‘The Rings of Power’ Episode 5 Just Presented a New Balrog Origin Story
The Balrog appears to have been born again in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
This entity is one of the most memorable monsters from The Lord of the Rings, a gargantuan fire-demon who loomed over the wizard Gandalf as he defiantly bellowed: “You shall not PASS!” It’s the reason the mines of Moria were abandoned, becoming merely a black pit beneath the Misty Mountains. When the dwarves who built the intricate subterranean metropolis of Khazad-dûm mined “too greedily and too deep,” as J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, they unleashed this colossal terror. Then they fled from it.
The latest episode of The Rings of Power, set long before those events, just introduced a new “creation myth” for the Balrog—as well as an otherworldly explanation for the luminous mithril element that drives the dwarves into their mining frenzy.
“Are you familiar with The Song of the Roots of Hithaeglir,” the elven High King Gil-Galad asks Elrond. Hithaeglir is the elvish word for the Misty Mountains. The younger elf replies that this story is “an obscure legend, regarded by most to be apocryphal.”
This is a clever out for showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, since this particular tale seems to be wholly invented and doesn’t appear in any of Tolkien’s notes or texts. Referring to it as possibly made-up gives the series cover with Lord of the Rings purists who might object to any deviation from the professor’s own histories of Middle-earth.
Elrond goes on to recount the story: “It speaks of a battle high among the peaks of the Misty Mountains—not over honor or duty, but over a tree within which some claim was hidden the last of the lost Silmarils.”
The Silmarils, for those who need a refresher, were three otherworldly gems, forged from the light of the mystical two trees that predated the creation of Middle-earth and ultimately became the sun and the moon. (This was all referenced in the first episode of the series.)
In Tolkien’s histories, one Silmaril became a star in the night sky, another was plunged into lava to become one with the land, and the other was cast into the ocean—consigning them to the three elements of wind, earth, and water.
The Rings of Power presents an alternate mythology—not necessarily, as Elrond notes, an official one, but intriguing in its own way. This story involves one of the Silmarils (presumably the one that becomes part of the earth) being hidden in this mountaintop tree that becomes the site of a fierce battle.
“On one side fought an elven warrior with a heart as pure as Manwë,” Elrond says. (Manwë is the king of the Valar, basically God—or Zeus.) “He poured all his light into the tree to protect it. On the other side a Balrog of Morgoth channeled all his hatred into the tree to destroy it. Amidst their duel unending, lightning ensared the tree, forging of their conflict a power …”
“A power as pure in light as good; as strong and unyielding as evil,” Gil-Galad concludes.
Onscreen, we then see the threads of lightning seeping into the rock and penetrating down through the mountain, leaving behind veins of mithril.
But what becomes of the elven warrior and his Balrog foe? Are they destroyed? Or is the demon transferred into the rock as well?
We know for certain that there is a Balrog deep within the Misty Mountains, and it is released by the dwarves determination to scrape out every last bit of mithril. They later named the creature “Durin’s Bane,” because it killed their king (During VI, not this show’s Durin IV.)
Did the same lightning strike that forged the precious metal mithril also entomb that Balrog deep down in the rock?
Maybe. Then again, maybe it is all apocryphal after all.