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Old 12-08-2001, 11:30 AM   #1
Fingolfin of the Noldor
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Tolkien On Balrogs...

I am just going to post this here too and as you what you think:

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The Simile and Metaphor:

So called “anti-wingers” would say that the reference to the Balrog’s “wings,” which spread from wall to wall, is merely a metaphor for that aforementioned shadow the previous simile setting the stage. “Pro-wingers,” on the other hand, say that those two are completely separate references one referring to the shadow and one referring to the wings. Now before I go any further I would like to establish what exactly that “shadow” was: not a reflection of the form as you might think but rather a part of the form of any given Balrog:

Quote:
…their hearts were of fire and they were cloaked in darkness and terror went before them…(HoME 10 & silm)
So that shadow/darkness is much closer akin to a cloak than a reflection and is an actual part of the form rather then something reliant something else to be.

It all comes down to how you read and interpret the text. Now it becomes a matter of precedent. That is, since no where Tolkien states exactly (or even so much as refers to that part) what he meant we must rely on the rest of the text where a similar for is used and the meaning is more explicit to establish a pattern and find out what in all likelihood is meant through implementation of that form ( being: simile [i.e. wings] in a specific context [the Balrog] and then later on when referring back to that thing previously modified that same term is used as if to denote a literal reality). As this seemed the only way to find anything conclusive I did some research and came up with the following examples: (all from the same novel)

Quote:
(lotr, the siege of Gondor):
Reluctantly Pippin climbed on to the seat and looked out over the wall. The Pelennor lay dim beneath him, fading away to the scarce guessed line of the Great River. But now wheeling swiftly across it, like shadows of untimely night...
...now the dark swooping shadows were aware of the newcomer. One wheeled towards him; but it seemed to Pippin that he raised his hand, and from it a shaft of white light stabbed upwards
As you can see the term “shadow” is first used as a simile to describe the Nazgul (also evil creatures of a sort) and then a little later on that same word is used as if that simile was the actual object and we know that not to be the case as the Nazgul were not “shadows”

Quote:
(lotr, the white rider):
Very soon now his strength will fall upon it like a storm...
...for behold! the storm comes, and now all friends should gather together, lest each singly be destroyed
Here too a simile is utilized to describe something specific (namely the militaristic strength of the chief antagonist) and then later on the same term is used again when referring back to the same thing

[quote](lotr, the great river):
As they were swept aside the travelers could see, now very close, the pale foam of the River lashing against sharp rocks that were thrust out far into the stream like a ridge of teeth...
...they could hear it rushing and foaming over the sharp shelves and stony teeth of Sarn Gebir, but they could not see it.[quote]

In this passage as well there is reference to the stones of a specific river being like teeth

Quote:
( lotr, A knife in the dark):
It was burned and broken, and nothing remains of it now but a tumbled ring, like a rough crown on the old hill's head...
...suddenly a pale light appeared over the crown of Weathertop behind him.
Tal-Elmar & the Akallabeth:

Now, as sort of an extension of the last section, there are also two other passages which I have come across, in my readings, which are both of similar structure and employed the term “wings” like that from: “The Bridge…” as the simile and then following as the metaphor (IMHO). They are recorded in the Tale of Tal-Elmar and the Akallabeth:

Quote:
Akallabeth:

And out of the west there would come at times a great cloud in the evening, shaped as it were an eagle, with pinions spread to the north and the south; and slowly it would loom up, blotting out the sunset, and then uttermost night would fall upon Numenor. And some of the eagles bore lightning beneath their wings, and thunder echoed between sea and cloud.

As you can see threw clouds are said to be LIKE Eagles with great wings and then right after there is an obvious reference back to the clouds where instead of being refered to as clouds are referred to as eagles and there is also reference to wings as if they where actual physical appendages when we know them to be not. This passage illustrates and summarizes my view of the passage aforementioned which this essay is all about.

