A Question to Gandalf: Why the mind-Fog concerning the Balrog?

Discussion in '"The Lord of the Rings"' started by Ron Simpson, Jun 30, 2018.

  1. Ron Simpson

    Ron Simpson Member

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    Mr Gandalf: Why is it that you seem surprised on encountering the Balrog in Moria? I would have thought that this creature would have been foremost on your mind before you first stepped through the West-Gate.

    Here is what you said to Aragorn outside the Chamber of Mazarbul:
    "Then something came into the chamber - I felt it through the door, and the orcs themselves were afraid and fell silent. WHAT IT WAS I CANNOT GUESS, but i have never felt such a challenge. The counter spell was terrible...... "

    Here is what transpired on the bridge:
    Ai, ai wailed Legolas. A Balrog. A Balrog has come
    Gimli stared with wide eyes. 'Durin's Bane' he cried, and letting his axe fall he covered his eyes.
    'A balrog' muttered Gandalf. NOW I UNDERSTAND

    -um, really Gandalf ? Not sure why you wouldn't know that straight away, because you spent a fair amount of time chumming around with Dwarves, to whom the story of the fall of Khazadum and knowledge of Durin's Bane would be common-place.
    -further, the matter of the Balrog was well known to Galadriel who undoubtedly would have briefed you about it at one of the White Council meetings, or while strolling together under the Mallorns on Calas Galadhon.
    -finally, there's no reason to believe the Balrog would have packed up and left Moria. After all, it chased out the dwarves after slaying Durin & Nain, and then, at the Battle of Azanulbizar, Dain clearly saw it in the shadows of the gate after he had killed Azog. There was no reason to believe it had left the comfy confines of Moria. So what gives, Gandalf, were you just tired and over-wrought by the situation ?

    (Ok, I admit that was a bit snarky... and I should have more respect when addressing a Maiar, but that is something that I've always found confusing. Can anyone shed some light on this?
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2018
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  2. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Skulking near Archet

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    It's not clear to me, from a reading of "Durin's Folk", that the Dwarves knew what the Balrog was. There were many evil creatures in the world.

    Following on this, Galadriel was aware of "Durin's Bane", but may not have identified it either.

    And remember that the Istari, IIRC, had to relearn many things in Middle Earth they had known as Maiar.

    The "real" reason may possibly be found in the drafts, although as I'm not near my library, that will have to wait, unless someone else helps.
     

  3. Alcuin

    Alcuin Registered User

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    To follow onto Squint-eyed Southerner’s line of thinking, the Elves and the Host of the Valar probably believed they’d eliminated all the balrogs in the War of Wrath at the end of the First Age. This one was out of place: separated from the others, likely before the final battle of the war: it isn’t as if it could easily escape the Maiar and Vanyar of Valinor had it tried to flee the battle.

    Consider its subsequent actions. It found one of the tallest peaks of the Hithaeglir, the Misty Mountains, and got as deep beneath it as it could. It was hiding. Hiding from whom? you may well ask. Hiding from the Host of the Valar. Only when the “puny” Dwarves broke into its hiding place did it come out and drive them away: after they’d found it, it was no longer hidden, and began killing them as fast as it could. The surviving Dwarves fled for their lives as the thing ravaged their subterranean kingdom.

    Who could now identify it as a balrog? The Dwarves could not: they’d never encountered one before. The Eldar could not: they’d not seen it up close. Apparently Celeborn and Galadriel discussed the possibility that Durin’s Bane was really a balrog, but either they discounted it because they, like the Host of the Valar, believed all these creatures had been eliminated; or, since they lacked sufficient strength to enter Moria and confront it themselves, and because they lacked sufficient evidence to identify it, that remained one unproven hypothesis among many. Nor did they advertise the notion, which seemed no more than speculation: I doubt the Eldar were rumormongers.

    When Sauron operating from Dol Guldur sent Orcs to explore, he did not send many. Based upon their reports, he quickly recognized what inhabited the place. The Balrog (with a capital “B” – the solitary one, The Balrog of this tale) was accustomed to Orcs: they were not enemies likely to reveal its presence to other enemies that might seek to hunt it down and destroy it; besides, it knew Sauron.

