Gandalf and the Balrog

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OhtarMor 18/Dec/2006 at 04:07 PM
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How come it was so hard to destroy the balrog for Gandalf, when ordinary elves did it in the past? If he was maia, wouldn’t it be easy for him?
Tuna 18/Dec/2006 at 04:12 PM
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1) The elves who have killed balrogs in the past both sacrificed their own lives and were of great renown in terms of skill.
2) Gandalf, though a Maia, was limited in his power due to his existance as an istar.
3) Gandalf wasn’t even known for his fighting ability, but was known for imparting wisdom while in the land of the Valar.

I think that perfectly well defines how it required Gandalf to sacrifice himself to slay the balrog. And btw, welcome to the plaza. Hope you enjoy your time here.

Qtpie 18/Dec/2006 at 05:45 PM
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In fact, I think in the books, Glorfindel and Ecthelion of the Fountain are the only ones mentioned that have slain a Balrog with the price of their lives. But there may have been other Elves who have killed a Balrog and lost their life in the process.

’...of the battle of Ecthelion of the Fountain with Gothmog Lord of Balrogs in the very square of the King, where each slew the other,...’ The Silmarillion: Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin

Tuna pretty much answers the rest of your question. And welcome to the lore fora!
Morgil 18/Dec/2006 at 05:54 PM
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Besides, even though Gandalf was a Maia, who is to say that he was more powerful, or even as powerful as the Balrog? See Tuna’s post above regarding Gandalf’s abilities. The Balrogs were after all, fallen Maia. There is no indication I’m aware of in Tolkien’s writings that all Maiar were evenly matched in power. And the ’Balrog’ is Sindarin for ’demon of might’, indicating great power.
halfir 18/Dec/2006 at 06:22 PM
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And the ’Balrog’ is Sindarin for ’demon of might’, indicating great power.

’Dreadful among those  spirits{that were corrupted by Melkor}  were the Valaraukar, the scourges  of fire that in Middle-earth were called Balrogs, demons of terror. [The Silmarillion -Valaquenta- Of The Enemies}

’A Balrog’, muttered Gandalf. ’Now I understand.’ He faltered  and leaned heavily on his staff. ’What an evil fortune! And I am already weary.’ {FOTR-The Bridge of Khazad-Dum}

OhtarMor: I think these two quotes reinforce Morgil’s point.

In an earlier debate on this topic, in which I raised the issue as to whether in extremis (which I suggested the Balrog battle was) Gandalf was able to use his powers unrestrained, in response to  the views of  my good friends Timloth and Elwing which argued against  such a premise, maiarian man wrote:

In the first essay on the Istari in Unfinished Tales, Tolkien writes, "[1]their emissaries [the Istari] were forbidden to reveal themselves in forms of majesty, [2] or to seek to rule the wills of Men or Elves by open display of power, but coming in shapes weak and humble were bidden to [3] advise and persuade Elves and Men to good, and to [4] seek to unte in love an understanding all those whom Sauron, should he come again, would endeavour to dominate and corrupt." And in Appendix B of LOTR Tolkien says the Istari were [5] forbidden to match Sauron’s power with power. These are pretty much the restrictions of the Istari.

If Gandalf were to use all his power in the fight with the Balrog, would he be disobeying these. Certainly that would mean Gandalf was in a form of majesty, but "there was none to see" so he wasn’t displaying it to anyone but the Balrog; moreover, Gandalf’s description of the fight certainly seems to show him as being of majesty, if there were people to see, whether or not he used all of his power: for me, that takes care of the first rule.

If Gandalf used all his power, there was still no one to see but the Balrog, so he couldn’t be openly displaying his power, and he certainly did not seek to rule elves or men in his efforts (it was a "sacrifice" for Elves and men). That means he wasn’t disobeying the second rule.

Gandalf, in the fight with the Balrog, was not contesting Sauron. The Balrog was an unsuspected presence in Moria, and its defeat allowed Sauron to be defeated, it was not the defeat of Sauron in itself. Furthermore, Gandalf destroyed the Balrog whether or not he used his full power; consequently, the fifth rule is not disobeyed in using full power.

Finally, the Third and Fourth rules, which essentially are directives to aid the Free People, can only be entirely executed if Gandalf defeats the Balrog. Therefore, if Gandalf had to use his whole power, it would be seemingly acceptable if done so in order to achieve the mission.

So, it seems to me that in the   in extremis situation into which Gandalf had been thrown, he is allowed him to use his full power and still stay true to the mission, despite the appearance that it is against the rules. Given the assumed power of the Balrog, it might have even been necessary for Gandalf to use his full power in order to achieve the mission.

Gandalf ‘in extremis ‘- 1

 

http://www.lotrplaza.com/archive/display_topic_threads.asp?ForumID=46&TopicID=35872&PagePosition=8

 

So, Tuna’s second point is perhaps debateable.

Tuna 18/Dec/2006 at 09:55 PM
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halfir- Wow, quite the interesting thread that was. I only wish I was on back then to engage in such delightful discussion. However, between me not knowing whether a second thread was created or not (and if so, what conclusions were made in such) and a general air of confusion which seeped into the thread, I do see an overarching concept as gaining acclaim (and to which I had always viewed the nature of the istari, whether skewed or not) as the thread developed that the purpose of the body was to limit the powers of the spirit. As was quoted in the thread (and which was, I suspect, the intent of Elnarsil’s posting):
Why they should take such a form is bound up with the ’mythology’ of the ’angelic’ Powers of the world of this fable. At this point in the fabulous history the purpose was precisely to limit and hinder their exhibition of ’power’ on the physical plane ~Letter 156, Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

In such a case, the very presence of a physical body of Gandalf that dies is, in and of itself, evidence that the power of the istar is forced to be limited for which Letter 156 provides reason
At this point in the fabulous history the purpose was precisely  to limit and hinder their exhibition of ’power’ on the physical plane, and so that they should do what they were primarily sent for: train, advise, instruct, arouse the hearts and minds of those threatened by Sauron to a resistance with their own strengths; and not just to do the job for them.

halfir 19/Dec/2006 at 02:05 AM
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Tuna:There was a second thread but it really didn’t add too much to the party:

http://www.lotrplaza.com/archive/display_topic_threads.asp?ForumID=46&TopicID=46859&PagePosition=7

goldenhair 19/Dec/2006 at 06:52 AM
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Halfir,
When last we visited this thought you seemed to have been swayed by Timloth and Elwing?

I was at the time only in possesion of 2 volumes of HoME and did not yet own letters. I felt like the gangster approaching Sean Connery with a knife, Connery turns with his shotgun and says ’why would you bring a knife to a gun fight’.

MM correctly asserts that Gandalf’s "humbling and abnegation" occur on the bridge, not after as he chased the Balrog. What no one has ever contested as far as I can tell, is the word perished. It seems Gandalf sacrificed himself oh the bridge!

"For in his condition it was for him a sacrifice to perish on the Bridge in defence of his companions, less perhaps than for a mortal Man of Hobbit, since he had a far greater inner power than they; but also more, since it was a humbling and abnegation of himself in conformity to ’the Rules’: for all he could know at that moment he was the only person who could direct the resistance to Sauron successfully, and all his mission was in vain. He was handing over to the Authority that ordained the Rules and giving up personal hope of success."

