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How many Balrogs did it take to defeat Fëanor? In The Silmarillion it says:

"Long he fought on, and undismayed, though he was wrapped in fire and wounded with many wounds; but at the last he was smitten to the ground by Gothmog..."

(Sil, 107)

Did Fëanor take out any Balrogs and how many fought him?

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    Since the number of Balrogs is never mentioned in this passage, and their total population varied from "hundreds" to "There should not be supposed more than say 3 or at most 7 ever existed." during the redaction of what would become the Silmarillion, I am not sure you can expect any usefull answer... – Eureka Aug 29 '13 at 13:23
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    @Eureka - the analysis of # of Balrogs in various versions would be a great basis for an answer. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Aug 29 '13 at 13:27
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    Note that this also applies to the number of Balrogs killed, since, thanks to ConservationOfNinjutsu, their status also varied from EliteMook all the way to PhysicalGod. Warning, TVTropes links! – Eureka Aug 29 '13 at 13:31
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    This sounds like a classic Balrog vs. Feanor type of question. blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/08/gorilla-vs-shark – psr Aug 29 '13 at 17:22
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    One to screw in the Silmaril, one to hold the ladder... – Ber Apr 5 '16 at 5:02
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Disclaimer: This answer contains TVTropes links. Be prepared to lose several hours of your time.

The two sentences just before the ones you quoted indicates that at least two (the plural is used) and likely more ("surrounded") Balrogs were dispatched to stop Fëanor: This gives us a lower limit.

Thus it was that he (Fëanor) drew far ahead of the van of his host; and seeing this the servants of Morgoth turned to bay, and there issued from Angband Balrogs to aid them. There upon the confines of Dor Daedeloth, the land of Morgoth, Fëanor was surrounded, with few friends about him. The Silmarillion

The main problem lies in determining the upper limit, since the total population of Balrogs varied a lot during the redaction of what would later become the Silmarillion, from hundreds to at most seven:

There came wolves, and wolfriders, and there came Balrogs a thousand, and there came worms and drakes, and Glaurung, Father of Dragons. War of the Jewels, The Grey Annals - Year 472 ~230

The idea that Morgoth disposed of a 'host' of Balrogs endured long, but in a late note my father said that only very few ever existed - 'at most seven'. Book of Lost Tales, Tome 2, The Fall of Gondolin

The upper limit on the number of Balrogs fought by Fëanor (including Gothmog) is therefore "three up to a thousand" (but likely no more than a dozen top, see the following rational)

Let's focus on the number of Balrogs he defeated, next. I would say "none", since no kill is mentioned in text, and the two Balrogs defeated by Echtelion and Glorfindel respectively are seen as big deals in the rest of the published Silmarillion, which aims at a certain coherency (see the book forewords).

In fact, it appears that Balrogs obeys the rule of ConservationOfNinjutsu. Depending of their total population at the time of redaction, a single Balrog could be considered narratively as anything ranging from EliteMook to PhysicalGod:

The early conception of Balrogs makes them less terrible, and certainly more destructible, than they afterwards became: they existed in 'hundreds' (p. 170), and were slain by Tuor and the Gondothlim in large numbers: thus five fell before Tuor's great axe Dramborleg, three before Ecthelion's sword, and two score were slain by the warrior's of the king's house. Book of Lost Tales, Tome 2, The Fall of Gondolin

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    ...an hour later... oh right that's how I got to TV tropes. – DLeh Jul 15 '14 at 19:14
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    This was the first time I ever got sucked into a TV Tropes loop, but it only lasted about 30 mins. God damn the names they come up with are funny. – Wad Cheber Jun 12 '15 at 22:15
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Tolkien's apparent final word on the number of Balrogs is given in commentary to paragraph 50 of section two of the Annals of Aman, published in History of Middle-earth 10: Morgoth's Ring:

There should not be supposed more than say 3 or at most 7 ever existed.

Going by the lower limit, the three Balrogs are therefore:

  • Gothmog, Lord of the Balrogs (slain by Ecthelion)
  • The unnamed Balrog slain by Glorfindel
  • Durin's Bane, the Balrog of Moria

If we accept this lower limit, and noting that the text states "there issued from Angband Balrogs to aid them", so therefore "Balrogs" implies more than one, we can say the following:

  • It took either two or three Balrogs to defeat Feanor
  • Feanor killed none (because all three are otherwise accounted for)

The published Silmarillion favours a number of Balrogs towards the higher-end of the "three-to-seven" range, because the last chapter (Of the Voyage of Earendil and the War of Wrath) notes that:

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

So in addition to the three above we have:

  • More than one (again because "Balrogs" is plural) that was destroyed.
  • At least one more ("few" being plural, and in addition to Durin's Bane) that escaped.

That makes it at least three more Balrogs, so the minimum number therefore becomes six. If there were seven but we now have six accounted for, we may surmise that the seventh was killed by Feanor, but there's absolutely no textual evidence to support that assumption: there may have been only six, or the seventh may have been an extra one in either of the above two categories. (Yes, that means that there is at least one and possibly even two Balrogs still loose somewhere in Middle-earth at the end of the Third Age.)

Putting it all together, we therefore get the following combinations of possibilities:

Accounted for            3   3   3   3   (Gothmog/Glorfindel's/Durin's Bane)
Killed by Feanor         0   1   0   0
Killed in War of Wrath   2   2   3   2
Also Escaped             1   1   1   2   (In addition to Durin's Bane)
Total                    6   7   7   7

If it suits your own perception of Tolkien's stories to have Feanor as a Balrog-slayer then you can certainly have that: Tolkien doesn't say that he did, but then again he doesn't say that he didn't, so you can have it either way. Nor is there any indication of how many of those were involved in killing Feanor.

It's notable that the above quotation dates back to the 1937 Silmarillion and was published completely unchanged. At that time Tolkien did still imagine a far greater number of Balrogs than he subsequently came to. That's also interesting because it shows that Tolkien had imagined Balrogs surviving "in caverns inaccessible at the roots of the earth" well before he came to concieve of the Balrog of Moria.

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Well, book clearly stated,quotes that feanor was the mightiest in all parts of body, in_skill, in strength, etc. Somewhere in a chapter called "sun and moon" or something like that. And after his death by becoming ashes, it said something almost exactly as "he's the mightiest in mind and body of all children of illuvatar and like him none shall ever see". Im pretty sure that this means feanor was at least as mighty as fingolfin if not mightier. If feanor was like fingolfin who made morgoth himself squeel or even stronger, then it's pretty safe to assume feanor killed at least 1 balrog. To say feanor couldn't manage to kill any would be like saying "glorfindel fought many orcs and died" and then assuming he didn't kill any orcs simply because the book doesn't clearly state it. I believe that feanors power alone is_evidence, not proof,but evidence that he probably killed at least 1.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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    Unfortunately you're expressing an opinion, which would be fine, but you'd need to have more specific backup from the literature. – Sindi Sep 25 '14 at 17:44

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