"The Balrog reached the bridge. Gandalf stood in the middle of the span, leaning on the staff in his left hand, but in his other hand Glamdring gleamed, cold and white. His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings. But Gandalf stood firm."
-The Fellowship of the Ring, The Bridge of Khazad-Dum
John Howe and Weta Workshop really set the standard on how Balrogs are depicted. While Tolkien never gave a clear and explicit description of these strange creatures, one would be hard-pressed to find a rendering of a Balrog that doesn't resemble the Peter Jackson version. However, as impressive as the monster appears in the films, I imagined something different when paging through the text. The Professor states that it is man-like in shape, so I avoided the cloven hooves and tail found in the cinematic version. The theatrical portrayal makes it enormous, standing easily over twenty feet high, yet J.R.R. mentions in the Silmarillion that Balrogs are only twice as tall as the elves. I chose to make it more menacing and mysterious as opposed to big and noisy. This demon of the ancient world is less beast-like and more human since the Balrogs are not really animals, as one might assume from the movies, but corrupted Maiar. It is entirely possible that Gandalf, being one of the Maiar himself, personally knew this monster before it was deceived by Morgoth, making the confrontation in Khazad-Dum that much more bitter and compelling. The flame burning through the Balrog's chest is purely artistic license on my part, but I thought it fitting to show the flame of Udun fully consuming the heart of this being and revealing some of it's skeletal structure.
I didnt like the movie's portrayal of the balrog. In the book it was left up to be conjured by the imagination, shrouded almost completely in shadow, of what the demonic quality was, it is still uncertain whether balrogs had wings for instance. I think your portrayal here is a very great rendering of this scene, more true to the book than most Tolkien art imo. The minimalist approach here I find a great way to show the stark evil of the balrog, just that hint of an outline of wings and no facial or body detail. Just like the book!
Many thanks, sir! It wasn't the first design that sprung to mind, admittedly, but once I reviewed the text I found that Tolkien was going for something a bit more subtle than what was presented in the films. I did struggle a little on whether or not to include wings, but decided to include them until I come up with something better. I appreciate your feedback.
YOU CANNOT PASS! *GANDALF* I am a servant of the secret fire...wielder of the flame of Anor...the dark fire will NOT avail you, FLAME OF UDUN!...Go back to the shadow...Y O U. S H A L L N O T P A S S !
Great, very interesting depiction of the balrog. And I fully agree with your thoughts. Though I myself was heavily influenced by the movie version when I painted some balrogs some years ago, currently I certainly prefer a less beast-like and more man-like appearance (putting aside the issue of wings where I really cannot make up my mind).
Very cool! Thank you. I look forward to seeing your final product, and yeah, the wings are a bit tricky. Tolkien plays up the mystery factor so much it's hard to tell what's there and what isn't. He kinda says that maybe it had wings and maybe it didn't. But if it did they would be really big and reach the walls on either side! Either way, it's still a balrog whether it had wings or not.
Yeah, I heard convincing arguments on both sides of the "Balrogs wings" debate. It certainly could at least appear to have something like wings (though it is unclear how much it looked like real wings and how much just like some kind of shadowy curtain), but having real physical wings that are so big that they can reach from wall to wall of a huge cavern doesn't make much sense. Anyway, I your depiction you really left it to our imagination, which is great!
This is a splendid rendition of the Balrog as the horror lurking in the heart of Moria, the deepest shadow of the Black Pit; my favourite detail is STILL that goblin arrow spiked clean through Gandalf's hat but there's a great deal here to love!