He died on the bridge (or in the fall). The humbling and abnegation of himself occured on the bridge. At that moment (the moment of his sacrifice) If so, he was no longer Gandalf the gray when he fought the Balrog.

hellknight 19/Dec/2006 at 07:45 AM
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Goldenhair - Gandalf most certainly did not die on the bridge, or during the fall - only after the fight with the Balrog did he die, and was returned to life by Eru.
’Long I fell, and he fell with me. His fire was about me. I was burned. Then we plunged into the deep water and all was dark. Cold it was as the tide of death: almost it froze my heart.’
’Thither I came at last, to the uttermost foundations of stone. He was with me still. His fire was quenched, but now he was a thing of slime, stronger than a strangling snake.

’We fought far under the living earth, where time is not counted. Ever he clutched me, and ever I hewed him, till at last he fled into dark tunnels.’

The quotes above clearly show that Gandalf was alive during the fall, and was alive when the fall ended. Thus, he was still Gandalf the Grey all the while during his fight with the Balrog

’A great smoke rose about us, vapour and steam. Ice fell like rain. I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin. Then darkness took me; and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.’ (all quotes: TTT - The White Rider)

This quote shows that Gandalf died after he had defeated the Balrog. Only after his dead, and that of the Balrog, did he became Gandalf the White.

Hithlum 19/Dec/2006 at 09:59 AM
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So..

  • Gandalf won the battle on the Bridge and the Balrog only managed to get a tie there with a lucky swing of his whip
  • Gandalf defeated the Balrog in the depts of Khazad-Dum and made it run away in fear all the way to the top
  • Gandalf won the final battle by throwing the balrog of the mountain
  • Gandalf was limited in power while the Balrog wasn’t

I guess this makes it clear who was much more powerfull then the other..

Alcarináro 19/Dec/2006 at 10:51 AM
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So...
  • Winning involves no damage being done to either party, the victor being the first, but not the only, to remove the other from the exact initial point of confrontation?
  • Underwater, one can hardly use a whip, especially one of flame. A sword, however, can be used, and if we look to the relevant passage, the Balrog ’clutched’ and Gandalf ’hewed’. Gandalf, in this skirmish, had an undeniable environmental advantage.
  • And then he died. From his wounds. Mortal afflictions. As in there was no way he was going to continue living? That’s not winning.
  • You have proof that Gandalf was limited in power in some sense other than that he was Incarnate (as was the Balrog)?
OhtarMor 19/Dec/2006 at 02:44 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Túna on Monday, December 18, 2006

1) The elves who have killed balrogs in the past both sacrificed their own lives and were of great renown in terms of skill.
2) Gandalf, though a Maia, was limited in his power due to his existance as an istar.
3) Gandalf wasn’t even known for his fighting ability, but was known for imparting wisdom while in the land of the Valar.

I think that perfectly well defines how it required Gandalf to sacrifice himself to slay the balrog. And btw, welcome to the plaza. Hope you enjoy your time here.


didn’t gandalf sacrifice his life too? But ok i understand thanks. I forgot his power was limited by his being an istar.

Quote: Originally posted by Morgil on Monday, December 18, 2006
Besides, even though Gandalf was a Maia, who is to say that he was more powerful, or even as powerful as the Balrog? See Tuna’s post above regarding Gandalf’s abilities. The Balrogs were after all, fallen Maia. There is no indication I’m aware of in Tolkien’s writings that all Maiar were evenly matched in power. And the ’Balrog’ is Sindarin for ’demon of might’, indicating great power.

I wasn’t saying that Gandalf was as powerful as the balrog, just that he would at least be more powerful than the elves that have defeated them in the past.

<Yavanna edit:  What you are doing is called "quote spamming" First of all, please do not quote each post that you answer, and when you do need to quote, please add 200 characters of your own thoughts, as this is a discussion forum, and you are earning points for your part in the discussion, not someone else’s.   Also, please do not post back to back just to answer different people.  I have combined your posts and deleted the second one.  Thanks>

Dis 19/Dec/2006 at 03:54 PM
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Hi OhtarMor. Welcome to the Plaza.

The quote thing is a nice handy feature, but should be used sparingly and only with 200 or more characters of your own thoughts. Othewise it’s just like reading someone else’s post all over again. Oh and do wait for someone else to respond before posting again.

A read-through of the Plaza FAQ will answer most of your questions a familiarise yourself with how this place works.

See you around.

<timeloop: Wifey beat me to the punch.>

Istanira 19/Dec/2006 at 04:03 PM
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This may stray slightly from the topic at hand, but, did Sauruman ignore these ’rules/limits’ of the Istari?--and are they ’rules’ or are they inherent to the being of the Istari? What I mean is, could the Istari reveal themselves if they wanted to, or were their natural powers taken away from them when they were given the role/title/being of Istari?
Battlehamster 19/Dec/2006 at 04:29 PM
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I’m pretty sure that Saruman did ignore the rules.  After all, Tolkien said that Gandalf was the only of the Istari to actually succeed in his task (except for the Blue Wizards, depending on what surce you go by).  As for the rules,  they were pretty much they had to work against Sauron, but they had to do it "behind the scenes," instead of by controlling/ruling people.  And I think that they weren’t allowed to have a permanent home in M-e, but I’m not sure why I remember that.

halfir 19/Dec/2006 at 04:34 PM
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goldenhair: Halfir,
When last we visited this thought you seemed to have been swayed by Timloth and Elwing?

My dear friend, I am as fickle as fortune when it comes to speculations about Tolkien’s  characters (other than of course Tom B when I speak ’ex cathedra’!)X(

I still probably incline to what my great chums Timloth and Elwing wrote, although I am not wholly happy with that inclination, which is why I thought it useful to air the subject again via mm’ s excellent anlysis.

Istanira 19/Dec/2006 at 04:37 PM
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There is that odd quote from Gandalf in FoTR: ’Well, if you want my ring yourself, say so!’ cried Bilbo. ’But you won’t get it. I won’t give my precious away, I tell you.’ His hand strayed to the hilt of his small sword.
Gandalf’s eyes flashed. It will be my turn to get angry soon,’ he said.
If you say that again, I shall. Then you will see Gandalf the Grey
uncloaked.’
He took a step towards the hobbit, and he seemed to grow tall and menacing; his shadow filled the little room...


Is this a ’warning’ to Bilbo that he could show himself in his majesty (uncloak himself) ? Or is Gandalf just trying to scare Bilbo and knock some sense into him?
halfir 19/Dec/2006 at 09:07 PM
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Is this a ’warning’ to Bilbo that he could show himself in his majesty (uncloak himself) ? Or is Gandalf just trying to scare Bilbo and knock some sense into him?

Istanira: You raise an interesting point. However, I think your latter explanation is the correct one. Even though Bilbo had seen Gandalf’s powers used in The Hobbit- they were not of any great consequence, and his overall image of Gandalf, like that of most of the Hobbits would be of an avuncular figure who was good with fireworks:cf my thread Fireworks are for Children:

http://www.lotrplaza.com/archive4/display_topic_threads.asp?ForumID=24&TopicID=155585&PagePosition=1

I don’t for one minute believe that Gandalf would reveal himself  ’in majesty’ as you put it, in such a situation. But he was making it quite clear that Bilbo would see a very different Gandalf if he -Bilbo-  did not himself see reason with regard to leaving the One behind, and specifically for Frodo.

