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Thread: Gandalf and the Balrog

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Mihai Posted Sunday 18th April 2004 (03:13pm)

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really interesting problem.but i will post my view with another question: how does Gandalf defeat the Balrog? does he use his sword or chalanges his powers, both ring and mind?


Welcome Mihai to PT forums. I have created a thread for your questions as they make an interesting topic and were off-topic in the Death of the Witch-king thread
Moderator Smilie Rednell Moderator Smilie

So to repeat Mihai's questions:

how does Gandalf defeat the Balrog? does he use his sword or chalanges his powers, both ring and mind?
Gandalf killed the Balrog by throwing him off the pinnacle of the Celebdil, outside Durin's Tower. Chapter The White Rider.

Of course, there were swords involved : at the bridge of Khazâd-Dûm the Balrog attacked with a flaming sword, but Gandalf parried the attack with Glamdring. But i see it more as a battle of wills, as Gandalf says "swords are no more use here" to Aragorn before the duel and also the fact that Gandalf refers to "i am a servant of the flame of Anor". Maybe Gandalf channels his powers into Glamdring or something, as -like the Balrog- he is also bound to a mortal body.

Anyway, Gandalf used his sword to hack into the Balrog and chase him to the peak of the Celebdil, so he must've wounded the Balrog's body for sure. Maybe, like with the case of the death of the Witch-King of Angmar, again "normal swords " are no more use against a Balrog. Glamdring wasn't a normal sword, forged by Elves.
Well I don't think the elven smiths added any truely magical power to Glamdring, other than its turning blue in the presence of Orckind; just as I don't think Telchar, the dwarfen smith of Nogrod, added anything special to Narsil/Anduril, other than his love of finely made ironwork. But that doesn't mean I'm right either.

That said, Gandalf also had his staff—unless it was broken when he sundered the bridge of Khazad-dûm—with which he could thump the Balrog one-up-side the head or poke it in the eye. For we know the rediculous "repulsion" spells, shown in the films, came not from Tolkien's pen, but from the screenwriters' imaginations.

And a weilder of the Secret Fire shouldn't cast "flame strike" at a Balrog for that's only adding to its power; you've got to use cold based spells against fiery beasts of the Balrogs ilk. Elf Sticking Tounge Out Smilie
That's a very good question. But I think he didn't use his sword much at all, and somehow threw him on the mountainside, but how is a different matter. I haven't the foggiest notion.
If you remember in the fall of Gondolin Glorofindel also battled a balrog and guss how he defeated him he threw himself and the balrog over a cliff. Maybe that's the trick in killing balrogs just push them of a mountain and be done with it Smile Smilie
Secret Fire is merely a term given to the school of magic that is dichotomously opposite to the practice of Sorcery.

The Flame of Anor, a Wizard spell and Elven power of great potency - it is not composed of elemental Flame in the sense you're thinking Grondy, but it is more akin to the channeling of pure Light/Goodness if you will, and is as such a formidable weapon in opposing enemies of the Shadow!

My take on the subject of the Balrog's defeat by Gandalf is little more Abstract. And as such i must think hard on how I can explain... hmmm back later lol

Smoke Smilie
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Well I don't think the elven smiths added any truely magical power to Glamdring, other than its turning blue in the presence of Orckind; just as I don't think Telchar, the dwarfen smith of Nogrod, added anything special to Narsil/Anduril, other than his love of finely made ironwork. But that doesn't mean I'm right either.

But what i was trying to say is that Gandalf perhaps channeled some of his power ('magic' if you will, long live D&D fantasy heh) in his sword. For at least he used Glamdring to parry the attack when the Balrog tried to hit Gandalf with his flaming sword.

His staff he merely uses to make the bridge break (and not to light the place up, which was the case in the crappies/movies). Obviously with mentioning that "swords are no more use here" and his referring to the "flame of Anor" he refers to the fact that normal mortals are unable to pick up the gauntlet against Balrogs but that any Ainu power is needed to be able to topple them. After all, the origin of Balrogs is Ainu too. Even Aragorn wouldn't be able to send them to their doom.

Again, Balrogs can be killed by just mortally wound them. Gandalf did that by throwing the vile creature off the peak of the Celebdil, same like Glorfindel killed his Balrog. Other Balrog-slayers like Ecthelion of Gondolin used pointy helmets compared with charging like a raged bull into a red flag/flame. But to be able to do this, you must at least have some Ainu power. The Elves had that as the only ones of the Eruhir. Bless 'em.
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His staff he merely uses to make the bridge break (and not to light the place up, which was the case in the crappies/movies).


Not quite (although I can't recall how much light there was in the film but I suppose filming in complete darkness is a bit of a problem) - Gandalf used his staff for light during the journey through Moria described as 'will-o'-the-wisp' and on the bridge of Khazad-dum

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Glamdring glittered white in answer. There was a ringing clash and a stab of white fire.