Quote:
HoME 12 Tal-Elmar:

…for the Sea-men spread great cloths like wings to catch the airs, and bind them to tall poles like trees of the forest....In greater numbers they come then: two ships or more together, stuffed with men and not goods, and ever one of the accursed ships hath black wings.

Within this segment, as well, and object is modified (namely sails likened to wings) and subsequently a when referring back to the same noun previously modified the modifier (as in the context of a simile the noun compared can be [I believe] called a modifier as it further describes the subject) is used in place of the noun itself . Again the term “wings” is used and the same structure is adopted providing further support for my metaphor presumption.
Something to note would be this speech itself is an exploration of the way the author wrote to gain a better understanding of what he very well could have meant citing like practices. As such canonical and “said by whom” considerations have no place: we are gathering evidendce on how he wrote not what he wrote which is applicable as such an approach has proven itself vain for reasons beyond the scope of this essay and really irrelevant to that contained within as that is not the prime focus if it can be considered a focus at all.

Why wings?

Given these the question presents itself: Why wings? If Tolkien did not intend literal implementations of those terms why would he chose to use them in this one environment where it could be misread? Well in response I don’t think it is a much as question of foreknowledge on the part of the author as to possible misconceptions as much as it is a question of, again, style and manner of writing. That is, throughout JRR Tolkien’s legendarium he has utilized that word (wings) to describe things which are: growing, intimidating and/or dark all of which are pertinent to the passage and question at hand. While some of my previous quotes from the various literature could be considered relevant and do support what I have said I would rather draw on some other resources:

[quote](lotr, the passing of the gray company):
Over the land there lies a long shadow, westward reaching wings of darkness.[quote]

Quote:
( The Tale of Aldarion and Endris):
Behold! The darkness that is to come is filled with hatred for us, but it hates you no less. The Great Sea will not be too wide for its wings, if it is suffered to come to full growth.
In both of these cases wings are used metaphorically to modify the “darkness/shadow.” And though that is not a real actual shadow as in the case of the Balrog, they are valid nevertheless to establish Tolkien’s pattern of associating “spreading darkness” (metaphorical or otherwise) with the spreading of wings. Indeed that metaphor is used in a similar fashion elsewhere to describe things similar in nature though not actual or even metaphorical shadows themselves:

[quote](lotr, the Steward and the King):
and they were borne on the wings of a great storm and cast up on the shores of Middle- Earth. [/quote

Quote:
(lotr, the Taming of Smeagol)
The skirts of the storm were lifting, ragged and wet, and the main battle had passed to spread its great wings over the Emyn Muil, upon which the dark thought of Sauron brooded for a while.
As you can see as well Tolkien often used the term “wings” in a variety of fashions and given this it seems all the more probable that no literal wings were attended especially in light of the simile immediately preceding it.


The Earlier Drafts:

Yet another resource which can be drawn upon to decern the intent of the author would be the drafts immediately preceding the final edit and perhaps further back. From those we trace the evolution of that specific scene in question and in doing so gain a better understanding as to: what happened, why it happened, and how it is that this came about which may not be as apparent given the final draft. That is, certain characteristics of the previous texts may cast light on the general intentions of the author through analysis of what was rejected, retained, what was communicated, and what was simply not present in comparison with the final making more evident the writer’s ultimate goal and decisions. While viewing the previous drafts in their published forms 2 excerpts in particular struck me: 1. A note made by Christopher Tolkien himself (who analyzed edited and compiled for publication his father’s drafts essays and more minor works) and an alteration made by JRR Tolkien into the original draft which mirrors in a way the final one:


Quote:
(Christopher Tolkien in reference to the drafts of that quote at the top of this speech in: The Treason of Isengard HoME 7):
In [draft] Bit is said only that the “Balrog stood facing him“; in [draft] C the Balrog halted “facing him and the shadow about him reached out like two vast wings” Immediate afterwards where in FR the Balrog “drew itself to great height” and “its wings were spread from wall to wall” neither B nor C has the words: “to a great height” nor speaks of “wings.”
(Christopher Tolkien on the same subject on a previous page of the same book
…then he added to the original draft:
Quote:
“and a great shadow seemed to block out the light” accompanying the Balrog.
Basically in the earlier drafts there is no mention of “wings” in a metaphorical or a literal sense anywhere which affirms my belief that literal such characteristics simply aren’t there. That is to say no suggestion is given at any time in the development of the piece that anything other than similic wings were conceived and as such the probability of such a conceptualization manifesting itself in the final draft alone is considerably less than the simple use of a literary device to reinforce something by then well established.

