Balrog Day Extravaganza!

by DoctorGamgee

(Balrog Day EXTRAVAGANZA! The history of Balrogs in English Literature, (forward by Dr.Gamgee)

 When speaking of Balrogs, as one does at luncheon parties or any other gatherings by the elite, one often hears of Balrogs in the context of JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. While it can be said of Tollers, that he brought them to the height of acclaim with his use of them in the mines of Moria, one would not be completely correct in the etymology of Balrog to claim that he invented them. They have a long history in English Literature, which we will examine today.

As one knows, JRR was well versed in Literature, and had a fondness for creating languages. The term Balrog goes back to 15th century England, where the Baron von La Rogfeuer brought his armies over from Lichtenstien on Christmas Eve, hoping to catch the Brits off guard. A guard caught sight of their landing, and the subsequent torching of the village, and one Thomas Dill. The poor guard ran, in full armour, 5 leagues to the king's guard house, and pantingly shouted,

"BA-ron La-ROG-feuer. BA-ron La-ROG-feuer, Flames. BA-ron La-ROG FLAMES." Whereupon, he collapsed.

The call went up. Balrog Flames, and a battle ensued. As it was Christmas eve, there was no scarsity of Yule Logs, and the villagers brought forth with these flaming brands, and routed the lot of them. Their ship sank in the harbour, and the resultant use of the terms "Balrog & Flames" were inseparably linked. It also explains how Tollers used this brave knight as a hero as a major character in his books.

There are earlier uses of Balrog in Literature. The following are just a few of the more notable uses in English Literature:

From the cutting-room-floor of William Shakespeare:

Durino and Balrogette Act II, Scene ii

O, Durino, Durino.
Where for art thou, Durino?
(She blows out a cloud of flames to illuminate the night, only to find that she has just shish-ka-bobbed her dwarf in the tree in which he was hiding)

Shall I compare thee to a Balrog’s fire?

From the floor of William Blake:

Balrog! Balrog! burning bright
In the Dwarrowdelf’s dim night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In the depths, where mithril tries
To mirror fire of thine eyes,
On his wings dare he aspire,
To seize the hand of Gandalf’s fire?

When the dwarves, with thier stone art,
Sought the mountain’s silver heart,
Then began thy wings to sweep,
Wakened from thy slumber deep.

What the hammer? what the chain?
Sheets of fire fell like rain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare the Balrog’s terrors clasp?

Then the dwarves threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Balrog! Balrog! burning bright
In the Dwarrowdelf’s dim night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

And my personal favorite:

The Balrogwocky

‘Twas Moria and slithy orcs,
Did gyre and gimble, with fell bark:
All searching through the tunneled forks,
Within the chasm’s dark.

“Beware the Balrog” Gandalf spoke.
“The jaws that bite, the fire that burns!
Beware the wings (which seem a joke!)
And ‘ware the whip that turns!”

He took his vorpal staff in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
On Kazad-dum, the narrow band
Of stone, he stood and thought.

And, as in Wizard’s thought he stood,
The Balrog, with its eye s of flame,
Came whiffling with its wingéd hood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal staff went snicker-snack!
He broke the bridge, which hurt a smidge:
The Balrog fell in black.

But had he slain the evil thing?
The fellowship in joy did bound!
‘Til flaming whips, Balrog did fling:
In darkness, Gandalf drowned.

‘Twas Moria the rest did flee,
With gyred and gimbled voice behind.
They sought the Elves of Mallorn-tree
To ease the grieving mind.

I hope this has helped clear up any misunderstandings about the origins of Balrog in the English Language. These lectures are available at the "Windbag Lecture Series." Please include a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope for return mail. This offer void, where prohibited by law.


Dr. Gamgee

A response:
Fine job, Doc--though I'm surprised you did not include the song by G& S.. that begins
"When inflamatory duty's to be done, to be done, an ole Balrog's lot is not a happy one...."  -
May Gamgee