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Old 10-11-2004, 12:12 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril LotR -- Book 2 - Chapter 05 - The Bridge of Khazad-dûm

This is one of the most dramatic chapters in the book. It continues with glimpses of Dwarven culture, beginning with the Book of Mazarbul. Its account of the defeat of the Moria dwarves not only tells of the past events, it builds the tension, foreshadowing the danger to come. The drumbeats that are mentioned throughout much of the chapter also add to the suspense. There is fighting, ending only partially successfully and leading to another glimpse of Gandalf’s true power. Frodo’s mithril shirt proves its worth.

The Balrog is undoubtedly the most important “character” in this chapter, though it speaks not a word and is described in vague terms that still cause much debate and discussion among Tolkien fans. It’s interesting to note that the two members of the Fellowship who stand by Gandalf till the end are the Men – even Legolas the Elf, who has showed his superior abilities in other situations, cannot stand up to the Balrog.

The chapter ends in tragedy, though eight members of the Fellowship escape.

I can remember shock and disbelief as my reaction upon first reading of Gandalf’s death. How did and does this chapter affect you? Why is it so important to the plot?
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Old 10-11-2004, 05:43 AM   #2
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In the days before Priestley had caught & bottled that demon which exists in the shape of carbonic acid gas, when the miner was smitten dead by an invisible foe in the deep bowels of the earth it was natural that his awe struck companions should ascribe the mysterious blow to a supernatural enemy. When the workman was assailed by what we now call fire-damp, which hurled him & his companions right & left upon the dark rocks, scorching, burning & killing, those who survived were not likely to question the existence of the mine fiend. Hence arose the superstition - now probably quite extinct - of basilisks in the mines, which destroyed with their terrible gaze. When the explanation came, that the thing which killed the miner was what he breathed, not what he saw; & when chemistry took the fire-damp from the realm of faerie, the basilisk & the fire fiend had not a leg to stand on’.
(Wirt Sikes ‘British Goblins’ (1880). Quoted in Lewis & Currie, ‘The Uncharted Realms of Tolkien’)
To what extent these ideas affected Tolkien in the depiction of the Balrog - at least as far as his choice of having a Balrog present in Moria - is impossible to answer. I think that someone as interested as Tolkien was in folklore, would have been aware of Sikes’ book, & of the phenomenon of fire-damp (the explosive gas which builds up in mineworkings, which is mostly methane) & choke-damp (the poisonous gas, principally carbon di-oxide).

Its certainly interesting that Tolkien would have a monster of shadow (=choke-damp?) & flame (=fire-damp?) as Durin’s bane, as these are the very things, along with falls, which miners, like the dwarves, would have feared most.

The Balrog itself has been discussed almost to death, but I think that’s because the encounter between it & Gandalf is so symbolic, & Gandalf’s statements so enigmatic - especially to anyone who has not read the Silmarillion - what is the ‘Secret Fire’? And why is it that the ‘Dark Fire’ cannot pass it - because Gandalf seems not to be bragging here about his superior strength, but rather making a metaphysical statement of fact. But i won’t go any further into that at the moment.

I would like to quote from an article in a recent Amon Hen, about Tolkien’s use of adjectives:

Quote:
Interestingly, in Gandalf’s fight with the Balrog only a few adjectives are used. In connection with the Balrog itself the word ‘dark’ features predominantly: it is described as a ‘dark figure’ & the eerie silence that falls at its appearance is introduced as follows: ‘then the echoes died as suddenly as a flame blown out by a dark wind. I like the use of ‘dark’ in conjunction with ‘wind’. It imparts to me a sense of stiffling heat...the unusual use of the word ‘dark’ makes a kind of instinctive sense. When Gandalf addresses the Balrog for the first time in their confronation, he says: ‘the Dark Fire will not avail you’. Again this provides an interesting juxtaposition that is frighteningly evocative: there seems no sense of warmth & comfort about the notion of a ‘dark fire’.
The other adjective repeatedly used in this sequence in direct contrast with ‘dark’ is ‘white’. It is combined with other words such as ‘cold’ & ‘bright’. Thus, Glamdring is described as gleaming ‘cold & white’. But ‘white’, like ‘dark’, is also used to describe fire in this scene: the Balrog’s fire is dark, that of Glamdring is white, & when Gandalf destroys the bridge ‘a blinding sheet of white flame’ springs up. the imagery of ‘dark’ versus ‘white’ is stark & straightforward, but very powerful. My own favourite image in this scene, however, is that of Gandalf standing fast on the bridge: ‘grey & bent, like a wizened tree before the onset of a storm’. (‘Modifying Words’, Beruthiel’s Pet. Amon Hen 183
.

One final observation - this is the first chapter without any verse.
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Old 10-11-2004, 06:25 AM   #3
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One final observation - this is the first chapter without any verse.
Verrry interesting indeed, davem! I think it has a reason in the darkness of the situation and the active fighting. It takes leisure to produce poetry; a poem about danger will not normally be composed while the situation is still in progress, since all concentration is needed for the escape. The next poem is recited on the outskirts of Lothlórien, in relative safety. And the mourning poem for Gandalf is composed there - isn't there a line that goes something like "My grief is too fresh (or deep) for words"? It takes time for such deep-cutting events to settle enough to be put into poetry.
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Old 10-11-2004, 09:27 AM   #4
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This may just be my favorite chapter in the book. The image that sticks in one's mind is of course Gandalf and the Balrog facing each other on the bridge. But that encounter is itself very brief - it only takes up about two pages. Actually, the chapter as a whole is rather short - eleven and a half pages in my edition - despite the fairly high number of events that occur. There is the reading and discussion of the Book of Mazarbul, the preparation for an attack, the attack itself, flight from the chamber, the bridge, the confrontation with the Balrog, and finally flight into the sunlight. This is in sharp contrast to the preceding chapters, which generally dealt with one obstacle at a time.

I recently had the experience of listening to The Fellowship of the Ring on tape. For the most part, I found that I preferred the written version - passages that came across as quite beautiful in writing sometimes fell flat. The one major exception was this chapter. There's something in not just the literal pacing (i.e. of the story) but also in the pacing of the words and sentences that is really drawn out when it's read aloud. Perhaps part of it is the continual "Doom doom". But there is also a shortening of sentences and an intensification of language as the climax of the chapter approaches. Whatever it is, the chapter flows inexorably toward the confrontation.

As Davem pointed out, few adjectives are used in the confrontation. And yet it comes across to me very vividly. I feel as if I can see every detail of the scene with perfect clarity. I don't know whether others share this experience, or whether its just me.
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Old 10-11-2004, 12:52 PM   #5
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I've got a few things to add to the discussion, not least because I find this a terrifying chapter, but first, a quick post about the pages from the Book of Mazarbul. A new edition of LOTR is soon to be published (it was mentioned here) which includes the reproductions of these pages, as Tolkien originally intended (the costs were too highg when LOTR first went to print). Well, if anyone either cannot afford or cannot wait for the new edition, I recently got hold of a 2005 50th anniversary Tolkien calendar, which has these reproductions printed within.

