As shown in the trailer first shared at San Diego Comic-Con, the Balrog makes an appearance in The Rings of Power‘s Second Age. Though this messes with Tolkien’s timeline, it’s an inevitable part of the story as we watch the dwarves of Khazad-dûm begin their quest for mithril. Even if they have thousands of years of prosperity before Durin’s Bane appears, the shadow and flame was always lurking deep within the mountain.
What Is a Balrog in The Lord of the Rings Lore?
Balrogs are one of the Maiar, spirits designed when the Valar first created the world. Gandalf and the other wizards are also Maiar, but Morgoth, Middle-earth’s original Dark Lord, twisted the Balrogs into demons. In the First Age, they fought alongside him and his orcs against the elves. After the War of Wrath that saw the destruction of Morgoth and ushered in the Second Age, the remaining Balrogs fled and hid in the bowels of Middle-earth.
Tolkien was never quite clear on how many Balrogs there were. Depictions of them vary greatly over the years as well, as evidenced by the animated version below.
Balrogs passed into myth in the Second Age. But in the Third Age, in the deep chasms of Khazad-dûm the dwarves mined too greedily for mithril and awoke one. They were forced to flee their home and King Durin VI was killed. The Balrog of Moria became known as Durin’s Bane. It wielded a sword and whip made of flame. Over a thousand years later, the fellowship of the ring entered the mines and encountered the demon.
The Balrog’s Famous Battle with Gandalf
Gandalf kills a Balrog at great personal cost. What begins as a showdown on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm ends at the Battle of the Peak 10 days later. Gandalf holds the demon back from pursuing the fellowship, calling it the Flame of Udûn, a land of evil before Mordor. But it drags him down as it falls. The rest of the fellowship leaves Moria thinking Gandalf is lost.
Though Gandalf’s staff is broken, he wields his elvish blade Glamdring while fighting the Balrog. They battle even as they fall into the depths of Khazad-dûm and when they reach water at the lowest levels of the mountain. Gandalf then pursues the Balrog as it flees into tunnels and back up the mountain and onto its very peak. They battle for two days above the clouds at the Tower of Durin before Gandalf finally defeats the demon and its body falls down the mountainside. Gandalf the Grey also dies in this battle, though Gandalf the White revives in his place.
The Balrog in The Rings of Power
The biggest time jump so far in The Rings of Power is bringing the Balrog to life at the end of episode seven. If this is in fact Durin’s Bane, it should slumber well into the Third Age. This could be just a tease and we won’t see it again for multiple seasons. Even so, its awakening is an ominous reminder that Khazad-dûm is doomed.
What we do know is that both the elves and dwarves will continue their pursuit of mithril. The light of the Eldar is fading, taking the immortality of the elves with it. King Durin III isn’t swayed by the blighted leaf of Lindon. But Prince Durin IV is convinced to help the elves anyway after seeing how mithril brings the leaf back to life. Together he and Elrond access a vein of the ore. When the king discovers them, he exiles Elrond and removes Prince Durin from the line of succession. He also drops the leaf into the chasm.
Elrond still has his tiny bit of mithril. Disa, though no longer wearing her royal crest, convinces her husband that they are entitled to both power and mithril. Whether it’s for the benefit of the elves or the dwarves, we know mithril mining will commence. And it will lead to both the glory of Khazad-dûm and its downfall at the hands of the Balrog.
There are still plenty of questions to explore in The Rings of Power. Does the leaf from the tree of Lindon awaken the Balrog? Is this the same tree that songs tell was integral to the creation of mithril? Is Durin’s Bane the same demon who fought over the tree hiding the last of the lost Silmarils? When will we see the Balrog again?
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.