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The staff broke asunder and fell from his hand. A blinding sheet of white flame sprang up.


The light came from somewhere - I think from the broken staff.

I agree that the Balrog was killed by the fall after much fighting involving swords (I assume Gandalf hung onto Glamdring somehow)

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and ever I hewed him


which Gandalf did when the balrog's fire was quenched, and magic as suggested above by Aelric and Vir.

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Thunder they heard, and lightning, they said, smote upon Celebdil, and leaped back broken into tongues of fire. ... A great smoke rose about us, vapour and steam. Ice fell like rain.
Here's another take on this, don't you think that, once Gandalf found out the evil in Moria was a Balrog, that it had to be dealt with like Smaug before Sauron could use it against the Elves and Men? Unlike the movie, we know that Gandalf did not know what the evil was that laid in Moria, but, again unlike the movie, in the book he did seem anxious to go there (by his goading of Aragorn at the failure to successfully pass Caedhros (sp?)) to find out what the evil was.

Also, LOTR could have changed really quick had the Balrog gotten ahold of the Ring.
Edit: Never mind; I probably should re-read the books sometime. I'm beginning to overwrite my memory with knowledge about the movie! Ignore Smilie Super Scared Smilie
I felt that Galdalf wanted to consider using Moria over the Pass and the Gap because it would be harder for Saruman's spies to spot them, not because he actually wanted to go there.
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'Since our open attempt on the mountain-pass our plight has become more desparaye, I fear. I see now little hope, if we do not soon vanish from sight for a while, and cover our trail. Therefore I advise that we should go neither over the mountains, nor round them, but under them. That is the road at any rate that the Enemy will least expect us to take.' ...........
...........
'And I don't wish to enter it even once,' said Pippin.
'Nor me,' muttered Sam.
'Of course not!' said Gandalf. 'Who would? But the question is: who will follow me, if I lead you there?'
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Maybe, like with the case of the death of the Witch-King of Angmar, again "normal swords " are no more use against a Balrog. Glamdring wasn't a normal sword, forged by Elves.

I totally agree on this virumor the balrog was big
Randallin,

One other point and similarity to the sword Glamdring, and Merry's Barrow Downs sword, they were both used to defeat an enemy that defeated the kingdoms their owners defended. In Glamdring's case, the sword is suspected to be from Gondolin (TH, where Elrond reads the runes on the suspected "troll" swords) and Gondolin was heavily attacked by Balrogs, as well as Morgoth's other soldiers. In the case of Merry's sword, it was from the Barrow Downs, which is the graveyard of the Anoreans, who were defeated by the WK.

In addition, it appears to me, from what I've read, that Tolkien parallels ancient with contemporary (to the particular story) events. Ex. Gandalf defeating the Balrog is parrallel to the Lord of Balrogs (Gotmog?) being defeated by Glorfindel (as Elessarmau said in his post, I forgot who it was who fought and killed the Gondolin Balrog). Also, the Noldor were decieved by Morgoth and the Numenoreans were deceived by Sauron. Many more parallels can be drawn while reading the material.
It needs to be taken into account that both the Balrog and Gandalf are of comparable strength being that they both are from the Maiar class. So they are almost at a draw in might. Then the place that the Balrog is slain and Gandalf himself dies in one from is out in the open. Now the Balrog has been hidding for centuries since the rest of his kin were slain at Angband when Morgoth was finally taken captive. Also Gandalf is an agent of the Valarand is in a sence resurected by them because he finished off a little bit of business that they left behind, then he sent on to finish his original task.
Has anbody also noted that the only times that a Balrog is killed is when they slayer dies with him? Perhaps that is the key to their destruction that you muxt make the ultimate sacrifice. Both Glorifindel and Ecthlion were Elven but they can still be slain and Gandalf is a Maiar(ofcourse in a weakened form) and they all were willing to sacrifice themselves to stop the Deamon of Fire and Shadow.
So to finish I'm not sure if it was the will of the Valar or just the love that Gandalf bore for the Fellowship that was capable of slaying the Balrog.
Gandalf has the ring of fire as we know, he is of the Istari, as we know and a Maiar, as we know. That is all he was expressing when he claimed swords were of no use here and that he was a wielder of the Secret Flame!

It was just a "taunt"

He promptly launches a mental attack on the Balrog and I believe, intentionally drops with the Balrog.

For many reasons, to save his friends, to conceal his true power and because I think Manwe may have willed it so. It is at this time Saruman has delared himself "Saruman of Many Colours" and so ther's an opening on the Council for Mr White ( I love reservoir dogs, but I digress)

So Gandalf is "reborn" ala Beren / Luthien type scenario and is Gandalf the White!

Glamdring is a simple orc slayer at best, but still fine work assuming it's the Third Age and all that!