Anyway, a quick thought. Davem, the comments about the 'fire-damp' experienced by the miners was fascinating, and it's entirely possible that Tolkien would have known about such ideas, but for another reason, maybe? What made me think this was his experiences in the trenches - possibly he had some experience of the miners who dug underground tunnels (as seen in Birdsong) during WWI and had heard their tales and superstitions?
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Old 10-11-2004, 08:57 PM   #6
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In this chapter the strengths and weaknesses of many characters are revealed.

Frodo shows his strength in the Chamber of Mazarbul by attacking the troll, and without even realizing it at first.

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Suddenly, and to his own surprise, Frodo felt a hot wrath blaze up in his heart. "The Shire!" he cried, and springing beside Boromir, he stooped, and stabbed with Sting at the hideous foot.
It is as though he does so unconsciously, as if he suddenly understands the part he must play to aid his companions.

Sam, too, shows his ability as a fighter:

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A quick duck had saved him; and he had felled his orc: a sturdy thrust with his Barrow-blade. A fire was smouldering in his brown eyes that would have made Ted Sandyman step backwards, if he had seen it.
A far cry from just chucking an apple at Sandyman, as we saw earlier in FotR!

Gandalf, being one of the central characters in this chapter, shows his strength through being able to fend off the Balrog, but we understand that his power has limits when he returns to his companions after trying to seal the Chamber. He says that he has met his match, and that he is "rather shaken." We can only imagine what kind of force it could take to shake someone so steadfast and powerful as Gandalf, which foreshadows the future danger to come.

Legolas, who has previously seemed to be without fault as far as being collected under pressure, drops his arrow in fear of the Balrog. To add a bit of levity to this discussion, I'd like to point out this lovely line:

Quote:
"Ai! ai!" wailed Legolas. "A Balrog! A Balrog is come!"
That's all well and good on a page, but say it aloud and it just makes you chuckle a bit.

Since the Book of Mazarbul is uncovered in this chapter, and Lalwendë mentioned that some of the pages will be in a future edition, here's a link to pictures of a few of them: Leaves From the Book of Mazarbul. It may, for some crazy reason, ask you for a user name and password --the site has never done this to me before, but today it did. Just type Tolkien for both.
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Old 10-12-2004, 02:48 AM   #7
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Gimli took his arm & helped him down to a seat on the step. 'What happened away up there at the door?' he asked. 'Did you meet the beaterof drums?'
'I do not know,' answered Gandalf. 'But I found myself faced by something that I have not met before.I could think of nothing to do but to try & put a shutting spell on the door. I know many; but to do things of that kind rightly takes time, & even then the door can be broken by strength...
Then something came into the chamber- I felt it through the door, & the orcs themselves were afraid & fell silent.It laid hold of the iron ring, & then it percieved me & my spell.
What it was I cannot guess, but I have never felt such a challenge.The counter spell was terrible. It nearly broke me. For an instant the door left my control & began to open.I had to speak a word of Command. That proved too great a strain. The door broke in pieces.'
This is interesting, as it seems to show two kinds of magic at work - spell-casting, & the word of Command. It seems that casting spells is easier than speaking a word of Command. It appears the latter is reserved for extreme circumstances.

Spellcasting appears to work by a kind of 'hypnosis' - not simply hypnosis of people, but a kind of hypnosis of reality itself. Gandalf seems to have 'hypnotised' the door into being locked, by casting a 'spell' - sort of 'telling it a new story' - in the 'old' story it was unlocked (unlockable). Gandalf tells a new 'story', in which it is locked. Then the Balrog comes, & casts a counter spell, tells a new 'story' in which it is not locked. Gandalf & the Balrog contend - as do Finrod & Sauron, & the most powerful magician (ie the 'best', most convincing storyteller) wins out & takes control of 'reality' - from that point the world story carries on, including the changes the storyteller has made.

This is not original, actually - we find this kind of wizardly conflict in The Mabinogion, The Kalevala, The Eddas, etc.

But we also have something different here - the Word of Command. Here we move away from the 'story' that seeks to convince both other minds & the physical matter of Arda to something else, a different kind of power - one that does not attempt to convince but to coerce. Gandalf attempts to Command the world to change rather than persuade it to.

In effect, in the first kind of magic we have the wizard still 'within' the world, trying to convince reality to alter, in the second kind its as if he steps outside the world, & force it to change into something else. Clearly in this case Gandalf is not up to the task, or not used to this way of working, because the door, rather than obeying his Command, simply explodes.

I think this maybe sheds some light on his two confrontations with Saruman - both begin with 'spellcasting' - both wizards attempt to 'persuade' the other into adopting their particular view of 'reality', but then the confrontations move on - in the first it appears it is Saruman who speaks the word of Command - he commands Gandalf to stay in Orthanc - in the second it is Gandalf who speaks the word of Command - Commanding Saruman to return to the balcony & commanding his staff to break.

Too rushed - but perhaps others can add somethinb to this idea - or pull it appart!
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Old 10-12-2004, 12:18 PM   #8
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Davem, your post has really made me think about "magic" in Middle Earth but since my thoughts are rapidly going off topic (and hvaing failed to find a relevant thread) I will start a new one in books. .
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Old 10-12-2004, 05:58 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Aiwendil
Actually, the chapter as a whole is rather short - eleven and a half pages in my edition - despite the fairly high number of events that occur. There is the reading and discussion of the Book of Mazarbul, the preparation for an attack, the attack itself, flight from the chamber, the bridge, the confrontation with the Balrog, and finally flight into the sunlight. This is in sharp contrast to the preceding chapters, which generally dealt with one obstacle at a time.
Indeed, the action in this Chapter is relentless. Even the reading of the Book of Mazarbul, which is (in one sense) exposition, concerns a tale of conquest, tragic death and desperate defence. In previous Chapters, the "action sequences" have generally taken place before or after periods of travelling conveyed through descriptive passages interspersed with dialogue. But here, the dialogue and descriptive passages are intimately connected with the action, which is at the fore throughout the whole Chapter. To me, it represents a culmination of the tension that has been building up at least since the Fellowship left Rivendell (and arguably before). While the Fellowship has met various foes and challenges on the way, this Chapter brings its greatest challenge yet, one which (as Encaitare notes) instils the fear in even its strongest members and, indeed, claims the strongest of them.


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Originally Posted by Encaitare
Gandalf, being one of the central characters in this chapter, shows his strength through being able to fend off the Balrog, but we understand that his power has limits when he returns to his companions after trying to seal the Chamber. He says that he has met his match, and that he is "rather shaken." We can only imagine what kind of force it could take to shake someone so steadfast and powerful as Gandalf, which foreshadows the future danger to come.
As in the previous Chapter, we see that Gandalf is not omnipotent. There is a power here (subservient, or at least inferior, to Sauron), which can challenge him. Again, this helps to bring home how desperate their situation is. Gandalf cannot protect them all the time and, indeed, he no longer remains with them to do so by the end of the Chapter.


