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View Poll Results: Do balrogs have wings?
Yes 114 58.16%
No 82 41.84%
Voters: 196. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 01-06-2005, 06:54 PM   #1
Fordim Hedgethistle
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Do Balrogs Have Wings?

OK, so let’s settle this once and for all. Read the following threads, decide for yourself, and then vote.
The Balrog Theorem

Balrog Sprinters?

Ah, so maybe they did have wings…

Balrogs DO have wings

Do Balrogs have wings? What Color is Legolas's Hair? What is Tom Bombadil? Entwives?

Decisive proof the Balrogs had wings!

balrogs and wings debate

Arien, Balrogs and wings
I do realise that I could simply have added a poll to an existing thread, but which one? I figured instead it would be better to start “afresh.”

And may Eru (and the Wight) have mercy upon me.
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Old 01-06-2005, 07:44 PM   #2
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1420! I've avoided this subject so far, but...

Balrogs! What fun! *recalls a fateful day when Balrog wings did fly through the air...*

Regardless of whether a Balrog's wings are figurative or literal, they have what are called 'wings.' And of course they're not going to use them to fly! They're just to look more imposing! It's like when a lizard puffs up at you to make himself look bigger, or when a cat's fur stands on end. Why bother to flap those wings if they can just hang there behind you and make you look like a badder demon than you already are? Besides, I'd find it very difficult to chop the wings off the Balrog I have in my mind...
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Old 01-06-2005, 07:57 PM   #3
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Downers who are seriously interested in getting to the bottom of the wings question will no doubt find an essential addition to Fordim's not quite exhaustive bibliography in this thread, despite its shattered condition (the result of several wars and violent migrations):

Were Balrogs winged?

Make sure to lay in a supply of strong coffee and powerful aspirin before you begin...

P.S. -- Wight, I admire your tenacity -- still hanging on to the no-wing dream after all these years. It's over, Johnny! It's over!
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Old 01-06-2005, 08:22 PM   #4
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I voted for "Yes" because I still hold to the theory that as Maiar, they can change their form and thus have wings if they wish, but I think that there is too much evidence against their ability to fly. So yes to wings and no to flight. And now I'm done with this evil, evil debate. Edit: Evidently not... O well!
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Old 01-06-2005, 09:02 PM   #5
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Just so you pro-wingers aren't confused, I'm pretty sure Fordim was talking about the books, so you might want to reconsider
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Old 01-06-2005, 11:20 PM   #6
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Pipe The question seems wrong.

Does it mean working wings? Because a child could wear cardboard shaped like angel-wings, and they still are wings.

For me, Balrogs can have wings, but they're vestigial.
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Old 01-06-2005, 11:53 PM   #7
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Does it matter?

Quite frankly, that is my greatest question concerning the Balrog wings debate.

Thinking more seriously on it, I have to say that I like the idea of winged Balrogs that are unable to fly. Kind of like....

The DODO.

I think Balrogs with wings look infinitely cooler, but I have to ask why Morgoth would give them wings if they can't fly. On the other hand, what if they CAN fly? How long do you seriously think they would have tolerated Thorondor and his eagles nesting on Thangorodrim? From what I know of Morgoth (and the Balrogs), I think that not-very-long is a reasonable assumption.

So, my opinion is that Balrogs cannot fly. Hence, wings would be redundant. If wings are redundant, why would Balrogs have them? If there is no reason for Balrogs to have them, it follows that they would most likely not have.

Okay, so that's my opinion on the subject: Balrogs did not have wings.

Do I think it matters: no!

Is there a way to conclusively prove it one way or another? Not unless Tolkien left a secret manuscript relating to Balrogs and their physical appearance, which is both improbably and laughable. Call me a cynic, if you like, but I don't think this debate will ever be settled, even by a vote. (Unless, of course, the majority of people around here are movie-fans, in which case they would likely overbalance the scales, and cover all the lands in a second darkness.... Oh wait, I'm getting carried away...)
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Old 01-07-2005, 07:22 AM   #8
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Thanks for that other thread Underhill. It was, um, interesting. . .

(Can someone please pass me another aspirin?)