Indeed, if you look at FOTR-The Shadow of the Past Gandalf tells Frodo that he was concerned ,given this reaction of Bilbo’s, that  ’something dark and deadly was at work’ (cf. Hammond&Scull LOTR Companion p.70) . and he was very worried about Bilbo- hence the strength of his reaction.

KingODuckingham 19/Dec/2006 at 10:57 PM
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other than of course Tom B when I speak ’ex cathedra’!Whahaha! Good one!
halfir 20/Dec/2006 at 03:32 AM
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X(
goldenhair 20/Dec/2006 at 01:29 PM
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hellnight,
If I were reading LOTR without the benefit of the letters, no question that you would be right. But Tolkien specifically says Gandalf perished on the bridge in his letters. Sorry I did not reference the letter, but it was 156.

In the same letter he says of the emissaries;

"By ’incarnate’ I mean they were embodied in physical bodies capable of pain, and weariness, and aflicting the spirit with physicla fear, and of being ’killed’ though supported by angelic spirit they might endure long and only show slowly the wearing of care and labour."

It seems to me not a stretch to think that Gandalf would be ’killed’ either by the fall of a abyss that was so deep that it could not be measured, nor a stretch to believe he would not be ’killed’ by the fire of the Balrog. I also think if Gandalf perished in the fall, so too did the Balrog. The fight was then a fight of two spirits and not something we would necessarily understand.

Tolkien clearly has instances of other spirits who are ’dead’ in our sense, but fully capable of malevolent and physical violence. I think of both the nine and the barrow wights.

of the nine from the white rider;

Legolas;
What new terror is this?

Gandalf;
’One that you cannot slay with arrows, said gandalf. You only slew his stead’

We also have examples of ’good’ who are not alive (or at least might not be alive) in Tom B. You will have to see Halfirs extraordinary thread for that arguement as it boggles my mind.

Here also is the example of Sauron acting without an incarnate form returning to Middle Earth from Numenor without his body, but with the ring. (Phil_d_one used the quote below to easily disarm my question as to who had the nine rings of men after Sauron was defeated in the first age).

Though reduced to a spirit of hatred borne on a dark wind, I do not think one need boggle at this spirit carrying off the One Ring
(Letter 211)

We also have the priviledge of reading the Silmarillion The Fall of Gondolin which suggests to me that a Balrog, being incarnate, could not survive the kind of fall Gandalf and the Moria Balrog had (of Glorfindel and the Balrog it was said ’both fell to ruin in the abyss).

So to me it is not a stretch to find that Gandalf had a different form than you and I would understand as he pursued the balrog, nor a stretch to consider Gandalf taking a temporary ’body’ to finish the Balrog.

Of course an easy defense on your part would be to say that Tolkien over simplified the story in letter 156. I have to accept that that might be true. But as a wordsmith, Tolkien usually does not lack the correct words to use in such a scenario and the words ’fall’, ’fail’ or ’defeat’ regarding the bridge and his ’abnegation’ to the rules set by the authority (Eru) would have lost none of its meaning.

Halfir,
So I still have hope on the ’Bolsters’?
Alcarináro 20/Dec/2006 at 02:37 PM
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Whoa, now, slow down a minute. You meant, goldenhair, that Gandalf no longer was connected with his body for that entire fight? Aside from the various difficulties this brings up regarding death, defeat, and the possibility of an end to the struggle, it fails to explain how Gandalf’s body could be on the peak. For it was on the peak, not shed in the depths below. Appendix B tells us ’He casts down the Balrog, and passes away. His body lies on the peak.’
Gandalf perishes on the Bridge yes. He perishes by his action. He intentionally makes a move that dooms him to death, with no other outcome, just as a man who could fight or flee perishes in the solitary charge against uncountable foes.

There is a difference in the falls at Gondolin and in Moria. The former was into shallow water with hard rock. The latter was into deep water. Now, while the physics in our universe would not differentiate between the two at the heights in question, Tolkien clearly does, as he notes nothing special about the fall into the water, save that it was cold and dark.

The Nine are not dead. They are not spirits. Wights, while spirits, occupy dead bodies, so have real physical bodies.
halfir 20/Dec/2006 at 03:15 PM
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goldenhair: Halfir,
So I still have hope on the ’Bolsters’
?

In your dreams!X(

goldenhair 20/Dec/2006 at 06:07 PM
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Elenhir,
While the nine might not be dead, they are not alive. Sauron could only sell the illusion of immortality. Sorry, I do not have the appropriate quotes at hand but will try to find them tomorrow.

I do not necessarily think Gandalf had no body. I am suggesting the Gandalf who chased the balrog up the stairs was no longer incarnate as you an I would understand it. That doesn’t mean he had no form at all, or no human form. Again I will have to find the quotes about the Vala’s ability to take shape like clothing tomorrow.

Halfir,
I will have no dreams at all! How can I sleep.
halfir 20/Dec/2006 at 07:01 PM
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X(
Lord of the Rings 20/Dec/2006 at 10:12 PM
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Goldenhair, check The Battle of the Pelennor Fields--the bit where Merry stabs the WK--and you will find that the Nazgul have bodies, and that’s really all that’s relevent.

And other than your particular interpretation of one phrase from one letter, do you have any evidence at all to support this theory (and I mean actual independent evidence, the kind that would--independently of the letter--suggest such an interpretation as you have put forth)?
goldenhair 21/Dec/2006 at 07:08 AM
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LOTR,
Nope, just the letter. That is why I say an adequate arguement against my theory would be that JRRT was oversimplifying for the purpose of the letter. My arguement is therefore difficult to make. It is supportable by much in Silmarillion as to the nature of the Maia, but of course that is not canon.

my thought came from Halfir’s thread above regarding: Gandalf ‘in extremis ‘- 1

In that thread is was argued (successfully in my opinion) that if Gandalf used all of his might in fighting the Balrog, that would not be in violation of "The Rules" as set forth by the Vala and in accordance with Eru (see the quote from Maraian Man in Halfirs post of December 18, 2006 at 18:22

It occured to me that if Gandalf was not subject to the rules on the mountain top, then by definition what he did on the mountain top was not
"a humbling and abnegation of himself in conformity to the rules".

the abnegation of himself was conformity to "the rules", his sacrifice was his fall on the bridge in defence of his companions. Any death, fall or failure beyond the episode of the bridge is no longer in defence of his companions. He pursued the Balrog because the Balrog was evil and he felt obligated to fight it. If you look at it any other way, it would have been a horrible misjudgement for him to continue the battle with the Balrog. After chasing the Balrog to find a way out, he should have fled! It would be horrible abuse of his duty to risk his life to defeat the Balrog when his companions and the mission was no longer in danger

"for all he could know at that moment he was the only person who could direct the resistance to Sauron successfully, and his mission was in vain"
Letter 156

Would Gandalf in light of this continue to fight the Balrog? (It would no longer be a sacrifice for his companions nor an abnegation of himself in conformity to the rules.) Of course not, it could only be morally acceptable to continue the fight if he had already sacrifice himself.