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Originally Posted by davem
To what extent these ideas affected Tolkien in the depiction of the Balrog - at least as far as his choice of having a Balrog present in Moria - is impossible to answer. I think that someone as interested as Tolkien was in folklore, would have been aware of Sikes’ book, & of the phenomenon of fire-damp (the explosive gas which builds up in mineworkings, which is mostly methane) & choke-damp (the poisonous gas, principally carbon di-oxide).
I don't doubt that you are correct, davem. But it does seem to me that Tolkien is, with the Balrog, tapping into something much more immediate to his readers. The impression conveyed is of a demon from hell. Practically every representation of the Balrog that I have seen, courtesy of numerous illustrators and down to Jackson's films, portrays it in demonic form. Tolkien never mentions that it has horns or other classic demonic features, and yet they inevitably turn up in visual representations of it. I don't think that this is mere coincidence and it is only partly explained by later artists having been influenced by earlier ones. It is the (tantalisingly limited) description which Tolkien gives that conveys this impression. All he needs to tell us is that it is a dark creature of shadow wreathed in flame. We fill in the gaps ourselves.

Some other thoughts that occurred to me while reading this Chapter:

The opening passage, as Frodo ponders Bilbo's friendship with Balin, reminds us of Bilbo's adventures and brings home to us that this is a very different, much darker adventure, indeed. The serious nature of the story that Tolkien is now telling is, I think, emphasised by the contrast.

Another contrast between the story told in The Hobbit and that being told here occurs in the description of the Orcs. While the Goblins that Bilbo met were undoubtedly cruel and brutal, their evil nature was "played down" for the benefit of the intended audience. They seemed more like the nasty creatures of children's fairy-tales. Here, we meet Orcs for the first time in this book, and we are left in no doubt that they are highly dangerous and mercilessly cruel foes. The words used to name them, "Orcs" and "Uruks" are much less familar and (in a sense) "comfortable" than the word "Goblin". The first time they are mentioned is in reference to their scattered weapons in the Chamber of Mazarbul: "crooked" swords with "blackened" blades. But the most striking description is that of the Orc chieftain:


Quote:
His broad flat face was swart, his eyes were like coals, and his tongue was red: he wielded a great spear.
In just one sentence, Tolkien sums up the ugliness, inhumanity and cold cruelty of Orc kind. And this chieftain is clearly powerful. Despite being less than man-size, he is able, with one thrust of his shield, to throw Boromir (a man who we have come to associate with physical strength) to the ground. These are no fairy-tale Goblins!

Interestingly, like the Watcher, the Orc chieftain makes straight for Frodo. Presumably, he is drawn to the Ring in the same way that the Orcs were drawn to Isildur in the tale of The Disaster of the Gladden Fields in Unfinished Tales. I wonder if there's any significance in the fact that it was Frodo who landed the first (successful) blow of the battle.

One last random thought on Orcs. Tolkien describes their laughter as "like the fall of sliding stones". It was another falling stone which, arguably, alerted them to the Fellowship's presence in Moria. This description therefore links Pippin's "misdemeanour" at the well with the Orcs' attack.

I think that it's notable that Tolkien spends a (relatively) long time having Gandalf read to the Fellowship from the Book of Mazarbul. Tolkien could simply have explained the fate of Balin's expedition in a few lines, and yet he goes into it at some length here (while at the same time giving us only tantalising glimpses of the events relayed). It seems to me that, once again, Tolkien is seeking to convey the sense of history. Moria is not just a location for an eventful passage in the Fellowship's journey. It is, within the story, a very real place with a very real history. Presumably, this was his reason also for wishing to include reproductions of the pages. (Thanks for the link, Encaitare. I shall have to study that at length. )

Final thought: It's a nice touch that Legolas and Gimli echo the words of the Book of Mazarbul when the Orcs attack: "They are coming!" cried Legolas. "We cannot get out," said Gimli.
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Old 10-12-2004, 07:31 PM   #10
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Quote:
Interestingly, like the Watcher, the Orc chieftain makes straight for Frodo. Presumably, he is drawn to the Ring in the same way that the Orcs were drawn to Isildur in the tale of The Disaster of the Gladden Fields in Unfinished Tales.
SpM, interesting, so would you say that is an effect of the ring? That forces of evil are drawn to it? To ultimately kill the ringbearer, quite possibly losing the ring? Or getting it into the wrong hands?

Encaitare I'm glad you brought up that point about Legolas, I'm going to expand upon it just a tad.

Quote:
"Ai, ai!" wailed Legolas. "A Balrog, A Balrog is come!"
Quote:
Gimli stared with wide eyes. "Durin's bane!" he cried, and letting his axe fall he covered his face.
Quote:
"A Balrog," muttered Gandalf. "Now I understand." He faltered and leaned heavily on his staff. "What an evil fortune! And I am already weary.
First I'd like to say with the quote on Gandalf, we can already see some sort of foreboding evil to come to Gandalf. In the previous chapter he stayed up all night on watch, and now Tolkien describes Gandalf as "faltering" tired as he "leans on his staff," and even admitting he's weary.

Then we have the quotes about Aragorn and Boromir.

Quote:
The dark figure streaming with fire raced towards them. The orcs yelled and poured over the stone gangways. Then Boromir raised his horn and blew. Loud the challenge rang and bellowed, like the shourt of many throats under the cavernous roof. For a moment the orcs quailed and the fiery shadow halted. Then the echoes died as suddenly as a flame blown out by a dark wind, and the enemy advanced again.
Very interesting wording used here by Tolkien. First we get to see the might and power behind Boromir's horn. As it makes the orcs quail and even halts the Balrog in his tracks. Also, the interesting wording of the when the horn blew he used the word "challenge." While the horn "echoed" and "bellowed" throughout the orcs and the Balrog in a way were losing the "challenge." Then the next line "The echoes died as suddenly as a flame blown out by a dark wind," very nice, the challenge of the horn didn't last long, and as soon as it was out, they advanced. Mithalwen, I might post this on your Music and Magic thread, could hold an interesting point, about the "challenge" of Boromir's horn. As here we get to see the true power behind the horn, and then later again at Amon Hen.
Moving on...

Quote:
Aragorn and Boromir did not heed the command, but still held their ground, side by side, behind Gandalf at the far end of the bridge.
Also, Encaitare, as you said, we have the two men of the company standing to help fight the Balrog. Of course we know it's a valiant proposal, but also utterly stupid. However, the question I ask, we have the Elf and Dwarf quivering in terror, the two men standing tall, is this a symbolism of the strength of men, and the fading of elves and dwarves?
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Old 10-12-2004, 08:54 PM   #11
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Ring

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SpM, interesting, so would you say that is an effect of the ring? That forces of evil are drawn to it? To ultimately kill the ringbearer, quite possibly losing the ring? Or getting it into the wrong hands?
Well, we know that the Ring is able to influence those around the Ringbearer and not just the Ringbearer himself. In an Author's note to The Disaster of the Gladden Fields, Tolkien writes:


Quote:
Yet many have thought that the ferocity and determination of [the Orcs'] assault on Isildur was in part due to the Ring. It was little more than two years since it had left [Sauron's] hand, and though it was swiftly cooling it was still heavy with his evil will, and seeking all means to return to its lord (as it did again when he recovered and was re-housed). So, it is thought, although they did not understand it the Orc-chiefs were filled with a fierce desire to destroy the Dunedain and capture their leader. (emphasis added)
So Tolkien is suggesting here that, when "active", the Ring is able to draw Orcs to it as a ploy to find its way back to its master, even though they have no conscious awareness of its presence. No doubt this would be fairly easy since Orcs would presumably have little will to resist it. The emboldened text shows that the Ring was once more "active" while borne by Frodo. It is quite possible, therefore, that it wilfully drew the Orc chieftain towards Frodo. And this may well also explain why the Watcher in the Water attacked the Ringbearer first (an event significant enough to merit consideration by Gandalf).