Thanks, as well, to the [B]Wight /B] for not closing this thread the instant it opened. He was even the first to vote!

It's interesting to see who is voting which way, as well. So far, some of the really 'heavy hitters' have gone with the "no" side. I am delighted to see, however, that SaucepanMan has agreed with me on the "yes" side. Now if we can convince davem to weigh in on the topic, and if he votes "yes" as well, then we will have finally found something upon which SpM, davem and I all agree. Should such a thing occur, I wonder if the Downs would implode or something? If it does happen, I may have to delete the thread instantly for fear that Bethberry might also vote yes, in which case I am sure the repurcussions would be much further reaching than the Downs.

But to address your excellent question Formendacil: I really don't know. Before I came to the Downs, I did not even realise that there was a debate about the wings. I was blithely and rather naively sure that they did have wings and was stunned to see such heated opinions on the matter. At first I thought the whole fight was a bit silly, but as I followed its contours I realised that the discussion has a lot to offer: I learned all kinds of very interesting things about the First Age, about the battles in which Balrogs featured, about the nature of Balrogs as created/evil beings. . .in short, while the answer to the question might be unattainable, the process of discussing it is wonderfully interesting and productive.
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Old 01-07-2005, 08:23 AM   #9
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Silmaril

Quote:
but I have to ask why Morgoth would give them wings if they can't fly.
Actually Morgoth could not have given Balrogs wings because, as Maiar, they chose their own shapes. The question then becomes, why would they give themselves worthless wings when they could have, just as easily, had wings that worked?
Quote:
I still hold to the theory that as Maiar, they can change their form and thus have wings if they wish
Actually the Balrogs had become incarnate in their forms and could no longer change them (if they could still change their forms then the two who met their end by falling of of cliffs would have done so to escape their fate).

That's it for me until I have a chance to look through the links provided.
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Old 01-07-2005, 10:52 AM   #10
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I've read past Balrog wing discussions with aloof amusement and never really taken a stand on the issue. It's always seemed to be the Middle-earth equivalent to the theological debate on how many angels could dance on a pinhead. (Yes, that was a matter of serious discussion; I remember hearing about that in church history, though I no longer remember the details.) However, considering the textual sources and the fact that not all appendices given to creatures in nature are functional, I will go out on a "limb" (pun intentional) and say that I too am of the opinion that Balrogs did have wings, though they were not able to fly.
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Old 01-07-2005, 10:57 AM   #11
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ha HA ha ha haaaaaaa. . .

I knew that if I tried long enough and hard enough I could drag you Esty into the dark abyss from which none have ever escaped.

Now, dare you face the chilling terror of the orc-reproduction debate? Or, scarier still (if such a thing is possible) the ears of Elves?
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Old 01-07-2005, 11:09 AM   #12
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I already voted there, Fordim, but you can't tell what!
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Old 01-07-2005, 11:35 AM   #13
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Quote:
Actually Morgoth could not have given Balrogs wings because, as Maiar, they chose their own shapes. The question then becomes, why would they give themselves worthless wings when they could have, just as easily, had wings that worked?
There's no reason to believe that Morgoth couldn't have given them their forms. That Maiar created forms for themselves was not an axan, just generally the way it happened. If Balrogs were anything like the John Howe conception, I think it is pretty unlikely that they made themselves look so horrible. After all, they weren't created evil, and originally loved the light. Also, if there was one specific Balrog shape, I think it is more likely that Morgoth fashioned the bodies for them.

The books speak of dark "gifts" that Melkor gave to those who followed him, and I believe that they were gifts of those things that were meant for Incarnates, such as food and sex. It jives with the biblical account of the origin of demons--there are quite a few biblical models for Tolkien's writing. Obviously, this rebellion doesn't immediately make them into huge ghastly beasts. If they chose their own forms in which to partake of these gifts, I do not doubt that they would have been impressive and even beautiful. It is only in time, having nurtured evil thoughts and perpetrated evil deeds, and when their forms began to become more than mere raiment, that Maiar lost their ability to appear fair. I don't think this loss would have resulted in the giant, horned, winged monsters that Howe depicts, as glorious as Howe's paintings are. Instead I always imagined Balrogs as tall, impressively built humanoids with an aura of darkness that reflected the corruption of their powerful fea inside. The bit in FotR when Gandalf is on one side of the door and the Balrog is on the other is giving me chills right now as I remember it.