As to your comment on the witch king I would remind you;
"she drove her sword between crown and mantle,as the great shoulders bowed before her. The sword broke into many shards. The crown rolled away with a clang. Eowyn fell forward upon her fallen foe. But lo! the mantle and hauberk were empty. Shapeless they lay now on the ground, torn and tumbled;and a cry went up into the shuddering air"

I have never pressed a sword between the head and body of a human, but I don’t imagine human (or elven) flesh would create such an effect. And if he had a normal human body, how would it evaporate. I am afraid this is something that is meant to be a bit of a mystery to us.

regarding the sword of Merry;
"no other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will." The Battle of the Pelennor fields

notice "undead" and "breaking the spell"

I have to say in light of this and in light of the fact that Gandalf is one of the wise (unlike Treebeard for example), that we have to take his word for it that the rider of the fell beast could not have been slain by arrows.

As to our understanding of "incarnate";
Ainulindale
"Now the Valar took to themselves shape and hue; and because they were drawn into the World by love of the Children of Iluvater, for whom they hoped, they took shape after that manner which they had beheld in the Vision of Iluvatar, save only in majesty and splendour.....Therefore the Valar my walk if they will, unclad and then even the Eldar cannot clearly perceive them, though they may be present. But when they desire to clothe themselves the Valar take upon them forms some as of male and some as of female"

I cannot find the specifics now as I need to get to work; but the silmarillion allows us to see; 1)Gandalf as Olorin who sometimes walked unseed among the elves 2)Sauron shape shifting during a battle (with huan perhaps?) 3)Sauron taking new form after defeat (as Anatar- the giver of gifts, he was able to appear fair, which apparently was not possible after his fall to Elindil and Gil galad) 4) I think at some point because so much of his native power was bent to dominating the very earth, that Melkor became unable to change his appearance(or perhaps specifically could not appear ’fair’ any more)...leaving us believe that Vala and therefore the Maia could appear differently at will.
halfir 21/Dec/2006 at 07:26 AM
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goldenhair: Note 5 of Osanwe Kenta explains why Morgoth, and latterly Sauron  ultimately became unable to change their appearance

Melkor alone of the Great became at last bound to a bodily form; but that was because of the use that he made of this in his purpose to become Lord of the Incarnate, and of the great evils that he did in the visible body. Also he had dissipated his native powers in the control of his agents and servants, so that he became in the end, in himself and without their support, a weakened thing, consumed by hate and unable to restore himself from the state into which he had fallen. Even his visible form he could no longer master, so that its hideousness could not any longer be masked, and it showed forth the evil of his mind. So it was also with even some of his greatest servants, as in these later days we see: they became wedded to the forms of their evil deeds, and if these bodies were taken from them or destroyed, they were nullified, until they had rebuilt a semblance of their former habitations, with which they could continue the evil courses in which they had become fixed". (Pengolodh here evidently refers to Sauron in particular, from whose arising he fled at last from Middle-earth. But the first destruction of the bodily form of Sauron was recorded in the histories of the Elder Days, in the Lay of Leithian.)

{my bold emphasis and underline}

goldenhair 22/Dec/2006 at 06:01 AM
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Halfir,
Awesome, many thanks.

Elenhir and LoTR

Here is my reference to Olorin (Gandalf) from UT The Istari
"though he loved the elves, he often walked among them unseen, or in form as one of them, and they did not know whence came the fair visions or promptings of wisdom that he put into their hearts."

talk about the right man for the job ("kindling").

From Silmarillion Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
"When Thangorodrim was broken and Morgoth overthrown, Sauron put on his fair hue again and did obeisance to Eonwe..."

Implicit that his previous hue was not fair and that he changed it like an outfit.

"but long he sought to persuade the Elves to his service, for he knew that the Firstborn had the greater power; and he went far and wide among them, and his hue was still that of one both fair and wise.....few of them hearkened to the messengers from Lindon bidding them beware; for Sauron took to himself the name of Annatar, the Lord of Gifts"

"Sauron himself went down into the abyss. But his spirit arose and fled back on a dark wind to middle earth, seeking a home."

Interesting that we see the same use of the word Abyss?

and again after defeat by Gil galad and Elendil
"Then Sauron was for that time vanquished and he forsook his own body, and his spirit fled..."

Regarding the nine;
"Those who used the nine rings became mighty in their day, kings, sorcerers, and warriors of old. The obtained glory and great wealth, yet it turned to their undoing. They had, as it seemed, unending life.....they became for ever invisible save to him that wore the ruling ring, and they entered into the Realm of Shadows."
Alcarináro 22/Dec/2006 at 02:21 PM
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You are drastically oversimplifying the issue of bodies and Ainur.

Letter 200:
By ’incarnate’ I mean they were embodied in physical bodies capable of pain, and weariness, and of afflicting the spirit with physical fear, and of being ’killed’, though supported by the angelic spirit they might endure long, and only show slowly the wearing of care and labour.
It was because of this pre-occupation with the Children of God that the spirits so often took the form and likeness of the Children, especially after their appearance. It was thus that Sauron appeared in this shape. It is mythologically supposed that when this shape was ’real’, that is a physical actuality in the physical world and not a vision transferred from mind to mind, it took some time to build up. It was then destructible like other physical organisms. But that of course did not destroy the spirit, nor dismiss it from the world to which it was bound until the end.

The Valar, and one would think a good deal of the Maiar, had no real bodies. They had thoughts of vision sent to minds near them. Melkor and his servants found a need for more corporeal bodies (that is, physical actualities in the physical world), investing in them their inherent power to make them corporeally mighty. The Istari as well are Incarnates, coming to Middle-earth in the forms of Men, fettered by the needs of the flesh. They cannot change their forms, or abandon them and recreate them (unless they take the years it would likely need and the loss of inherent power it would require).

Sauron is, as he is in so many ways, exceptional. He appears to be able to, before he loses the ability in his first death, change his real physical form with rapidity and variety. He’s special. Though he is possibly no less evil than Melkor, he resists this wedding of forms, this earth-boundedness, for thousands of years and a death (for it was with the taking a form after his drowning that he could not change) longer than any other. He recurs, slain once, slain twice, and without the destruction of the Ring, for all Time. When crafting arguments involving Ainur and incarnation, Sauron should not be the central example.

Therefore, if Gandalf was to have shed himself of his body, he could not, in the middle of the combat, form a real, physically present, form. He would not have a body, regardless of whether or not his spirit would have the power to influence thought and reality to feign one. There would be nothing physically there. Therefore, at the end of the battle, the scenario you raise leaves us with no body at the peak. Yet, there at the peak lay the body of Gandalf. How? He never left it until atop the mountain he died, having thrown down the Balrog, it still embodied, and ended its incarnation before losing his own.

As to the Ringwraiths, note ’flesh’. Note ’unseen sinews’. How can you deny the presense of a real physical form, a body? The Lord of the Nazgul should not have been still living. His sinews should have, millenia ago, been severed from his will. But the connection remained. Why? His Ring, and the bond to the One Ring that it had. Yes, the Lord of the Nazgul had a convenient aspect to him, a power that destroyed metal as it cut him. This speaks nothing of his being alive. It is has a spirit and if it has a body, and if that spirit and that body are joined in such a way that only time, violence, and/or self-severing will destroy that joint, it is alive. Therefore, the Ringwraiths live.

