least were destroyed. The absolute least number of Balrogs at this Battle could have been seven, in my opinion.
The number of Balrogs in the War of Wrath must then be added to the number of Balrogs killed in the Fall of Gondolin. Which is anywhere from two. We should not count the Balrogs left alive after the battle as they were involved in the War of Wrath. This brings us to a total of at most seventeen Balrogs, a reasonable amount, to as little as eleven, by my reasoning. The absolute least number of Balrogs in existence would have to be nine, but this is very unlikely due mostly to the amount of stress placed on the fact that all the Balrogs save a few escapees were destroyed.
Now, he could have said that 1 Balrog escaped while the rest were destroyed, and that would place the number significantly lower. We could assume that this would be four or five Balrogs total in the War of Wrath, leaving a total of seven Balrogs. But revisions had not ever reached this point so it is a totally non-canon assumption. However, he was close, and it would be no big stretch to say that there were in fact only seven.