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Originally Posted by Boromir88
However, the question I ask, we have the Elf and Dwarf quivering in terror, the two men standing tall, is this a symbolism of the strength of men, and the fading of elves and dwarves?
Or that Elves and Dwarves knew more about Balrogs than Men.
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Old 10-13-2004, 08:10 AM   #12
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Oooooo…very interesting thoughts on magic and spells: this will become more pronounced a topic, I think, when we get into the ‘magic’ land of Lothlorien and get all caught up in the debate between the “art” of the Elves versus the “deceits of the Enemy”. The interesting thing about the current chapter is how Gandalf and the Balrog seem to be using the same kind or manner of magic; they are ‘magical’ in the same way. Going back to my comments on the last chapter, in which I saw the description of Gandalf fighting the wargs as foreshadowing the Balrog, I think that we are here again being show how alike or connected they are to one another. The manner of their battle brings this out too: they are both connected to fire, one good and one bad – but still, they operate very much in the same way.

The resonance of the word “doom” in this chapter is great, but also telling. Doom comes from the Old English dóm which doesn’t just mean ‘a bad thing happening’ but actually means “judgement”. I shall quote the full reference:

Quote:
1. doom, judgment (1) where an opinion is formed, (2) where sentence is passed, (2a) of an unfavorable sentence, condemnation, ordeal, judicial sentence, decree, ordinance, law, custom; justice, equity; a sentence, doom;
This raises, for me, the interesting question of upon whom is judgement being passed, and by whom? And here I go with the whole Gandalf/Balrog connection.

It would appear as though judgement is being passed upon both. The Balrog is finally receiving the judgement that was passed upon it by the Valar when they entered Middle-Earth to destroy Morgoth, and Gandalf is the tool of this judgement. But Gandalf also falls into the abyss and receives judgement insofar as he passes through the ordeal and is judged worth to return to the world as Gandalf the White. In the confrontation between these two figures there’s a certain settling of accounts as things are ‘put to rights’?

But there are more judgements being passed, or that have been passed. The Dwarves received their ‘doom’, their “unfavourable judgement” for having “delved too deeply, and too greedily” in the first place and for having attempted to do so again.

The sum total effect of all this is that it introduces the idea of judgement into the quest; the idea that there is beginning a time in which judgments shall be passed and things will be put to rights – the Balrog will be destroyed – but not without a terrible price being exacted – Gandalf’s fall. Frodo is also being judged through his trial with the Ring, and this trial is prefigured by the confrontation between the Balrog and Gandalf: will Frodo fall into darkness and become a “thing of shadow” like the servant of Sauron, or will he fall through that darkness and emerge, like Gandalf, as a “vessel of light, for those with the eyes to see”? It is crucially important, I believe, that Frodo goes into Mordor not knowing that Gandalf has been reborn – for Frodo, he spends the rest of his story poised upon the Bridge of Khazad-DUM (doom), caught between the twin judgements passed upon the Balrog and Gandalf.

One Last Thing: this chapter proves quite conclusively that Balrogs have wings, so we can lay that tired chestnut to rest!

EDIT: I've had cause to go back into our earlier discussions today and I've noticed something about them; our discussions of earlier chapters seem to have been more concerend with matters thematic, while our current discussions are more about the artistry and 'technical' skill with which Tolkien put the story together. I'm wondering if this is perhaps a reflection of the way the story is being told?

I'm tempted to think of LotR as a symphonic piece. Book One is the opening movement in which not much 'happens' in turns of narrative, but all of the themes are introduced, the groupings/pairings and important patterns are established, and the 'piece' is placed in context (allusions are made, backgroud established, tempo is set, etc). Book Two is he allegro movement in which the important themes are glimpsed from time to time, but the motive of the movement is to thrill us with the possibilties of extension beyond the rather confining parameters of the opening. The Gandalf theme, for example, so heroic and wise, is placed into an awkward harmony with the Balrog, and both fall into oblivion, which allows the hints of melancholy and darkness, held at bay in the first movement, to be brought to the fore.

I hope that this makes some sort of sense and does not sound hideously flaky and/or 'precious' . I'm curious where the next movements will take us, musically. . .

But to return to the purpose of this edit: is it possible that Book One is a more meditative reflection upon the themes, while Book Two is an emotive narrativisation/dramatisation of those themes? If so, will Book Three prove to be a return to a meditative mode in which themes are (re)introduced and expanded upon, before their dramatisation in Book Four, and then on again to Books Five and Six???
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Old 10-15-2004, 06:29 AM   #13
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Very interesting points you have their guys. This chapter, to me personally, was one of my best chapters. I got me thinking in a different perspective.

I really think the incident of the Balrog and Gandalf has blinded us from the rest of the meaningful things in this chapter that should be noted.

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Gandalf: “Let me see! No, they are too cut and stained; I cannot read them. We might do better in the sunlight. Wait! Here is something: A large bold hand using the Elvish script.”

“That would be Ori’s hand,” said Gimli, looking over the wizard’s arm. “He could write well and speedily, and often used the Elvish characters.”
Oy! Since when does a dwarf want to learn Elvish? :P

The hobbit Sam is in love with the race and is not skilled in the art of their language. I would suppose that Sam wanted to learn, but education reasons held him down, lets not stay still on this point though.

I first thought that Ori used the Elvish characters as a means of attack on the elves, then I though: Why?

It must have been a rare gift, to know Elvish, I guess. Gimli knew it was Ori right away. Perhaps that Ori was the only one to know Elvish among the other dwarves. Perhaps.

Dwarves are beginning to surprise me as much as men were surprised with Hobbits :P

Moving on!

Here is one of my favourite quotes

Quote:
Anduril came down upon his helm. There was a flash like flame and the helm burst asunder. The orc fell with a cloven head.
This really brought me into the realizing of Aragorns power. We have this orc, leader of them all, the one and only. Meh, I’d better just quote the book, again.

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A huge orc-chieftain, almost man-high, clad in black mail from head to foot, leaped into the chamber. His broad face was swart, his eyes were like coals, and his tongue was red; he wielded a great spear.
That is the correct definition of the orc, I’m afraid. He brought Boromir down, and stabbed Frodo into a wall. Must have been pretty powerful.

But, this orc, this leader, was brought down with one hit. One simple smack over the head had done it.

At first, I never thought that “the blade that was broken” really held that much power. I was proved wrong. A flash like flame, ripping through metal as if it was butter, bursting the helm asunder, digging through the thick skin of the orc leader, very powerful blade.

Then again, a powerful blade must have a person strong enough to handle it. Again, Aragorns power shines on me like the sun on a bright day.

Hail Anduril! Flame of the West!

One more point I would like to point out, and I really apologize for my long post.

Quote:
They went on again. Before long Gimli spoke. He had keen eyes in the dark.
Again, the dwarf surprises me. Although it is obvious that they must have had good sight, for they stayed underground for many a days, mining. It was the first time though, that it was written in stone for my naked eyes to see.

Although I should have expected the elf to see better than the dwarf, my dreams were once again shattered.