Now then, why did Gandalf pursue the Balrog? After the fall, Gandalf had no idea where he was. He specifically tell us that the only chance he had to find his way back to the light was to follow his foe, the Balrog. Then to the stair, which went to the top. At that point in time, two bitter foes together at the mountain-peak, how could the fight not continue? Gandalf made a choice on the Bridge. This choice sent him on a path that gave him no way to leave, and this path took him to the peak and his death. Thus, the choice made on the Bridge, which was in conformity to the Rules, had Gandalf perish.

quae erant demonstranda
Maiarian Man 22/Dec/2006 at 03:34 PM
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I would compare Sauron in his early days to Melian. Melian was very much corporeal in that she married Thingol and gave birth to Luthien. But when Thingol died, she had no problem forsaking her body and getting an instantaneous ride back to Valinor. She had a potent physical form, but that did not mean it was a form she could not give up or change at will. Similarly, the forms of the Valar are also very potent. They build and destroy mountains, Tulkas (and later Eonwe) wrestle with Melkor. But the Valar have not lost control of their physical appearances. They can still change them at will; Yavanna can still be a tree one day and an elf-like being the next. There is nothing that special about Sauron’s ability to change from one potent form to another—perhaps among Melkor’s servants, but not among the Ainur in general. It is not just the potency of the form, but the obsession with exhibiting power that prevents an Ainur from having this capability. Gandalf, needless to say, probably lacks this characteristic, given that he lacks essentially all negative characteristics possessed by Melkor and Sauron.

I disagree with the idea that Gandalf gave up his form in fighting with Durin’s Bane: the story reads too consistently; there is no indication that at any point Gandalf has left an essentially human form during the battle. And given that he talks of his death after throwing down Durin’s Bane, it is unlikely he died prior to this as well.

However, it is one thing for Gandalf to still be an old man, and another for him not to display any more power than before. Surely had there been people around to watch Gandalf’s cover would have been blown. He went from being an old, wise man with some clever powers to being a great warrior with terribly great powers (a lightning storm, it seems).    The restraint upon the Istari was twofold. First, they had to take the shape of old men and everything this involved: the need for food, aging, the ability to be injured and grow weary. Second, they were not allowed to reveal their majesty so as to gain the awe and loyalty of others. Just as the latter does not guarantee the former, the former does not guarantee the latter. At the very least, it seems, Gandalf no longer held himself accountable to the second rule, or else the second rule didn’t apply because his companions weren’t around to see him - and, in fact, they thought he was dead. (Perhaps the clearest sign that the rules change when Gandalf is sent back by Eru is the fact that he freely tells the story of the battle and his death).   

Moreover, the quote from the Osanwe Kenta should show us that the incarnation of the Istari is not to be compared to what happened to Morgoth—and, we suppose, to the Balrogs and eventually Sauron. The Istari willfully took on their guises as Old Men, and went all out in doing so: such that they felt pain and hunger, etc. But we are given no reason to think that they lost mastery of their visible forms, as the OK says Melkor did. I assume that when Gandalf returnsto Valinor, he will be able to change his form, or perhaps go shapeless among the Eldar again, as he used to do (I also assume that had Saruman taken the One Ring, the fact that he was incarnated as an Old Man would have been of little significance to the amount of power or magnificence he could display).   Melkor loses control because he cannot get the image of his form out of his head, so obsessed with it he has become . The Istari have no such obsession with their old-mannishness, as far as I know at least. Furthermore, it is inconsistent with the nature of the Istari, and with the plan of the Valar, that the Istari’s incarnation should be equivalent to losing control over their visible form. I think it is rather the opposite: the result of an intense control over their visible form. It is not that the Istari cannot stop being old men, but rather that they have chosen to take the shape of old men and have not yet decided to go back on that choice.

"Radagast is, of course, a worthy Wizard, a master of shapes and changes of hue" (FotR "Council of Elrond). Radagast had no problem changing his physical appearance, despite being an Istar (in one sense, it seems all I needed was that quote, QED??).

I still don’t think that Gandalf gave up his human form during the battle. But I think it makes sense that during the battle Gandalf might have made a decision not to fight like an old man, but rather to fight like a great warrior. Perhaps there was one point where he allowed his old human body control how much power he exhibited, and now with his goal at the point of failure, he allowed his body to exhibit a much greater power.
Ankala Teaweed 22/Dec/2006 at 04:04 PM
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Radagast is, of course, a worthy Wizard, a master of shapes and changes of hue.

And the fact that Radagast and Beorn were acquainted is also interesting in respect of Beorn also having the ability to shift his shape to that of a bear (putting the is it or is it not cannon question aside). It would not be a problem for Radagast to shift shapes in the presence of a man who did also, would it?

This is all, of course, completely aside from the question of Gandalf and the Balrog, sorry!

Maiarian Man 22/Dec/2006 at 04:25 PM
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There’s definitely a difference between changing shapes just as an eccentric, nature-loving wizard and changing shapes as an expression of power or means to impress less powerful people. (And no one’s saying that Radagast followed the rule entirely anyway; indeed, part of the point is that there is nothing guaranteeing the wizards will follow all or any of the rules set out for them).
halfir 23/Dec/2006 at 04:59 PM
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I would like to return to this passage form Osanwe Kenta:

Even his visible form he could no longer master, so that its hideousness could not any longer be masked, and it showed forth the evil of his mind. So it was also with even some of his greatest servants, as in these later days we see: they became wedded to the forms of their evil deeds, and if these bodies were taken from them or destroyed, they were nullified, until they had rebuilt a semblance of their former habitations, with which they could continue the evil courses in which they had become fixed". (Pengolodh here evidently refers to Sauron in particular, from whose arising he fled at last from Middle-earth. But the first destruction of the bodily form of Sauron was recorded in the histories of the Elder Days, in the Lay of Leithian.)

In a thread of many moons ago I suggetsed that the Morian Balrog shape-changed in the process of his battle with Gandalf. I based this on maiarian ability to shape-change and Gandalf’s comment:

’His fire was quenched, but now he was a thing of slime, stronger than a strangling snake’.{TT-The White Rider}

Both mm and I think elnarsil constructively criticized my thesis, in a thread I cannot now find.

I ultimately conceded but said I remained with an ’itch’ i.e. I was still not 100% convinced.

In looking rhough the LOTR Companion I was interested to note tha in commenting on that line Hammon&Scull- no slouches in Tolkien scholarship - state that :

"Gandalf’s account recalls shape-changers in myth and legend....’{LOTR Companion p. 302}

implying that they too see this statement as meaning that the Balrog shifted shape.

What do others think?

 

Maiarian Man 23/Dec/2006 at 07:08 PM
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That line alone does strike me as possibly indicating more than just a dousing of the Balrog’s fire, but a more essential change in physical form. However, the following line does not read at all as if the Balrog as changed shape: "Out he sprang, and even as I came behind, he burst into new flame." All that happens here is that the Balrog’s fire arises again. This probably is not a passive process (something that just needed some time for drying and some fresh air), but rather something resulting from the Balrog’s own effort. But it doesn’t strike me as the Balrog really changing shape, alla Sauron in the First Age. And if the Balrog is in his original shape on the mountain top, and did nothing to regain this shape by bursting into flame again, this means that he never changed shape to begin with.

