Balrogs

Marielle

Well-Known Member
I've been thinking a lot about Balrogs since the last session. Originally, I wanted 12, but now I think I want 9 -- and we should set up some parallels between the and the future Ringwraiths. There's already some there: terrifying servants of evil, who use shadow and fear as weapons and are fanatically loyal to their Lord, anyone? But I'd like to add visual parallels as well; perhaps in the way they stand around Morgoth's throne, or charge into battle, or something.

As for the deaths of the balrogs, I also have some ideas. I don't think we kill any off at the War to Begin all Wars. The Valar are fighting to stop and imprison Melkor, not kill him and his followers. I think having one die would be too ruthless for the Valar at this point, especially considering the reluctance we gave Manwe leading up to the battle.

The first Balrog death could actually come at the end of Season 2. Ungoliant could put up quite the fight when the Balrogs intervene in the Thieves' Quarrel, and she could take one out before she's forced to flee.

I'll second the idea raised in session to have Aegnor die killing another a the Dagor Bragollach. I think it's a suitably heroic end for our unfortunate lover -- and man, does that make him sound like a chivalric hero.

The next two are more radical, perhaps, but I don't want just elves to kill balrogs, so I was trying to find places where we could have a dwarf or man kill one.

We don't ever have a named king of Nogrod, though we do get Azaghal of Belegost, who is killed fighting Glaurung. Might his brother-king, or a later one, die defending his halls from a balrog?
Also (perhaps my most radical suggestion) Emeldir the Man-Hearted. Taking a bunch of people through the woods is actually an impressive feat, but I'm afraid it wouldn't look so on screen. But having her get her people almost to Brethil, and then a balrog tracks them down? She could stand before it, giving her people time to flee... and then they both fall into a ravine. It would be nice to show that Beren's badassery isn't all from his father ;)

I only want two to die at Gondolin: having three fall in the same set battle would be tricky to do and keep each death significant. I'm sure Gondolin will take the better part of at least two episodes, but still.

Finally, two die at the War of Wrath. We can play with the order, but both of these technically violate MithLuin's rule that whoever kills a balrog also has to die: but I have reasons!

First, Maedros and Elrond & Elros come upon one in the battle. Maedros tries to send his charges away, but they refuse, and stand with him against the monster. The twins are badly wounded, taking them out of the rest of the Battle, but they succeed. This would serve as the answer to the isolation, mistrust, and betrayal that have haunted the Feanoreans: these boys, for love of Maedros, fight beside him and do great deeds. Maedros should be thinking of this moment when debating whether or not to seize the Silmarils, and his decision should be all the more lamentable for it. It also serves the purpose of making Elros and Elrond great in their own right, so that Elros can become King of all High Men on his merits, not just because his dad is awesome.

Finally, when Ingwe and the Vanyar show up, he should kill one, almost easily. Just because that would be an obvious indicator of just how awesome and powerful the Vanyar have become in their apprenticeship to Manwe and Varda. If we don't like this, we could replace Ingwe with Eonwe, but I like Ingwe.

Anyway, that leaves just the one who flees to Moria, waiting for Gandalf.


Thoughts? Love it or hate it?
 

Marielle

Well-Known Member
I also think we should have a couple of perfect competent characters who go up against a balrog and fail. We don't want this to seem too easy, after all. Argon, if we have him, is an obvious choice, as is Angrod. Bregolas and his sons, perhaps?
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
So, we need to remember that in our depiction, the balrogs become balrogs as a result of the destruction of the lamps. That means that we would need two groups large enough to encircle the towers on which they are placed. I fear 12 might not be enough for that. Remember that Gothmog is pulled away from the one he is attacking by Arien.

Secondly, I have to object to the idea that killing any of the balrogs would appear ruthless on the part of the Valar. It is precisely a reluctance to engage in such an act that would be part of Manwë' s hesitation, and he overcomes that. You cannot enter battle unwilling to kill an enemy who wants to kill you and expect to somehow neutralize them without spilling blood. That is precisely why avoiding war is so important.

As to additional killings of balrogs, I think it is important to note that Fëanor himself was unable to kill even one. Gandalf tells the fellowship that the balrog is a foe beyond any of them. And he is talking to at least four of the most deadly fighters available. One would think that if taking down a balrogs was something that should happen more often, surely between Boromir, Gimli, Legolas, Aragorn, and Gandalf, they should have been able to manage it.

It is specifically the apparent formidability of the balrogs that lead me to postulate the idea of using the two deaths (and the only two described in the PubSil at the hands of the Children of Iluvatar) at the Fall of Gondolin to wrap up the rivalry between Sauron and Gothmog.

The Ingwë one I am actually ok with, though. If any elf is going to kill a balrogs and live to tell about it, he is the one I want to see doing it. :)


Also, during the battle at Gondolin, the specific reason I was objecting to Tuor' s facing off against one is that I'm pretty sure he has his own "epic duel" scheduled for that battle already.
 

