And now comes one more month to our Q101 Elvish Calendar Collection. Once again, Jack Shaw got his own custom calendar for the month of Coirë and if you want yours, you can get it as well by becoming a Q101 Master or Lord here. There are several other rewards and bonuses too. Get access to them all by becoming a Q101 Patreon now! If you’re already one, check this new entry in the Q101 Elvish Calendar on the exclusive Patreon page here
Here comes another chapter of the series of several mysteries that Professor Tolkien, all throughout his work, left unexplained. Now we are to discuss whether Balrogs have wings, as lots have done before us.
As always, there’s no definite answer to the question, and that the reason we can discuss about it, isn’t it? One thing is certain: Balrogs look much more scary if the do have wings! Peter Jackson put wings on them, and it looked pretty awesome. But, as we can’t base a conclusion in the scariness of them, further discussion is needed. Let us begin.
First of all, lets take a look at the relevant quotes from The Lord of the Rings that originated all this:
His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings. (LOTR, Book II, Chapter 5 The Bridge of Khazad-dûm)
Here we clearly see, by the use of the word ‘like’, that the mention of wings is merely figurative. But the problem arises with the following phrase, very close to the previous one in the same chapter:
…suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall… (LOTR, Book II, Chapter 5 The Bridge of Khazad-dûm)
Similarly, though it is in a non-published draft of the Silmarillion, there is this phrase regarding Morgoth’s Balrogs in Beleriand:
Swiftly they arose, and they passed with winged speed over Hithlum, and they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire. (The History of Middle-earth, Vol. X: Morgoth’s Ring, The Later Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Rape of the Silmarils)
In favor of wings
There’s not much to tell about why so many support the pro-wings theory. ‘Its wings were spread from wall’ and ‘with winged speed’ arguments are the core of it. Simply take the above phrases literally, specially the 2nd and 3rd, and you have your case built.
The good thing of these arguments is their simplicity. Short, concise and clear, with not much complication, and that’s it.
The bad thing, this only works if you previously assume that Balrogs have wings, and are seeking for evidence that supports your assumption. In that case, the two arguments work perfectly. But should we have to assume that? Not necessarily…
In favor of no wings
This side argues that these phrases shouldn’t be taken literally, and that the wings in the 2nd phrase refer to the figurative ones mentioned in the 1st one. They stand over the fact that many other phrases in LOTR can’t be seen literally. For instance, in that very same chapter we read that ‘Gandalf came flying down the steps and fell to the ground in the midst of the Company’, and it is certain that Gandalf does not fly.
Indeed, in the Prophecy of Malbeth, in the Return of the King, we see that the very same word ‘wings’ is used as metaphor:
Over the land there lies a long shadow, westward reaching wings of darkness.
More strong argument is the fact that, if ‘its wings were spread from wall to wall’ is literal, the body of the Balrog would be too big to be true. The room where the bridge of Khazad-dûm is located was between 23 and 30 meters wide, then the wingspan of the Balrog must be near that size, almost as much as a big plane!
To carry such wings, a HUGE body would be needed, near the size of a house! And what’s the issue with that? Well, the fact that the Balrog was able to enter the Chamber of Mazarbul through the same door in which the orcs clustered during the battle there. So this door must be a fairly narrow opening, through which such gigantic Balrog would never be able to pass.
Another objection claimed is that its not likely that Balrogs have wings if they don’t fly. Their inability to fly is clear enough. If they did, it wouldn’t have fallen with Gandalf into the abyss nor from the top of Celebdil to its death; nor the one that fell in a fight with Glorfindel from a high pinnacle, as told in the Silmarillion. They don’t even fly in battles when it would be a huge advantage for them. So, if they fly they have wings; but as they probably don’t fly, we cannot say the have.
Remember that the anti-wing theory does not assume the presence of wings, but the contrary: by default, the races of Middle-earth don’t have wings unless specified explicitly. If not, Elves may have had wings, because Tolkien never said ‘they don’t have’.
Much more is talked than what I told you here. But to sum up, nothing is certain. It would seem that anti-wings have a larger number of arguments, but recall that sometimes the smaller army may win the battle. I leave it for you to judge which ones are stronger, and express your opinion in the poll and comments. I’m really interested in what you think of this matter!
‘Pro-wings’ vs. ‘Anti-wings’… let the game begin!
If you wanna read more extensive analysis of both theories, check this article (under the heading ‘… And Whether Balrogs Have Wings’)
This is a topic I’ve been trying to write about for a long time. It involves a little more research, so I never find enough time to do it. Now the moment has come to introduce an aperiodic series of posts: The Mysteries of Arda.
And about what will they be? Well, precisely about that: some things of Middle-Earth and beyond that we still don’t know for sure; questions that Tolkien introduced in his works, but left unanswered (at least in published material); doubts that arise to every Tolkien scholar, but answering can only be attempted; mysteries that make the Professor’s mythos as amazing as it is.
But this is not about “I-write-you-read”. Therefore, here I leave you a poll for you to choose what you wanna know about and discuss thoroughly. I present a few titles that I consider important, but you are free and encouraged to suggest your own. So choose what you want, and I’ll write in due time!
Shall we bring Tengwar alphabet to the NEXT LEVEL?
I love Japanese culture. Everything from Japan amazes me! Their discipline, their technology, their good manners, traditions, history. Recently, I have even found out that their food isn’t that bad (I used to dislike the idea of eating raw fish) and I got addicted to salmon sashimi.
Influenced by all that, I was wondering for some time: What if Tengwar had visual signs that would convey a whole idea like Kanji does? That definitely would be interesting!
Well….I’m creative, you know. I like to come up with new ideas, new stuff…so why not Tengwar Kanji!
Below I share some of my ideas of how Tengwar Kanji would look like. Of course…these are my ideas. It’s nothing official, nothing attested, just a free exercise on Tengwar forms, shapes and visual features. Feel free to comment, to compliment, to criticize; and if you like the exercise….please share some ideas for Tengwar Kanji too! If you’re crazy about Tolkien, you’ll have fun in the process. Quenya101 guarantees that!
the planet with stars all around. It’s a pun with the word in Quenya (Arda) which you can read right there in a very unusual way. It may stand for Cementári too.
The air in motion (represented by the tehtar floating) with an extended thúlë which is the first tengwar of the Quenya word súrë (wind). It may stand for Manwë too.
The heat, the blaze, the non-destructive power of fire. It was based on the Quenya word nárë (fire) as base and some kind of a plate above where smoke is rising due to the fire beneath. It may stand for Aulë or even a volcano itself.
The Sea, the rivers, everything that Ulmo controls in Arda. It’s based solemnly on the flowing visual effect that the tengwa essë provides. It may stand for Ulmo himself or even fishes, waves or shores.
That is a crazy one! I mixed some tengwar and tehtar and in the end I had something like a Balrog face spiting fire (Don’t worry if you don’t see that. It means you’re sane!). It may stand for Melkor or even a Balrog.
This is a central core element for all Elves. It must have a Kanji of its own. It was based on the short supporting vowel, the first tengwa of the word elen (star) with some sparkles all around. It may stand for Varda, light or even a Silmaril.
So…that’s what I have in mind. Creating some cool stuff and enhancing the visual aspect of Tengwar alphabet. I have some other Kanji ready in store, but I’ll bring them some other time. What did you think? Shall we grab the idea and create a new thing?