    This, I think, explains Gandalf’s shock and surprise at discovering his opponent on the other side of the door was a balrog: The Balrog had been expecting Maiar to come after it for over six thousand years: it wasn’t surprised: it was prepared. Gandalf, like the rest of the Maiar and Eldar, thought they were all gone. Gandalf’s discovery was just more “bad luck”:
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2018
  4. Ron Simpson

    Ron Simpson Member

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    Well met, SES & Alcuin. Well met indeed, but this still does not sit well:

    1. Gimli Could Have Known: SES writes: “It's not clear to me, from a reading of Durin's Folk, that the Dwarves knew what the Balrog was….” I’m not sure if the LOTR narrative supports this because on the bridge of Khazadum, Legolas calls it a Balrog, and Gimli made an immediate association, correctly naming it as “Durin’s Bane”. Now I admit that Gimli never calls it a Balrog, but he seems to have no objection to Legolas’s observation. Perhaps Gimli already knows its kind & specie, so his comment merely speaks to it’s personal identity (i.e THE Balrog who is infamous to dwarves)

    2. Dwarves KNEW from their collective history what Balrogs were and what they looked like. The Dwarves of Belegost that fought with Maehdros at the Battle of UnNumbered Tears would have seen them . (Alcuin’s comment: who could now identify it as a balrog? The Dwarves could not: they’d never encountered one before.) Those ‘Belegosian’ Dwarves engaged Glaurung during that battle and would have undoubtedly encountered Balrogs who were accustomed to follow in Glaurung’s train. Their experience would have entered into Dwarvish lore, and I would conjecture that this is precisely how Gimli knew….knowledge passed down. Also Gandalf and Dain Ironfoot got along fairly well, and Dain would have told him what he saw in the shadow of the East Gate as the battle of Azanulbizar came to an end. Here is my arithmetic: Dwarfish Lore + Eyewitness Account = Positive Identification

    3. Legolas Knew & The Sindar knew: On the bridge of Khazadum, Legolas straightaway identifies the thing as a Balrog. Legolas KNEW the thing by sight and was the first of the Company to recognize and name it for what it was. ( His tone is panicked and affirmative. He didn’t wonder aloud “what is that thing, could it be a Balrog?” It was more like : Holy Smokes (no pun) that’s a bleeping Balrog !!). This is astounding. It is unclear how old Legolas is, but most agree that he is a 3rd Age Elf, so his knowledge of the Balrogs could not be from previous direct experience but would be second-hand i.e. from the general lore of the Sindarin people. But clearly, the lore’s description of these Balrog’s was so horrifying & traumatic as to make them instantly recognizable to those who had never directly encountered them.

    4. Galadriel & Celeborn must have known: As Sindar & Silvan elves did visit their Lorien cousins, it is hard to believe that Thranduil and his folk would have kept this information from Galadriel who lived ‘down the street’ from the thing ! Also Durin VI was a personal friend of Galadriel, and he was slain by the creature, and whilst I admit that the ‘man-maiden’ wasn’t a clingy, girly-girl type, she would have wanted to know who or what killed her home-boy. I’m sure she would have had some description of the creature from the Khazadum survivors, and the Wise would eventually have put 2 and 2 together. It’s hard to argue that Thranduil & Legolas were better informed than Celeborn & Galadriel on matters such as these.

    5. It is inconceivable that Gandalf didn’t know: Even though Gandalf was Istari, and couldn’t see certain things clearly, he was a White Council member (and Galadriel’s favourite) so things he didn’t see would certainly have been explained to him. Furthermore, for all his special qualities as a wizard, Gandalf was a common-sense bloke who did his homework. He knew how to conduct a bit of primary research for his thesis. After all, he took the time to sift through obscure scrolls in dusty libraries of Minas Tirith to find information on Isildur’s gaining of the ring. He was intellectually curious, diligent and thorough. In the same way that the Dragon of Erebor troubled him and he devised a plan for it’s undoing, he would not have left the ‘mystery of Durin’s Bane’ as a loose-end, and would have - at least - investigated.

    6. I agree that the Balrog was hiding out, but despite 6,000 years under the radar, he (she?) had been spotted on at least 2 occasions by 2 groups: by the survivors of Khazadum and by Dain Ironfoot - and both were reliable eye-witnesses. So even though seen rarely, the thing was most likely positively identified (by comparison to historical accounts), and its existence communicated to, or deduced by the Wise.