That is all I have to say, and again, I apologize for talking too much.
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Old 10-15-2004, 01:31 PM   #14
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Dwarves and Elvish

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Oy! Since when does a dwarf want to learn Elvish? ... It must have been a rare gift, to know Elvish, I guess. Gimli knew it was Ori right away. Perhaps that Ori was the only one to know Elvish among the other dwarves.
Well, it would be unusual for a Dwarf to know how to speak an Elvish tongue. This is supported by Gimli's quick realization that it was Ori who wrote the passage. But here, Ori is only using the Tengwar, the Elvish alphabet. This is also unusual, but not as much so. (Hey, I can write it, why not a dwarf? )

Don't apologize for a long post! I thought it was quite good.
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Old 10-15-2004, 01:57 PM   #15
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1420!

I think another thing interesting, or strikingly odd about dwarves is they have good endurance. This is something I was quite mad at PJ about, just because you got a short chunky dwarf doesn't mean he can't run. It just sickens me to see Gimli huffing and puffing and lagging behind the prancing elf saying "dwarves are natural sprinters." Come on PJ!

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(Hey, I can write it, why not a dwarf? )
Very intersting Encaitare, I don't get into that stuff, but my niece (who by my work I turned into a reader of LOTR) can translate fairly well .
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Old 10-16-2004, 05:45 PM   #16
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(Ha, it feels very strange being here again, after a reaaally long break. In a nice way, of course.)

Fordim Hedgethistle, I was very intirigued by your reflections on the themes of doom and judgement. I had never seen it quite like that, but now that you brought it up so eloquently, it seems very natural.
One could also argue further that from the moment on when Gandalf falls - when they have no leader anymore, and must truly begin to make choices - the real test begins for the two men of the Fellowship, and judgement will eventually be passed upon both of them too: the other will face his doom, the other be judged worthy of his heritage.

On to a compleately other matter:
The thing that struck me the most when I re-read the chapter for this discussion, was defininetly Tolkien's masterful use of none other than our beloved action-film clichès! Especially the first part of the chapter, with it's desperate defence battle before we get to the real climax on the bridge, is pure Indiana Jones. Indiana Jones with immensly more depth, complexity and poetry, but still the basic gimmicks and tricks to suprise, scare and rouse the rader/viewer are all there.
There is the little guy (here in more than one sense... ) who shows suprising strength and courage - Frodo's heroic attac - , the sudden turn of events when they thought they were in the clear - the orc-chieftain stabbing Frodo - and finally the hero who saves the day in a situation where all others fail - Aragorn conquering over the said orc.

All these things show that Tolkien's isn't an expert only in writing fictitious history and creating detailed legends. He can also etertain the reader with good action-writing, which is finally made clear to the reader in The Bridge of Khazad-dûm. The chapter is important in many ways, and the change in the storytelling of the whole book is certaily one of them.
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Old 10-17-2004, 11:03 AM   #17
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well, I just had to respond to this-- :-)

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Book Two is he allegro movement in which the important themes are glimpsed from time to time, but the motive of the movement is to thrill us with the possibilties of extension beyond the rather confining parameters of the opening. The Gandalf theme, for example, so heroic and wise, is placed into an awkward harmony with the Balrog, and both fall into oblivion, which allows the hints of melancholy and darkness, held at bay in the first movement, to be brought to the fore.
What you're describing is very much like the development section of a sonata-allegro form, in which the existing themes are segmented, extended, transposed, and recombined in what is often the most complex part of the work--it stands between the exposition, in which the themes and the principal tonal conflict are introduced, and the recapitulation, in which the tonal conflict is resolved (material which earlier appeared in a contrasting key returns in the home key). The development stands between these two sections and its purpose is to introduce new possibilities into the existing material, usually complicating the aural landscape and creating new conflicts that must be resolved before the principal conflict can be addressed in the recapitulation.

(*tar-ancalime takes off Pompous Lecture Hat.*)

I think your analogy is apt, at least this far into the story. Book One introduces many of the themes and the principal conflict; Book Two begins the journey to resolve that conflict, which must be complicated on the way by obstacles foreseen and unforeseen. Perhaps, though, the analogy is so apt because this is the basic pattern for most of the stories we tell in our culture, whether musical or literary. Are the novel and the symphony always so compatible? But I can feel myself straying farther and farther from the topic at hand, so I'll restrain myself for now.

To return to the specific chapter at hand, the whole journey in Moria is foreshadowed by another underground "adventure"--the Barrow-Downs. An idea first presented in Book One (exposition) returns in Book Two (development) with new repercussions, in a different "key."
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Old 10-17-2004, 12:41 PM   #18
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1420!

Quote:
Or that Elves and Dwarves knew more about Balrogs than Men.
SpM, ahhh that is a big possibility, probably even a bigger one then mine .

Also, thanks for the quote, that as well makes sense. There are those consciously aware that Frodo has the ring, The Wraiths, Saruman and Saurons men (with them they just know their master wants a hobbit and to give their belongings back to their master, but they are aware that they have some sort of valuable item to give to their master), and there are those unconsciously aware that Frodo has the ring, but they are still drawn to it (Moria orcs, The Watcher). Definately doesn't bode well for Frodo.

I would ask a question, but it would be off topic for this thread, so I'll just make an own thread for it.
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Old 10-17-2004, 10:18 PM   #19
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Tar-Ancalime wrote:
Quote:
What you're describing is very much like the development section of a sonata-allegro form
That's a very interesting analogy. However, I'm more inclined (for whatever reason) to think of the book II as still being exposition, and the material analogous to the development beginning with book III. For in book II we have the Fellowship whole; in book III they divide and the various subplots proceed contrapuntally. And there's something about about "The Breaking of the Fellowship" that reminds me of that wonderful moment in many a Haydn symphony when a burst of sudden minor chord pulls you into the development.

Meaningless musings, perhaps, but so be it.
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Old 10-20-2004, 12:23 AM   #20
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A bit late to plunge into discussion, so I won't do it. But I would like you to take a look at

The Bridge of Khazad-dûm by the Barrow-Wight

It does not discuss the chapter per se, but deals with interesting option of possible merchant traffic and economics (to be more precise: how entire kngdom is supposed to get the stock it needs to feed inhabitants via single narrow bridge?)

Gandalf and Balrog were discussed in many threads. Among the recent, I may recommend

Wielding the Flame of Anor by Keeper of Dol Guldur

Balrogs per se:

Post #33 of One hand tied behind their backs by Mithadan

cheers
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Old 10-20-2004, 03:24 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar
It’s interesting to note that the two members of the Fellowship who stand by Gandalf till the end are the Men – even Legolas the Elf, who has showed his superior abilities in other situations, cannot stand up to the Balrog.
To go back to this, earlier, point. There is also a later comment from Encaitare on Legolas' fear. I think perhaps I read the Elf's reaction in a different manner - not cowardice, but a deeper understanding of the danger. This is certainly true of Boromir, whose courage in this scene can be seen to overcome his practicality - this is due, perhaps, to a lesser knowledge of the foe they faced. The Elf knew fully how much danger they were in and how unlikely they were to escape unharmed. I also read the passage believing Legolas had some foreknowedge of what would befall Gandalf. Tolkien and Gandalf liberally spread the word through the chapter that bad news is afoot, and one would imagine the Elf to be more finely tuned to such rumblings.

