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Topic: Height of the Balrogs

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Samwise Gamgee - rank 9
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Date: Aug 22, 2006
RE: Height of the Balrogs

Lord Lórien wrote:



After Morgoth's downfall, Sauron was brought before the Valar and that's when he had mentally rejected repentance.



Forgive me Lord, but I cannot recall Sauron being brought before the Valar after the War of Wrath.

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My last post was a subtle hint to begin a new thread. Members may be more interested in the topic 'Did Melkor and Sauron actually repent?' than the height of the balrogs.

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My mistake mos, I wasn't thinking that clearly at that time.


The term 'model' suggests a similarity between Morgoth and Sauron.  A model is pretty much an exact replica, only on a smaller scale.  Like how they make a model for a new house.


So, Morgoth was brought before his chief, the Chief of the Valar, Manwe to sue for pardon.  As Sauron, on the smaller model, was brought before his chief, Chief of the Maiar, Eonwe. 


That's what I was meaning to say.  Why I said Sauron was brought before the Valar still escapes my mind.



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Fundin, Lord of Moria - Rank 5
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'TM has already given the quote in BoLT where the Balrog Glorfindel fought was twice his size, so that would be roughly 15 feet.  Eventhough if it is from Tolkien's earliest writings, I don't think there's anything to directly contradict or completely change the size of Balrogs.'

 

When we look at The Book of Lost Tales for example (noting that all the Elves of Gondolin were Noldoli in this conception):

 

'Tis written that in those days the fathers of the fathers of Men were of less stature than Men now are, and the children of Elfinesse of greater growth, yet was Tuor taller than any that stood there. Indeed the Gondothlim were not bent of back as some of their unhappy kin became, labouring without rest at delving and hammering for Melko, but small were they and slender and very lithe.'

JRRT, The Fall of Gondolin, The Book of Lost Tales

 

It's also noted that the Gnomes or 'Noldoli' that came forth to see Tuor marvelled at his stature and gaunt limbs.

I don't know how small (or tall) exactly, but Tolkien would continue to change his mind about the relative size of the Elves compared to Men, and I tend to doubt the Noldor were considered as generally 7 feet tall at this point (also noting that JRRT seemingly had variant late ideas with respect to the height of the Eldar in general).

 

And interestingly, even Tolkien noted (very late note) that the duel with Glorfindel and the Balrog may need revision.

 



-- Edited by Galin on Tuesday 27th of September 2011 02:42:02 PM

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Samwise Gamgee - rank 9
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What do you think would be a reasonable height for a Balrog Galin?

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And did he (Tolkien) note in what manner he would revise that duel?

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Fundin, Lord of Moria - Rank 5
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mouth of sauron wrote: What do you think would be a reasonable height for a Balrog Galin?

 

If you mean in my opinion, not huge, as some artists depict them. The Moria description is vague enough, but if Gandalf was at least 5 feet 6 inches (as JRRT explained in a late note), a 10 foot Balrog for instance, would be a huge adversary exchanging sword blows.

 

I don't know, today I think 'man shape' but greater implies something like 6.5 to 7 feet -- if 'greater' includes height -- and some have argued it doesn't necessarily refer to a notable height difference. Anyway I think 6.5 to 7 feet is reasonable enough, even if others disagree that height wasn't intended by 'greater'. The later description that the Balrog drew itself up to a great height might suggest a huge being, but this has been compared to Gandalf...

 
In the wavering firelight Gandalf seemed suddenly to grow: he rose up, a great menacing shape like the monument of some ancient king of stone set upon a hill. The Fellowship of the Ring, A Journey in the Dark

 

And although it's noted here that he seemed to grow, of course, I believe the Balrog's shadow could grow, and the description of it drawing itself up to a great height -- along with its wings spreading from wall to wall -- these seem connected to me as far as how large it appeared at this point; in other words, as I think its 'wings' were shadow-shapes, and this 'great height' might be part of the shadow-illusion.

 

I prefer to imagine an ultimately great shadow here, with a 'large' man-shape inside (not always clearly seen), but even something like 6 foot 4 is still tall, and 6 foot 6 would be a foot taller than the wizard! These work well enough for me; although as I say, even as much as 7 feet seems reasonable enough in my opinion.