Moreover, we know that in the deep he is still a humanoid creature (or at least not really a slimy snake): Gandalf "pursued him, clutching at his heel". It just seems that the only thing different about the balrog is the lack of fire. It happens to be a big difference when it comes to Balrogs (and it happens that unlit Balrogs aren’t just shadow, but rather they are slimy things, especially when they fall into a lake at the bottom of the earth).

Tolkien can very well recall acccounts of shape-shifters without talking about the Balrog as a shape-shifter. I am sure he frequently uses stock phrases or wordings associated with one mythical creature or another just because they are a part of the literary tools which has stored away in his mind, and which he likes to play around with.   He’d rather say "now he was a thing of slime" rather than "now he was slimy." But it’s a stretch too mke much out of this.
halfir 23/Dec/2006 at 10:04 PM
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Tolkien can very well recall acccounts of shape-shifters without talking about the Balrog as a shape-shifter.

As a general proposition I fuilly accept your point. However, the Balrog is contextualized by its maiarian ability to shape-shift, and thus I think that in the  particular context we are dealing with the phraseology used by Tolkien could be argued to have a more specific meaning than just  that of a literary tool.

And as a ’humanoid creature’ he could still be a  ’thing of slime’ , adapting himself  to environemnt in which his fiery power was of no use.


However, on reading the whole passage again I think that you are probably correct- as I conceded before. But it would be interesting to see if any others had views supporting my ’itch’.X(

 

Maiarian Man 24/Dec/2006 at 08:37 AM
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Halfir - i don’t think that we should bring in too much of the Balrog’s "maiarian" context. Certainly within LotR we do not know that the Balrog is a Maia, or even of the same basic genus as Gandalf and Sauron. Nor do we have a general context of Maiar changing shape within LotR. Moreover, there is not really much of a general context outside of LotR that we would deal with. First off, we never hear of Balrogs changing shape. Second, only in Tolkiens later 1950s Silmarillion writings do the Balrogs become Maiar. (In the Quenta Silmarillion of HoME V, the Balrogs are still demons "made" by Morgoth, not Maiar. The conception of Balrogs clearly changes precisely when Tolkien characterizes Durin’s Bane in LotR, but even in the post-LotR Silmarillion writings, it is not always clear that they are Maiar. In the "Annals of Aman" in HoME X, the race "demons" named Balrogs is "wrought" by Melkor, though in the second versin of the text they become the greatest of the "evil spirits that followed him, the Umaiar." And them, of course, in the Valaquenta they are are clearly maiar
Alcarináro 24/Dec/2006 at 09:17 AM
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Why does the quote suggest shape-shifting? ’Stronger than a strangling snake’ is meant to show how the Balrog fought. Why should ’thing of slime’ be any different? Indeed, this quote is the remnants of a longer, and in my opinion clearer, quote that can be found in HoME VII:
he was a thing of slime, strong as a strangling snake, sleek as ice, pliant as a thong, unbreakable as steel.
   -HoME VII: The Treason of Isengard, The White Rider

All of these descriptions indicate agility and power. Figurative language used to describe the subterranean struggle. If one was to think that the Balrog shape-shifted, it would have become some sort of invulnerable, smooth and shiny, slime-creature that was capable of being bent. I take it that most people here would not believe that such a transformation occured. Therefore, it becomes clear that Tolkien’s original intent with that passage was not a shape-shifting, and so without any reason to believe that intent changed (and I see none), it must still hold true that in the final publication the passage does not describe a corporeal transformation.
SigilMor 24/Dec/2006 at 02:10 PM
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Yes, Gandalf was limited in the power he was allowed to use. Also, the Balrog may have just been stronger that Gandalf in the first place. But speaking of the rules on the istari, whenever you read a passage with gandalf, he brags a lot. He is always saying stuff like none of you could hurt me, i’m more powerful then you think, i used to know all these passwords and names, etc. etc. I know he isn’t revealing himself in a form of majesty, but he is very boastful.
halfir 24/Dec/2006 at 02:35 PM
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Eldenhir: Surprisingly I am well aware of the longer quote, in the earlier draft which in no way alters the substance of what I have said. And as I have conceded mm’s point your post is somewhat redundant.
Alcarináro 24/Dec/2006 at 02:43 PM
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I’m sorry, halfir, I didn’t realize that ’others’ was in fact directed only at MM, or maybe also anyone who shared your ’itch’, as you call it. Perhaps next time you could use words that mean what you wish to say.
MM has one way of showing that there was no shape-shifting, using certain lines of reasoning. I have another, using different lines of reasoning. It therefore is not redundant, but complimentary, together only showing more completely that what you suggested was incorrect.
goldenhair 26/Dec/2006 at 06:11 AM
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MM,
It has been a long time. Probably due to my lack of participation here.

You say;
I disagree with the idea that Gandalf gave up his form in fighting with Durin’s Bane: the story reads too consistently; there is no indication that at any point Gandalf has left an essentially human form during the battle. And given that he talks of his death after throwing down Durin’s Bane, it is unlikely he died prior to this as well. MM

I do not necessarily hold that Gandalf had no form (and think it unlikely). I also think that the concept of his death in the bridge is a tough one to "prove". However, I don’t think it can be eliminated so easily.

First, Gandalf never says he dies after throwing down Durin’s Bane; "Then Darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time" TT The White Rider (the phrase darkness took me is of course especially difficult for my position)

’Naked I was snet back-for a brief time, until my task was done." TT The White Rider Refers to being sent back to ME naked, not being sent to Eru naked.

"There I lay staring upward, while the stars wheeled over, and each day was as long as a life-age on the earth". TT The White Rider This was suggested to refer to his recovery in Lorien, however, he is still "alone, forgotten, without escape upon the hard horn of the world"

As for any arguement discussing when concepts were put to paper (ie the post LOTR view we may have of Balrogs developed in the 50’s), overly selective. Letter 156 was after all written in 1954.

You last comment below I think extremely likely. While neither your position (or mine which I admit stretches things further than yours) can be proven, clearly they are within the capabilities of "Olorin".

"I still don’t think that Gandalf gave up his human form during the battle. But I think it makes sense that during the battle Gandalf might have made a decision not to fight like an old man, but rather to fight like a great warrior. Perhaps there was one point where he allowed his old human body control how much power he exhibited, and now with his goal at the point of failure, he allowed his body to exhibit a much greater power." MM

"For in his condition it was for him a sacrifice to perish on the Bridge in defence of his companions, less perhaps than for a mortal Man of Hobbit, since he had a far greater inner power than they; but also more, since it was a humbling and abnegation of himself in conformity to ’the Rules’: for all he could know at that moment he was the only person who could direct the resistance to Sauron successfully, and all his mission was in vain. He was handing over to the Authority that ordained the Rules and giving up personal hope of success." Letter 156

I think of particular note here that in addition to JRRT saying his "sacrifice to Perish on the bridge in defence of his companions" is that in JRRT’s earliest conception of the fall he explains why Gandalf is able to survive that fall.

