Durin's Bane

From Tolkien Gateway
Durin's Bane
Maia (Balrog)
Ted Nasmith - At the Bridge.jpg
"At the Bridge" by Ted Nasmith
Biographical Information
Other namesthe Terror
Flame of Udûn[1]
LocationDor Daedeloth (early)
Moria (after)
BirthCreation of the Ainur
Timeless Halls
Death25 January T.A. 3019
Battle of the Peak
Notable forKilling Durin VI and ruining Khazad-dûm
Physical Description
RaceMaia (Balrog)
WeaponryWhip and a flaming sword
GalleryImages of Durin's Bane
"It came to the edge of the fire and the light faded as if a cloud had bent over it. [...] The flames roared up to greet it, and wreathed about it; and a black smoke swirled in the air. Its streaming mane kindled, and blazed behind it. In its right hand was a blade like a stabbing tongue of fire; in its left it held a whip of many thongs."
The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm"

Durin's Bane was one of the Balrogs, otherwise unnamed. He was notable for surviving the War of Wrath. After sleeping deep within the Misty Mountains for thousands of years, he was awoken by the Dwarves of Moria in the Third Age, responsible for the death of King Durin VI and the ruin of Moria; it was the Balrog encountered by the Fellowship of the Ring.

History[edit | edit source]

Early history[edit | edit source]

This Balrog was first created as a Maia, but like other evil spirits followed Morgoth to Arda soon after its creation, contending with Manwë.[2]

It is not known to which Battles of Beleriand this Balrog fought until the end of the First Age, and whether he served under Gothmog, the Lord of Balrogs. When the Host of the Valar defeated the hosts of Morgoth in the War of Wrath, this Balrog managed to flee the overthrow of Thangorodrim and to escape into the east and hide in the roots of the Misty Mountains beneath Khazad-dûm.[3][4]

Awakening and the Third Age[edit | edit source]

The Dwarves delve too deep by Ted Nasmith

For more than five millennia, the Balrog hibernated in his deep hiding place at the roots of the mountains in Khazad-dûm. He remained undisturbed throughout the Second Age and most of the Third, before the mithril-miners of dwarf-King Durin VI awoke him in T.A. 1980.[5] Durin was slain by the creature, at which point he became known as Durin's Bane.[3]

The Dwarves attempted to fight the Durin's Bane, but his power was far too great. Despite their efforts to hold Khazad-dûm against it, King Náin and many of the Dwarves were killed in T.A. 1981[6] and the survivors were forced to flee.[3] Orcs were able to creep into Moria.[7] As a result, many of the Silvan Elves of Lothlórien fled to the south.[6]

For five hundred years, Moria was left to the Balrog.[8] He was acquainted to the ancient tunnels delved by mysterious nameless things underneath Moria and the Mountains.[9]

Around T.A. 2480, Orcs began to make secret strongholds in the Misty Mountains to block all of the passes. Sauron began to send some his creatures to Moria.[10] The Balrog allowed the Orcs and trolls to remain in Moria while he dwelt there, but they doubtlessly feared him.[1][note 1]

The Battle of Azanulbizar was the climatic battle in the War of the Dwarves and Orcs. It took place before the Great Gate of Moria in 2799 and was a victory for the Dwarves. However, the victors did not conquer Moria because Dáin Ironfoot, having slain the Orc Azog, felt the terror of the Balrog at the gate.[11] Despite a failed attempt to recolonize Moria by Balin in 2989,[12] Durin's Bane remained a menace in the ancient kingdom of the Dwarves whose nature was hidden to the outside world.

Passing of the Fellowship[edit | edit source]

'Flame of Udûn' by Manuel Castañón

In January of 3019, the Fellowship of the Ring travelled through Moria on the way to Mount Doom, reaching the Bridge of Khazad-dûm in 15 January.[8] There they encountered the terrible creature: the Elf Legolas instantly recognized it was a Balrog, while Gimli dropped his axe in awe, recognizing Durin's Bane. At once, the Wizard Gandalf warned to the members of the Fellowship that this creature was beyond them, commanding them to leave while he faced it.[1]

Staying firmly in the narrow bridge, Gandalf cried at the Balrog, which remained silent. The creature's fire dimmed and darkness spread around it, while Gandalf's light stood. The Balrog struck, but Glamdring, Gandalf's sword, prevailed and the creature's sword was broken. Then the Balrog jumped ahead and Gandalf broke the Bridge in front of him, but as the Balrog fell he wrapped his whip around Gandalf's knees, which dragged him to the brink. Gandalf staggered and fell, sliding into the abyss, crying "Fly, you fools!" and was gone.[1] Neither he nor the Balrog were killed by the fall, and Gandalf pursued the creature for eight days until they climbed to the peak of Zirakzigil. Here they fought for three days and two nights. In the end, the Balrog was cast down and his body broke the mountain-side as it fell. Gandalf himself died following this ordeal, but was later sent back to Middle-earth with even greater powers as Gandalf the White.[9]

Other versions of the legendarium[edit | edit source]

During the composition of The Lord of the Rings, in the first "Sketch of the Moria chapter", Tolkien conceived that the Fellowship was pursued by Orcs and a Black Rider, but soon wrote above it was a Balrog.[13]

