Note that all but the first two essays are officially just first drafts; they will be replaced with revised versions if those become available.
Since the earliest days of these newsgroups there has been a great deal of debate about our friends the Balrogs. What were these creatures? How many of them were there? Did Sauron command the one in Moria? Could they speak? Could they change shape? Could they fly? And, of course, the most dreaded question of all... Did they have wings?
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to thorough research on these topics has been the natural tendency of contributors to present 'solutions', which by an amazing coincidence would happen to precisely match their opinions, with few or no references beyond those supporting their viewpoint. As such I have been working off and on for months on compiling a complete list of relevant references and possible interpretations of these. Doubtless even with the long history of discussion on these points there will be references I have missed. At that, some of the items below are entirely new to these debates - things I found during the course of my research. Please let me know of any other passages or possibilities, and I will capture them for inclusion in a possible future update.
As I've got literally dozens of book-marked references to type, organize and comment on I think I'll break this up into different issues and post them as I get everything on a given topic sorted out. Beginning with the least complex issue:
- Could Balrogs speak? And why would we even ASK such a question?
- How many Balrogs were there?
- What IS a Balrog? [unrevised]
- Was the Balrog of Moria under Sauron's command? [unrevised]
- Can Balrogs change their shapes? [unrevised]
- Do Balrogs have wings, and can they fly? [unrevised]
- Appendix: Minor issues and the author's own views. [unrevised]
Webmaster's note: these essays are intended to be unbiased presentations of all sides of these questions, and it is my opinion that they do an admirable job of it. However, a perfectly unbiased treatment is impossible, so it is worth reading the Appendix to make yourself aware of the author's potential prejudices.
Moreover, because the question of Balrog wings is so very contentious, it may be worth reading some other discussions of that topic for balance. My Tolkien Newsgroups FAQ includes a consensus statement and a short summary of the debate. Michael Martinez has written a firmly pro-wing essay. And the Encyclopedia of Arda includes a balanced but somewhat anti-wing discussion. Finally, it may be interesting to search the Google Groups archive for the discussions that these essays inspired; you can find those threads in this list of search results (in reverse chronological order).