Anyway, I think that it suited Melkor's purposes to have his servants incarnate, and he intentionally made them so. Whether this included creating their forms for them or not, one can't say for sure. But it was possible.

I also think it's silly to think they would've given themselves functionless wings, Esty. :P
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Old 01-07-2005, 12:52 PM   #14
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Spirit of Fire
Many forms of fire

Fire needs fuel
There is fuel below me but not above

Shadowy wings
Shadows can be used for many purposes
Aerodynamic laws not being on of these

Balrogs had shadowy wings but they were not used for flight

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Old 01-07-2005, 01:48 PM   #15
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I also think it's silly to think they would've given themselves functionless wings, Esty. :P
I did not claim that they chose that form themselves, oblo. Perhaps Morgoth, as their lord and master, wanted to keep them frustrated by giving them wings and the wish to fly, but not the capability!
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Old 01-07-2005, 02:02 PM   #16
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Tushie!!!
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Old 01-07-2005, 03:29 PM   #17
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Quote:
I also think it's silly to think they would've given themselves functionless wings
True, but the teeth seen here have no functional prupose either. It's intimidation. If you were an angry form-changing demon, you'd give yourself wings just to look frightening too.
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Old 01-07-2005, 04:01 PM   #18
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Allow me to be the first to point out that the machine upon which those teeth have been painted has wings that actually work, and that it can fly. . .

Hmmmm. . .I wonder. . .do balrogs have teeth?
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Old 01-07-2005, 04:01 PM   #19
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I think in general people make demons out to be much more beastly than they are. The extent of a fallen angel's carnality is stooping to the level of Man. We're not talking about a wild animal who'll bark and growl and roar and drool. Tolkien was very severe with Bakshi's version of the Bridge because Tolkien's intention was for the Balrog to maintain a dignified and sinister silence. There's no need for eye spots, or horns, or spikes, or scary wings. Durin's Bane was intimidating enough to even Gandalf when he had not even seen him yet.

Think about what we're talking about, folks. These are ancient, mighty fallen spirits, not guard dogs.
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Old 01-07-2005, 05:34 PM   #20
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Well, since I can't exactly decide (and on some days don't care) I'm going to have to log on as an even number of alt-egos and vote myself into neutrality.

Or I guess I can just sit back and watch.

Either way, I'm enjoying the details of the discussion. "Ancient mighty spirits"-- nicely put, obloquy; quite a ring to it.

And about the "if he had wings why not fly back out of the chasm"-- maybe he had enough wind knocked out of him, or was just dizzy enough that he couldn't recover. These assumed bodies are pesky things, and I suspect they have a way of operating unexpectedly under duress.
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Old 01-07-2005, 05:43 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by obloquy
Think about what we're talking about, folks. These are ancient, mighty fallen spirits, not guard dogs.
Okay, sorry to take this out on a not-so-necessary tangent, but guard dogs got me thinking.

What's the most fearsome guard dog in middle-earth? Carcharoth. Not exactly a Balrog, but not TOO far behind, and if we remember that he is a whelp of Draugluin, it would perhaps not be too improbable to say that he was at least part-Maia (aka supernatural) ancestry, above and beyond the power infused into him by Morgoth or by eating the Silmaril.

Which isn't to say that the Balrogs had guard dog status, by any means, but if you think about the way they do Morgoth's bidding unquestioningly, they certainly don't seem to be portrayed as particularly independent fellows.

Not that they aren't fearsome, and it really doesn't have much to say about their actual shape, but perhaps its worth noting that for all their terror, the Balrogs did the bidding, unquestioningly, of their master. Since they are said to be of the same general shape, it would seem wise therefore to assume that their looks were derived from a "Master" plan, to which they became bound thereafter (being of considerably lesser power than either Sauron or Morgoth, they would seem to have a much more limited potential for changing their shapes. And the more permanently attached to that shape, the less easy it would seem to be to change it. And the Balrogs would seem to have been pretty attached, in the end, to those shapes).
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Old 01-07-2005, 06:09 PM   #22
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Thumbs up

How many times have we been through this? YES, balrogs had wings, but they were not used in flight. Perhaps some could fly, but I would say most couldn`t. That`s all I have to say.