A lesser, secondary point on Aragorn - who may be, we are led to suspect, a greater being in spirit than Legolas in any case. I'm thinking of the scene with Aragorn and the struggle for the Palantir.
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Old 10-20-2004, 11:37 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rimbaud
A lesser, secondary point on Aragorn - who may be, we are led to suspect, a greater being in spirit than Legolas in any case. I'm thinking of the scene with Aragorn and the struggle for the Palantir.
I thought you were going to say his showdown with the Mouth of Sauron (also rather impressive). Glad you brought up the palantir; thanks.

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Originally Posted by Mark
Oy! Since when does a dwarf want to learn Elvish? :P
I think as artisans, they needed to be able to fulfill what the customers wanted. Knowing various runic systems would be a part of that.
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Old 10-25-2004, 02:20 AM   #23
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Pipe I came here but to pull a Heren, or two.

But the real Istarion beat me to the Wielding thread! Fiddlesticks! Foiled again.

First, just one comment.

I find it odd (and slightly amusing) that Dwarves obsessed over defence from an outside attack, the Bridge of Khazad-dûm being evidence of this mentality. They did not think anyone would attack from the inside, as the Balrog had done, suddenly appearing in their mithril mines, then kicking their butts to Erebor and beyond.

It seems that this reflects the weakness of the Dwarves as a race. They could endure much hardship brought about by external circumstances (indeed, Aulë designed them to thrive in the world of Morgoth’s day), but they fell from their own follies, especially lust, be it for the Silmaril, or mithril.

Having had my say, I’ll now pull the aforementioned Heren.

Here (Last Hope for Moria RPG) is the Barrowdown’s vision of what might have happened during Balin’s quest for Moria. (Shameless plug: I was there!)
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Old 05-13-2008, 04:16 AM   #24
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Eye Now, we journey back into the mists of time...

For moving forward slightly in the CbC-project, let us see what we have in this chapter.

Although not very long (I managed to read it now during a journey to school and from school by a bus, and it did not ruin the effect of the chapter, quite the opposite, and it made my day a lot better), this chapter is filled with events and mainly, with events of deep impact. But let us start from the beginning.

I remember I always liked the part when Gandalf reads the Book of Mazarbul. I used to know (and maybe I could even now, if I tried) to quote it from memory (in Czech, though, as that was how I read it the most times). And I even tried to make the Book myself, with all these scratches and other things where they should be, just guided by the text. Well of course, I was about ten years old by that time, I made it from an old notebook, but it was a pice of craft by itself, definitely Isn't it interesting, however, and don't you think the way Gandalf reads it (trying to decipher the individual words and such) makes the reading more appealing? And it is also so sad - I at least remember it felt so sad to me when I read it first that long time ago. All these poor Dwarves (lots of them unknown except for this). And not to speak of Ori and Óin (and Balin...) who were my favourite ones (at least Ori and Balin definitely were. Although Ori not least also because of the fact that he wrote in Elvish script ).

I have to once again confess there is one thing I properly realised only now - that the lake reached as far as the door, and that's why the Dwarves could not get out of the Western Gate, they probably tried to get out by there, and the Watcher killed Óin (!Oh poor one! I really did not realise - he probably grabbed him by one of these tentacles of his and dragged him underwater!). I knew all the words, even what Gimli says to that, I could quote that if I was asked, but I did not understand what that means first, and later I did not actually stop to think about it. Only now I did. Odd.

In the middle of the reading, the Company is surprised - however, they surely defend themselves! I am actually quite shocked by the fact that Sam kills an Orc by himself. Just think of it, it's not like collecting potatoes. We are not in a braque-fantasy world or in a movie where a young lad is given a sword and immediately defeats five bandits. Sam could have been dead as well. And Frodo almost was - while, speaking of it, I never took this scene as serious as it probably was supposed to look. Well of course the reader knows about the mithril shirt, but he normally won't think about it (?) or maybe he would be intended to forget about it at the moment and think Frodo dead (?) but in any case, I never took it like that. I never worried about Frodo at this moment, unlike Aragorn and company, and it was not that I would know about the mithril shirt (I would belong to the first group, I did not even think about it).

The encounter with the Balrog "through the locked door" is what I really liked the most now - although on first reading, I was more interested by the more "visible" thing like the last encounter. Nowadays I like more this: Gandalf standing guard atop the stairs, his "exchange" with the "thing" inside, the dark cloud in the room, the "word of Command" (whatever that is).

Please note how the escape from the room (not speaking about the encounter itself, like the Cave-troll, which was also a thing I liked on first readings, when Frodo hit him by the Sting - btw did you realise the Cave-trolls don't have toes? Why, I'd wonder? And note that Boromir's blade is a little damaged after this encounter ) differs a lot from the movie adaptation, and I am not going to continue on here what I think about the portrayal, but just on this reading I realised how fantastic it is in the book, it is all in a hurry, but in total darkness and in silence - I really liked the atmosphere.

And now at last we have the Bridge. Let me note what I noticed, that when they arrive to the Bridge, Frodo is described to "suddenly see a black chasm". That sort of reminded me of the name of Moria itself: had the text been in Elvish, I wonder, would in this place have been written "and suddenly Frodo saw moria"? Funnily enough, it reminded me of the theory of fractals, if anyone heard about it - in this case, one could say that parts of things look like the things themselves. The encounter on the Bridge, in some way, reflects Moria as whole, don't you think?

I don't actually recall whether I was sad because of the loss of Gandalf, or whether it shocked me, or whether I missed him - but since I don't remember it, probably not? It happens so fast, anyway? But what definitely moved me was not the loss of Gandalf itself, but the last... well... paragraph. I mean the whole part after "Fly, you fools" until the end of chapter. It is so sad - and even now, really, it moved me deeply.

And a last thing the drums - they make sort of a refrain in this chapter, from the beginning to the end, however their meaning slowly changes. First, it is something like a thread, then it is a signal of the enemies coming, then it is only something like a "background theme music" and also a remind that the enemies are not gone yet, and in the end, it is sort of a... statement. Summing up of what happened. It's really well done that the drums are there.

P.S. Balrogs don't have wings. (A conclusion made in isolated way, from this one particular reading.)
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Old 08-23-2018, 03:47 PM   #25
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Sting

Balrogs *don't* have wings--such has always been my take, so I shall put that here just in case the old coal still has enough fire to kindle some reaction.

The Book of Mazarbul, though I think its presentation would appeal to a wide variety of readers, really is the sort of passage that tells you about its author: this is a damaged, historically important manuscript, with loving detail lavished upon it by Tolkien--to the point of making facsimile. Most other authors would not have gone to such detail--and, if they had a Book of Mazarbul at all, I doubt this would be its last appearance: sending it off with Gimli would be a Chekhov's Gun for a later revelation of... something.

A detail I don't remember from my previous readings is Boromir's horn-call, an event with a definite force here. It gives us a trifecta of horn-calls from Boromir: a heroically brash one on the departure from Rivendell, a heroically defiant one here, and a heroically tragic one at Amon Hen.

