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When Gandalf fights with the Balrog they begin by falling through an abyss. After reaching an underground lake, they seem to fight their way on top of a tower.

Is there a description of the events during Gandalf’s fight with the Balrog, of what exactly happened?

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Gandalf covers this for the most part in chapter 5 of The Two Towers. He gives quite a clear account of the events that transpired and how they got from deepest pits to the highest peak

Long I fell, and he fell with me. His fire was about me... Deep is the abyss that is spanned by Durin's Bridge... Yet it has a bottom, beyond light and knowledge,... 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...

[We] came to the Endless Stair.'....

'From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak it climbed, ascending in unbroken spiral in many thousand steps, until it issued at last in Durin's Tower carved in the living rock of Zirakzigil, the pinnacle of the Silvertine.

'There upon Celebdil was a lonely window in the snow, and before it lay a narrow space, a dizzy eyrie above the mists of the world. The sun shone fiercely there, but all below was wrapped in cloud. Out he sprang, and even as I came behind, he burst into new flame. There was none to see, or perhaps in after ages songs would still be sung of the Battle of the Peak.' Suddenly Gandalf laughed. 'But what would they say in song? Those that looked up from afar thought that the mountain was crowned with storm. Thunder they heard, and lightning, they said, smote upon Celebdil, and leaped back broken into tongues of fire. Is not that enough? A great smoke rose about us, vapour and steam. Ice fell like rain. I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountainside where he smote it in his ruin. Then darkness took me....'
The Two Towers, Book 3, Chapter 5, The White Rider

Gandalf tells us that after reaching the underground lake, himself and the Balrog fought in the lowest dungeons until they found the endless stair, after which they fought while climbing all the way to the peak of the Silvertine. On the peak their battle reached a climax and Gandalf threw down his opponent and defeated him. However this came at the cost of Gandalf’s own life and “darkness took [him]”.

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    Holy what now? ... I'm literally speechless. That passage is amazingly cool. – goblin Mar 10 at 3:18
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    @goblin something something “books are better than their film adaptations”. Although this passage is shortened to only include the most important details. – Edlothiad Mar 10 at 7:45
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    Huh - I never noticed before, but this seems to be another metaphorical volcano: the Balrog rises from the depths of the Earth to the top of a mountain and "breaks the mountainside" in an eruption of smoke, vapour and steam. (The other metaphorical volcano in Tolkien is the lonely mountain, from which Smaug erupts and destroys a town.) I wonder if the Maia generally represent forces of nature in this way. – Nathaniel Mar 10 at 16:59
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    @Nathaniel Then of course there's the literal volcano of Mt. Doom. Tolkien loved him some volcanoes... – Darrel Hoffman Mar 10 at 18:31
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica on the other hand, I found the book version of The Hobbit rather easier to get through than the film series. – Nathaniel Mar 12 at 13:15
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The answers by Edlothiad and Mark Olson are good, but omit some details.

According to The Return of the King, Appendix B The Tale of the Years, The Third Age, Third age 3019:

                            *January*

15 The Bridge of Khazad-Dum and fall of Gandalf. The Company reaches Nimrodel late at night.

17 The Company comes to Karas Galadon at evening.

23 Gandalf pursues the Balrog to the peak of Zirak-zigil.

25 He casts down the Balrog and passes away. His body lies on the peak.

                              *February*

14 The Mirror of Galadriel. Gandalf returns to life, and lies in a trance.

16 Farewell to Lorien. Gollum in hiding on the west bank observes the departure.

17 Gwaihir bears Gandalf to Lorien.

So presumably Gandalf and the Balrog fell into deep water sometime on January 15, since presumably they would not take until January 16 or later to reach the bottom.

They then fought for an unknown length of time before the Balrog fled and Gandalf pursued him through the tunnels and then up the Endless Stair. On January 23, after eight days of fighting, chasing and climbing, Gandalf and the Balrog reached Durin's tower and resumed fighting on the peak of Zirak-zigil. So Gandalf was actually still alive when the Company told Galadriel and Celeborn he was dead, and started mourning him. Gandalf killed the Balrog's body on January 25 after two days of fighting on the peak and then died.

Gandalf's body came back to life on February 14, after being dead for 20 days.

So those dates should be remembered when reading Gandalf's account of the battle with the Balrog.

January 15:

'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.

January 15 to 23:

'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 Khazad-dûm: 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.'

'It was made, and it had not been destroyed,' said Gandalf. 'From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak it climbed. ascending in unbroken spiral in many thousand steps, until it issued at last in Durin's Tower carved in the living rock of Zirak-zigil, the pinnacle of the Silvertine.

January 23 to 25:

'There upon Celebdil was a lonely window in the snow, and before it lay a narrow space, a dizzy eyrie above the mists of the world. The sun shone fiercely there, but all below was wrapped in cloud. Out he sprang, and even as I came behind, he burst into new flame. There was none to see, or perhaps in after ages songs would still be sung of the Battle of the Peak.' Suddenly Gandalf laughed. 'But what would they say in song? Those that looked up from afar thought that the mountain was crowned with storm. Thunder they heard, and lightning, they said, smote upon Celebdil, and leaped back broken into tongues of fire. Is not that enough? A great smoke rose about us, vapour and steam. Ice fell like rain. I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin. Then darkness took me; and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.