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Old 01-07-2005, 06:30 PM   #23
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Good post, Formendacil.

It is true that Maiar could take the form of anything, not just humanoids, and frankly, I forgot about Huan when I posted above. He was originally conceived of by Tolkien as an incarnate Maia. If this is the case, he's an unusual example and I can't really explain it. It seems that Tolkien changed his mind about Huan's nature, however, in a note from Myths Transformed:
Quote:
The same sort of thing may be said of Húan and the Eagles: they were taught language by the Valar, and raised to a higher level - but they still had no fëar.
I know my accepting stance on that note contradicts previous posts of mine, but I now see a reason for Tolkien to come to the conclusion he did.
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Old 01-07-2005, 07:20 PM   #24
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At last. . .the matter is settled

Just thought I would pass along to you all that I raised this issue with Mrs. Hedgethistle and she said, "Of course they have wings, you can see them right there in the movie!"

So that, as they say, is that.

*Fordim makes mental note to ask Mrs. Hedgethistle about Elves' ears*
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Old 01-07-2005, 07:49 PM   #25
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Again, I'll shamelessly hijack the thread: Elf ears, Man ears, and Hobbit ears are all "slightly pointed". It's canonical. Hobbit ears are directly said to be such by comparison to Elf ears, and it is well established in Tolkien's writings that Man and Elf were physiologically identical, to the point that they could only be distinguished from one another by the relative intensity of their eyes.
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Old 01-07-2005, 08:23 PM   #26
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This is a total whim, and I've never weighed in before on the Balrog and wing question. I regret being sadly out of date and not having the time to read a WHOLE lot of threads on the subject, but the simple thought occurred to me that a being who chooses a weapon of fiery whips would probably not do so if said being had wings. Wouldn't the whips recoil and constantly tear the wings? Thus, out of reverse logic, I choose No. Ask me again tomorrow and I'll forget I even said anything about it!

Cheers,
Lyta
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Old 01-08-2005, 12:41 AM   #27
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I vote yes!

Like many others, I've never weighed in on the Balrog-wing controversy. I guess I just wanted to see them the way I see them, and not be argued with. (yes I know I ended that with a preposition--I was never a fan of Alexander Pope, or his Latin!).

I think they had wings but never flew. I'm also not saying they couldn't fly, just that they didn't. If it matters, I think that they couldn't fly, and the wings were reverse-vestigial. (In other words, I don't think they could fly, they just hoped to one day.)

Of course, that doesn't explain why the Moria Balrog would have gone all the way from Beleriand to the Misty Mountains on foot when he could have just have easily found refuge closer.

For what it's worth Fordim, I think you have an upcoming ultertior motive for these polls that you have yet to reveal. So, what's up?
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Old 01-08-2005, 04:23 AM   #28
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It's intimidation.
What a brilliant and simple explanation! There are plenty of examples of animals who have some kind of physical techniques of increasing their size for that very purpose, so that seems very logical to me. And, since Morgoth was able to corrupt, but not create, maybe he never got the hang of making wings that were actually able to carry the Balrogs!
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Old 01-08-2005, 01:21 PM   #29
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Silmaril

I agree with Lindolirian's intimidation theory. The form of Balrogs' wings, as I invisioned them, were shadowy, but with form. Not possessing form enough to actually fly, but enough to frighten its...victim(s).

As many members and a few non-members repeated numerous times, somewhere in the FotR, Tolkien mentions shadows emerging from the Balrog like wings.

Please, whatever anyone wishes to think is great; I'm a believer in forming one's own visuals of characters, but I intend to stick fast to my imagination.
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Old 01-08-2005, 01:45 PM   #30
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You all seem to forget that Tolkien had an opinion about this.

