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Lore Details About Balrogs That The 'Lord of the Rings' Don't Tell You

May 18, 2021 252 votes 50 voters 8.3k views10 items

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In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the world (those who hadn't read the books, anyway) was introduced to the Balrogs. These giant beasts terrified the Orcs and divided the Fellowship, making them incredibly appealing - if somewhat enigmatic - creatures in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. Like that of any film franchise, the movies barely delve into the details of who or what Balrogs are, so most fans are left wondering.

Should they sit down to read the books, they would learn quite a lot of information about Balrogs, but Tolkien didn't publish everything he scribbled down over the years about them. His notebooks contained a plethora of lore details about Balrogs that the Lord of the Rings books and movies don't tell you. The most interesting of those details are listed here, so dig deep - but not too deep - and learn all there is to know about Balrogs!

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    There Are Only Two Named Balrogs

    Photo: The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar / Daybreak Game Company

    Being a philologist, J.R.R. Tolkien never shied away from naming his many creations, but even he couldn't come up with unique names for absolutely everything in his expansive Middle-earth. Most side characters never received a name, and that includes the Balrogs. Only two of the great Maiar beasts were given a name by the author, despite the presence of many more during the First Age.

    Durin's Bane received his name after the War of Wrath came to an end. With most of his kin slain in the conflict, he dug himself deep within Moria, where he remained undisturbed for a long time. The Dwarves who mined Moria dug too deep, and in their greed, they awoke the great Balrog. He felled many Dwarves, and ultimately, he finished off King Durin VI, earning him the moniker, "Durin's Bane."

    The other named Balrog was called Gothmog, the Lord of the Balrogs during the First Age. He was the most powerful Balrog to walk Middle-earth. Under Morgoth, he was only equaled in rank by Sauron, and he raised a Balrog army against the Elves and Men. He personally slew two of the High Kings of the Ñoldor, and while he carried a fiery whip like other Balrogs, he was known to carry a great black ax, which was feared by everyone who saw it.

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    Balrogs Are Maiar - As Are The Wizards Of Middle-Earth

    Balrogs, also known as Valaraukar, were Maiar who were seduced and corrupted by Melkor (also known as Morgoth, the first Dark Lord). They first dwelled in Utumno, but when Melkor was defeated, they escaped to Angband. They were prevalent during the First Age, but during the War of Wrath that brought that age to an end, most were slain. The ones who remained managed to escape deep into the earth. 

    A Balrog was awakened in 1980 of the Third Age when the Dwarves mined too deeply in Moria. It managed to drive them from their land, slaying King Durin VI, earning the name Durin's Bane. When the Fellowship of the Ring passed through Moria, they encountered Durin's Bane as it pursued them to the Bridge of Khazad-dûm. It was there Gandalf the Grey fought the Balrog as they fell into the abyss. When the conflict ended, both were slain, and Gandalf was reborn as Gandalf the White.

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    Their Presence Causes Gandalf's Sword To Glow

    The sword Gandalf is seen using throughout Lord of the Rings is called Glamdring, which translates to "Foe-hammer." It was forged in the First Age and went missing for millennia until Gandalf and company found it along with Orcrist and Sting in the Trolls' cave in The Hobbit. In the book, Glamdring and Orcrist are described as having "beautiful scabbards and jeweled hilts."

    Elrond described the sword, saying, "Foe-hammer that the King of Gondolin once wore." The sword is enchanted and glows with a blue flame whenever it's in the presence of Orcs or Balrogs. It is described as "being the work of Elvish smiths - in the Elder Days, these swords shone with a cold light if any Orcs were near at hand" in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, book II, chapter IV, "A Journey in the Dark." To the many Orcs of the Misty Mountains slain by Glamdring, the blade is known as "Beater."

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    When They Ride, They Ride Dragons

    By the closing of the Third Age, the dragons and Balrogs had all but gone extinct on Middle-earth, but it wasn't always like that. During the First Age, both races were widespread, and they fought for Melkor, who was best known as Morgoth at the time. Dragons are powerful on their own, as are Balrogs, but they became a force of unequaled power when they joined forces.

    In the year 510 of the First Age, during the Fall of Gondolin, Balrogs rode upon the backs of dragons to reach the hidden city. During the skirmish, Gothmog, the Lord of the Balrogs, was slain at the cost of Ecthelion, the Lord of the House of the Fountain's life. A remaining Balrog managed to slay Glorfindel at the cost of his own life, and the Balrogs that remained fought for Morgoth in the War of Wrath.

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