Marielle

Well-Known Member
So, do you disagree with the premise that the balrog in Moria is the last one?

And yes, I see your point about the Lamps. Especially considering how big they are ;). Did we have any balrogs die in the Destruction? If not, well, let's not go back to Season 1, shall we?

Some of the events I'm speaking of could be combined, or made simply "he/she faced a balrog and died, wounding but not killing the creature." I was basing the encounters off on the premise above. In particular, the Emeldir could either be an "unsuccessful" attack (in that she doesn't kill it) that gives her people time to escape, or a werewolf, or orc captain, or something. Or we could toss it entirely.

We could also combine the last two. Elros, Elrond, and Maedros could be valiantly but futilely struggling against a balrog, when Ingwe comes in an effortlessly defeats it.

I am definitely for, however, a finite number of balrogs. Even if that number is 20 -- I don't want an endless horde of them. It's like the Sith in Star Wars EU: every time you turn around a find a "new" apprentice of the Emperor, it looses something. A balrog entering the fight has to mean something.

Secondly, I have to object to the idea that killing any of the balrogs would appear ruthless on the part of the Valar. It is precisely a reluctance to engage in such an act that would be part of Manwë' s hesitation, and he overcomes that. You cannot enter battle unwilling to kill an enemy who wants to kill you and expect to somehow neutralize them without spilling blood. That is precisely why avoiding war is so important.
I confess this isn't how I've been thinking of Manwe's decision: I had it more "he must be stopped, and we must use force to stop him", which doesn't necessarily mean lethal force. But your point is understood, and taken.

As to additional killings of balrogs, I think it is important to note that Fëanor himself was unable to kill even one.
Okay, point taken (again), but to be fair to Feanor, he was facing down a bunch of them at once, including Gothmog. If he'd gotten one of the lesser ones alone, who knows... I think he could have done it. Probably would have died doing so, but could have.

Edited to Add: We can also do an in-between "futile attempt" and "victorious kill", in that we could decide that wounds inflicted on balrogs are permanent, and pain them. So Aegnor might not kill one, but he could blind it in one eye, or maim its foot...?
 

Haakon

Administrator
Staff member
I imagine the attackers on the Lamps were in two groups with ten in each group. I think most of them survived until the War of Wrath, in which Eönwë, Oromë and Tulkas, with the aid of Ingwë, killed all but one.
 

Marielle

Well-Known Member
I imagine the attackers on the Lamps were in two groups with ten in each group. I think most of them survived until the War of Wrath, in which Eönwë, Oromë and Tulkas, with the aid of Ingwë, killed all but one.
That could work, definitely. It sets a particular mood, however -- not one I object to, but one we should be aware of. If the only time balrogs are killed in the whole of the First Age is Gondolin and the War of Wrath, it could really emphasize the hopelessness of the Noldor position. Only in the hopeless last stand of Gondolin could any fall to Noldo blades. And then in the War of Wrath, I'm presuming that none of the Noldor would kill any, only those who came to their aid from afar. Again, that works, and I like it, but having the *occasional*, and I do mean occasional, balrog death could be a "light in the darkness" boost of hope... or not.

Also, side question. I thought War of Wrath army was just Eonwe and Vanyar? Orome and Tulkas are there too? I... somehow always missed that.
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
I've always thought there would be at the least dozens of Balrogs, even hundreds or thousands, depending on how many Maiar Morgoth had.
 

Marielle

Well-Known Member
I've always thought there would be at the least dozens of Balrogs, even hundreds or thousands, depending on how many Maiar Morgoth had.
There certainly were in the original Legendarium... but Tolkien seems to reduce their number as he goes along, making them more "hero units" than "cavalry", as he calls them once early on.
I don't think, though, that all his Maia were balrogs. Those spirits forced into the bodies of dragons, for example, seem to be of a different sort. The balrogs -- at least the one in Moria -- come across as a bit of "Bal. Rog. Smash!", while the dragons are deliciously and diabolically clever.
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
Maybe the balrogs become more bestial as time goes on, say losing the ability to speak, though still remaining bipedal.
 

Marielle

Well-Known Member
It's not just speech -- though the Balrog's non-verbal nature is one of the more underrated creepy-factors in that scene, methinks -- it's also that... Azog is king of Moria. What? A dragon might let orcs live in his mountain, serve him, like Glaurung does, but they wouldn't be calling themselves king! The balrog doesn't conquer Khazad-dum, he just smashes dwarves until they all leave. And then he sits there while orcs rule it until more Free People show up to smash. It's so... petty? There's no evidence that he's hoarding anything, from the treasure to the library to the weapons... and he's not in charge. What is he even doing while the orcs hang out in Moria?
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
Well, we don't see what he does, he probably just hangs around enjoying his role as a god to the Orcs.

