The Balrog from The Lord of the Rings which Gandalf fights in Moria actually does leave Moria and is killed by Gandalf at the summit of Zirakzigil.

The Balrogs were fearsome opponents in the War of the Jewels in the First Age, and it was difficult for even the High Elven warriors of the Noldor to defeat them. They were responsible for the killing of some important characters such as Fingon.

This is the question: If Gandalf had failed to defeat - or at least failed to stop the passage of - the Balrog of Moria, what would have happened to the rest of Middle-earth? Would it have interacted with Sauron at all? Would it have wreaked havoc?

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    We can't have boss monsters wandering the countryside - they need to stay in their respective instances for the next batch of dungeon crawlers. :)
    – RobertF
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 16:03

2 Answers 2


In Short

The Balrogs had their wills tied to Morgoth who, unlike Sauron, was more focused on destruction than he was on domination. This meant that while the Balrog did chase the Fellowship through Moria, it was more likely he was drawn by the power (and therefore threat) Gandalf posed going through Moria rather than desiring the Ring (as the Ring only attracts those who wish to dominate, such as Boromir, and not those who have everything, such as Tom Bombadil). The Balrogs also only served Morgoth and did not serve under Sauron.

The Balrogs were in the service of Morgoth. They were bent towards his will of total destruction. After his fall and imprisonment in the Void, they went and hid.

And in Utumno he gathered his demons about him, those spirits who first adhered to him in the days of his splendour, and became most like him in his corruption: their hearts were of fire, but they were cloaked in darkness, and terror went before them; they had whips of flame.
The Silmarillion

his Balrogs, the last of his servants that remained faithful to him
Morgoth's Ring: Annals of Aman

be seen that the wills of Orcs and Balrogs etc. are part of Melkor's power 'dispersed'. Their spirit is one of hate.
ibid: Part Five - Myths Transformed, VIII

Further, they were described as spirits of "destroying fire".

The Balrogs, of whom the whips were the chief weapons, were primeval spirits of destroying fire, chief servants of the primeval Dark Power of the First Age.
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: Letter 144

Again, after the Fall of Morgoth it is said they went and hid in unreachable places in the world.

The Balrogs were destroyed, save some few that fled and hid themselves in caverns inaccessible at the roots of the earth...
The Silmarillion

In my opinion (as that's all we can take) the Balrog had no intention of domination (unlike Sauron), and therefore would not have joined Sauron. The Balrog seemed only interested in fighting Gandalf and if he had defeated Gandalf, he would've returned to Moria to continue living the same life.

Why did the Balrog chase the Fellowship? The Balrog had chased the dwarves out of Moria within a year of it's awakening and had set up a domain for itself where it could wait for Morgoth's return with other servants of Morgoth. However, when Gandalf lit wet tinder in a snowstorm he made himself known to the power within Moria.

“I have written Gandalf is here in signs that all can read from Rivendell to the mouths of Anduin.”
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - Chapter 3, The Ring Goes South

When the Fellowship first rouses the orcs, the Balrog seems to make no significant attempt to chase them. However after Gandalf again presents his power, the Balrog seems to hasten to chase the Fellowship.

“But I found myself suddenly faced by something that I have not met before. I could think of nothing to do but to try and put a shutting-spell on the door. I know many; but to do things of that kind rightly requires time, and even then the door can be broken by strength. ‘As I stood there I could hear orc-voices on the other side... Then something came into the chamber – I felt it through the door, and the orcs themselves were afraid and fell silent. It laid hold of the iron ring, and then it perceived me and my spell. ‘What it was I cannot guess, but I have never felt such a challenge. The counter-spell was terrible. It nearly broke me. For an instant the door left my control and began to open! I had to speak a word of Command. That proved too great a strain. The door burst in pieces.

I wonder if that is what they meant: that the lower levels are on fire?

“Then with a rush it leaped across the fissure.

“The dark figure streaming with fire raced towards them.”
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - Chapter 5, The Bridge of Khazad-dûm

We can see that in the Chamber of Mazarbul, the Balrog came after the initial attack of the Dwarves, likely to simply ensure there were no survivors. However, after Gandalf had again revealed to the Balrog that he was a great power. After Gandalf buries the Balrog - “All the wall gave way, and the roof of the chamber as well” - the Balrog quickly goes about setting the lower chambers on fire. Likely an attempt to trap the Fellowship. Further, when the orcs again catch up with the Fellowship, it is the Balrog that "leaps" across the flames and "races" to catch the Fellowship. He seems to be in dire need to get rid of the power that has entered his domain.

