Balrogs are Maiar who were corrupted by Melkor to become evil. Sauron was also a Maia who was corrupted by Melkor and became evil, and Saruman was a Maia who was corrupted by Sauron to become evil. That said, though, I have no idea if they themselves are Balrogs. If they are, why are they? If they're not, what are the specific differences between those two individuals and balrogs?

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    Maybe this will help to understand the issue: Swedes are humans who live in the north. Finns are also humans who live in the north. Are Finns Swedes? If they're not, why aren't they considered Swedes?
    – Philipp
    May 26, 2017 at 7:20
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    Sorry, I should have been more clear - it was a comparison, to get the following point across: There is no reason to consider Saruman or Sauron Balrogs, simply because they share some traits, same as with the Swedes and the Finns.
    – Philipp
    May 26, 2017 at 7:39
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    Answer to this question: No, they weren't Balrogs. A better question would be: "Why didn't they become Balrogs when they fell?", a question I would be all too happy to answer May 26, 2017 at 9:09
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    Balrogs weren't just evil Maiar, they're primordial spirits of fire like Arien. Since Sauron and Saruman did not have an affinity for fire, they weren't Balrogs. There are many other Maiar who served Morgoth who also were not Balrogs, some took the form of Orcs, etc.
    – Shamshiel
    May 26, 2017 at 10:35

2 Answers 2


Balrogs were in the service of Morgoth before Time

Mairon was a servant of Aule, not Melkor

Although VoC claims Balrogs were a "spirit of fire" only two characters in Tolkien's writings are ever described as such. However from The Complete Tolkien Companion we get the following

“In their origins, as a part of the Thought of Ilúvatar, these were MAIAR of the following or service of Melkor, the mightiest of the Ainur. They had the form of spirits of fire. At the beginning of days they took service with Melkor, and were swiftly corrupted to his purposes, appearing everafter to Elves and Men as demonic beings of great size, fire-enshrouded, who bore, as their principal weapon, a whip of many thongs.”

This seems to suggest that the Balrogs were part of the service of Melkor during the Music of the Ainur. These "spirits of fire" were in the service of Melkor before time and were corrupted to his purposes after coming to Ea. This means that Sauron and Saruman as Maiar of Aule were not Balrogs as they did not originate with Melkor during the music.

Other things to support the argument that Sauron wasn't a Balrog is that Sauron was mentioned separately to the Balrogs

For of the Maiar many were drawn to his splendour in the days of his greatness, and remained in that allegiance down into his darkness; and others he corrupted afterwards to his service with lies and treacherous gifts. Dreadful among these spirits were the Valaraukar, the scourges of fire that in Middle-earth were called the Balrogs, demons of terror. Among those of his servants that have names the greatest was that spirit whom the Eldar called Sauron, or Gorthaur the Cruel.
The Silmarillion: Valaquenta

Gothmog was the Lord of Balrogs, yet Sauron was Melkor's second-in-command, had he been a Balrog, he would've been the "Lord".

That stronghold was commanded by Sauron, lieutenant of Melkor; and it was named Angband.
The Silmarillion: Chapter 3, Of the Coming of Elves and the Captivity of Melkor

In all the deeds of Melkor the Morgoth upon Arda, in his vast works and in the deceits of his cunning, Sauron had a part...
The Silmarillion: Valaquenta

And Legolas labeled the Balrog of Moria a Balrog and claimed him to be the second most deadly of Elf banes. If Sauron was a Balrog, would the Balrogs not be the deadliest?

It was a Balrog of Morgoth," said Legolas; "of all the elf-banes the most deadly, save the One who sits in the Dark Tower.
The Fellowship of the Ring: Book 2 - Chapter 7, The Mirror of Galadriel

Curumo is of the Istari

Similar to Sauron, Curumo is a Maia of Aule and was therefore not corrupted by Melkor during the music. Even though Saruman fell from grace. He is of the Istari. He was corrupted by the ring to take control of what he couldn't. Just because he became evil does not make him an Balrog. Although I don't really have anything to support that besides the fact that when they saw Sharkey in the Shire, he looked like Saruman and not like this:


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    You should maybe change "only the dreadful became Balrogs", because that seems too strong for the evidence. Your quote - "Dreadful among these spirits were the Valaraukar, the scourges of fire that in Middle-earth were called the Balrogs" - doesn't say that the dreadful spirits became Balrogs: it says that Valaraukar - who were dreadful - are called Balrogs in Middle-Earth. It does not even necessarily say that their nature changed - just their allegiance to Morgoth, and what they were called.
    – AAT
    May 26, 2017 at 13:24
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    @Edlothiad "he looked like Saruman and not like this" I think Saruman looked pretty similar to the dude in the picture you posted. Even Aragorn and company confused these two. ;) May 26, 2017 at 14:02
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    Small nitpick: Saruman was corrupted by a desire for power. He had no more actual exposure to the Ring than anyone else of who knew of its existence.
    – chepner
    May 26, 2017 at 14:45
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    "Balrog" is also just the Sindarin cognate of Quenya "Valarauka". It doesn't signify any particular difference in those who bear the names.
    – chepner
    May 26, 2017 at 14:47
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    Credit/citation for the art? +1 for using it rather than awful movie screenshots. May 26, 2017 at 18:00

Balrogs were a specific type of Maia - spirits of fire - whereas both Sauron and Saruman were mentioned as being not of that type.

The only other Maia of this type mentioned in the texts is Arien, the guide of the Sun:

...and she was chosen because she had not feared the heats of Laurelin, and was unhurt by them, being from the beginning a spirit of fire, whom Melkor had not deceived nor drawn to his service.

(The Silmarillion, Of the Sun and Moon and the Hiding of Valinor, with my emphasis)

If Arien had been corrupted she would doubtless have become a Balrog; because Sauron and Saruman were not spirits of fire, they do not become Balrogs.

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    Great answer - it's not because Sauron was "greater" than the Balrogs, but because he is different in nature from the Balrogs.
    – Shamshiel
    May 26, 2017 at 13:04
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    This is correct. Also, in Saruman's case there's another distinction - at the time he turns evil, he's physically incarnated in an Istari's human-type body. May 28, 2017 at 7:37

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