 

I don't imagine a 'towering' creature in any event, with, one would think, a massive sword. I think its reaching shadow and its fear-instilling power made it seem, at times, very much larger than it was.

 

With respect to Huan's question: sadly Tolkien only briefly noted that the duel with Glorfindel and the demon may need revision, as the essay was rather more about Glorfindel's reincarnation and return.



-- Edited by Galin on Thursday 29th of September 2011 05:05:08 PM

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Samwise Gamgee - rank 9
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Yet a being of only 6 or 7 feet that has wings (shadow or otherwise) that stretched from 'wall to wall' would seem a rather odd sight. In regards to the revision Tolkien hinted at - does he mention the height of the Balrog at all in that? Is there any indication he deemed a 14 foot+ Balrog over the top?

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Tolkien merely noted that the duel may need revision.

 

Anyway I rather like the image of a growing shadow around the hard to see figure inside. And I suppose one could say that the 'Balrog' grew in size if its shadow did; or at least those who think (as I do) that this shadow was not mere lack of light but a part of the demon itself.

 

Also, due to some further delving I'm beginning to think the 'Elves' of the Lost Tales were notably smaller than they would later become, especially considering some old descriptions that I had forgotten, including (again, this would only impact how tall this Balrog was imagined in the early tale):

Nuin's words to Tu on the stature of the sleepers in the vale of Murmenalda are curious. In A is added: 'Men were almost of a stature at first with Elves, the fairies being far greater and Men smaller than now. As the power of Men has grown the fairies have dwindled and Men waxed somewhat.' Other early statements indicate that Men and Elves were originally of very similar stature, and that the diminishing in that of the Elves was closely related to the coming of, and the dominance of, Men.

Nuin's words are therefore puzzling, especially since in A they immediately preceded the comment on the original similarity of size; for he can surely only mean that the sleepers in Murmenalda were very large by comparison with the Elves. That the sleepers were in fact children, not merely likened in some way to children, is made clear in D: 'Nuin finds the Slumbrous Dale (Murmenalda) where countless children lie'

Christopher Tolkien, The Book of Lost Tales

Nuin had said...

'(...) nor any the more when Nuin made an end of his tale, telling of all he saw there -- and methought,' said he, 'that all who slumbered there were children, yet was their stature that of the greatest of the Elves.'


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In the Battle of Glorfindel and the Balrog, isn't it written (this is paraphrasing because I don't have the book in front of me) that Glorfindel stabbed the Balrog in the belly which was about the height of Glorfindel's face? Glorfindel was tall, even for an Elf, so that should give somewhat of a gauge. However, I refuse to believe that Balrog's are merely tall. I think that's where Ralph Bakshi went wrong. He took Tolkien's description:  'a dark form of man-shape' which I think Bakshi took to mean man-sized because he really messed that all up (I'm pretty sure everyone on this site has seen it). I do however agree with the artist's renderings of the Balrog. Man-shape meaning standing upright with arms, legs, torso ergo the term Man-shape. An orc can be described the same way using those parameters.

My questioning of the actual size of a Balrog comes from the same point of view as MOS had (if I understood his comments accurately). 'and suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall' (LOTR book II, Ch. V pg. 330)

Rewinding the script to the point where the fellowship encounters Durin's Bane: 'some way ahead there stood a low archway; through it the growing light came. The air became very hot.' (LOTR book II, chp. V, pg.328) They had arrived at the 2nd Hall, the 1st Deep. That area was described here: 'Before them was another cavernous hall. It was loftier and far longer than the one in which they had slept.' The one they had slept in was the 21st Hall according to The Atlas of Middle-Earth, which was described like this: 'they saw a vast roof far above their heads upheld by many mighty pillars hewn of stone. Before them and on either side stretched a huge empty hall; its black walls, polished and smooth as glass' Gimli says this hall is the Dwarrowdelf (LOTR book II, chp. V, pg. 315)
Tolkien went on to describe the Hall where they met the Balrog (2nd Hall, 1st Deep): 'They were near its eastern end; westward it ran away into darkness. Down the centre stalked a double line of towering pillars. They were carved like boles of mighty trees whose boughs upheld the roof with a branching tracery of stone. Their stems were smooth and black, but a red glow was darkly mirrored in their sides. Right across the floor, close to the feet of two huge pillars a great fissure had opened. Out of it a fierce red light came and now and again flames licked at the bring and curled about the bases of the columns.' (LOTR book II, chp. V, Pg. 330).

