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The Life Cycle Of The Balrog

Note: The following communication has been submitted to the Scientific
Gondorian™ for publication.  It is reproduced here for comment, with
the kind permission of the editors of that distinguished publication.

                The Life Cycle of the Balrog

by Faramir Húrinion, MD, PhD and Imrahil, Ernil e-nDol Amroth, PhD 

Abstract: Close study of the Balrog reveals a life-cycle based upon the
processing and combustion of mineral ores with both gaseous and
metallic by-products.  The Balrog passes through a series of stages
(egg, larva, adult) that range in size from 40 microns to 3m.  It is
recommended that steps be taken for preservation of the Balrog for
scientific and economic reasons. 

Keywords: Balrogs, mithril, spontaneous combustion 

   For many centuries, the Balrog (Valarauco ignifer) has been known as
a beautiful but mysterious creature.  Accurate descriptions of its
reproductive habits have been hard to come by, limited to anecdotal and
frequently inaccurate reports from Dwarvish miners and speculative
comparisons with its smaller and more urbane relative, the Rog Grisette
(V. pullula).  In recent years, however, this situation has changed due
to the indefatigable researches of Dr. Imrahil, who personally went to
Moira to investigate a newly-discovered egg-bed, and was able to return
with two live immature specimens at different stages of growth.
   We have unfortunately been unable to observe the Balrog female in
the act of laying its eggs; this is estimated to occur only once every
few millennia.  We conjecture, however, that the adult female possesses
an ovipositor which is capable of injecting a fertilized egg mass
(containing tens of thousands of eggs) into cracks in subterranean
rock.  The female prefers deep, warm strata in seismically active
areas.  Lowering the temperature below 12C kills the eggs.  Eggs laid
in geologically inactive areas may remain dormant indefinitely.  Eggs
which are disturbed, however, by seismic activity or by external
interference (such as mining operations) begin to hatch.
   The hatched egg produces a larval form, or roglet measuring 40-60
microns.  The roglets swarm into microscopic fissures in the rock,
seeking mineral deposits which they can embed into a silicate lattice
which forms the basis for their (as yet poorly understood) combustion
process.  Once a vein of an appropriate mineral ore (e.g., rutile) is
discovered, the roglets will spread out through it, incorporating atoms
from the mineral into their structure and effectively displacing the
original ore with mineralized roglet shells.  Unwanted elements are
excreted at the edge of the vein.  At the same time, the latticework of
each roglet expands, increasing the pressure within the vein.  Together
with other biological processes, this produces an increase in
temperature, creating a reaction which transforms the mineralized
roglet shells into a metallic alloy.  Given the appropriate minerals,
the result is mithril; in areas where they are unavailable, other
metals may result.
   Upwards of 95% of roglets are consumed in this process.  Those few
which remain transform into roglings (ranging in size from 1mm up). 
While retaining a lightweight mineralized exoskeleton, the rogling also
generates four jointed limbs, sense organs, and a pair of wings.  The
latter only become useful when the rogling ventures into an open space
such as an underground cavern.
   The roglings continue to process minerals, which are refined via a
process of combustion that results in a flame (effectively, an
excretion) whenever there is oxygen to burn.  For this reason
rogling-infested areas often become oxygen-depleted.  In the absence of
sufficient oxygen the excretion takes a form of a thick, dark smoke
surrounding the rogling.  Those minerals which are not excreted are
incorporated into the rogling's exoskeleton and contribute to its
   In the unusual event that an egg-mass has been deposited at too
shallow a depth, there is a possibility that the winged roglings will
emerge, not into a cavern, but onto the surface.  In this case, the
ready availability of oxygen will cause them to burn continuously.  The
outbreak of such a rogling swarm can be extremely dangerous, as the
roglings may alight on any inflammable objects in the vicinity such as
trees, planted fields, sheds, houses, haystacks, etc.  Although each
rogling initially produces less heat than a lighted match (and may be
safely held in the hand, providing the flame is allowed to burn
straight upwards without anything intervening), the collective heat of
a swarm is enough to burn down a house or start a forest fire.
   Roglings are the objects of predation by a number of subterranean
creatures.  We are not, unfortunately, able to name or identify these
creatures, but we have discovered caves filled with burned-out rogling
exoskeleta, evidently crushed or gnawed by the teeth of some large
   When the rogling reaches a length of 10-15 cm it is too massive to
fly.  Its locomotion is subsequently quadripedal or bipedal, though the
latter is preferred in later stages of growth.  The wings are retained,
however, and continue to grow.  They are reportedly used in courtship
displays, though we have not observed this.
    The number of Balrogs attaining a length of over 1 m is very small;
there is no certainty that an egg-mass of 10^4 eggs will produce even
one Balrog of this size.  Once larger than 1m, however, the Balrog is
practically insusceptible to predation, as its internally generated
heat and the thickness of its shell are effective barriers to most
attacks.  The Balrog may attain a height of not less than 3m, though
reports of the size of larger specimens may have been exaggerated.   It
is only at this stage that the Balrog begins to breed.  Sadly, no
Balrog mating has yet been observed and reported, though we hope that
continued observation will produce results.  It would be particularly
gratifying if we could induce a pair to breed in captivity.  Attempts
have been made with our two captives, which we believe are of different
sexes (nicknamed 'Slimey' and 'Tante Flossie'), but without visible
   We must conclude, therefore, by stressing the absolute necessity of
preserving this most beautiful and delicate of Middle-earth's
creatures.  Not only is their conservation a matter of scientific
necessity, it is also fundamental to the economic future of Gondor™ and
all other technically advanced civilizations.  The continued
availability of mithril crucially depends upon the presence of the
Balrog.  The plans advocated in Council for the extermination of the
Balrog are deleterious to Gondor's™ future and should not be executed. 
We should, rather, consider the possibility of bringing Balrogs to the
Ered Nimrod and using them to produce mithril under controlled

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This exciting piece of draft material is presented through the courtesy of David Salo <dsalo-aaaaaaat-usa-dawt-net>. Copyright © 2002 by the author. All rights reserved. Some variance between this e-text and the original printed material by Professor Tolkien is inevitable. Using this as an electronic resource for scholarly or research purposes may lead to a certain degree of academic embarassment. All agree that the printed version of the text, available from respectable publishers such as Houghton Mifflin and Ballantine Books, is to be preferred. Gondor™ is a trademark of Saul Zaentz and Tolkien Enterprises, who hold all merchandising rights to Gondor™ and its subsidiaries. Remember: if a Balrog comes into your campsite, don't feed it.