In the first full narrative of the chapter, the description of the Balrog is more human-like, which Tolkien noted should be changed to be less clear: "A figure strode to the fissure, no more than man-high yet terror seemed to go before it. They could see the furnace-fire of its yellow eyes from afar; its arms were very long; it had a red [?tongue]. Through the air it sprang over the fiery fissure. The flames leaped up to greet it and wreathed about it. Its streaming hair seemed to catch fire...". Probably while being written, Tolkien also rejected a sentence of Gandalf's cry to the Balrog: "Go back into the fiery depths. It is forbidden for any Balrog to come beneath the sky since Fionwë son of Manwë overthrew Thangorodrim."[14]

Although it had no repercussion in any narrative, Tolkien considered in a hasty note that the battle on the Bridge was actually between Gandalf and Saruman, apparently resulting on Gandalf coming out clad in white.[15]

In the drafts of the "Lothlórien" chapter, Celeborn and Galadriel think that no Balrog could lie in the Misty Mountains, so it should have been sent by Sauron from Orodruin.[16]

Portrayal in adaptations[edit | edit source]

Durin's Bane in adaptations
Durin's Bane in The Lord of the Rings Online  

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. Jackson's Demon of Might was indistinct, a real blend of shadow and fire. Only his horned head, cloven feet, and clawed hands could clearly be seen.
In the film continuity, the Orcs of Moria (here specified as "goblins") have crafted their armor and weapons to match the fiery appearance of the Balrog, apparently worshipping it as a deity.

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

The Balrog is the boss of the level "Abyss Fight". He cannot be harmed except when he is stunned with Gandalf's lightning.

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

The players must assist Gandalf in his fight with the Balrog. This fight is notable among players of the game for its difficulty and the Balrog's very high amount of health points.

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

Many of the Evil factions can summon a Balrog, specifically Durin's Bane, for a short period of time. He is one of the mightiest units in the game, only able to be summoned with experience points. He is similar in design to the Balrog in the movie.

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

Like in the previous installment, the Balrog can be summoned by evil factions.

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

The real name of Durin's Bane is given as "Askâdurs" and he is revealed to have fought against dwarves as part of Morgoth's armies during the First Age. He is encountered in various flashback instances (where the player controls historical characters), which showcase his awakening by dwarves in TA 1980, the fall of Khazad-dûm the year after and the dwarves of Balin's company fleeing from the ancient evil, among others. After Gandalf defeats him, the lifeless body of Durin's Bane can be found on the slopes of Zirakzigil. Despite the players knowing that the Balrog is dead, another Servant of Sauron tests their will and fears by portraying an illusion of him. 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.

2013: Lego The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game:

Durin's Bane is only seen as a light that chases the player(s) through Moria. When they reach the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, he appears in a cutscene where Gandalf destroys the bridge and the Balrog pulls him down. Then, the player is Gandalf and has to grab Glamdring and land on Durin's Bane, where he has to stab it while avoiding the Balrog's fiery breath. When this is over, the game starts another cutscene that ends the level. Later, Gandalf appears on a snowy mountain with a tower on top. When he reaches the top of the tower, the Balrog climbs on. The Balrog repeatedly sweeps his fiery whip and strikes the ground with his sword. Then lighting begins to strike at one place and the Balrog breathes fire and is weakened. Gandalf uses his sword to direct the lightning at Durin's Bane and his health goes down. The lightning will strike at three different places, and when the Balrog loses all of his health by being hit three times, he will fall off the mountain and die.

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

Episode 7: The Eye:
Durin's Bane makes an appearance lurking beneath a large Mithril vein at the very depths of Khazad-dûm. When an orange leaf lands directly in front of him and catches on fire, disturbing his slumber, the Balrog roars. Whether this roar was out of anger or annoyance is not known.


  1. It is unknown whether the Balrog knew about Sauron being a new Dark Lord, or if he would submit. Anycase he served Sauron's purposes indirectly.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm", pp. 330-1
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Valaquenta: Of the Enemies"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "Durin's Folk", fourth paragraph, p. 954
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 144, (dated 25 April 1954), p. 180
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", entry for the year 1980, p. 1087
  6. 6.0 6.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", entry for the year 1981, p. 1087
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Amroth and Nimrodel", p. 241
  8. 8.0 8.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years", entry for the year 3019, 15 January, p. 1092
  9. 9.0 9.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The White Rider", p. 501
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", entry for the year c. 2480, p. 1087
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "Durin's Folk", p. 1075
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", entry for the year 2989, p. 1090
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The Story Continued: XXV. The Mines of Moria", p. 462
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Treason of Isengard, "X. The Mines of Moria (2): The Bridge", pp. 198-199
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Treason of Isengard, "XII. Lothlórien", p. 236
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Treason of Isengard, "XIII. Galadriel", pp. 247, cf. note 11
Valar Lords Manwë · Ulmo · Aulë · Oromë · Mandos · Irmo · Tulkas · Melkor
Valier Varda · Yavanna · Nienna · Estë · Vairë · Vána · Nessa
Maiar Arien · Blue Wizards · Eönwë · Gandalf · Ilmarë · Melian · Ossë · Radagast · Salmar · Saruman · Tilion · Uinen
Úmaiar Sauron · Balrogs (Gothmog · Durin's Bane) · Boldogs
Concepts and locations Almaren · Aratar (indicated in italics) · Creation of the Ainur · Fana · Máhanaxar · Ainulindalë · Order of Wizards (indicated in bold) · Second Music of the Ainur · Timeless Halls · Valarin · Valinor · Valimar