    So for me, the evidence presents two compelling cascades:
    1. if Legolas knew, then Galadriel knew, and Gandalf had to have known
    2. if Gimli knew, & Dain Ironfoot knew, then Gandalf had to have known
     

  5. Merroe

    Merroe Active Member

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    Excellent reflections, from all participants here; it's a pleasure to read this tread!

    I often wondered about the same, like Ron Simpson.

    I think his arguments are good.

    JRRT maintained that no one knew about that Balrog:
    • Glóin at the council spoke about waking "the nameless fear".
    • Gimli spoke about "that which haunts our darkest dreams, I saw Durin’s Bane".
    • Celeborn merely said: "We long have feared that under Caradhras a terror slept".

    On the other hand, it's indeed a bit odd that Legolas was the first to identify this "nameless fear", this "Durin’s Bane" and this "terror" as a balrog as soon as he saw him.

    I remain in doubt whether or not we're looking at an inconsistency. Perhaps, my contribution was rather weak. :(

    I'll be glad to follow any further thoughts here.
     
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  6. Ron Simpson

    Ron Simpson Member

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    Merroe: Your research is on-point, and your contribution raises some excellent issues that i hadn't considered:

    1. Your first bullet-point actually casts serious doubt on my earlier argument about the dwarves and whether they connected the dots. For if Gloin knew what it was, he wouldn't have used the adjective 'nameless'. Perhaps I'm ready to concede this point ;)

    2. Celeborn however is another matter. If the Wise 'long have feared' that a 'terror' slept under Caradhras, it is curious to me that no further action was taken - if only to speculate about the nature of that 'terror'. I would say that 'not attempting to get to the bottom of things' is a characteristic of the Lax, not the Wise)

    Lobbing more peanuts at the Wise, my final thoughts:
    -In Tolkien's narrative, we have 2 incidences of adversaries routing dwarves and chasing them wholesale from their kingdoms: the tragedies of Khazadum & Erebor. Now, emptying an entire kingdom of ALL its dwarves in one campaign is not an easy thing to do, and in the case of Erebor, it required a dragon to pull this off. That being the case, wouldn't (shouldn't) the White Council have reasoned that an evil power equal or greater in strength than a dragon must have been at work in Khazadum and therefore worthy of investigation? What can be measured stands a chance of being managed - so better to discover it early, than wait for Sauron to unleash it unexpectedly when war broke out......
     
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  7. gentleDrift

    gentleDrift New Member

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    I agree, a great discussion so far!

    I don't think it odd at all that Legolas immediately recognizes the Balrog, after all Balrogs were very notorious Elf-Lord killers in the First Age - think only of Feanor, Fingon, Ecthelion, Glorfindel, and probably quite a few more. One would expect "the Balrog" to enter Elfish 'mythology' quite prominently, except it is not mythology to them, of course, since there would still be Elves alive who witnessed for example Glorfindel's fight with the Balrog.

    The Dwarves on the other hand never had any such 'traumatic' experiences with Balrogs in the First Age, at least as far as I can recall. There were indeed both Dwarves and Balrogs present at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, but after all supposedly only a very small number (3-7) of Balrogs could have been present at all, and we certainly don't hear from any particular encounter with Dwarves. It is also noteworthy that the other times Balrogs are explicitly mentioned in the First Age there are no Dwarves present.
    Therefore I would not find it unreasonable if the Balrogs only entered into the Dwarvish collective memory in a very minor way - especially when taking into account the rather secretive and insular nature of Dwarves: I don't image much cultural exchange and interest into other people's history and tragedies on the side of the Dwarves (apart from the time of their friendship with the Elves in Hollin, but even then I see their common interests mostly in trade and smith craft, and less in history (as Balrogs were even then)).

    All of this makes it quite reasonable for me that the Dwarves would not recognize Durin's Bane for what it was, and the quotes given by Merroe only support this.

    Now what about the Wise? I think we are here in a similar situation as with the One Ring: Why didn't they (or only Gandalf in this case) figure out sooner that Bilbo's ring was the One? In hindsight it seems obvious: The Three were with their keepers still, the Seven were destroyed or lost, and the Nine were with Sauron. But before Bilbo (or Gollum) found the Ring, the Wise thought it also 'accounted for': it was swept down the Anduin into the sea, at least according to Saruman, the one most deeply learned in Ring-lore.

