In The Fellowship of the Ring, the Orcs of the Misty Mountains are clearly afraid of the Balrog, and who could blame them? But whereas the Balrog killed all the Dwarves he could find after they woke him up, he seems to have left the Orcs alone for the most part. Other questions here have established that the Balrog didn't answer to Sauron in any way, so the answer isn't that the Orcs and the Balrog work for Sauron.

Of course, Balrogs and Orcs are both evil, but so what? That doesn't keep Orcs from killing each other left and right. Hitler and Stalin were both evil, but they were intent on killing each other too.

So why did the Balrog of Moria tolerate the presence of Orcs in his domain? What was the reason for his obvious willingness to tolerate Orcs but not Dwarves?

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    I'm wondering whether they worshiped it, or something similar. Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 18:52
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    Dwarves are yummy, orcs don't taste good :-)
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 19:04
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    @jamesqf Gollum seems to think orcs taste just fine, although I do seem to remember he thought Bilbo would be a nice change...
    – Oliphaunt
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 19:13
  • @jamesqf - did Durin's Bane eat the Dwarves? I don't remember hearing that. As far as I know, he just killed them all. If he likes killing stuff, why not kill Orcs?
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 19:23
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    The orcs killed many of the Dwarves. Probably when they had retreated to where the Balrog could not follow easily, orcs moved in and grew bolder and started attacking the remaining Dwarves.
    – TylerH
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 20:47

4 Answers 4


In the Silmarillion Balrogs fight alongside orcs in many places. It could just be they were natural allies.

At last, in the year when Eärendil was seven years old, Morgoth was ready, and he loosed upon Gondolin his Balrogs, and his Orcs, and his wolves; and with them came dragons of the brood of Glaurung, and they were become now many and terrible. The host of Morgoth came over the northern hills where the height was greatest and the watch least vigilant, and it came at night upon a time of festival, when all the people of Gondolin were upon the walls to await the rising sun, and sing their songs at its uplifting; for the morrow was the great feast that they named the Gates of Summer.

An earlier comment above about orcs hiding seems to have forgotten that the Orcs were in the same chamber as the Balrogs during the attack on the chamber of mazarbul. The orcs were afraid, but did not hide or run away.

‘As I stood there I could hear orc- voices on the other side: at any moment I thought they would burst it open. I could not hear what was said; they seemed to be talking in their own hideous language. All I caught was ghâsh: that is “fire”. Then something came into the chamber – I felt it through the door, and the orcs themselves were afraid and fell silent. It laid hold of the iron ring, and then it perceived me and my spell.


The Balrogs were fire-themed Maiar servants of Morgoth Bauglir. The Orcs, problematic though their origins are, were likewise servants of Morgoth.

For of the Maiar, many were drawn to his splendour in the days of his greatness, and remained in that allegiance down into darkness...

And in Utumno he gathered his demons about him, those spirits who first adhered to him in the days of his splendour, and became most like him in his corruption: their hearts were of fire, but they were cloaked in darkness, and terror went before them: they had whips of flame. Balrogs they were named...
—J. R. R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

Seems reasonable that the Balrog would employ the Orcs, or at least not make wiping them out its agenda. Whether or not the Balrog of Moria would cooperate with Sauron in any meaningful sense, because both Sauron and the Balrog of Moria were servants of Morgorth, it seems reasonable that they might share broad values... as in Orcs make useful servants or tools, and Dwarves are enemies.

Part of the problematic origin of the Orcs is the question of free will: if they do not have free will, they can't really be evil, any more than a tornado or pneumonia is evil. But if they do have free will, then they can choose not to be evil... something that (a) never happens in the text, and (b) makes morally repugnant the kill-Orcs-on-sight policies and preferences of all the protagonists of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. The Balrog (and Balrogs in general) were not, however, creations (or corruptions) of Morgoth, but lesser angelic spirits (i.e. of the same general order as Sauron, Olórin/Gandalf, Melian, etc.), so in as much as Maiar have free will, the Balrog of Moria is at liberty to make its own choice regarding the Orcs.

  • I edited it a bit more, and part of your answer is now unnecessary.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 20:34
  • Do you have any idea why the Balrog didn't get involved in the battle of Anazibblezubba or whatever it is called? If it had a use for the Orcs, why did it let them get wiped out by the Dwarves?
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 20:40
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    @Andomar There are evil Elves, most notably in The Silmarillion: Eöl was one such, and the Doom of Mandos that fell upon the Noldor was due to much Elven evil (e.g. Feänor's Oath, the Kin Slaying at Alqualondë, etc.). Galadriel's "I pass the test" and subsequent journey to the West is a deep understatement of redemption after many thousands of years of her exile from Aman. So, yes, the question of free will bears on the goodness and evil of the Elves.
    – Lexible
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 20:34
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    Good point. Galadriel can do her duty and pass, or give in to temptation and fall. She is not free to pursue her own happiness.
    – Andomar
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 5:50
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    @Lexible fine, you can discount my theory, but all will one day look back at this as the day that "plovergate" started on scifi.SE!!!1!
    – msouth
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 22:28

Good question. I don't have an authoritative answer, but I'm just thinking of other sort-of analogs – Smaug, Shelob, Gollum. The latter two had orcs in their neighbourhood, whereas the former seems to have kept Erebor clean.

May it just be that orcs are good at lurking in nooks and crannies, and avoiding the dangerous bits, whereas this is something no self-respecting dwarf will do? Dwarves will proudly claim their hall and can't help but arouse the wrath of any resident Balrog.

Likewise, a dragon such as Smaug will proudly claim a hoard and make sure its surroundings won't get infested by vermin.

Thus, I suggest this is a distinction between the proud (dwarves and dragons) and the lurkers (orcs, Balrogs, and corrupted hobbits).

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    A self-respecting dwarf hid from Azog, didn't he? Even when his buddy was killed?
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 19:17
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    Good one, although hiding is different from lurking. And in the canon I subscribe to, Azog was killed by Dáin at Azanulbizar :-)
    – Oliphaunt
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 19:27
  • He was, but only after Azog killed Thror, and Nar "stayed nearby for many days in hiding". Appendix A, "Durin's Folk". Dwarves sometimes hide from Orcs - it would therefore be easy to imagine them hiding from a Balrog.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 19:31
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    I bow to thy knowledge. But hiding in the wild, or between battles, is different to my mind than making a living of hiding/lurking, as Orcs do. I feel that Dwarves like to be masters of their home. Thorin, for example, greatly resented having to live in exile.
    – Oliphaunt
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 19:32
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    Glaurung the dragon from the tale of Turin Turambar had actually orcs in his employ (although he didn't treat them very well). Basically, Balrogs were Morgoth's lieutenants, while orcs were common soldiers and commanders.
    – Maksim
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 21:09

Orcs were originally bred (or twisted from men and elves) by the first Dark Lord Morgoth, and fought alongside (or under the command of) Balrogs in the First Age.

So perhaps the Balrog in Moria didn't give much thought to them, whereas the Dwarves presented a more immediate threat when they kept digging deeper and deeper.

Or perhaps the Moria orcs were just agile and more able to escape and hide in all the nooks and crannies of the caves.

The scene at the bridge of Khazad-dum tells me that the Balrog considered those orcs his soldiers.

  • The bridge scenes convinced me that the Orcs are terrified of the Balrog.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 16:42
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    Of course they are terrified of him, anyone would be. :) But either he didn't consider them a threat, or actually considered them useful in keeping others out of Moria. Don't forget that there was at least one cave troll, or perhaps even more, so it looks like a whole society of unfriendly creatures lived there.
    – Maksim
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 21:03

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