The Adjective:

Quote:
(Morgoth’s Ring, HoME 10)
The Balrogs lurked still awaiting ever the return of their lord. Swiftly the arose and passed with winged speed over Hithlim…
“Pro-wingers” have utilized this quote from one of the later most drafts of the Quenta Silmarillion as evidence for the presence of literal wings on Balrogs. But is that what it really is saying? Is the adjective modifying the Balrog or the speed, let’s look at it again:

Quote:
…passed with winged speed…
What is being modified is the noun: speed and unless the speed of the Balrog somehow sprouted wings then this term is obviously being used to describe the incredible speed with which they traveled which matchers the Webster’s New Colligate Dictionary definition just fine:

Quote:
winged`winjd also except for la(2) `winj-ed adj 1a (1): having wings <~seeds> (2) having wings of a specified kind--used in combination <strong-winged> b: using wings in flight 2a : soaring with or as if wings : ELEVATED b: swift, rapid
Now ask your self which is aplicable to "speed"

And indeed there is precedent for Tolkien using flight or wings to communicate the reality of extremely high rates of speed:

Quote:
(draft of RotK: in the house of healing)
Terror and wonder ran on wings before us, and all that was left of the folk of Lamdon hid or fled to the woods and hills
Quote:
(Unfinished Tales: The journey of morwen and nienor to nargothrond
Then the orcs turned and gave chase and the elves after them. But a strange change came upon Neinor and now she outran them all, flying like a deer among the trees with her hair streaming in the wind of her speed.
Quote:
(lotr, Flight to the Ford)
A breath of deadly cold pierced him like a spear, as with a last spurt, like a flash of
white fire, the elf horse speeding as if on wings, passed right before the face of the foremost rider.
Quote:
(lotr, the King of Golden Hall)
Eorl the Young, who rode down out of the North; and there were wings upon the feet of his steed…
This being so the use of that adjective to describe something which actual literal has wings would really "introduce an uncomfortable redundancy" ( I believe it was cian who introduced this. kudos to him) and so make literal wings on Balrogs all the more unlikely. Specifically that if something is moving with great speed through the air because of its wings you don’t then say “it is moving so fast with it’s wings that it is as if it had wings” which would serve no purpose other than to say that it is flying so fast it is almost as if it were flying

In conclusion I believe that Balrogs have no wings. A great deal of circumstantial evidence for this theory and against a literal interpretation of the passage in question seems to make quite evident that neither the structure nor the actual wordage point to actual real wings of any sort. The earlier drafts, also, support this not-so-much foundationless conjecture through the complete and total absence of any indication of the conceptualization of literal physical wings as thought of by Tolkien and cast great doubt on the idea that the “great wings” was anything other than a literary device ( as has been established as having been used every time this specific structure was present). All this, in my humble opinion, renders any belief in such large broad appendages wishful thinking pure and simple.