From HoME XXVIII, part 3, subsection 2, draft C, entitled "questions I should've answered"-
Quote:
I think that Balrogs could've had wings if they chose but didn't have wings so they couldn't fly but if they did they still couldn't fly unless they wanted to fly in which case they could but only if they had had wings but they didn't have wings since they couldn't fly.
I think that answers the question.

I'm not sure what the question is, though.
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Old 01-08-2005, 02:06 PM   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordim
So far, some of the really 'heavy hitters' have gone with the "no" side. I am delighted to see, however, that SaucepanMan has agreed with me on the "yes" side. Now if we can convince davem to weigh in on the topic, and if he votes "yes" as well, then we will have finally found something upon which [B]SpM, davem and I all agree.
Sorry, but I can't join my esteemed colleagues. I don't recall any mention of Balrog's wings in The Sil, of Balrog's flying (other than 'metaphorically' to Morgoth's aid). I do think they may have had pointy ears, though.

(If someone has already done that joke I'm sorry.....)
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Old 01-08-2005, 02:33 PM   #32
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I think that Balrogs may or may not have had wings. They were still Ainur after all, and could change thier forms at will. In the Fellowship of the Ring, we are told that the shadow about the Balrog was LIKE wings. Later the wings are refered to as if they actually exist. This has been debated constantly among Pro wingers and Anti wingers. Keep in mind though, we are never told the nature of the Ainur's shape shifting. It may be that the Balrog of Moria didn't have wings at first, but on the Bridge of Khazad-Dum, it may have formed the shadow about it into wing like shapes, and later the shadow solidified into actual wings. So the Balrog basically adds wings to it's form. My theory is based on my belief that the Balrogs retained their ability to change shape, though. If someone can prove that they lost this ability, my point is voided.

As for whether or not they fly, I have no clue. Tolkien makes a point to say that Morgoth never learned the secret of flight, but remember in the story of Beren and Luthien, Sauron took a winged form and flew away. Not to mention Morgoth also managed to breed winged dragons too. However, being that Balrogs are Maiar, if they could fly, they certainly wouldn't need wings to do it. God I have no life.
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Old 01-08-2005, 04:26 PM   #33
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I have yet to see a convincing argument against Underhill's thesis. It seems logical that if members of the Fellowship, who have just seen a Balrog up close and personal, mistake a flying creature for a Balrog, Balrogs must a) have wings and b) be capable of flight.
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Old 01-08-2005, 06:02 PM   #34
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But doesn't this remind you of a badly drawn elephant?
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Old 01-08-2005, 06:39 PM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the phantom
You all seem to forget that Tolkien had an opinion about this.

From HoME XXVIII, part 3, subsection 2, draft C, entitled "questions I should've answered"-
Quote:
I think that Balrogs could've had wings if they chose but didn't have wings so they couldn't fly but if they did they still couldn't fly unless they wanted to fly in which case they could but only if they had had wings but they didn't have wings since they couldn't fly.
So then it's settled. They didn't.
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Old 01-08-2005, 09:54 PM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle
Before I came to the Downs, I did not even realise that there was a debate about the wings. I was blithely and rather naively sure that they did have wings and was stunned to see such heated opinions on the matter.
This sums up entirely my own reaction to the issue. I recall that one of the things that I found most fascinating when I first came to the site (the main site that is - the discussion forum came later) was the fact that there were serious, intelligent and detailed articles concerning such matters. Not just whether Balrogs had wings, but also a couple of wonderful articles (by the esteemed Messrs Wight and Underhill) on the question of whether Olog-Hai were immune to the petrifying effects of sunlight. It had never really occurred to me to ponder such questions before.

By the time I came to the discussion forum, the issue had already been comprehensively argued with persuasive arguments both ways. So, although I am familiar with the arguments, I have never felt it necessary to weigh in with my opinions on the matter.

If I had to give a logical answer, I would say that Balrogs could not have had wings. It simply does not square with them being unable to fly when pitching down the various chasms that members of their order have fallen down. And I cannot see the point of them having flightless wings, especially in a world which does not presuppose evolution. And there are a variety of other ways in which they could have made their chosen forms intimidating.

