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Old 08-25-2007, 11:32 AM   #1
Hookbill the Goomba
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Silmaril Do Balrogs have... Horns?

While trying to convince my brother to draw a picture of a balrog, I looked up some previous artwork in which they are seen. I also read him the descriptions as found in The Fellowship of the Ring and HoME VII. When we looked at this I pointed out, in my attempts to convince him of the none wingedness;
"See, no mention of wings in HoME." To which he replied,
"No mention of horns either, but they always seem to have those..."

This got me thinking. There always seems to be certain traits that the Balrogs have; Horns, tail and claws but none of these are ever mentioned in the books. This, of course, is not confined to Balrogs, but I'm sure other characters and creatures have inadvertently gained characteristics for no reason. We all remember the 'Do Elves have pointed ears' debate.

So my question is this...

Why is it, do you think, that so many things seem to gain things in our imaginations? I never really thought about a Balrog lacking in horns until now and it seems to make sense. Is the artwork always so influential? Is it the fact that the Balrog is thought of as 'Daemonic' that the horns and all that come about? Why does the Balrog's 'hair' or 'mane' always get less attention, even though it is one of the things Tolkien actually mentions. Do we always take liberties in our mental pictures of characters and creatures?

In opposition to this, I must present Morgoth. There is a lot of artwork about him with vastly differing ideas. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that he is never (or, at least, doesnt get much) described physically. there are pictures of him with a pig-like head, with a Movie Sauron look, with monkey face and (as Ted Narusmith portrayed him) with grey arms and black finger nails.

What think you people?
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Old 08-25-2007, 12:28 PM   #2
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You bring up a very good point, not just the horn thing, but how when we imagine something from Tolkien. That something, whatever it might be, tends to come unto the canvas/paper,etc with a bunch of things we didn't find in the books.

Quote:
Do we always take liberties in our mental pictures of characters and creatures?
Possibly, sometimes we'd rather not admit to it, and believe that we really could keep our ideas when it comes to visualization, neat and separate, but in the line of art endeavors it is quite hard. I guess it might have to do with association. A Balrog can be just like the Balrog we read about, but maybe one attribute of it we might associate with many other creatures, like imps, pucks, etc. All which seem to have the popular association of horns, though we know very well the Balrog in Moria didn't have that specific detail underlined.

I don't really see it as intended. Really, there are such things as erasers and gesso which can 'clean up' the point and purpose of the picture. Sometimes in the creative process your mind will add in things that help illustrate a certain emotional or other point. So, I guess it is just more of an association issue and how we connect different physical and emotional traits to words like 'evil', 'dark', 'bane', and so on and so forth.

Personally, a Balrog wearing a black fedora instead of horns could give the same message of, 'watch out, bad luck' or 'death'.

Just my little rant on the matter. Your brother did bring up a good point.

I guess as for other characters, the more ambiguious they are the more freedom of interpretation, where the few things that are known are more key to the design, but still allows a wider range.

~ Ka
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Last edited by THE Ka : 08-25-2007 at 12:32 PM.
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Old 08-25-2007, 12:29 PM   #3
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Old 08-25-2007, 01:37 PM   #4
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Do Ents have leaves?
No, but they do have Huorns...
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Old 08-26-2007, 02:49 AM   #5
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Do Balrogs have feet ?
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Old 08-26-2007, 06:58 PM   #6
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Do Ents have leaves?
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[Mithalwen] No, but they do have Huorns...
That looked planned.

Didn't Tolkien say it was manlike, or man shaped? In that case, no horns, no wings, no cloven hooves, etc. It does seem as if people add demonlike features to pictures of balrogs.
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Old 08-26-2007, 07:43 PM   #7
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Quote:
Why is it, do you think, that so many things seem to gain things in our imaginations?
Because we've all seen either John Howe's drawings, or at least part of Bakshi's animated movie. Tolkien's words alone do not conjure images of horns, unless demons are already associated with gargoyles or bat-men in your mind. Biblical demons are not hideous monsters, they are angels who made bad decisions; similarly, embodied Umaiar do not conform to some medieval demonic archetype.

They are probably physically daunting, but man-shaped, and assuming they are truly incarnate, they are also probably afflicted with the same inability to conceal their inner evil that came with incarnation for Sauron and Melkor.

Last edited by obloquy : 08-26-2007 at 08:52 PM. Reason: I meant Howe, not Nasmith
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Old 08-26-2007, 07:56 PM   #8
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Do Balrogs have feet ?
Of course! They need them to put their big, fluffy slippers on!
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Old 08-26-2007, 09:24 PM   #9
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Did they hatch from eggs?

Almost everything that flies, save bats and witches, hatches from an egg. If these creatures truly have wings, even if the wings are vestigial, wouldn't that open them up to eggs, nests and other avian traits?

Horns are used to fight, increase perceived height and are considered demonic (because of the goat Azazel?) at least in the culture I am most familiar. We regularly examine my youngest's head for the tell-tale bumps.

See attached an artist's conception of a hornless Balrog cub.
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File Type: jpg hornless_balrog.jpg (97.6 KB, 186 views)
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Old 08-26-2007, 10:00 PM   #10
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Tolkien

Quote:
Originally Posted by FeRaL sHaDoW View Post
Do Balrogs have feet ?
I bet, but they probably don't get much use out of them- having wings and all.
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Old 08-28-2007, 04:35 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Finduilas View Post
That looked planned.

.
Not by me ...I assure you.. I can be relied on to state the obvious without any forethought ...
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