As a Balrog is composed of both flame and shadow, would water immersion kill a Balrog, or would the shadow aspect of its make-up keep it alive no matter how long it was immersed in water? Is the Balrog reliant on oxygen for survival?

Would water immersion be a method of killing a Balrog? Is the Balrog dependent on oxygen for survival?


Relevant quote from The Two Towers; Chapter 5, The White Rider:

'Then tell us what you will, and time allows!' said Gimli. 'Come, Gandalf, tell us how you fared with the Balrog!'
'Name him not!' said Gandalf, and for a moment it seemed that a cloud of pain passed over his face, and he sat silent, looking old as death. 'Long time I fell,' he said at last, slowly, as if thinking back with difficulty. '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.'
'Deep is the abyss that is spanned by Durin's Bridge, and none has measured it,' said Gimli.
'Yet it has a bottom, beyond light and knowledge,' said Gandalf. '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. They were not made by Durin's folk, Gimli son of Glóin. Far, far below the deepest delving of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he. Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day. In that despair my enemy was my only hope, and I pursued him, clutching at his heel. Thus he brought me back at last to the secret ways of Khazaddûm: too well he knew them all. Ever up now we went, until we came to the Endless Stair.'
'Long has that been lost,' said Gimli. 'Many have said that it was never made save in legend, but others say that it was destroyed.'

In Gandalf's battle with the beast, they were indeed submereged in water. That did not kill the Balrog, or even weaken him really. It did put out his flame, and reduced him to a muddy serpentlike creature.

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    Incidentally, this was supposed to be included in the Two Towers extended edition, but Peter Jackson was unsatisfied with the concept art for the slime Balrog. Mar 18 '12 at 3:43
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    Interesting! I've been thinking about this, and I can't help but wonder if the flame and shadow aspects of the Balrog are symbiotic, and I keep concluding that, yes, they very well could be. Reading the excerpt above (thank you for that, btw!) the Balrog turned into a slime creature, so he lost his shadows as well as his flames when he was plunged through water. It would seem the two would have cancelled each other out and the Balrog would have disappeared (permanently), shadow unable to exist without light, and light unable to not produce shadows. I'm probably over-thinking this! :) +1 Mar 18 '12 at 16:17
  • Possibly, but knowing Tolkien, anything is possible. There were many Balrogs, actually. The one in Moria was called Durin's Bane. In the book, he is described as a being of "shadow cloaked in flame." One of the best depictions of the Balrog is in the book Saruman is looking at in the Fellowship movie, when he is musing over what the Dwarves found when they "delved too deep." I see it as less bestial, like Jackson interpreted it, and more just a shadowy being wreathed in flame. Very creepy, flame coexisting with shadow. Mar 19 '12 at 1:12
  • Accept and thank you :) Apr 25 '12 at 21:48
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    The true question is now "Are Wizards oxygen-dependent?", since Gandalf survived too...
    – Eureka
    Dec 14 '13 at 10:40

Is the Balrog dependent on oxygen for survival?

Definitely not. Balrogs are Maiar, who existed outside Arda before coming onto the surphace of the Arda.

Would water immersion be a method of killing a Balrog?

I'm not aware of a canonical answer, but given how hard it was to kill one and how much damage they did in earlier Ages, one would think that if a Balrog was the Arda equivalent of the Wicked Witch of the West, Elves would have poured water on them a long time ago.

  • East was crushed under the house, West was melted. Although I think I remember hearing that they were different in the books.
    – Izkata
    Mar 17 '12 at 17:28
  • @DVK did you mean "Maiar"?
    – Alenanno
    Mar 18 '12 at 11:43
  • In the fall of Gondolin - Ecthelion casts the Balrog into the fountain in the city, but I'm not sure if he slew the 'rog subsequently or if the act of immersion killed it. either way the Balrog died and Ecthelion fared not much better May 15 '14 at 9:19
  • @StevenWood - it was actually Ecthelion's spiked helmet that killed the Balrog; interestingly this would have probably survived into the later Tuor (if it had been completed) which draws specific attention to the spike on his helmet when describing him.
    – user8719
    Aug 7 '14 at 22:15
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    Ah so the germans were just copying gondolin in WW1! :-) Aug 8 '14 at 8:06

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