This is a contrary action to the orc chieftain, who seems truly to be drawn straight to the ring, as we see below. The Balrog doesn't show this kind of behaviour initially.

a huge orc-chieftain, almost man-high, clad in black mail from head to foot, leaped into the chamber ... 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.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - Chapter 5, The Bridge of Khazad-dûm

The above combined with the quotes from the Silmarillion and Morgoth's Ring suggest that the Balrog would wait for Morgoth and had no intention of capturing the ring and surrendering it to Sauron or any of the 9.

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    This could benefit from a tl;dr section Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 19:12
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    @Mithoron, the first time. See here
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 21:13
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    After War of Wrath he was supposed to be cast out into the Void (though it looks that it seems that there was alternative version where he was simply executed). He definitely didn't came back to Timeless Halls.
    – Mithoron
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 21:22
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    @Thomas, if you look at the updated quote, the orc went through a lot of effort to get what he thought was "The easiest kill" as it is no easy feet to shrug off Boromir and duck under Aragorn's sword. IMO the orc was driven by desire.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 0:21

Wrong question. The Balrog wasn't trapped in Moria, it simply lived there. It had fled from the War of Wrath at the end of the First Age and found a deep dark hiding place - until the dwarves woke it again...

But if the Balrog had defeated Gandalf, all Angband would have broken loose.

It would have pursued the Fellowship, certainly, and almost certainly caught them. That means it would have the One Ring.

Balrogs were originally maiar, angelic spirits, corrupted to the service of Morgoth in the earliest days of Arda. Sauron was of the same kind, also a maia, though he was never called a Balrog; he was the most powerful of Morgoth's servants, so he would have been more powerful than any Balrog. But a goodly portion of his power went into the Ring...and now the Balrog has the Ring.

With the Ring, the Balrog would likely have been more powerful even than Sauron, and would have been in a position to overthrow Sauron and set itself up in his seat.

But it gets worse.

Gandalf was wielding one of the three Elven rings - he carried Narya, the Ring of Fire. It was this ring that gave him the ability to bring hope and kindle courage in those he sought to inspire. On the Balrog's finger, this ring would still function, magnifying its terror even more.

But it gets worse.

Because just outside the east gate of Moria, less than a day's march from where the battle with the Balrog was fought, lay Lothlorien...and a third Ring. With its power magnified by both the One Ring and the Ring of Fire, the Balrog would be able to attack Lorien directly. We know that Galadriel could not have stood against the One Ring wielded by Sauron; it's unlikely she could have stood against the One Ring and Narya wielded by the Balrog. Lorien would have fallen, and in less than a day the Balrog would have three Rings.

I suspect that at that point, the Valar would have had little choice but to abandon their hands-off strategy. We would either have seen a permanent darkness across Middle Earth, or a second War of Wrath, with the combined forces of Aman returning yet again to throw down a Dark Lord. It's unlikely that Middle Earth would have survived in any meaningful way.

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    Did Gandalf have Narya on his person during the Fellowship journey? I seem to recall it was being held in safe keeping for him by either Cirdan or Elrond. It wasn't safe to wear, and probably would be unwise to wander around with it. I could be mistaken. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 18:10
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    @Edlothiad good point, they are both Maia. But if Morgoth is beyond the world, what gives the Balrog the will to do what it does? Fighting an Istari for example? Gandalf even implies that the Balrog was awakened by the presence of the ring. Why would the Balrog even care if he didn't covet the power? Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 18:16
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    @Edlothiad I don't agree that they had no will of their own - that was the case for beings created by Valar, like the dwarves before they were adopted by Illuvatar, but the Balrogs were originally maiar, and had their own will. The Balrog would have had the force of will to master the Ring, and wield it for itself.
    – Werrf
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 18:19
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    @Withywindle Gandalf was given Narya by Cirdan when he first arrived from over the sea. Cirdan sensed that Gandalf had great labours ahead of him, and that the ring would give him strength to complete his task. He kept the ring and carried it with him in all the years after that. Only at the end, when Gandalf was leaving, did he then deem it safe enough to wear openly. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 18:27
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    I think a key part of this question relies on the correct answer to Would the One Ring even work for anyone but Sauron? If we assume the accepted answer is correct, then the Balrog would not in truth be strengthened by the Ring.
    – ssell
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 22:27

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