All that I wished to relay with all those references was the sheer immensity of the place where the Balrog spread his wings wall to wall. Huge!!! I mean....C'mon!



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Fundin, Lord of Moria - Rank 5
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Jaidoprism7 wrote: In the Battle of Glorfindel and the Balrog, isn't it written (this is paraphrasing because I don't have the book in front of me) that Glorfindel stabbed the Balrog in the belly which was about the height of Glorfindel's face? Glorfindel was tall, even for an Elf, so that should give somewhat of a gauge.

 

But how tall was Glorfindel at the time Tolkien wrote this story, if the children of Men, despite being children, '... yet was their stature that of the greatest of the Elves.' 

 

I don't think we are here dealing with the Noldor as imagined after The Lord of the Rings was written, but rather with Glorfindel the Gnome -- with the Gnomes of Gondolin being described as small and slender and very lithe, and if memory serves, an Elf Penlod was noted as the tallest of Gnomes. And we can at least guess how small I think, because it's noted that the Men of the past were smaller than the average man 'now' (thus smaller than the Men either of Tolkien's day, or of Eriol's day) -- yet they were still, on average, larger than the Elves of the past.

 

In his early poetry, Tolkien noted that it was considered a great feat for Beleg and Flinding (as Gwindor was then called) to lift Turin, and this was Beleg, whose very name meant 'great, mighty', and who was...

 

'He was great of growth, and goodly-limbed,

but lithe of girth, and lightly on the ground

his footsteps fell as he fared towards them,

 

It seems quite arguable that before 1930, at least, the Elves of Tolkien's tales were only 'tall' in the sense of being compared to the diminutive Elf of today (much taller than the popular notion of Elves in Tolkien's day). Of course all this was abandoned later, but to my mind it should be this early conception of Glorfindel that illustrates how tall this Balrog was, not the arguable 7 feet (or between 6 ft 6 and 7 feet) that JRRT would imagine decades later.

 

(...) All that I wished to relay with all those references was the sheer immensity of the place where the Balrog spread his wings wall to wall. Huge!!! I mean....C'mon!

 

That's why I think the shadow was huge at this point, and part of why I think we are dealing with shadow in the shape of wings -- especially after having reached out like wings.



-- Edited by Galin on Wednesday 5th of October 2011 04:06:08 PM

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Another way of looking at it would be: why would the Balrogs not choose to be on the larger size? It seems strange to me to imagine the idea of a Balrog little taller than a man or elf. It seems out of place. Imagine how they'd look in battle with orcs:

"Move out the way maggots! I'm looking for Lord Gothmog, any of you slugs seen him?"

"He's over there captain! Behind Ragbash."

Just seems a bit of an anti-climax to have these arch-villains little taller than orcs. Tolkien made mention of the possibility of Maiar-orcs which were considerably bigger than normals orcs. Wouldn't it follow that Balrogs would be even larger?

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Fundin, Lord of Moria - Rank 5
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Glorfindel1235 wrote: Another way of looking at it would be: why would the Balrogs not choose to be on the larger size?

 

When Tolkien first imagined Balrogs they were seemingly created by Melko -- but then one could challenge that Melko should have, or could have, made them giants! It seems Melko could not do just anything he wanted however, generally speaking, as he would capture eagles for example, desiring to wrest from them the power of flight.

 

But I think challenging the Subcreator is different from trying to determine what he desired within his subcreated world.

 

Were all Balrogs from The Book of Lost Tales conception twice Glorfindel's height? I can't remember if there is other descripion here that might help, but in any case, when it came time to write The Lord of the Rings Tolkien's early draft had a Balrog at no more than man-high.

 

So arguably JRRT didn't think it was that odd to imagine a Balrog, however mighty, to be only this tall, as he had been imagining Balrogs for decades before he wrote that. Of course he revised this, but first I'll note...

