From Tolkien Gateway
The name Balrog refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Balrog (disambiguation).
"Valaraukar" by Thomas Rouillard
General Information
Other namesValaraukar (Q)
OriginsCreation of the Ainur
LocationsPrimarily Angband,
Moria (Durin's Bane)
MembersGothmog, Durin's Bane, Lungorthin
Physical Description
DistinctionsMan-like, surrounded by shadow and fire, covered in smoke
(cf. Balrogs/Wings)
Average heightTwice the height of a man
WeaponryWhips, swords, axes
GalleryImages of Balrogs

... in Utumno he gathered his demons about him, those spirits who first adhered to him in the days of his splendour, and became most like him in his corruption: their hearts were of fire, but they were cloaked in darkness, and terror went before them; they had whips of flame.

The Balrogs were Maiar corrupted by Morgoth during the creation of Arda, who cloaked themselves in shadow and flame and carried whips and swords. Famed Balrogs include Gothmog, slain by Ecthelion, and Durin's Bane, slain by Gandalf.


Balrogs, also called Valaraukar, were originally Ainur created by Ilúvatar, probably those who joined Melkor during his discordance in the Music of the Ainur. After entering into , they were Maiar, lesser spirits at the service of the Valar.

...of the Maiar many were drawn to [Melkor's] splendour in the days of his greatness, and remained in that allegiance down into his darkness; and others he corrupted afterwards to his service with lies and treacherous gifts. Dreadful among these spirits were the Valaraukar, the scourges of fire that in Middle-earth were called the Balrogs, demons of terror.

They took the forms of demons with hearts of fire and whips of flame. Melkor gathered them about him after the fall of the Two Lamps and they dwelt in Utumno.[1] When this fortress was destroyed by the Valar, they fled to the west and hid in the pits of Angband, awaiting their master's return.[2]

When Morgoth and Ungoliant escaped from Valinor many years later with the Silmarils, the Balrogs were still awaiting their master in Angband. After Ungoliant threatened Morgoth, his cry was heard by them. Then the Balrogs issued from their hiding-place and traveled to Lammoth like a tempest of fire. With their whips they destroyed Ungoliant's webs and made her take flight.[2]

The Balrogs were first encountered by the Elves during the Dagor-nuin-Giliath ("Battle under the Stars") when the Noldorin Exiles returned to Middle-earth at the end of the First Age.[3] After the victory of the Noldor over Morgoth's forces, the Elf Lord Fëanor pressed on towards Angband, but the Balrogs came up against him. He was surrounded and fought long against them before being mortally wounded by Gothmog, Lord of the Balrogs. Though Fëanor's sons fought off the demons of fire, Fëanor died of his wounds soon after.[4]

During the Wars of Beleriand, Morgoth only came out of Angband on one occasion. Instead, he sent the Balrogs to fight and lead in battle. Two of them were killed in the Fall of Gondolin: Gothmog by Ecthelion, and another by Glorfindel.[5]

After the War of Wrath, some Balrogs escaped the destruction of Beleriand and hid deep underground, in inaccessible places at the roots of the earth.[note 1] Only one Balrog appears after the defeating of Morgoth: In the Third Age the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm unwittingly released the Balrog, afterwards known as Durin's Bane, while mining for mithril and were driven out of Moria by the creature.[6] Encountered by the Fellowship of the Ring, it was faced by Gandalf and the two Maiar slew one another.[7]


Balrog is Sindarin for "Demon of Might", from the root BAL ("power") + raug/rog ("demon").[8] The demonym was Balrogath.[9]

In the earlier Noldorin phase of the language, the word Balrog was derived from baul ("torment") + rhaug ("demon"), from Primitive Elvish ñgwalaraukô.[10]

Other names

The Quenya form is Valarauko (plural Valaraukar).[11]

In the Quenya from The Etymologies, the form was malarauko.[10]

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").[12]

Other versions of the legendarium

The Book of Lost Tales

In the earliest version of the legendarium in The Book of Lost Tales, the Balrogs are mentioned in some of the tales, but they only play an important role in the first that was written, in "The Fall of Gondolin".[13] Here some of the details remained later versions, while others were omitted: "Now these were demons with whips of flame and claws of steel by whom he tormented those of the Noldoli who durst withstand with him in anything – and the Eldar have called them Malkarauki."[14]:169 They were attired with iron armour and helm.[14]:181, 194


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.

There came wolves and serpents and there came Balrogs one thousand, and there came Glomund the Father of Dragons.

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.'

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.

Portrayal in adaptations

Balrogs in adaptations
Durin's Bane in The Lord of the Rings (1978 film)
Durin's Bane in The Fellowship of the Ring
Durin's Bane in The Fellowship of the Ring  
The Balrog Thaurlach from The Lord of the Rings Online
The Balrog Thaurlach from The Lord of the Rings Online  
The Balrog Tar Goroth from Middle-earth: Shadow of War
The Balrog Tar Goroth from Middle-earth: Shadow of War  
Durin's Bane in The Rings of Power series
Durin's Bane in The Rings of Power series  

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 is described as having flame and shadow in the shape of wings. 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:

The 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:

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

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

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

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Besides Durin's Bane, 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 loosening 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:

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

2017: Middle-earth: Shadow of War:

The game also features another Balrog: named Tar Goroth, who must be killed to complete a specific side-quest, has wings and is able to leap over large distances without flying.

2022: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season One

Episode 5: Partings:
In the obscure apocryphal myth that the High King Gil-galad compels Elrond to recount, the Balrog depicted within the visual representation of the story has distintive wings covered by smoke.
Episode 7: The Eye:
When King Durin III throws an orange leaf of the Great Tree in Lindon down the mithril mine shaft before ordering the mine to be sealed up, the leaf fell to the very depths of Khazad-dûm beneath the Mithril vein. As the leaf lands, it catches on fire due to being in close proximity to the Balrog later known as Durin's Bane. Upon being disturbed, the Balrog roars. Whether this roar was out of anger or annoyance is not known.

See also

External links


  1. At the height of his power, Morgoth's successor Sauron was said to have reigned over all foul things, perhaps even some of the surviving Balrogs, but there is no evidence of this.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor"
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Flight of the Noldor"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age", "Of the Elves", p. 1128
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Return of the Noldor"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "Durin's Folk", pp. 1071-2
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The White Rider", pp. 501-2
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names", entries rauko, val
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Two. The Annals of Aman: Commentary on the second section of the Annals of Aman", p. 79
  10. 10.0 10.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", entries "ÑGWAL", "RUK"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), entry S Balrog, p. 48
  12. 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
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "I. The Tale of Tinúviel": "Notes and Commentary", p. 67
  14. 14.0 14.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "III. The Fall of Gondolin"
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Valier Varda · Yavanna · Nienna · Estë · Vairë · Vána · Nessa
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Úmaiar Sauron · Balrogs (Gothmog · Durin's Bane) · Boldogs
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