During the speech Gandalf gives when he confronts the Balrog he instructs the Balrog to "go back to the Shadow!".

"You cannot pass," he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass."
(Book Two, Chapter V, The Bridge of Khazad-Dum).

Obviously, the main thrust of the speech is USHALLNAPASS. However, the specific reference to the Shadow is more abstract. The other elements that Gandalf references have been explained on the site. I haven't found any reference to the Shadow, though. Does it just boil down to a fancy euphemism for 'get lost'? Or is Gandalf referencing something specific? The word Shadow is capitalised, which makes me think that it must be a concept which is further developed elsewhere in Tolkien's work.

If Gandalf wasn't telling the Balrog to go somewhere specific, was he content for the Balrog to stay within the confines of Moria? Or was his statement a direct challenge to the Balrog, a forewarning in effect that Gandalf was setting out to defeat him?

  • 1
    This is sufficiently answered here, it's at the bottom of the linked answer. I personally think he's nailed the coffin on the head as there's no other Shadow (such as Angband) to return to.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 11:59
  • 3
    Possible duplicate of What does Gandalf mean by "Secret Fire", "Flame of Anor" and "Flame of Udun"?
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 12:01
  • 1
    @Edlothiad. The answer there says "go back to the shadows". Gandalf actually said "go back to the Shadow". 'Shadow' may equal 'shadows'. But I'd like an answer that explains/argues that point, if that is in fact the case. Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 12:03
  • But that answer would just replicate what the other answer states? And therefore be a duplicate. There is no other "Shadow" for the Balrog to return to. Utumno and Angband are destroyed, he has no intention of joining Sauron, Gandalf doesn't want him simply wandering about. So he must "return to the shadows from whence he came".
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 12:12
  • @Edlothiad Would you consider putting that in an answer? The other question is about the secret fire, flame of Anor and flame of Udun. Mine is about the Shadow. Different question. Both questions just happen to spring from the same speech. Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 12:16

2 Answers 2


It is significant that the word "Shadow" is capitalized.

There are 224 occurrances of the word "shadow" in the Fellowship of the Ring (including preface and prologues), and Tolkien is very specific with those he capitalizes and those he does not.

I'm (obviously) not going to list all of them, but here is (I hope) a representative sampling:

  • In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie
  • Their own accounts speak of the multiplying of Men in the land, and of a shadow that fell on the forest...
  • ...he seemed to grow tall and menacing; his shadow filled the little room.
  • ...legends of the dark past, like a shadow in the background of their memories...
  • Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.
  • ...they became Ringwraiths, shadows under his great Shadow...
  • Then Sauron was vanquished and his spirit fled and was hidden for long years, until his shadow took shape again in Mirkwood.
  • The black shadow stood close to the point where they had left the path, and it swayed from side to side.
  • The shadow of the fear of the Black Riders came suddenly over them again.
  • 'Against the Shadow in the East,' said Strider quietly.
  • Also we crave the advice of Elrond. For the Shadow grows and draws nearer.
  • ...like a great black horseman, a dark shadow under the moon.
  • The shadow of Mordor lies on distant lands.
  • ...the horses of the Riddermark come from the fields of the North, far from the Shadow...
  • Through the opening a shadowy stair could be seen climbing steeply up...
  • Great shadows sprang up and fled...
  • Away beyond the shadows at the western end of the hall there came cries and horn-calls.

Some observations.

  • "The Shadow" is not Moria; Moria is referred to using uncapitalized "shadow".
  • "The Shadow" is not Sauron; Sauron is referred to using both capitalized and uncapitalized.
  • "The Shadow" is not Mordor; again we have "shadow of Mordor".

The concept being developed here is "Shadow" as an active agency of Evil, which may be personified by Melkor in the First Age (Frodo's words to Sam concerning Orcs - "The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make real new things of its own. I don't think it gave life to the Orcs, it only ruined them and twisted them." - are also significant here) and by other agents in later ages.

A literal reading is therefore incorrect; what Gandalf is in fact saying to the Balrog is the equivalent of Feanor's "Get thee gone from my gate, thou jail-crow of Mandos!" or "Get thee gone, and take thy due place!". His use of capitalized "Shadow" is him letting the Balrog know that he knows what it is and what it represents; nothing more.

  • 3
    A good reading, however calling him the Flame of Udun is when he informs the Balrog that he knows what he is. Although I guess you're right in saying he's reiterating the knowledge that he is a servant of Morgoth and could be saying "Return to Morgoth"
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 13:56
  • Linked to Morgoth hiding from the light of the Valar
    – Doctor Two
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 13:57
  • Secondly you should consider merging your accounts, you'll have amassed a significant amount of reputation and privileges.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 13:57
  • 1
    This seems correct, but if Shadow is "active agency of Evil" isn't that the last place we would want it to go? Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 14:24
  • 7
    @JeremyFrench I don't believe Durin's Bane ever served Sauron, so the only Shadow it could go back to would be Morgoth. Since Morgoth was expelled from Arda telling a balrog to go back to Morgoth is little different from telling it to go to hell. Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 19:54

I think first we must recognize that this battle between literally two maiar is call back to the distant past of the 1st Age and earlier when The Elves and their allies where dealing with powers so great they literally required intervention from The Valar on their behalf.

When Gandalf claims to be a servant of the Sacred Flame...he likely is referring to the Secret Fire of Eru Illuvatar(God). He refers to the Balrog as "The Flame of Undun". Balrogs are Maiar whom's special province is fire/flames, etc. They where the lieutenants of Melkor whom's fortress was named "Undun".

There is another Undun in the 3rd age somewhere about Cirith Ungol in Mordor...but this is unlikely what Gandalf is referring to...as The Balrog was definitely a servant of Melkor and did not reside in Mordor to begin with.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.