I also had an idea that there's a sort of pecking order among the Balrogs; Gothmog is the leader, but say we have one that's a second-in-command, like Durin's Bane? Or they're a flock under Gothmog?
 

Marielle

Well-Known Member
I kinda like the image of them operating like a flock: a positive murder of crows or conspiracy of ravens*


*I admit, this last is added completely because I love the fact that flocks of crows and ravens are called a "murder" and a "conspiracy", respectively.
 

MithLuin

Well-Known Member
In the Season 1 script outlines, we had no balrogs killed in the destruction of the Lamps, but about half (of roughly 20) killed in the War to Begin All Wars. Later, it was suggested that some of these could be 'ice demons' rather than fire demons, so that only the balrogs (fire demons) survive into the time of the Children. If someone wanted to do some script writing and change up these ideas a bit, they'd be welcome to give it a go, but some of those decisions are already made.

Regardless, we have roughly 7-12 balrogs to play with during the First Age, and they are all wingless fire demons in our telling of the tale. We can adjust their numbers as needed. The two that die at Gondolin need to do so. The one in Moria should be the last one left in the 3rd Age. We have...some flexibility...with the rest.

We need people to fight balrogs and lose their lives without inflicting any significant damage. GOOD fighters too, not just nameless extras. Fëanor is killed by multiple balrogs. Maedhros is captured when he faces multiple balrogs, and his entire force is annihilated. Fingon is killed by Gothmog in a duel (one-on-one).

Ecthelion, Glorfindel and Gandalf will all die while killing a balrog, and use the aided help of a long drop and/or a plunge into water to achieve the fatality. Ecthelion and Glorfindel are some of the greatest Noldor warriors.

I am okay with Ungoliant killing a balrog. It would show us how powerful she has become, though it could be tricky if we want the balrogs to seem practically invincible later.

I am...not okay....with any elves or men or dwarves killing a balrog and living to tell the tale. Yes, this is a story where Sam is going to fight Shelob and live. But he probably didn't kill her, and he's a hobbit, which has 'special case' written all over it. Desperate suicidal attacks have their place in the Silmarillion, and we can have 'that was a grim meeting' moments where a soldier faces certain death to hold off a balrog. We can maybe wound some of them, to show how they are locked into their demonic forms like Morgoth. But....I have limits of what I can accept without diminishing the balrogs to 1920's Battle of Gondolin status, where they are just stronger soldiers than orcs and trolls but nothing special. Just facing one takes a huge amount of courage - they are terrifying for good reason.

Legolas and Gandalf and Gimli all recognize the balrog in different ways in FotR. Gimli knows he's looking at Durin's Bane. Legolas knows it's a balrog - and he drops his weapon. Gandalf finally recognizes what he'd tried to fight already, and knows what it will take to save the Fellowship at this point. NONE of them respond by, 'Whelp, let me just brandish my sword and stand my ground here.'

Aegnor's death is open to whatever we want it to be, and it should be suitably tragic. So, if we wanted to show a balrog kill his brother, and he responded by knocking it off a cliff and going down with it, that would be okay. Whatever - we have a lot of possibilities, and we'll get to that at the end of Season 4. But I'm fine with keeping balrog-slayer on the table for consideration.

Emeldir can fight off giant spiders in Nan Dungortheb as she leads the women and children to safety. No reason for a balrog to be roaming about those parts; save them for the actual battles.

The War of Wrath can involve some balrog deaths, but having Elrond participate as a young warrior and live is straining incredulity. We can have more fatalities on the good guys side if we need them. Ingwë's son Ingwion (who is leading the Vanyar contingent, by the way) could bite it.
 
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Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
So, do you disagree with the premise that the balrog in Moria is the last one?
I have always believed the balrogs killed in Moria to be the last, but I know Middle Earth roleplayers of every stripe would appreciate leaving that vague. :)

I am definitely for, however, a finite number of balrogs. Even if that number is 20 -- I don't want an endless horde of them. It's like the Sith in Star Wars EU: every time you turn around a find a "new" apprentice of the Emperor, it looses something. A balrog entering the fight has to mean something.

I whole-heartedly agree with this. I think Marie and I discussed this somewhere early on in Season 1, and had come to the conclusion that starting out with 20 or so balrogs gives them sufficient numbers without damaging their impact.

I'm fine with some of our more heroic individuals mixing it up, and even getting a few hits in on a balrogs, after all, Fingolfin gets hits in on Melkor, including one that sticks with him forever.

I do want to be careful how often we dip into that well. There are a good number of creatures who are a credible threat to even the most powerful of our heroes.

As to their organizational structure, they do seem a but too monolithic to separate unit commands. It might be as simple as a single line of command, down to the least. Like the Jem'Hadar: http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Jem'Hadar_ranks

As to Marie's post above, I agree with everything she has said there without reservation. :)
 
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