Tag Archives: Tolkien

Why the Balrog in Moria got really cranky

The Balrog who lived in the basement of the Mines of Moria wasn’t usually a cranky type. Indeed, he was having a quiet few centuries off after ridding Moria of its dwarf plague.

Always a believer in self-improvement, he’d decided to use the time constructively and build himself a guitar. His brother had taught him some way cool riffs you could play on the E string, and so he was humming “DANT DANT DAN,  DANT DANT DA-DAN, Smoooooke on the waaaater...” quietly to himself as he worked on the new Super Oliphaunt model.

Of course, his brother’s guitar had elf-gut strings, which everybody knew were the best if you could get them. Troll-gut wasn’t bad, but it was best for basses. Man-gut never lived up to its promise, he deemed. He’d have to settle for orc-gut – you couldn’t even get dwarf-gut these days. Oh well, he thought, they’d had to be got rid of. The greedy bad-tempered little sods with their lousy folk songs and their axe competitions and their horrible hairy little faces (to say nothing of the males).

It hadn’t been easy working out how to make the Super Oliphaunt fire- and slime-proof, but perseverance always pays off, and now he was just about to…

“…Pippin felt curiously attracted by the well…Moved by a sudden impulse he groped for a loose stone and let it drop…then far below, as if the stone had fallen into deep water in some cavernous place, there came a plunk, very distant, but magnified and repeated in the hollow shaft. “What’s that?” cried Gandalf… “Fool of a Took!…Throw yourself in next time…!” *

…and now, as the Balrog was just about to…PLUNK!!!!!! 

” What’s that?” cried the Balrog, nearly dropping his whip. The little team of orcs in front of him quailed, and nervously shifted their grip on the sweaty leather ropes that attached them to Grond, the Hammer of the Underworld. The Balrog had borrowed it from the Chief Nazgul, who had sniffed and hissed at him from under its black hood and told him to have it back inside a week. Or else – there were big plans for Grond. The Chief Nazgul really should get something done about its breath. It was, like, whoah!

So the Balrog was under pressure, no doubt about it. He took a deep breath.

Forget the plunk, he told himself. There’s no time to worry about plunks.

“Heave!” he called to the orcs. “Not too far…now, let go!” Grond swung toward the Super Oliphaunt’s bridge section and connected with a satisfying tap, followed by an echoing -tom.  Moria really did have nice acoustics. “Again! Let’s keep it uniform!” he roared. Tap-tom, tap-tap, tom went the hammer.

This guitar was going to be great! So resonant! The coupled Helmholtz resonance was awesome, and the T(2,1) cross dipole was singing. Singing! If only he could get hold of an elf, or even a few dwarves for a set of strings. (Dwarfs! Dwarfs! Not “dwarves”! he chided himself. He always forgot what the correct plural form was. Or was it dwarrows?)

And many levels above…

Gimli’s like: “That was the sound of a hammer, or I have never heard one.” 

“Master!” squealed a breathless orc as it skidded to a halt at the bottom of the Endless Staircase.”The upper levels…there’s…there’s…a wizard, an elf, a dwarf, two humans, four little guys with hairy feet, and another creepy little guy with bug eyes following them!”

“Be cool,” said the Balrog. “An elf, you say…and where did you say I can find our visitors?” A wizard, eh? Perhaps he’d make a wizard set of strings! “Keep tapping, lads, while I go and see to our visitors.”

“Yes, sir, whatever you say, sir!” cried the orcs. They drew back on Grond and let fly with a couple more big taps. DOOM! DOOM! the Super Oliphaunt roared.

“Not so hard, you idiots!” shouted the Balrog, and burst into flame.

Now I’m not saying that needing a set of strings is a good reason for attempted murder of a wizard. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Getting between me and a new set of strings is like getting between a cruise-ship passenger and the smorgasbord, so I do sympathise. But Gandalf could have let him have the elf. Just saying.

And I know when I get interrupted while tapping I get pretty cranky too. The Balrog never got to play Smoke on the Water for Sauron on his awesome Super Oliphaunt, once Gandalf had finished with him. So was the Balrog evil? Perhaps, but I blame society.

* The Fellowship of the Ring, JRR Tolkien, Houghton Mifflin NY 2002