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How big Balrogs and Valar really were?

From: W. Sheldon Simms

I very much liked your web pages on balrogs. I completely agreed with everything you said about them with one exception. I do not think there is any justification for considering them to be MUCH larger than humans or elves. In particular, I think the depiction in the picture on your web page is very inaccurate as far as the size of the balrog. If the balrog of Moria were that big it is very unlikely it could fit in many of the passages of Moria, although the confrontation pictured did occur in a great hall.

I likewise feel that most artistic depictions of Morgoth far overstate his physical size. I get the strong impression from Tolkien's work that the physical appearance of the Vala was usually very similar to that of Elves, perhaps a little taller. One thing I can say to back this up is to point to Fingolfin's fight with Morgoth. There is no way Fingolfin could have made much of a fight if Morgoth was ten meters tall. Also, it is explicitly stated that Morgoth stepped on Fingolfin's neck and Fingolfin wounded Morgoth's foot. If Morgoth were as large as most portrayals, he couldn't have stepped on Fingolfin's neck with stepping on all of him at the same time.

If Morgoth isn't giant-sized, then I don't expect balrogs would be either. My feeling is that the lords of the Noldor would be approximately 2 meters tall on average, balrogs perhaps 2.25 meters tall on average and Morgoth himself perhaps 2.4 - 2.5 meters tall.

There are other reasons that I do not like that picture. Although is does properly show the balrog without wings, it makes the balrog too inhuman looking. The face is ridiculous, in my opinion, and there should not be any tail or horns. Furthermore, the balrog pictures lacks a sword. One more thing that is not clear in the picture, and that you mentioned in your Q&A on balrogs is its "mane". I think that Tolkien did not mean a "mane" as a lion would have, or a horse. I think he simply meant the balrog's hair, which would be like that of a human (or elf). The use of the word "mane" would simply imply that the balrog's hair was long and not bound. Instead it was flying wildly as the balrog jumped over the firey chasm, and it naturally caught on fire as the fire roared up around the balrog.

In short, my picture of a balrog is that of a large human or elf like figure, approximately 2.25 meters tall, probably wearing some sort of armor, wielding a sword (glowing red) and a whip. The balrog would have long, flowing hair (presumably black). Details of its garb and appearance would be somewhat difficult to see because it is cloaking in an almost tangible darkness. that seems to absorb all light. However, I would expect the Balrog to have a human face, that is not ugly, twisted or deformed, but full of hatred and evil - almost so that he would look normal looking if he wasn't so menacing. The fear he generates comes from his "aura" of evil and power, not from his gargantuan size or "demonic" appearance.

W. Sheldon Simms III (

Comment by: Anders P. Jensen.

First of all, a lot of compliments. Very interesting web page.

Secondly, I have a few comments about a subject which is seemingly very popular, namely the size of Balrogs. Some claim that Balrogs are giant-sized, twenty or thirty feet in height, while others see them as being little more that man-sized.
The following excerpt is from page 194 in "The Book of Lost Tales II", as edited by Christopher Tolkien:
"Then Glorfindel's left hand sought a dirk, and this he thrust up that it pierced the Balrog's belly nigh his own face (for that demon was double his stature)..."
This is an excerpt from "The Fall of Gondolin", which contains the full tale of Tuor and Maeglin, and the fight between Gothmog and Ecthelion of the Fountain, as well as the story about Glorfindel and the Balrog, which is briefly alluded to in "The Silmarillion".

Assuming that Glorfindel is of average size, i.e. approximately six feet tall, give or take a little, that leaves us with a Balrog about twelve feet in height. Granted, this is the early stages of "The Silmarillion", but since no newer version of these accounts exist, and "The Fall of Gondolin" is referred to in "The Silmarillon", one must, I suppose, assume that Tolkien stood by what he had written and did not wish to alter it.

Best wishes,

Anders P. Jensen

Comment by: Dino Lovric.

