August 26, 2008
Blast You, Brett.
You and your posts that make me have to think and look things up.
We seem to be in agreement about the ability of Balrogs to alter their physical appearance, while I can't refute your contention that Balrogs have lost the ability to take on (maintain?) a constant physical form. We know from "The Simarillion" that the Valar and Maiar both could and did take physical form, and Tolkien's essay, "The Istari", in the Unfinished Tales says of Olorin that "though he loved the Elves, he walked among them unseen, or in form as one of them, and they did not know whence came the fair visions or the promptings of wisdom that he put into their hearts." Thus, the ability to take and alter physical forms is an inherent attribute of the Ainur. There is simply no hard evidence to suggest that the form taken by the Balrog upon his plunge into the water is due to his inability to maintain his physical form.
I also have to take issue with your assertion that there was no substance to the darkness surrounding the Balrog. In recounting the Darkening of Valinor, Tolkien says "the darkness that followed was more than loss of light. In that hour was made a Darkness that seemed not lack but a thing with being of its own: for it was indeed made by malice out of Light, and it had the power to pierce the eye, and to enter heart and mind, and strangle the very will." It seems to follow from this that the Balrogs have the ability to at least pervert their own light into this same physical darkness.
Also, it seems a contradiction to conclude that the Balrogs cannot maintain their physical form based on the fact that Morgoth lost the ability to alter his. If Morgoth lost the ability to alter his physical as a result of his actions, it would follow that something similar would happen to the Balrogs, who were also Ainur.
As far as Sauron is concerned, at what point did he lose the ability to alter his physical form? "The Silmarillion" says that "his fair semblance had departed for ever when he was cast into the abyss a the drowning of Numenor." But it then goes on to say that "He took up again the great Ring and clothed himself in power; and the malice of the Eye of Sauron few even among the great of Elves and Men could endure."
So, while I can't directly refute your claim, Brett, there's too much evidence that would seem to imply otherwise for me to sign on to your theory. Still, it is sounder and much more interesting than the notion that Balrogs can fly.