Wednesday, October 6, 2010

31 Monsters of October, Day 6: The Balrog

Real World Origin:
Literature, J.R.R. Tolkein's "Middle-Earth" saga

In-Universe Description:
Tolkein used Balrogs in a number of his writings, which often gave varying accounts of their number, power, size, and appearance. In his earliest writings they were fearsome, but not invulnerable, and were sometimes found leading armies of Orcs. Later writings made them much more powerful. The depiction of the Balrog of Moria from The Lord of the Rings is probably the most famous.

Balrogs were large demonic creatures that were usually cloaked in fire. They were "Ainur", or magical beings, like the Wizards (e.g., Gandalf or Saruman). Being Ainur, they could only be defeated by beings of similar or greater power. They are described as being armed with fiery whips and, occasionally, long swords.

One Balrog had lived in the Mines of Moria for more than 5,000 years when it was encountered by the Dwarves. On multiple occasions over a period of several hundred years, Dwarves and Elves were forced to flee from the creature. Although it drove out other races of beings, the Balrog would allow Orcs to enter Moria.

When the Fellowship of the Ring passed through Moria, Gandalf confronted the monster. The battle lasted several days and was fought in an underground lake, in tunnels, and on a mountain peak. Gandalf eventually defeated the Balrog but at the cost of his own life. However, since his task was not yet complete, Gandalf was returned to life and given greater powers by the supreme being Eru.

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