"Of course Gandalf must reappear later-probably fall is not as ddep as it seemed. Gandalf thrusts Balrog under him and so.......and eventually following the subterranean stream in the gulf he found a way out." Return of the Shadow-Mines of Moria

"Gandalf’s story. Overcame Balrog. The gulf was not deep )only a kind of moat and was full of silent water." The Treason of Isengard-The Story Forseen from Moria"

So we hear JRRT tell us Gandalf’s abnegation and sacrifice are on the bridge, and further he had already developed a way for Gandalf to survive the fall and rejoin his companions without either dying, or violating his vow. Tolkien changed Gandalf fall away from one that he viewed as survivable and does not in canon explain how Gandalf was able to survive. Whether or not my theory is correct, Tolkien clearly makes an intentional choice here on both counts. I think it likely that Tolkien has left us an intentional enigma here, but since we have already cut open the ball we might as well try to find out what is in it.

I think all this commentary actually goes further in supporting your view of Gandalf unvieled than it does mine of the Gandalf of two deaths. But there it is anyway. I further think the light of these last two comments are very relevant in the ongoing "Deus ex machina" thread in BL. Tolkien already had his out in his drafts, but he abandoned them for something much greater!

Alcarináro 26/Dec/2006 at 07:34 AM
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First, Gandalf never says he dies after throwing down Durin’s Bane
But Tolkien does. I requote from Appendix B, The Tale of Years:
He casts down the Balrog, and passes away. His body lies on the peak.

I fail to see how Gandalf being returned to his body naked shows that he had shed his body at a time prior to the end of the battle at the peak.

And naked I lay upon the mountain-top.
This quote follows directly the quote about being sent back. It precedes the quote about the stars wheeling overhead, and that in turn precedes the rescue by Gwaihir. I’ve never heard it suggested to be about Gandalf in Lorien. It is about Gandalf, re-embodied, atop the peak.

In the earliest drafts you quote about the fall, did you know that Gandalf, and all the Wizards, had not yet been elevated to the stature of angelic beings sent by the Powers? They were Men, mortal Men with magic. The Bridge, the fall, the fight, changes with Tolkien’s change of the nature of Wizards. Find the note where he says ’Wizards = Angels’, from the same text.
Maiarian Man 26/Dec/2006 at 09:15 AM
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I assume Gandalf was naked because his clothes were burned.

In addition to the quote from Appendix B: In Letter 156, Tolkien also associates the comment about "straying out of thought and time" with Gandalf’s death. And given that Gandalf does say he has died (to Wormtongue and to Saruman), this seems to be the best place to locate his death (he makes not even a subtle reference to his death in the fall from the bridge. And if he died, why not suppose the Balrog died? Surely the Balrog didn’t die and get sent back to life by Eru, as did Gandalf).

And Goldenhair - I’ve been barely present here at all, which explains your not having seen me.
goldenhair 26/Dec/2006 at 11:50 AM
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Elenhir,
Good catch with the appendix. Frankly I could have saved a lot of time if I had found that on my own. I still think my diversion supports both the efforts of MM and Halfir from Dec 2002 (re:Gandalf in extremis)even if it does not support me

MM, I would suppose that the Balrog did die (if Gandalf did). I was not inclined to think the Balrog or Gandalf needed the help of Eru to take on a new set of clothes (see Sauron presenting his fair hue to Eonwe above). Eru had to send Gandalf back ’enhanced’. Of course among all the Valar and Maiar we know Gandalf alone among the ’good’ needed to have an incarnate body after ’death’ so we have no other description to rely on.

I think appendix B makes my arguement more and more unlikely. I still find Tolkiens phrasing in letter 156 curious. I think without help from some source yet unknown, I will have to assume he was simplifying matters for the sake of the letter.
Lord of the Rings 26/Dec/2006 at 12:23 PM
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I still find Tolkiens phrasing in letter 156 curious. I think without help from some source yet unknown, I will have to assume he was simplifying matters for the sake of the letter.

Is it really so curious? Which is the more iconic moment of that battle, the one we will tend to remember more: the immediate and raw confrontation on the Bridge, or the cooler recollection from Fangorn? Which one has a chapter named for it? I think ’the Bridge’ is just a general reference to the encounter as a whole, used not so much to avoid confusion, but more as a natural reference to the episode being discussed.

Another possibility has also been suggested in this thread: that perish is used in the sense of a commitment to death, the undertaking of a course of action which will undoubtadly prove fatal. Trying to take a detail like that, particularly from a Letter, and attempt it very literaly, is probably a course best avoided in general.
goldenhair 28/Dec/2006 at 01:41 PM
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LOTR,
I have never seen perish in that way. I could see perish not meaning death if you are talking about fruit? "perishable" Or about an age the golden age of rock and roll has perished? Although maybe others have seen it.

I am hung up on the fact JRRT, who was not one who tended to inexactness when choosing words used perish to relate to the bridge. He also used humble and abnegation to refer to Gandalfs sacrifice in defense of his companions (ie on the bridge not later.

Secondly, in his drafts as outlined above JRRT demonstrate a way Gandalf could have survived the fall and explained it. In Canon, he changed the fall to something contradictory to what was in his drafts and then did not explain it (an intentional enigma I think).

Third, while the letter quoted earlier 156 says;
"By ’incarnate’ I mean they were embodied in physical bodies capable of pain, and weariness, and aflicting the spirit with physicla fear, and of being ’killed’ though supported by angelic spirit they might endure long and only show slowly the wearing of care and labour."

We are led to believe that not only does Gandalf survive, he fights the Balrog being at times surrounded by flame, for 10 days. That is an awful lot of falling, chasing or fighting without a nap! And my guess is he does not own flame retardant pajama’s (not being subject to US safety laws about how our children ought wear asbestos).

Appendix B:
January 15 Fall of Gandalf
January 23 Gandalf purues the Balrog to the peak of Zirak-zigil
January 25 Cast the Balrog down and passes away

If Gandalf was ever at his heels (as he says) he has no quarter to eat, drink or sleep. I don’t see the Balrog giving him time outs or do overs. He would likely die of dehydration, starvation, exhaustion or exposure if he still has the body of an old man with its limitations.

How specific the description of Appendix B January 25 combined with letter 200 about time being needed to become incarnate lead me to believe that my theory is not going to hold water. And no I don’t have an itch (as Halfir sometimes describes when he is 99% convinced. I am pretty firmly in your camp now. But from a mythologic point of view, Tolkien has taken something very easily described in human terms and made them more difficult to comprehend. Further in his mythology, Gandalf and the Balrog (Moria), Sauron (Numenor) and Glorfindel and the Balrog (Gondolin) are all described as falling into the ’Abyss’. The others die, why not Gandalf? Gandalf also tell the Lord of the Nazgul;

’Go back to the abyss prepared for you!’
The Seige of Gondor



Maiarian Man 28/Dec/2006 at 02:10 PM
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There is a long gap in time separating the use of abyss in BolT regarding Glorfindel and the Balrog and the use in LotR at Durin’s Bridge. Moreover, in BoLT, there is also a capitalized "Abyss" and a lowercase "abyss." The latter, into which Glorfindel falls, is clearly a geographical feature, unlike the uppercase Abyss. It is a lowercase abyss into which Sauron falls in the Akallabeth, but that is clearly not a geographical feature. The abyss under Durin’s bridge is clearly geographical. I see nothing too special about the word. Tolkien uses it a lot in a lot of different contexts.

