I recall that evil creatures like Nazgûl can sense the presence of the Ring. At any rate, the Ring having a will of its own should be "calling" to the Balrog, who being a fallen Maia can make use of its powers to challenge Sauron. I believe this is exactly what the Ring wants. The Ring did try to seduce and corrupt Aragorn and Galadriel. So it makes perfect sense for the Ring to end up in the Balrog's hand if all it wants is an easy route to Sauron.

A theory has been proposed here that Balrogs being lieutenants of Morgoth share his lust for destruction and annihilation and as such can have no use for the Ring. Because the Ring ensnares you by promising you what you desire to accomplish and utter annihilation is not a worthy goal. Therefore the Ring does not "call" to the Balrog because there is no use to which the Balrog can put the Ring's power except for mindless destruction. But I fail to find that convincing for the reason that even if the Balrog were to use the Ring for its destructive purposes, that would still bring the Ring closer to Sauron or some other powerful being who can seize it.

So did the Balrog not detect the presence of the Ring on Frodo? Why didn't the Ring make use of such a great opportunity to go to the hands of a worthy bearer? Finally if the Balrog indeed knew about the One Ring, why was it not tempted by the prospect of seizing it for its own?

The question is - Was the Balrog aware of the presence of the ring? It should be given how the Ring draws evil to itself and corrupts even the most good-intention-ed if it sees a potential it can prey on. Yet the Balrog went straight for Gandalf and didn't seem to show any interest in the Ring.

  • 5
    If we assume that the Ring is sentient or semi-sentient, it seems to me that the Balrog would be the worst possible choice. It isn't subservient to Sauron (I don't think?) and might well be powerful enough to keep the Ring for itself, if not indefinitely, at least for an inconveniently long time. (Granted, that depends on the assumption that the Balrog has no goals that the Ring could use as leverage. But this seems reasonable to me.) Oct 16, 2016 at 0:34
  • 1
    At least one reason the Nazgul can sense the ring is they were created with its power, if I'm remembering rightly. The Balrog doesn't have this connection.
    – xdhmoore
    Feb 22, 2021 at 19:55
  • Does the Balrog even know the ring exists? It's been hiding from the Valar down in Moria since Morgoth fell. Do balrogs seek dominion and domination? Or just mayhem, something they certainly don't need any help with?
    – chiggsy
    Aug 3, 2023 at 22:12

4 Answers 4


It probably was after the ring

I think it did go for the ring. Balin survived nearly 5 years without encountering the Balrog.

Poor Balin! He seems to have kept the title that he took for less than five years.

He attacked the fellowship within a week of entering Kazad-Dûm. He was blocked by Gandalf's spell that brought down the Chamber of Mazarbul and the next time we see him he's battling Gandalf and falling down from the bridge.

We don't know what he would have done had he defeated Gandalf, but on at least two occasions Frodo is the target of attacks, once by the watcher in the water

He did not speak aloud his thought that whatever it was that dwelt in the lake, it had seized on Frodo first among all the Company.

And later by the large orc that spears Frodo in the Chamber.

a huge orc-chieftain, almost man-high, clad in black mail from head to foot, leaped into the chamber; behind him his followers clustered in the doorway. His broad flat face was swart, his eyes were like coals, and his tongue was red; he wielded a great spear. With a thrust of his huge hide shield he turned Boromir’s sword and bore him backwards, throwing him to the ground. Diving under Aragorn’s blow with the speed of a striking snake he charged into the Company and thrust with his spear straight at Frodo.

I think it's safe to assume the Balrog was drawn to the company by the power of the ring.

  • The question is - Was the Balrog aware of the presence of the ring? It should be given how the Ring draws evil to itself and corrupts even the most good-intention-ed. Yet the Balrog went straight for Gandalf and didn't seem to show any interest in the Ring.
    – Valandil
    Oct 15, 2016 at 11:23
  • 5
    @Default_User it did not go straight for Gandalf.
    – user46509
    Oct 15, 2016 at 11:25
  • 1
    Hmm that definitely seems plausible. Even Gandalf's sacrifice makes sense in the light of that explanation. Once the lust for the Ring had been awakened in the Balrog it would not stop until it got its hands on it and will pursue the Fellowship relentlessly to the end of their journey
    – Valandil
    Oct 15, 2016 at 11:29
  • 1
    @Default_User I think that's a separate question
    – user46509
    Oct 15, 2016 at 11:33
  • 2
    An interesting theory [that the Balrog was attracted by the Ring] but not I think necessarily true. My interpretation was that it took five years for the Balrog to notice that Moria has been re-occupied simply because it had been empty for so very long. When the Company came through, though, was a mere 25 years later - little more than a long lunch as far as the Balrog was concerned - so of course the Orcs were still keeping watch. Oct 16, 2016 at 0:38

If Gandalf, like the Balrog also a Maia (but much wiser and knowledgeable about these things), took so many years to work out that this was the One Ring despite being in its presence quite often (all the way back from the Lonely Mountain and actually knowing that Bilbo and then Frodo had a magic ring for decades afterwards), then the Balrog wouldn't have known that it was there in Moria. However, the watcher in the water went straight for Frodo, as did the orc chieftain who speared him. So it could be assumed that evil things were drawn subconsciously to the Ring. The fact that the Balrog bothered to make an appearance to attack a small band of intruders also points to this.

