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The first season of The rings of power is in its final stages, and the dominoes are beginning to fall, reminding even the most casual of viewers that all of this will ultimately destroy the world of Under the spell of the Ring. The fantastic cities and societies we’ve seen this season will crumble to ruin over the next four seasons – some faster than others.
This week we’ve seen exactly how the beautiful dwarf city of Khazad-dûm will turn into the dark and cursed ruins of Moria, in the form of one of the most poignant and iconic scenes in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. There’s a Chekhov rifle on the mantel of Khazad-dûm, and somehow this will all end up on fire.
[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power episode 7, “The Eye.”]
While Durin (Son Durin) and his father, Durin (Father Durin), have a consistent quarrel, the Dwarf Prince orders that the mithril that the Prince discovered be sealed—but not before making sense of Elrond’s corrupt-sheet-for-demonstration thrown away. purposes down into the room. The camera follows the gentle fall of the leaf until it reaches the rocky floor and is rejuvenated by the mithriladers that criss-cross every surface.
Then the leaf is burned by a flame of a familiar shape: a balrog.
The balrog who killed Gandalf?
Yes, this is the balrog the Fellowship encountered thousands of years later in the ruins of Moria. In Tolkien’s books, it is the only balrog known to have survived Morgoth’s defeat, fleeing east and hiding in the roots of the Misty Mountains, until discovered by the dwarves thousands of years later. from Khazad-dûm.
As described in the appendix of The Return of the Kingthe dwarves of Khazad-dûm “aroused a thing of fear that” […] had lain hidden on the foundations of the earth since the arrival of the Host of the West: A Balrog of Morgoth. Durin was killed by it, and the following year Náin I, his son; and then the glory of Moriah passed away, and his people were destroyed or fled far away.”
Or, as immortalized in Christopher Lee’s voice in Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring: “The dwarves dug too eagerly and too deeply. You know what they woke up in the darkness of Khazad-dûm: shadow and flames.”
Is this the same balrog they talked about a few episodes ago?
In Episode 6, “Partings,” King Gil-galad tells the story of an elven warrior and a balrog who duel on the Misty Mountains, a battle that accidentally created mithril deep underground. But after all, there is more than one balrog, and we have somehow not been told whether they are the same creature. The whole story is original to Rings of Powerso there’s no Tolkien lore to fall back on either.
Wait… is there more than one balrog?
The balrogs were Maia—as were Gandalf and Saruman and Sauron themselves—and at least some were among Morgoth’s oldest allies, who had descended into darkness with him when he first betrayed the Valar during the creation of the world. When Middle-earth became the battleground between Morgoth and the rest of the gods, these ghosts disguised themselves in a terrible form. “Their hearts were made of fire,” says The Silmarillion“But they were shrouded in darkness, and fear went before them; they had flaming whips.”
Though few in number compared to an army, they were Morgoth’s most terrible servants. They were his generals, his guard of honor, and his enforcers—essentially the same capacity the Black Riders served Sauron. There are only three stories of the defeat of a balrog in single combat, and in all cases, as with Gandalf, the enemy of the opponent was killed. Only two balrogs were ever distinguished from the rest: Gothmog, their leader; and the unnamed Balrog known only as ‘Durin’s Bane’.
So we get to see it… ruin everything?
That’s an interesting question! It sure looks like it Rings of Power alludes thus, with the younger Durin swearing that when he is king, he will mine the mithril and bring his people unprecedented prosperity. But if Rings of Power to wake the balrog quickly would be a break with Tolkien’s canon.
The attachments of The Return of the King argue that the balrog buried itself so well that dwarves did not discover it until the third century, a time beyond the reach of Rings of Power. The fall of Khazad-dûm occurred during the reign of Durin VI, rather than the show’s Durin IV and Durin V — and in Tolkien’s lore, Durins were mostly non-consecutive dwarf rulers, much like the British monarchy.
But then again, Rings of Power takes all the events that have occurred over thousands of years of history and brings them together into a single human generation. And that means Durin’s Bane can really be a potential threat; a sword of Damocles dangling from a flaming whip over an entire dwarf civilization.