Glorfindel dealt the Balrog what appears to be a deadly blow before falling into the abyss, and an elf is not a wizard. Nor is Glorfindel’s fall as epic as Gandalf’s. When Gandalf characterizes the fall into the abyss, it is not a mere fall to his death. It is a fall in which he spends the entire time fighting the Balrog. A rather silly thing to do if he is of the mind that the fall is going to kill the both of them anyway.
Alcarináro 28/Dec/2006 at 02:27 PM
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Three different abysses. Glorfindel and the Balrog fell off a cliff face and landed in the shallow water of a river. That is, they hit the bottom, hard rock. Sauron sank into the abyss of Numenor in its destruction. He would have drowned. Gandalf and the Balrog fall into a gap between two faces of stone, they land in deep water, they swim, they don’t drown, they don’t hit hard rock. They survive. I don’t see where there is any problem here.

As to your first point on perish, I believe I have already demonstrated, via the last paragraph of my post on Friday, December 22nd, that what you are saying cannot be in fact can be. You are stuck on a psuedo-literal interpretation. Psuedo-literal because you claim that the quote means he perished at the moment, but if that was the case, Gandalf should be dead the moment the Balrog pulls him off the Bridge, or even before! And not even you are saying that.

As to your second point, please refer back to my last post, in which I explained to you why Gandalf, being actually a human being and not anything greater than that in the intial drafts, could not have, when Tolkien wrote those two quotes about the abyss being ’shorter than it seemed’. It is not contradictory if you take all matters into consideration. Sure, if you don’t look at the explanation, you can’t see it. But that does not mean it isn’t there.
Maiarian Man 28/Dec/2006 at 03:33 PM
Steward of Isengard Points: 9003 Posts: 10968 Joined: 10/Mar/2002
Based on the supposed depth of the chasm beneath Durin’s Bridge (unmeasured, but must be deep), falling into teh water would, physically speaking in our world, cause as much damage as falling on rocks (and more damage if the height is, as I assume, far heigher than the heigh Glorfindel fell).

A normal elf, and probably the Balrogs from BoLT, surely would have died during the fall.
Boromir88 28/Dec/2006 at 03:37 PM
Merchant of Minas Tirith Points: 3627 Posts: 2473 Joined: 24/Mar/2005
’perish’ doesn’t always have to mean to die, it could also mean to disappear or vanish.  So, perished could be a word used to describe Gandalf’s falling off the bridge, and vanishing/disappearing (from his companions view point).  From the Fellowship’s viewpoint, when Gandalf fell off the bridge, he disappeared, he vanished...therefor he perished.
Maiarian Man 28/Dec/2006 at 03:45 PM
Steward of Isengard Points: 9003 Posts: 10968 Joined: 10/Mar/2002
On the view that Gandalf did not display all of his power on the Bridge, but did on the Mountaintop, the letter makes perfect sense. When Gandalf dies on the mountaintop it is not a sacrifice in abgenation to the Rules, as he is doing everything he can to live. On the Bridge, however, he does not do everything he can--he just tries to get rid of the Balrog so the quest can continue. Insofar as he does not excerices his full capabilities, Gandalf does "allow" himself to perish on the Bridge as a sacrifice, even though he does not actually perish. Gandalf does not allow himself to perish as a sacrifice on the mountaintop, even though he actually does perish.
goldenhair 28/Dec/2006 at 04:17 PM
Scholar of Isengard Points: 1480 Posts: 1194 Joined: 10/Dec/2002
Gandalf does "allow" himself to perish on the Bridge as a sacrifice, even though he does not actually perish. Gandalf does not allow himself to perish as a sacrifice on the mountaintop, even though he actually does perish.

That is the funniest thing I have yet to see on this site.

You both are missing that I am conceding the point. My nitpicking is because I think Tolkien intentionally changed the nature of the fall, intentionally refused to ’explain’ Gandalf’s survival and intentionally had him pass away and return ’enhanced’. Interesting to note that JRRT labels Gandalfs return as a ’flaw’ when he clearly had already considered other ways of returning Gandalf without him passing away at all.

MM, I think you are correct re:
Gandalf ’in extremis’: there is no opportunity to humble nor abnegate himself on the mountaintop because there are no witnesses.
Alcarináro 28/Dec/2006 at 04:41 PM
Banned Points: 14162 Posts: 14178 Joined: 24/Sep/2003
Physically speaking in our world, MM is not necessarily the same as physically speaking in Tolkien’s world.

goldenhair, as I have said repeatedly, Tolkien did not refuse to explain Gandalf’s survival. Tolkien changed the nature of the fall because Tolkien changed the nature of Gandalf, who, in the drafts that you quote from, was not a Maia, but a mortal man, and the Wizards were, in those drafts, not Maiar. With the arrival of the concept of Wizards not as Men, but as guides from the West, matters that involved the Wizards were altered. This is one such matter. And that is explanation.
Maiarian Man 28/Dec/2006 at 05:04 PM
Steward of Isengard Points: 9003 Posts: 10968 Joined: 10/Mar/2002
Yes - But what’s the better explanation. Gandalf and the Balrog don’t die because in Tolkien’s world, water is really soft so that people who fall into it from an immense height are not killed (though people who fall on rock are)? Or perhaps, there is something special about Gandalf and the Balrog that allows them to survive a fall that for normal mortals would have surely been fatal? I think it is clearly the latter. Gandalf’s and the Balrog’s immense innate power allows them to survive, not just the fact that they land in water.
Alcarináro 28/Dec/2006 at 05:16 PM
Banned Points: 14162 Posts: 14178 Joined: 24/Sep/2003
Then Gandalf should also be able to survive a large boulder falling from the height of the tower of Ecthelion and landing on his head. Just as Tolkien was no biologist, he was no physicist. I have nowhere else seen any evidence that gives me reason to believe that anything Incarnate could survive the forces that such a fall would exert, given the physics of our world. I’d consider a different physics more influential to their survival than a sturdy make of form.
goldenhair 29/Dec/2006 at 05:52 AM
Scholar of Isengard Points: 1480 Posts: 1194 Joined: 10/Dec/2002
Elenhir,
The soft water theory? Isn’t that how the Americans fooled the Germans regarding research on Atomic theory in World War II? Hah, I always knew LOTR was an allegory.

Or was that heavy water? (I will have to check my Hogan’s Heroes re runs)
Poppy Burrows 31/Dec/2006 at 06:36 AM
Gardener of the Shire Points: 174 Posts: 43 Joined: 25/Dec/2006
That Bulrog was not an ordenary one though was it? I thought it was a very spesial powerful one, and in that case it would have been a struggle even for a fighting elf. And like people have said before, Gandalf did not die, and he did kill the bulrog in the end!
Phil_d_one 31/Dec/2006 at 08:27 AM
Shipwright of Umbar Points: 13181 Posts: 12667 Joined: 14/Jan/2004
Poppy: Welcome to the Plaza, albeit a bit belated

There is no reason to believe that Durin’s Bane was much more powerful than any other Balrog. But yes, defeating Durin’s Bane would certainly have been a huge task for an Elf, simply because Durin’s Bane was a Balrog, and the only two Elves who are known to have defeated Balrogs in single combat -- Ecthelion and Glorfindel -- both died in doing so.

And Gandalf did too, of course. As a read-through of this thread will show, Gandalf did die as a result of his confrontation with the Balrog, though the circumstances surrounding the matter caused him to be enhanced by Iluvatar and returned.