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Old 12-08-2001, 11:35 AM   #2
Fingolfin of the Noldor
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It will be nice to here you thoughts Mr. Underhill most of these are significantly altered from those I have implemented in the past
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Old 12-11-2001, 05:05 AM   #3
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Question

No thoughts?
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Old 12-11-2001, 02:11 PM   #4
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Good post, but none of it is new. Browse through the forum's old threads and you'll find more Balrog discussion than you'd care to read. I doubt you'll be able to stir it up again.
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Old 12-11-2001, 02:19 PM   #5
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*groans* not another wings discussion. I think it has been argued to death. I would ratherdiscuss whether balrogs haf bunny slippers, or whether lembas were twinkies. [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]
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Old 12-11-2001, 07:21 PM   #6
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On behalf of my fellow wights (whether they so wish it or not) I apologize Fingolfin (Hmmm, familiar nickname is it not?). You clearly researched your post very well in the hope of generating some animated discussion. Apparently the pros and cons of Balrog wings have gone around once (or more than once) too often here. Some discussions have been excrutiatingly in-depth with the arguments varying from analyses not unlike yours to wing to weight ratios. I enjoyed your discourse and, in fact, invite you to set its context more clearly and submit it to us as an article. We would love to have it. With some luck a pro-winger (I am only nominally a pro-winger) will write up a counter-point. Otherwise, keep posting!
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Old 12-12-2001, 02:07 AM   #7
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I didn't mean to discourage any debate. I only intended to explain why he wasn't receiving many replies. It would make a good article, as Mith said.
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Old 12-12-2001, 10:28 PM   #8
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Yes, I'm impressed - no - awed. And no longer feel so guilty about some of my longer posts! [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

I'm afraid my own pro-wing argument is a frail pallid shadow by comparison. I just like the idea of wings. It's probably kicking around in my subconcious mind from Fantasia's "Night on Bald Mountain." But if I had a better argument it would be obliterated by this thorough presentation. Submit it.

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Old 12-13-2001, 12:21 AM   #9
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In my opinion, the most compelling pro-wings argument is John Howe's beautiful artwork. I love his Balrogs. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 04-08-2002, 02:36 PM   #10
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Without joining issue on the wings/no wings debate, the article is well written Fingolfin. Indeed, were it not for the "its wings were spread from wall to wall" quote, I would agree with your reasoning. Here, the word is not used as an adjective and the sentence appears free from any earlier simile or metaphor-like usage. To rebut the "pro-wings" position, you must somehow address the above quote, perhaps by linking it to an earlier simile (as others have argued here). In other words, you must somehow establish that the quote really means "Its shadow was spread from wall to wall". Thoughts?
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Old 04-08-2002, 03:03 PM   #11
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That's exactly what I did. The "...like two vast wings..." sets the stage and is what my enitre first arguement is based. The like simile was used in the context of the balrog just as similic wings and seeming literal wings were used in the context of describing numenorean ships, to cite one example. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 04-08-2002, 03:06 PM   #12
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Quote:
(as others have argued here).
Actually I believe by "others" you mean me [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] I believe I was the first person to put the similic/metaphorical argument, that I know of, here under the name of "fingolfin." At the time my points were not that well developed and I was sortof winging it through the debates. That is part of the reason I did al lthat research to in some way substanciate what I felt/feel to be the truth.
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Old 04-08-2002, 03:25 PM   #13
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OK. Then for sake of clarity, you might want to lay it all out, replete with quotes. In other words, tip your hat to the opposing argument in all its "strength" then disassemble it. Something like:

Balrog: shadow... like wings > wings spread wall to wall.

Akallabeth: clouds...like eagles > eagle's wings.

Tal-Elmar: Ships' sails...like wings > accursed black wings.

The Akallabeth simile is structurally different, but the repeated use of similes, particularly those involving wings, adds weight to your argument.
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Old 04-08-2002, 06:35 PM   #14
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Yeah you are probably right. I should have tried to be more clear. Thanks. I think ill make the proper emendtations tomorrow as I don';t have time right now [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 04-08-2002, 10:57 PM   #15
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In my first two college literature classes one big thing you had to focus on when writing an argumentative essay was to address and rebut the opposing arguement. In doing this you leave the opposition without any ground to work with, they have to address your points about their position instead of bringing their own, make them play by your rules. If you leave them an opportunity to reply to your stance with their own they have the last word and can obscure your good points with their own, if, that is, you havn't beaten them to the punch. Know what i'm saying?
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