January 25 to February 14:

Then darkness took me; and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.

February 14 to 17:

'Naked I was sent back - for a brief time, until my task is done. And naked I lay upon the mountain-top. The tower behind was crumbled into dust, the window gone; the ruined stair was choked with burned and broken stone. I was alone, forgotten, without escape upon the hard horn of the world. There I lay staring upward, while the stars wheeled over, and each day was as long as life-age of the world. Faint to my ears came the gathered rumor of all lands: the springing and the dying, the song and the weeping, and the slow everlasting fro groan of overburdened stone. And so at the last Gwaihir the Windlord came and took me up and bore me away.'

February 17:

And so at the last Gwaihir the Windlord came and took me up and bore me away.'

'Ever am I fated to be your burden, friend at need.' I said.

'A burden you have been,' He answered. 'but not so now. Light as a swan's feather in my claw you are. The Sun shines through you. Indeed I do not think that you need me anymore: were I to let you fall, you would float upon the wind.' ' 'Do not let me fall!' I gasped, for i felt life in me again. Bear me to Lothlorien!'

'That indeed is the command of Lady Galadriel who sent me to look for you.' He answered.

Thus it was that I came to Caras Galadon and found you but lately gone....

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    I probably could have quoted the passage from the text by heart, but adding the appendix data is a real eye-opener. I never contemplated the implications of those dates before. Imagine fighting and chasing a balrog for 8 days! – tbrookside Mar 10 at 15:54
  • The "Then darkness took me" passage is quoted two times. I think the first time (at the end of the paragraph assigned to January 23–25) may be deleted. – Schmuddi Mar 10 at 16:39
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    @Schmuddi That is deliberate the first time under January 25 to state when Gandalf died, and the second time under January 25 t o February 14 to describe what happened to Gandalf after he died and before he came back to life. – M. A. Golding Mar 10 at 17:17
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    Right, I see your intention. Still, as a reader, it was confusing encountering the same sentence twice. How about splitting the sentence up? You'd have "Then darkness took me […]" for January 23–25 to describe the events up to and including the moment of Gandalf's death. The sentence would continue under Jan 25–Feb 14 (i.e. "[…] and I strayed out of thought and time") to describe his death-like condition during that time. – Schmuddi Mar 10 at 17:28
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All we know comes from one passage in LotR:

'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 Khazad-dûm: 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.'

'It was made, and it had not been destroyed,' said Gandalf. 'From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak it climbed. ascending in unbroken spiral in many thousand steps, until it issued at last in Durin's Tower carved in the living rock of Zirak-zigil, the pinnacle of the Silvertine.

'There upon Celebdil was a lonely window in the snow, and before it lay a narrow space, a dizzy eyrie above the mists of the world. The sun shone fiercely there, but all below was wrapped in cloud. Out he sprang, and even as I came behind, he burst into new flame. There was none to see, or perhaps in after ages songs would still be sung of the Battle of the Peak.' Suddenly Gandalf laughed. 'But what would they say in song? Those that looked up from afar thought that the mountain was crowned with storm. Thunder they heard, and lightning, they said, smote upon Celebdil, and leaped back broken into tongues of fire. Is not that enough? A great smoke rose about us, vapour and steam. Ice fell like rain. I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin. Then darkness took me; and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.

'Naked I was sent back - for a brief time, until my task is done. And naked I lay upon the mountain-top. The tower behind was crumbled into dust, the window gone; the ruined stair was choked with burned and broken stone. I was alone, forgotten, without escape upon the hard horn of the world.

So: After Gandalf broke the bridge over the abyss, he and the Balrog fell into the abyss. It was very deep and filled with water at the bottom. They continued fighting, Gandalf with his sword and the Balrog with his snake-like arms. (It is unclear whether this was entirely under water the whole time or in tunnels.) Eventually the Balrog fled from Gandalf, up tunnels and Gandalf followed. The balrog (who obviously knew his way around Moria) came to the Endless Stair and fled up it, Gandalf pursuing.

Eventually they came out in Durin's Tower on Silvertine. They continued fighting and, eventually, Gandalf "threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin." There's no indication how Gandalf ultimately killed the Balrog, but since he did not lose his sword Glamdring, he must have retained it during the entire fight and thus probably used it to kill the Balrog.

That's what we know.

The lake at the bottom of the chasm seems perfectly natural -- it's hard to imagine a deep chasm which doesn't accumulate water. Durin's Stair is unexpected. It would seem that Durin made it early in the First Age, but it had been lost and its very existence was now doubtful legend. They climbed it "many thousand steps" to the top. (Not that's hard to believe! But they were both Maiar; perhaps that gave them the endurance needed.)

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