  • 3
    Hi, welcome to SF&F! Your suggestion that the One Ring would be more obvious to Gandalf than the Balrog ignores the abilities of the One Ring to try to guide its path, for example by "hiding" from Gandalf. We also don't know if Balrogs have the exact same sense of magic that Gandalf and the other Istari did. (Not to mention that Gandalf, as an Istari, may not have had the full powers of a Maiar, and not all Maiar are equal.) Can you back up your argument with any quotes from the source material or Tolkien's writing?
    – DavidW
    Feb 22, 2021 at 19:26

I do not think that the Balrog was aware of the ring. If the attack in Moria was ordered by Sauron, Sauron never would have told only one word of the ring to the Balrog or the attackers.

Sauron never trusted anyone in this (or any other) matter. The orcs which captured Frodo and Sam later in Mordor did not know anything about the ring. They were ordered to send the 'complete equipment' to Barad-Dûr.

‘Now, now,’ growled Shagrat, ‘I have my orders. And it’s more than my belly’s worth, or yours, to break ’em. Any trespasser found by the guard is to be held at the tower. Prisoner is to be stripped. Full description of every article, garment, weapon, letter, ring, or trinket is to be sent to Lugbúrz at once, and to Lugbúrz only. And the prisoner is to be kept safe and intact, under pain of death for every member of the guard, until He sends or comes Himself. That’s plain enough, and that’s what I’m going to do.’

The Lord of the Rings Book 4, Chapter 10: The Choices of Master Samwise

It is more likely that, if Sauron gave any orders, he ordered to capture Frodo and to bring him to Barad-Dûr in whole.

  • 1
    Welcome, I see you've already got a few upvotes on another answer. If you want to gain more attention towards your answers try to use canonical sources from the books to back up your ideas. This will show your knowledge is accurate. If you find anything, feel free to edit your post!
    – Edlothiad
    Feb 10, 2017 at 15:13
  • 1
    I took the liberty of editing in the quote I think you had in mind. If this isn't it, feel free to roll back the edit, or edit in the quote(s) you want.
    – Blackwood
    Feb 10, 2017 at 16:49
  • 2
    Is there any additional evidence that Sauron specifically instructed the Balrog to be on the look out for the ring? I tend to agree with the other answer, that the Balrog sensed the ring, much like the ringwraiths and even the watcher in the water did. I don't think any of the servants of Sauron were able to home in on the ring like a radar blip or beacon, but I think they could "smell" it when in proximity. I don't mean literal smell - even though the wraiths would sniff around. Feb 10, 2017 at 16:59
  • 3
    Sauron didn't control the Balrog. And he trusted the 9 to gather the ring. "‘The Ring! The Ring!’ they cried with deadly voices; and immediately their leader urged his horse forward into the water, followed closely by two others."
    – user46509
    Feb 11, 2017 at 19:13

How could the Balrog not have been aware of the one ring and the ring of fire? Gandalf essentially told him he had the ring of fire - "wielder of the secret flame of Anor" and if Gollum and an orc captain had an intuition that something deliciously evil was in the general vicinity, surely a Balrog, Maia just like Gandalf and Sauron surely would have been aware that he was in the presence of something powerful and evil. Had the Balrog seized the one ring, he likely would have been strong enough to use it as he desired and not be subservient to Sauron. He certainly would not have been damaged by the body flames that a full power use of the one ring required.

  • 2
    The 'Secret Fire' is not a reference to Narya (which the Balrog, underground since the end of the First Age, would have been unaware of). It was a reference to Eru's 'Flame Imperishable'. Gandalf was identifying himself as another Maia. Dec 14, 2017 at 13:48
  • Disagree on two points. The Balrog certainly wouldn't have been aware that there was an Elven Ring named Narya, but do you really think it would not have been sensitive to a source of magic? Likewise, the Balrog would not have been aware that there was specifically a "One Ring" made by Sauron but it certainly would have sensed something powerful and evil.
    – Sean Ross
    Dec 16, 2017 at 0:20
  • Second point of disagreement. Gandalf was not referring to the flame imperishable. No one wielded that but Eru. Gandalf specifically said it was the flame of Anor=the Sun which was made from one of the leaves of the great tree before it was destroyed by Morgoth.
    – Sean Ross
    Dec 16, 2017 at 0:22
  • I will add a final note more as a thought question: Olorin was schooled by Mandos and Nienna and learned judgment and pity. Nothing is mentioned about him learning combat magic in his youth. He is asked by Manwe to go and help the people of middle earth and he says he fears he would not be strong enough. Now suddenly he shows up in Middle Earth wielding significant combat magic based in fire and light. We also see him rekindle the hearts of people who had lost hope. Then Tolkien puts in a little tidbit at the end of LOTR and tells us he had the fire ring all along. Just a coincidence?
    – Sean Ross
    Dec 16, 2017 at 0:26
  • The "flame of Anor" could be unrelated to ring of fire but thinking like an elven smith, what could be a better bit of white magic to weave into a fire ring than the fire of the sun? Feanor already knew how to put the magic of the trees into a jewel. Wouldn't it make sense his grandson figured out how to do it in a metal ring? What better symbol of hope to rekindle that which was lost than some of the magic that Feanor had put into the silmarils so long ago?
    – Sean Ross
    Dec 16, 2017 at 0:30

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