My 2p worth any how!
By the way
Is there knowlegde of the balrog. Its name maybe besides from durins bane.
No, the Balrog of Khazad-dûm (Moria) had no known name; it was probably a minor Balrog that escaped the downfall of Angband and the sinking of Beleriand. As I remember only the Balrog Lord Gothmog was mentioned by name in any of Tolkien's writings.
In The Lay of the Children of Húrin a being called Lungorthin 'Lord of Balrogs' appears -- '... which is probably to be interpreted as 'a Balrog lord', since Gothmog, lord or captain of the Balrogs in The Fall of Gondolin, soon reappears in the 'Silmarilion' tradition' (Christopher Tolkien).

There's no great reason to think this name 'survived' in any case, but I thought I would toss it in.
I think that because Tolkien was Catholic he may have had dear Gandalf and the balrog in a sort of situation like in the case of Daniel of the Bible. He was captive in Babylon and desperately wanted God to answer some questions as to the fate of his people and to come to their aid.
He fasted and prayed for a long time, could have been a couple of weeks and then a powerful angel came and said he would have been there earlier but was waylaid by the Prince of Persia, meaning an incredibly powerful demon. He talked about the desperate fight and another angelic being helping, something like that.
In warfare in the spirit realm there is always first the authority, whom do you represent, whose Name do you speak in and get power from. Of course Tolkien would have know from reading the Scriptures that although ultimately God is unchallengeable He often used the common man and his sincerity or prayer to somehow convert into how much of His power would be exerted by that specific angelic being at that specific time. After establishing this then there was of course which rank of angel was fighting which rank of demon. I think there are eight choirs or ranks of angels and and many more of demons from those called princes to the bothersome ones that cause the little upsets of the day.
So I think Gandalf first by saying "you shall not pass" and then asserting by whose authority he spoke stopped the balrog for a bit because of the fear of Illuvatar. But then perceiving the rank that Gandalf was before his fall and being elevated he took his chance to call Gandalf's bluff , hoping no one more powerful was coming to avenge him.
Lastly there was just the one on one combat .So I think all three methods were used.
On a linguistic note, Lungorthin might be a combo of Dor. ngorthin "horrible" from ÑGOROTH- and lung "heavy" from LUG1. The latter might also be able to mean "serious, grave" (cp. GL "heavy, grave, serious").

Another Balrog name is Gothmog, which is given as "angry-hate" from Kormot (k-) or Kos(o)mot (Goþ-moko) in the Official Name List in PE13 (Kosomot or Kosomoko is given to contain MOKO 'hate' and KOSO 'strive', with Gn. goth 'war, strife' in LT1). It's re-translated as containing gost 'dread, terror' and baug 'tyrannous, cruel, oppressive' from Gothombauk- in the Lost Road. It's also re-translated as "Voice of Morgoth" in another source (I can't figure out where).
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He fasted and prayed for a long time, could have been a couple of weeks and then a powerful angel came and said he would have been there earlier but was waylaid by the Prince of Persia, meaning an incredibly powerful demon.

I can assure you that the Prince of Persia was not a demon. He was just a poor beggar who managed to conquer the heart of the daughter of the Sultan, was thrown into terrible dungeons by the evil Vizier's men, but overcame seemingly insurmountable odds, defeated the villain and rescued his beloved.

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After establishing this then there was of course which rank of angel was fighting which rank of demon. I think there are eight choirs or ranks of angels and and many more of demons from those called princes to the bothersome ones that cause the little upsets of the day.

I don't think any of this you mention is in the Bible Tolkien so often read. That is more cabbalistic mythology than anything else, not to mention, partly coming from Dante's Divina Commedia.

Hence I doubt Tolkien would apply such obscure references to his works. The Ainur were Angels, yes, and the ones that allied to Melkor demons, but I would not push it too far.
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It's also re-translated as "Voice of Morgoth" in another source (I can't figure out where).


It's in the Lost Road And Other Writings Appendix, (in the easy to forget it's there) The List of Names, and was mentioned also in The Tale of Tinúviel in BLT II.

'Gothmog '= Voice of Goth (Morgoth), an Orc-name' Morgoth is explained at its place in the list as 'formed from his Orc-name Goth 'Lord or Master', with mor 'dark or black' prefixed.' HME V
Indeed Gothmog translates to Kosomot, Voive of Morgoth. However also in HOME Gothmog was named the 'Son of Melkor', who's mother was a she-ogre.
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Lord of All wrote: Indeed Gothmog translates to Kosomot, Voive of Morgoth.


The name Kosomot does not mean 'Voice of Goth'. That's the Name List idea for Gothmog, while the BLT Elvish names Gothmog 'Strife-and-hatred' and Kosomot, Kosomoko are related.

Note Kormot 'War-hate' (QL). Also Kosomoko and information found in the early Qenya Lexicon, MOKO 'hate' and KOSO 'strive' (or see Tyrhael's quote above for a fuller look).

For clarity perhaps, Gothmog itself didn't mean 'son of Melkor'.
When I said 'Named' I meant he was called that, not that his proper name tranaslated into that.