But, as with many such questions, my ultimate reaction is not a logical one. Unless the issue is definitively proved one way or the other (and this one most certainly is not), I go with the conception that I formed when I first read the book. And, although it may well be a result of misinterpreting the "wings like shadows" reference, the Balrog of Moria most definately had wings when I first read the book. So, there we have it. Balrogs have wings.
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Old 01-08-2005, 10:42 PM   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Son of Númenor
I have yet to see a convincing argument against Underhill's thesis. It seems logical that if members of the Fellowship, who have just seen a Balrog up close and personal, mistake a flying creature for a Balrog, Balrogs must a) have wings and b) be capable of flight.

Whoa!!

Mister Underhill rules. I'm off to cast my vote. Good thing I waited.
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Old 01-09-2005, 01:13 AM   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Son of Númenor
It seems logical that if members of the Fellowship, who have just seen a Balrog up close and personal, mistake a flying creature for a Balrog, Balrogs must a) have wings and b) be capable of flight.
Not necessarily. To the Fellowship (with, perhaps, the exception of Legolas), the Fell Beast that the Nazgul was riding appeared to just be a dark shadow from afar.

Quote:
'Elbereth Gilthoniel!' sighed Legolas as he looked up. Even as he did so, a dark shape, like a cloud and yet not a cloud, for it moved far more swiftly, came out of the blackness in the South, and sped towards the Company, blotting out all light as it approached. Soon it appeared as a great winged creature, blacker than the pits in the night.
The Balrog was described as a creature of fire and shadow. Here, the only indication is that the creature in this excerpt is one of shadow (meaning it's very dark).

If, as you suggest, Son of Numenor, that Balrogs have wings and are capable of flight, then surely Gothmog and the Balrogs that Gandalf and Glorfindel fought would have flown to safety instead of plunging into deep water in one case, and falling to their ruin in the other two?

There are several arguments avalaible on this contentious issue, which I won't reiterate, but I'm certainly an ardent anti-winger .
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Old 01-09-2005, 01:56 AM   #39
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Well I still haven't had time to look through all of the links provided but I feel the need to add a couple of comments.
Quote:
It seems logical that if members of the Fellowship, who have just seen a Balrog up close and personal, mistake a flying creature for a Balrog, Balrogs must a) have wings and b) be capable of flight.
Wait a minute, it's not as simple as that. Gimli didn't mistake it for a Balrog, he said that it reminded him of the shadow of the Balrog.
Quote:
I think that Balrogs could've had wings if they chose but didn't have wings so they couldn't fly but if they did they still couldn't fly unless they wanted to fly in which case they could but only if they had had wings but they didn't have wings since they couldn't fly.
An interesting quote! This is even more confusing than Bilbo's farewell speech (intentionaly I am sure), but it does seem to say that they didn't have wings. The fact that he says that they could have had wings if they wanted does prove that they weren't given bodies by Morgoth though.
Quote:
My theory is based on my belief that the Balrogs retained their ability to change shape, though. If someone can prove that they lost this ability, my point is voided.
Well there is quite a bit of evidence that they had lost this ability. For one, they had been in that form for a very long time. Also, as I said before if they still had this ability they could not have died by falling off of a cliff. For more information on the subject try here
Edit: Oops, the last post was finished as I was making mine which is why I say some of the same things.
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Last edited by Neithan; 01-09-2005 at 02:03 AM.
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Old 01-09-2005, 04:30 AM   #40
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Silmaril Faulty thinking perhaps, but...

First and foremost...
Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Sorry, but I can't join my esteemed colleagues. I don't recall any mention of Balrog's wings in The Sil, of Balrog's flying (other than 'metaphorically' to Morgoth's aid). I do think they may have had pointy ears, though.
davem said a joke. DAVEM POSTED A JOKE! In the BOOKS!!!

Okay, I'll stop now. Back to the topic...

First Age says Balrogs flew. They might have had wings. Third Age recounts no Balrog flight. They might not have had wings.

The only idea I can glean from these (loose) observations is this:

Balrogs did fly, with wings. Somehow Morgoth's defeat removed the ability and made the wings merely vestigial. Didn't Morgoth give them this gift for their service to him? But since he was thrust into the Void, the gifts became void (bad pun, yes).
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