It also struck me that, wolves or Nazgûl aside, this is the first battle we see Aragorn in, and he's clearly a badass with a mighty sword. Frodo is too, though Tolkien's slyer about that: Frodo's strike against the troll is more effective than Boromir's, and his decision to strike in the first place is fearless: not what you necessarily expect from hobbits, and something to remember much later when considering the later Frodo's pacifism.
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Old 08-23-2018, 09:13 PM   #26
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Speaking of the Book of Mazarbul, I've always wondered what became of it. Given all the misfortunes and trials of the Fellowship, starting with the mad run sans supplies from Tol Brandir, it would be a wonder if it would still be brought to Dain intact. In fact Gimli carried with him two treasures - the book and Galadriel's lock. Of the two, the lock is much easier to carry in its small box; the book seemed to me quite a heavy volume. Did Gimli bring it with him on the chase and in future battles? Was it left with the rest of the supplies, hidden near Tol Brandir? Did it ever reach Dain?
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Old 08-24-2018, 02:30 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
Balrogs *don't* have wings--such has always been my take, so I shall put that here just in case the old coal still has enough fire to kindle some reaction.
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Originally Posted by The Bridge of Khazad-dûm
What it was could not be seen: it was like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater; and a power and terror seemed to be in it and to go before it.

It came to the edge of the fire and the light faded as if a cloud had bent over it. Then with a rush it leaped across the fissure. The flames roared up to greet it, and wreathed about it; and a black smoke swirled in the air. Its streaming mane kindled, and blazed behind it.
The Balrog of LotR is, as described by Aragorn, 'both a shadow and a flame'. It's actually interesting to reflect on the difference between this and the Fall of Gondolin version, which is very obviously a corporeal soldier - here, I don't think it's necessarily true that the Balrog has a single physical 'body' at all. It is Shadow, only vaguely condensed into man-shape; when it passes over the fire, it becomes Flame and Shadow both.

With that in mind, the question of whether it has wings is trivial to answer: yes, it does, Tolkien tells us so directly.

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...the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings.
The wings are of Shadow, just as the mane is of Flame. You wouldn't deny that the Balrog has a mane, even though it's obviously not hair (which would burn away): it is animate fire. Well, the wings are of animate shadow (they must be animate - shadows don't spread out naturally!).

As to whether Balrogs always have wings... well, that's a very different question.

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Speaking of the Book of Mazarbul, I've always wondered what became of it. Given all the misfortunes and trials of the Fellowship, starting with the mad run sans supplies from Tol Brandir, it would be a wonder if it would still be brought to Dain intact. In fact Gimli carried with him two treasures - the book and Galadriel's lock. Of the two, the lock is much easier to carry in its small box; the book seemed to me quite a heavy volume. Did Gimli bring it with him on the chase and in future battles? Was it left with the rest of the supplies, hidden near Tol Brandir? Did it ever reach Dain?
You know, I never really remembered that Gimli took the Book with him. Thanks, both of you, for reminding me! Yet another puzzle to puzzle over...

hS
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Old 08-24-2018, 06:14 AM   #28
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In fact Gimli carried with him two treasures - the book and Galadriel's lock. Of the two, the lock is much easier to carry in its small box; the book seemed to me quite a heavy volume. Did Gimli bring it with him on the chase and in future battles? Was it left with the rest of the supplies, hidden near Tol Brandir? Did it ever reach Dain?
Well, Dain never saw it, nor learned the fate of Balin's expedition: he was slain at Erebor before the War's end. I think the book was preserved for his people, though. Gimli would have done all in his power to see to it.
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Old 08-24-2018, 01:11 PM   #29
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Sting

Ah! There's still some fire in the old dispute, after all! (Though perhaps it's fitting that my challenge comes from a newer member, rather than a survivor of the Balrog Wing Wars of the mid-aughts. ;-) )

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Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
With that in mind, the question of whether it has wings is trivial to answer: yes, it does, Tolkien tells us so directly.
See, you say this and then you immediately quote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Bridge of Khazad-dûm
...the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings.
I, uh, may have added a little non-authorial emphasis...

However, the reason we in the non-wing camp are so vociferous in our opposition rests on that little, but mighty word: "like." If Tolkien meant that the balrog stretched its wings, he would have said so. If he meant that it stretched its wings of shadow, he would have said so. If he meant the shadow of its wings, he would have said so.

Instead, he saids "the shadow" (i.e. the balrog) reached out like two vast wings. "Like" functions to compare things. If Tolkien is saying that "the shadow-wings stretched out like wings," he has come up with the most atrociously unimaginative simile possible.

I do, however, think that Huinesoron actually agrees with me, even if he doesn't know it:

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Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
The wings are of Shadow, just as the mane is of Flame. You wouldn't deny that the Balrog has a mane, even though it's obviously not hair (which would burn away): it is animate fire. Well, the wings are of animate shadow (they must be animate - shadows don't spread out naturally!).

As to whether Balrogs always have wings... well, that's a very different question.
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The Balrog of LotR is, as described by Aragorn, 'both a shadow and a flame'. It's actually interesting to reflect on the difference between this and the Fall of Gondolin version, which is very obviously a corporeal soldier - here, I don't think it's necessarily true that the Balrog has a single physical 'body' at all. It is Shadow, only vaguely condensed into man-shape; when it passes over the fire, it becomes Flame and Shadow both.
I think there's a lot more traction to be gained arguing that balrogs don't possess corporeal forms as we think of them--they may not have the true mutability of form that the Valar do, or Sauron pre-Akallabêth, but they aren't substantive creatures in the same way as Men or Elves. If one focuses on THIS element, I think it is possible to say that the whole wings/no-wings argument misses the point.

But, of course, that means that, not having bodies per se, balrogs are excluded a priori from having wings.
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Old 08-24-2018, 02:06 PM   #30
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But, of course, that means that, not having bodies per se, balrogs are excluded a priori from having wings.
But that just means you're arguing about what the definition of 'wings' is. My argument - and you're absolutely right that I agree that Durin's Bane doesn't appear to have physical wings - is that if it's all made of incorporeal shadow, then the appearance is the thing. They look like wings - therefore, they are wings, because it's all animate Shadow anyway.

The Balrog doesn't have a mane, because a mane is made of hair. What it has is fire pouring from somewhere around its head (lion or horse mane?) and streaming behind it. It looks like a mane - therefore it is a mane.

It looks like wings - therefore it is wings. Without being physical wings.



hS

PS: Of course, the battle on the Endless Stair suggests that there is something corporeal about the Balrog... but if it has a 'mane' of fire, then it has 'wings' of shadow too. ~hS
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Old 08-25-2018, 06:57 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
But that just means you're arguing about what the definition of 'wings' is. My argument - and you're absolutely right that I agree that Durin's Bane doesn't appear to have physical wings - is that if it's all made of incorporeal shadow, then the appearance is the thing. They look like wings - therefore, they are wings, because it's all animate Shadow anyway.
Well, it is certainly possible that we're arguing nothing more than the definition of wings--that sort of philosophical turn would quite appeal to me. Nonetheless, though, I labour on to convey what I am trying to say:

The argument that "it looks like a thing, therefore it is a thing" simply doesn't work. If I say that you look like a doctor, I am also saying implicitly that you are NOT a doctor. Or, you might contend, you *are* a doctor and I am highlighting that you look like a doctor in order to convey that you appropriately appear the part. It does not at all appear to be the case to me that Tolkien is saying that the shadow's wings were like wings here because there was any doubt about it--it is far more probable to me that he is saying that the non-corporeal substance of the balrog loomed in the space and stretched LIKE wings.


