The TOLKIEN GALLERY
page EIGHT

~
B a l r o g s

and other

F/ i| r\ e Spirits



Balrog per Peter Jackson<––– BALROG

as portrayed in the first LotR movie Fellowship of the Ring, produced by Peter Jackson. This primeval fire-spirit beast is immortal, although - by assuming material form - it can be 'killed' ... indeed, a Balrog was killed by Glorfindel in the battle for Gondolin in the First Age, and another Elven Lord - Ecthelion - died killing Gothmog, the Lord of the Balrogs, in the same battle.

In the film the Wizard Gandalf is dwarfed by the size of this creature as he confronts it on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm. Still, they faced each other as equals, both being of the Ainur originally from the Undying Lands. Gandalf calls up the fire of Arnor as an authority against the demon.

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Balrog per Bakshi

In the early animated Bakshi film of The Lord of the Rings,
the Balrog was portrayed less as 'fire' and more as a fiercely dark and beastly demon.
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The idea of primeval fire-spirits did not originate with Professor Tolkien, however. At one time in the emerging quest for scientific doctrine, it was believed that creation was comprised of four basic elements: earth, water, air and fire [for a narrow exposition of this idea see the page on The Rings of Power.] The spirit - or Elemental - of fire became known as the Salamander.

Book of Lambspring
<––– SALAMANDER
[Book of Lambspring, Musaeum Hermeticum, 1749]
It appears unclear where the salamander became an elemental of fire. The idea is generally accepted as originating with Theophrastus Paracelsus [c. 1490 - 1541]. However, the ancient Greeks thought of the zoological salamander as associated with fire - perhaps because the creatures nested in fallen wood and would emerge when the brands were burned - and they had a reputation for being able to extinguish a fire by the natural coolness of their bodies.
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Salamander per ParacelsusTo the left is a rendering of a salamander by Paracelsus [Auslegung von 30 magischen Figuren, Complete Writings of..., Strasbourg, 1616]; it is notable as an interpretive piece. The figure wears a crown [of Occidental styling?] signifying its high position within creation; the [wizard's?] crest reaches unto the celestial bodies, including the Moon and stars. The face is human, indicating a nature that partakes of both the beastial [the ears] and the Divine. The body is that of a lion - or griffon - with its claws implanted in the Earth. The tail ends in a dragon's head gripping a sword, indicating the 'secret fire' of the Hermeticist.

This figure is often compared to the Phoenix, a fanciful bird that arises in flames from its own ashes to live again and again.


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Fire Elementals portrayed by M.P. Hall
Another fanciful representation of the ELEMENTALS of fire by ––>
hermeticist Manly P. Hall [The Secret Teachings..., 1977 {with some
coloring interpretation by this author}].

The Roman author Pliny claims to have once tried the proof of the salamander legend, but the creature, alas, was immediately consumed by the fire. In the first part of Henry IV, Shakespeare wrote: I have maintained that salamander of yours with fire any time this two-and-thirty years.

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