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I know of two people who have fought a Balrog and killed it but in the process lost their lives.

Glorfindel of Gondolin

He was able to stab it in the belly, but as the Balrog fell it reached out and grabbed Glorfindel's long golden hair, pulling him back down over the edge of the cliff. Glorfindel perished but Thorondor bore his body and buried him.

http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Glorfindel_of_Gondolin

Gandalf

The stone beneath the Balrog broke and fell, taking the Balrog with it into the abyss, but the thongs of its whip snared Gandalf about his knees, and Wizard and Balrog plummeted together into the depths of the mountain.

http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Gandalf

Has anybody managed to kill a Balrog and live?

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    Ecthelion and Tuor: "thus five fell before Tuor's great axe Dramborleg, three before Ecthelion's sword, and two score were slain by the warriors of the king's house." - Balrog - Miscellaneous. But this may have been before it was discovered that there weren't really that many Balrogs – Möoz Apr 28 '15 at 5:03
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    As a future reference lotr.wikia.com is a bad source, try tolkiengateway.net in future, it is much better! – Conor O'D Apr 28 '15 at 8:25
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    The moral of the story appears to be "If you're going to kill a Balrog, don't do it around a cliff or precipice." – Omegacron Apr 28 '15 at 15:18
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    Three incidents: the two you listed, and in The Silmarillion as published, during the Fall of Gondolin, Ecthelion of the Fountain and Gothmog Lord of Balrogs slew each other. – LAK Jul 22 '15 at 20:39
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The question is an interesting one as the number of Balrogs that appear in the lore changes over the course of it's creation. Initially there were presumed to be numerous. In this instance during the battle of Gondolin Tuor slew five balrogs and Ecthelion took down 3. Ecthelion later killed Gothmog lord of the Balrogs but was slain himself in the process.

"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 warriors of the king's house." ― The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, commentary by Christopher Tolkien on "The Fall of Gondolin"

However eventually Christopher Tolkien conceded that his father had ended up deciding on no more than 7 Balrogs

"In the margin my father wrote: 'There should not be supposed more than say 3 or at most 7 ever existed.'" ― Morgoth's Ring

So it is hard to say who if any survived the killing of a Balrog. It may be that Tuor alone survived.

  • Did it get difficult to kill Balrogs because the other warriors were not as skilled as Tuor and Ecthelion? – Vishvesh Apr 28 '15 at 9:15
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    Balrogs were Maia, powerful beings like Sauron, Gandalf and Saruman. It would be hard to kill them regardless. Those who did were already established as great warriors of their times. – Conor O'D Apr 28 '15 at 9:21
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    I think the 3 to 7 may have been particular to the context. Jonathan may have meant no more than 7 in this circumstance. Balrogs were Maia, taken and corrupted by the dark. Maia, while rare, are much more frequent than the Valar. Bombadil was likely, though not definitively, a Maia. Goldberry was likely another. The 7 wizards are considered chief Maia of a particular Vala. There are many Maiar, though few are named. – EngrStudent Apr 29 '15 at 16:06
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    I disagree, I think the quote is pretty clear when it says "3 or at most 7 ever existed" As for Tombombadil him and Goldberry being a Maia is fairly unsupported they are an anomaly which is what Tolkien wanted them to be. There were 5 wizards and most of the Maia had a patron Vala anyway. – Conor O'D Apr 29 '15 at 18:27
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In the Fall of Gondolin [BolTs 2] you may come across a different version of Balrog who are not as powerful and are more numerous and who do die without taking out their opponent. Even Men can kill them. Otherwise they are Maiar who're extremely powerful and so dangerous a foe that if they did not beat you, you did not beat them either. It'd end in a draw, like with Ecthelion, & Glorfindel of Gondolin, and Gandalf. Gandalf himself told the company in Moria, "This is a foe beyond any of you." [The Bridge of Khazad-Dum] The interesting part of Gandalf's encounter with the Balrog is that I generally get the sense that they are hulking figures who overpower you physically, but there is more to them than overwhelming physical prowess. When Gimli and Legolas see the Balrog they are so frightened that they cannot even wield their weapons. There is also his use of magic against Gandalf.

It laid hold of the iron ring, and then it perceived me and my spell... The counter-spell was terrible. It nearly broke me. For an instant the door left my control and began to open! [The Bridge of Khazad-Dum]

Gandalf goes over his encounter with the Balrog to Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli and you see how great a foe this guy is. Gandalf claimed that if anyone saw them fighting on the mountain 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... A great smoke rose about us, vapour and steam. Ice fell like rain. [The White Rider]

Lightning and fire beating upon each opponent back and forth on Celebdil. It was like a storm their wild encounter. The Balrog was also "stronger than a strangling snake" and tough as well as Gandalf "hewed him". At this point the Balrog had been at a disadvantage because they had fell into a pool that was ice cold and his fires went out. Gandalf apparently still had his sword, the Balrog's had broken. I do not know if he had another weapon to wield. It seems he fought Gandalf with his bare hands while Gandalf still had Glamdring. Eventually the Balrog took off and when his fires came back into play they took each other out.

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I think you just have to accept that The Fall of Gondolin was only ever written once and then most of it was never to be revised, so you can never put it into a full context.

If you take Tolkien's entire creation which was crafted over almost all his life, it would be nigh on impossible for ambiguities not to remain across such a gargantuan body of work. It makes sense to view it as an ever evolving phenomenon, as it is quite literally taking place over entire millennia and just as true to life as normal evolution. From a First Age Man, Elf or Maia to a Third Age one, I do not imagine that the status quo would just remain the same. If we accept that Tuor or Glorfindel or any of the high kings of the Noldor would most likely kill more recent heroes such as Aragorn, Legolas etc. with one blow, then we can accept that they also probably killed Balrogs who may have been weaker at that time and now we have a role reversal in the Third Age.

As a summary, I am inclined to view that ever changing narrative as more welcome because it paints a much better picture of how great the greatest Elves and Men were in the First Age. They were almost demi-god like, and now through hardships and just the toll that evil has taken on Middle-earth across the ages, we see a much diminished race of Elves and Men. Conversely, that may have made the forces of evil more menacing.

The margin mention of there only ever being 3-7 Balrogs is just one we may possibly have to overlook as Tolkien was sadly never able to elaborate or definitively insert that as the accepted final choice he would implement.

  • So.... is this a yes or a no? – Adele C Feb 3 '17 at 23:33

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