 

... I think Tolkien had a bit of a 'problem' with respect to orc-stature and the sunlight issue -- within the context of trying to mesh things from The Lord of the Rings with the Silmarillion as it stood in the 1930s. To stick to stature here, in The Lord of the Rings JRRT had introduced relatively small orcs, so that even two Hobbits could pass for Mordorian orcs for instance -- and even the Uruks appear to have arrived relatively late in history, and were seemingly 'almost' man-high* and not as tall as an average man like the half-orcs (the huge orc-chieftain in Moria was still 'almost' man-high for example).

 

Basically, I think a 6 and a half to 7 foot Balrog would be considerably taller than the Orcs of The Lord of the Rings, and tower over very many of them (the snaga-types). Not Trolls, granted, but to take another path for a moment here: for an author who created heroes at 3 feet 6-ish, I don't think it that odd that Tolkien did not necessarily equate every powerful demon with towering size.

 

After introducing a Balrog at no more than man-high, JRRT wrote a note to himself -- that it should not be clearly seen, and that it felt larger than it looked. 

 

And I think the resulting texts closely follows Tolkien's advice to himself, noting the introduction of a shadow here as well -- although as I say, the ultimate change from no more than man-high to man-shape but greater might arguably, at least, indicate that he also made the creature somewhat taller -- but still I think he relied more on feel here, and the illusion of very great stature, helped by the reaching shadow.

 

Tolkien made mention of the possibility of Maiar-orcs which were considerably bigger than normals orcs. Wouldn't it follow that Balrogs would be even larger?

 

At another site I delved into the size of orcs, but couldn't, or let's say haven't yet, found any text which states the Maiar-orcs were considerably greater in stature --  I too would guess they were to be larger as well as more terrible and powerful, and I think the idea would work well enough, but I'm just saying I don't recall any relative remarks on stature as yet.

 

So far I guess I could be wrong in assuming the Maiar-orcs were of greater stature: in three texts that refer to them (Morgoth's Ring), unless I missed it, Tolkien doesn't describe that they were huge. He uses the word 'great' of course, but at one point notes that Morgoth had corrupted great spirits to his service, as Sauron, or lesser spirits, as the Balrogs -- thus Sauron is greater than the Balrogs in some way, and Tolkien would elsewhere describe Sauron as of more than human stature, but not gigantic.

 

JRRT also notes that the Maiar-orcs are great captains, but less formidable than Balrogs. The word great is not always easy to interpret as size necessarily, but in any event, again as I say, so far I can't quote something specific here as to stature, so if anyone finds something, please let me know.

 

And while many might naturally associate great power with great size, to me a 6 and a half to 7 foot Balrog is enough of a 'giant' to intimidate physically, and I think its cloak of shadow and fear instilling power sets it apart from other, lesser creatures. 

 

What would you fear more: a huge Troll, or a tall creature cloaked in shadow (that itself seemed to grow), its head wreathed in fire perhaps -- and that's just how it looked, not how it felt compared to a Troll. I imagine that its mere presence would be 'a power' -- sort of like a mortal meeting an Angel! but here a bad version, with the fear and awe this ancient demon inspired being almost a physical blow to the senses!

__________

*as an aside, I do not agree that 'man-high', as used in The Lord of the Rings specifically, equates to 6 foot 4.



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Samwise Gamgee - rank 9
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It seems we'll never know for sure. The only really specific quotes to me seems to be the 'twice Glorfindel's height' and the 'no more than man-high' (both of these were written with the pre-Maiar Balrog idea in mind as far as I know). Is it possible that a Balrog could manipulate its size to such a degree?

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For myself I don't yet subscribe to the idea that Balrogs could change size, though some do. And if you mean to such a degree -- when one compares the draft 'no more than man-high' to the old description in The Book of Lost Tales -- I would have to say it's possible, but again for myself, I don't think it's necessarily so.

 

And not that you said otherwise, but The Book of Lost Tales reference could simply represent an old and rejected idea, as no doubt it includes other obsolete notions. As Tolkien would revise the relative stature of Men and Elves, so too he might revise how large he envisioned Balrogs.

 

It's also possible that, at least once the Balrogs were imagined as powerful Maiar spirits, being huge might then be less of a concern, as they might have more spritual power. In other words, to inject orcs into the idea, a powerful 'regular' orc is usually a larger orc -- but a Maia who had taken on orc-shape would be arguably more powerful than all regular orcs, no matter what its size.



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