This is an opinion on a comment written by W. Sheldon Simms. I would appreciate if you would put my comment on Your web-page.

First I have to say that Anders P. Jensen quite elegantly ended the debate concerning the size of Balrogs. My regards.
As for the other theories that W. Sheldon Simms offered in his essay, I found two that are very debatable.

The first one is the size of Morgoth.

Morgoth was a Vala and he could choose the form in which he would be visable to creatures of Arda. Although he alone of the race of Valar knew fear, he was still the mightiest force to be reckoned with in Middle-earth. Then why would he choose the form and size similar to Elves, the Firstborn whom he hated the most (as told in Sheldon's essay). Here is an detail of the fight between Morgoth and Fingolfin :

"Then Morgoth hurled aloft Grond, the Hammer of the Underworld, and swung it down like a bolt of thunder. But Fingolfin sprang aside, and Grond rent a mighty pit in the earth, whence smoke and fire darted. Many times Morgoth essayed to smite him, and each time Fingolfin leaped away, as a lightning shoots from under a dark cloud (...) "

As seen in Silmarillion, Morgoth fought Fingolfin wearing Grond, the Hammer of Underworld. That name appears in "The Return of the King"in the battle of the Pelennor Fields :

"Great engines crawled across the field; and in the midst was a huge ram, great as a forest-tree a hundred feet in length, swinging on mighty chains. Long had it been forging in the dark smithies of Mordor, and its hideous head, founded of black steel, was shaped in the likeness of a ravening wolf; on it spells of ruin lay. Grond they named it, in memory of the Hammer of the Underworld of old. "

If servants of Sauron named their ram Grond in the honour of the Hammer of Underworld then clearly Morgoth's Grond was great both in size and weight and furthermore it takes a really big hammer to "rent a mighty pit in the earth, whence smoke and fire darted".
Thinking that Morgoth was big as a ten-storey building is ridiculous as well is thinking that he was a little higher than Elves and Men.
As Tolkien himself stated, Balrogs were double the stature of Elves. Morgoth, as their master, could not allow spirits of lesser might to be bigger or more dreadful than himself.
I suspect that he in stature was a little bigger and a lot more fearful than Balrog's which brings me to the second debatable theory of :

The appearance of Balrogs.

W. Shelton Simms insists that Balrogs were embodied in a form similar to Elves or Men, that they wear armour and that they are "approximately 2.25 meters tall". Concerning the humanoid stature of Balrogs and their size I offer an excerpt from "The Book of Lost Tales 2":

"A great deed was that sally, as the Noldoli sing yet, and many of the Orcs were borne backward into the fires below; but the Men of Rog leapt even upon the coils of the serpents and came at those Balrogs and smote them grievously, for all they had whips of flame and claws of steel, and were in stature very great. "

Tolkien clearly stated that Balrogs were big creatures that had claws of steel. Claws indicate that Balrogs were indeed beasts of terrifying appearance and not human or elf like figures. This excerpt alone negates the opinion of Balrogs given by Shelton and I will not try to add more arguments because my 'comment' is already a little to long.

As for the armour I think this excerpt from "The Book of Lost Tales 2" will clear things up :

"Then leapt Ecthelion lord of the Fountain, fairest of the Noldoli, full at Gothmog even as he raised his whip, and his helm that had a spike upon it he drave into that evil breast, and he twinded his legs about his foeman's thighs; and the Balrog yelled and fell forward (...) "

It is obvious that Gothmog, the Lord of Balrogs had no armour for how could Ecthelion drive the spike upon his helm in his foe's breast if the Balrog had protection there. And furthermore, since the Lord of Balrogs had no armour I can safely say that no other Balrog was an exception in that matter.

I hope W. Sheldon Simms will not be offended by this text

Best regards,
Dino Lovric (

Fear of the Middle-earth, deamons of fire, servants of Melkor... Find out all about Balrogs on this page.
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