    With Durin's Bane it is similar: In hindsight it is clear that it was a Balrog, what else could it have been? But before the Fellowship "confirmed" this in Moria, the Balrogs were "accounted for" as well: destroyed in the War of Wrath. And as Gandalf later reports from his fight with the Balrog: There were other things deep below the earth that the Dwarves could possibly have stirred in Moria.

    But regardless of the precise nature of Durin's Bane, Ron Simpson raises the interesting question of why the Wise didn't take action against the spreading Evil in Moria as Gandalf did with Smaug. Here I think the reasons are mostly of practical nature: There was in Thorin's company a Dwarvish expedition ready to reclaim Erebor, and furthermore they also had allies nearby: Both the Dwarves of the Iron Mountains and their old allies in Dale and even the Elves of Mirkwood. And there was only (ha!) a Dragon to slay, a task that in theory a single man could accomplish. Moria on the other hand was populated by Orcs, or at least there were Orc populations nearby in the Misty Mountains. That meant that retaking Moria would take an entire army, not only a small expedition - and there was no such army, no Dwarvish people nearby interested in such an endeavor.

    But I also want to offer a slightly different interpretation of the crucial line:
    'A Balrog' muttered Gandalf. 'Now I understand.'
    This has been interpreted so far as Gandalf recognizing and being surprised by the presence of a Balrog in Moria. And maybe he was surprised (I still think so), but I think it is also possible to see something slightly different in this.

    Firstly, History tells us (and Gandalf would surely have been aware of this) that whenever Balrogs turn up, people die. Except for the encounter with Ungoliant I don't think there is a single instance in the story of a Balrog appearing without casualties, often prominent, immediately afterwards. It is also noteworthy that the only times a Balrog has been defeated (except in the War of Wrath I assume) it was by self-sacrifice. This was the case with Ecthelion, and in the closest parallel to Gandalf this was also the case with Glorfindel.

    Now we have been talking about "the Wise" a lot. I always got the impression that what made "the Wise" so particularly wise was not only their knowledge of books or history, but that they were especially in tune (ha!) with the music of creation and thus Eru's plan. In the Lord of the Rings such hints are more subtle than in the Silmarillion, but still there are many mentions of "luck" or "chance, if chance you call it". The Wise, like Gandalf or Elrond seem to be particularly sensitive to such moments of "chance" and interpret it correctly, like Gandalf's meeting with Thorin in the Quest for Erebor, Gandalf's interpretation of Bilbo finding the Ring as something more than chance, the decision to let Merry and Pippin join the company, and many other moments.

    What I am getting at is that Gandalf after recognizing the Balrog for what it was may have had a similar insight into what was about to happen: A Balrog turned up, so somebody is probably going to die. A Balrog can not be stopped except by self-sacrifice. Well, look at that convenient narrow bridge over a bottomless chasm nearby. A careful reader of the Silmarillion reading the Lord of the Rings for the first time might also have said "A Balrog, now I understand" at this point. Note also how nicely Aragorn's little prophecy at the Gates of Moria fits in with this.

    Going one step further, this moment of course also fulfills the trope of the wise mentor of the hero figure dying at a crucial point to allow the hero and his companions to escape from some dangerous situation. Note that this trope is not necessarily an out-of-story argument: in the story, the events are at least to some part governed by Eru, who might have some storyline in mind. And Gandalf, recognizing this in a moment of Wisdom, seeing that this is the point where he as the mentor figure has to leave the hero on his journey, says only "Now I understand".

    Now obviously especially that last part is quite far-fetched, but at least I certainly enjoyed thinking about it. This argument can of course be applied to any question: Maybe the Wise did not investigate Durin's bane, because such was God's plan, and so on. In general I think this is too lazy an explanation, but if it is applicable somewhere, then here where the Wise are concerned, who in my opinion are defined by their ability to see the "themes in the music of the Ainur" in some sense or the other.

    Phew, quite a long reply, but it really got me thinking...
     
  8. CirdanLinweilin

    CirdanLinweilin The Wandering Wastrel

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    Well met!

    For Legolas, all I can say, amongst the Elves, he quite possibly could have gotten into contact or have had discussions with Glorfindel as he was kicking around at this time...

    Wait a minu-If Glorfindel knew what a Balrog was and is...why didn't he tell or inform anyone? Of All people, he would be the one most well educated to identify this hostile threat.