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It looks like wings - therefore it is wings. Without being physical wings.
To say that "it is wings" (emphasis on the "is") takes us to the philosophical again, but I must disagree. To look like something is NOT the same as to be that thing. But most importantly, I don't think it can be demonstrated that the wing-like aspect of the balrog's appearance is a perduring element of that appearance. Were it demonstrable the balrog's shadow always looms "like wings," then I might be persuaded that the balrog has wings--but that is not yet demonstrated.
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Old 08-26-2018, 12:44 AM   #32
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I concur that the Durin's Bane passage gives no indication that the Balrog always has wings, but I stand by my interpretation tgat when the Shadow that makes up its substance takes the form of wings, they are indeed wings.

Because yes, Tolkien initially says 'spread out like wings', to describe the change of shape ('spread out as wings' would be very clumsy, don't you think?). But only a few paragraphs later, when the fact that they are of Shadow has been established, he drops the comparative: 'its wings were spread from wall to wall'.

Not 'its like-wings'. Not 'it seemed it had wings that spread'. Just 'its wings'. Like the 'mane' of fire, the 'wings' of shadoe have become a feature of the Balrog - of this Balrog, at this moment.

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Old 08-26-2018, 05:39 PM   #33
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Because yes, Tolkien initially says 'spread out like wings', to describe the change of shape ('spread out as wings' would be very clumsy, don't you think?). But only a few paragraphs later, when the fact that they are of Shadow has been established, he drops the comparative: 'its wings were spread from wall to wall'.

Not 'its like-wings'. Not 'it seemed it had wings that spread'. Just 'its wings'. Like the 'mane' of fire, the 'wings' of shadoe have become a feature of the Balrog - of this Balrog, at this moment.
Or Tolkien--trusting his reader (foolishly, it would seem)--converts the simile to a metaphor.

The endless nature of the Great Balrog Debate is kind of fascinating if I ever step back from it--even elf-ears as a debate doesn't feel like quite the same thing. It something of a sui generis issue: a single-passage interpretative battle without an exact analogue anywhere else in the fandom.

Following its well-worn steps would undoubtedly lead one of us eventually to the non-LotR texts about balrogs (which fail in the slightest to make me think that Tolkien visualised them as having wings)--but as that takes us beyond the scope of a chapter-by-chapter discussion, I shall refrain from going there.
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Old 09-02-2018, 03:26 PM   #34
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I can't say I was surprised by the death in this chapter. Since leaving Rivendell, it's been leading us to death: from all the foreboding words, to the wolves, the watcher, the orcs, the Fellowship has had a lot of brushes with death.

Tolkien had convinced me (unlike Jackson's movies) this journey through Moria was filled with very real and dangerous threats to every member of the Fellowship. Even Gandalf once he says that he's never felt a challenge from someone like the one he faced over the door. I mean this is someone who in the previous chapter chided Boromir for not knowing what he was talking about in comparing Moria and Mordor, and saying he had been through Sauron's dungeons in Dol Guldur, now there was a power in Moria that he's never felt before.

The power of the Ring, while it's not (to my recollection) brought up in this chapter, it's power to draw evil to it. I wondered years ago about the Great orc's charge on Frodo...how the orc ducks Aragorn's blow and is strong enough to actually drive Boromir backwards and get at Frodo. Not only are the orcs here presented as a deadly threat, but I wondered if the Ring caused this berserker-like frenzy in the orc. Because the orc's sole purpose here is directed at Frodo, it shows the agility in dodging Aragorn's strike, the strength to drive Boromir back, and once it reaches Frodo and wounds him, it's like the fury suddenly dissipates. Like "Knife in the Dark," when the Witch-King wounds Frodo and the Ringwraiths withdraw, believing their mission has (or soon will be) accomplished. The sudden fury of strength and agility in this orc leaves:

Quote:
Sam, with a cry, hacked at the spear-shaft, and it broke. But even as the orc flung down the truncheon and swept out his scimitar, Anduril came down upon his helm. There was a flash like flame and the helm burst asunder. The orc fell with cloven head. His followers fled howling, as Boromir and Aragorn sprang at them.
Then a bit later, Frodo's mithril vest saves him again as an orc arrow bounces off, and another arrow pierces Gandalf's hat...you start to wonder how many escapes from death, how much "luck" does the Fellowship have?

While it is a common fantasy trope to kill the old and wise "mentor figure" to the main protagonist, I distinctly remember being surprised it was Gandalf who died here. That feeling, still having The Hobbit Gandalf firmly cemented in my head when first reading The Lord of the Rings. The Gandalf who it is said right at the start of The Hobbit:

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"We are met to discuss our plans, our ways, means, policy and devices. We shall soon before the break of day start on a long journey, a journey from which some of us, or perhaps all of us (except our friend and counselor, the ingenious wizard Gandalf) may never return." - An Unexpected Party
But as mentioned on this re-read and in previous CbC posts, this Gandalf is not the infallible Gandalf from The Hobbit. And in fact his death is needed, but not to serve as the fantasy trope to leave Frodo without the "mentor figure," but it was needed for Aragorn's story. It is Aragorn who has to be the primary "mentor" figure for Frodo. Frodo's pure joy when finding out Aragorn is going with him, even if it's just for a certain amount of time. Aragorn takes Gandalf's place for the hobbits in guiding them from Bree to Rivendell. And as long as Gandalf is in the Fellowship, Aragorn is going to defer to Gandalf's judgment and guidance. He might privately disagree with Gandalf, but he ultimately defers to Gandalf. Aragorn is actually the true mentor and guide in Book I, and he can't be that in Book II, as long as Gandalf is with the Fellowship.
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Old 09-03-2018, 05:37 PM   #35
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But as mentioned on this re-read and in previous CbC posts, this Gandalf is not the infallible Gandalf from The Hobbit. And in fact his death is needed, but not to serve as the fantasy trope to leave Frodo without the "mentor figure," but it was needed for Aragorn's story. It is Aragorn who has to be the primary "mentor" figure for Frodo. Frodo's pure joy when finding out Aragorn is going with him, even if it's just for a certain amount of time. Aragorn takes Gandalf's place for the hobbits in guiding them from Bree to Rivendell. And as long as Gandalf is in the Fellowship, Aragorn is going to defer to Gandalf's judgment and guidance. He might privately disagree with Gandalf, but he ultimately defers to Gandalf. Aragorn is actually the true mentor and guide in Book I, and he can't be that in Book II, as long as Gandalf is with the Fellowship.
I think this is spot-on, but only one-half of the binocular vision. Aragorn isn't just the mentor: he's also a protagonist in his own right. I think you're right that it's not Frodo who loses his mentor figure--it's Aragorn.

After all, Aragorn's role is the story is that of the classic hero-turned-into-a-supporting-character-as-a-subversion-of-expectations. As the classic hero, it is absolutely fitting that he lose his mentor here. The subversion of expectations bit comes back down the road (down the river, actually) when Frodo--the nonconventional hero made the central hero--doesn't lose Aragorn but chooses to leave him. This, ironically enough, sets Aragorn free to actually be the hero rather than the secondary character from then until the plots rejoin.
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