Tuesday, March 8, 2011
The Balrog of Moria
Balrogs were created by Morgoth, who was the master of Sauron before he was defeated in the War of Wrath. They were once Maiar like Gandalf and the other wizards but were taken and corrupted by Morgoth.
The Balrog survived the defeat of Morgoth in the War of Wrath and escaped to hide beneath the Misty Mountains. For more than five millennia, the Balrog remained in its deep hiding place at the roots of the mountains in Khazad-dûm, until in the Third Age the mithril-miners of Dwarf-King Durin VI disturbed it (or released it from its prison) in T.A. 1980. Durin was killed by the Balrog, whence it was called Durin's Bane by the Dwarves.
The Dwarves attempted to fight the Balrog, but its power was far too great. Despite their efforts to hold Khazad-dûm against it, King Náin and many other Dwarves were killed and the survivors were forced to flee. This disaster also reached the Silvan Elves of Lórien, many of whom also fled the "Nameless Terror" (it was not recognized as a Balrog at the time). The Elves called the place Moria, the "Black Pit" or "Black Chasm" (though the name Moria also appears on the West Gate of Moria, constructed thousands of years earlier in the Second Age).
For another 500 years, Moria was left to the Balrog; though according to Unfinished Tales, Orcs crept in almost immediately after the Dwarves were driven out, leading to Nimrodel's flight. Around T.A. 2480 Sauron began to put his plans for war into effect, and he sent Orcs and Trolls to the Misty Mountains to bar all of the passes: Some of these creatures came to Moria, and the Balrog allowed them to remain.
During the reign of Thráin II, the Dwarves attempted to retake Moria in the War of the Dwarves and Orcs, culminating in the Battle of Azanulbizar before the eastern gate of Moria in T.A. 2799. This was a victory for the Dwarves, but the presence of the Balrog prevented their occupying Moria. Dáin Ironfoot, having slain the Orc Azog near the gate, perceived the terror of the Balrog within and warned Thráin that Moria was unachievable until some force could change the world and remove the Balrog. The Dwarves thus departed and resumed their exile.
Despite Dáin's warning, Balin attempted to recolonize Moria in T.A. 2989, but his party was destroyed. Dáin was killed in battle at the end of the War of the Ring in T.A. 3019, just as the change he spoke of was coming to pass.
In January T.A. 3019, the Fellowship of the Ring travelled through Moria on the way to Mount Doom. They were attacked in the Chamber of Mazarbul by Orcs. The Fellowship fled through a side door, but when the wizard Gandalf the Grey tried to place a "shutting spell" on the door to block the pursuit behind them, the Balrog entered the chamber on the other side and cast a counterspell. Gandalf spoke a word of Command to stay the door, but the door shattered and the chamber collapsed. Gandalf was severely weakened by this encounter. The company fled with him, but the Orcs and the Balrog, taking a different route, caught up with them at the bridge of Khazad-dûm. The Elf Legolas instantly recognized the Balrog and Gandalf tried to hold the bridge against it. Since Gandalf and the Balrog were both Maiar, they were beings of the same order. As they faced each other, Gandalf broke the Bridge beneath the Balrog, but as it fell it wrapped its whip about Gandalf's knees, dragging him to the brink. As the Fellowship looked on in horror, Gandalf cried "Fly, you fools!" and fell.
After the long fall, the two landed in a subterranean lake, which extinguished the flames of the Balrog's body; however it remained "a thing of slime, stronger than a strangling snake". They fought in the water, with the Balrog clutching at Gandalf to strangle him, and Gandalf hewing the Balrog with his sword, until finally the Balrog fled into ancient tunnels of unknown origin. Gandalf pursued the creature for eight days, until they climbed to the peak of Zirakzigil, where the Balrog was forced to turn and fight once again, its body erupting into new flame. Here they fought for two days and nights. In the end, the Balrog was defeated and cast down, breaking the mountainside where it fell "in ruin". Gandalf himself died following this ordeal, but he was later sent back by Eru Ilúvatar to Middle-earth with even greater powers, as Gandalf the White, "until his task was finished". Tolkien does not reveal the ultimate fate of the Balrog.