    Maybe after coming back, he was so in tune with Eru's plan, (And Eru did have one for Gandalf, as he was the one who brought back Gandalf as the White.) Glory understood that Gandalf had to engage the hostile, die while smiting his enemy upon Caradhas to become later the White, so, in essence, Glory maybe had to agree to stay quiet on the matter and let events transpire as they should.


    Eventually, if this is what transpired...

    It worked out quite well!

    But Dang it Glory!

    CL
     
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  9. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Skulking near Archet

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    Interesting point, CL. But it raises a question about the "external" chronology: had Tolkien, at this point in the composition, decided that the Glorfindel of the Third Age was the same character as that of the First?
     
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  10. CirdanLinweilin

    CirdanLinweilin The Wandering Wastrel

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    Great point! I will have to definitely research that, as it is a very interesting point that you bring up.


    CL
     
  11. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Skulking near Archet

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    Ideally, I should have looked for an answer myself before posting, but I can only check in briefly during breaks in tree cutting.

    I'll be able to do my own research again in a few days (I hope! :p).
     
  12. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    If I recall correctly there's a line in a note (written as The Lord of the Rings was being written) that Glorfindel will tell of his ancestry in Gondolin. Which he (Laurefindel) never did of course, in the tale as published, but this tells me that Tolkien mused … about something Golden-haired ... at least on the day he wrote that down.

    :D

    Anyway, at the time of this jotting, rebirth as babies was the manner by which Elves were reincarnated -- a long held idea but later rejected by JRRT, or at least to be noted as a mannish misunderstanding.

    Edit found a reference to this, from Christopher Tolkien, from The History of Middle-Earth Volume VI (edited a bit and coloured by me):

    "Also very notable is "Glorfindel tells of his ancestry in Gondolin." Years later, long after the publication of The Lord of the Rings, my father gave a great deal of thought to the matter of Glorfindel (...) He came to the conclusion that Glorfindel of Gondolin, who fell to his death in combat with a Balrog after the sack of the city (II. 192-4, IV. 145), and Glorfindel of Rivendell were one and the same: he was released from Mandos and returned to Middle-earth in the Second Age."
     
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  13. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Skulking near Archet

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  14. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    When I "hear" the names Glorfindel/Galadriel my possibly leaf-shaped ears itch ;)

    In a good way!
     
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  15. CirdanLinweilin

    CirdanLinweilin The Wandering Wastrel

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    Thanks Galin for going through all the trouble of digging for this information, very appreciated.


    CL
     
  16. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    No problem CL. I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday but I can't forget that interesting Glorfindel bit hiding deep in HME!

    No wait … I remember I had popcorn and a slice of cheese!

    And now I'm hungry.
     
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  17. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Skulking near Archet

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    Well, after fortifying myself with peanut butter crackers and a Coke, I'm ready to add this:

    It's notable that, although Gandalf urged an attack on Dol Guldur in 2851, it wasn't until 90 years later that one was undertaken. Saruman played a hand here, delaying until he became aware that Sauron was causing the area of the Gladden Fields to be searched; but the question arises: what were Celeborn and Galadriel doing, during close to a century?

    The answer may be structural: that is, Lorien was a polder, an enclave of peace in the world of Middle Earth, in the same way as the Shire. As such, its stance was defensive, rather than active or aggressive. I'd suspect that C&G would be very reluctant to become actively engaged in the "outer" world, unless directly threatened. Recall how Galadriel provided cover, in the form of a "golden mist", for the Northmen riding to the aid of Gondor, but took no other part in the battle. It was only when it became clear that Sauron himself had occupied Dol Guldur that they agreed to attack. We are not told what form this took, or whether it took place at all, really, as Sauron, "having made his plans" abandoned it.

    As an aside, it's interesting to note the "contrasted parallel" with the Shire: Lorien is defended from within, and becomes attacked from without; the Shire is defended from without, and is "attacked", if that is the appropriate word, from within.

    Just to throw this into the mix:

    'Ai! ai!' wailed Legolas. 'A Balrog! A Balrog is come!'

    Gimli stared with wide eyes. 'Durin's Bane!' he cried, and letting his axe fall he covered his face.

    Now that could be recognition. But it could, alternatively, mean "So that's what Durin's Bane is!".

    In which case, had there been time for more conversation, he might have continued, along the lines of "We always wondered, because you see, Dain said he saw "Durin's Bane", but he never said exactly what it was, so we -- oops! It's after us -- run!".
     
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