Warning: spoilers ahead for The Rings of Power episode 7The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power‘s Balrog reveal is a pretty big deal, but could risk a breakaway from established Middle-earth canon. The Rings of Power episode 7 (“The Eye”) sees Owain Arthur’s Durin IV defy his father to mine for mithril alongside Elrond. They strike upon a veritable motherlode of the silver stuff, but Moria’s King Durin III sees fit to ignore their discovery, casting Gil-galad’s cured Lindon leaf down through the shaft. As The Rings of Power‘s camera follows this leaf on its descent through Moria, it lands at the bottom to be greeted by a flaming Balrog stirring from slumber.
The impactful image of a demonic presence in the Mines of Moria confirms two things. Firstly, the Balrog seen in The Rings of Power‘s trailer footage is the same one Gandalf fights in The Lord of the Rings. Second, the Balrog from The Rings of Power‘s invented mithril origin story is still alive, and has been sleeping beneath the mountain following its fight with an Elf. Since it was the Balrog’s battle that actually created mithril in Amazon-canon, Durin IV and Elrond’s hunt for the mythic ore has finally opened a pathway between the sleeping monster and the Dwarves above. That pathway has now awakened their local Balrog, but therein lies a potential canon issue…
Does The Rings Of Power’s Balrog Break Canon?
Through Gandalf and Gimli’s exposition and The Lord of the Rings‘ appendices concerning Durin’s Folk, J.R.R. Tolkien is fairly clear that Moria’s Balrog wasn’t disturbed until the 1980s (of the Third Age, that is, not the decade of spandex and Bon Jovi). That’s still at least 2000 years away from The Rings of Power‘s current position, and yet Durin’s Bane looks pretty awake by the end of episode 7, teasing some kind of assault from below upon the unsuspecting Dwarves of Moria.
Any sort of Balrog activity in The Rings of Power‘s Second Age timeline would indeed risk breaking canon in a big way. The purpose of Durin’s Bane in The Lord of the Rings is to highlight greed – the Dwarves dug too deep for the ever-dwindling mithril and paid the price. During Durin III’s reign, Moria’s mithril operation has barely begun, so the Balrog attacking here wouldn’t work thematically. Any sort of Balrog attack during the Second Age would surely also deter even the most mithril-manic Dwarf from pursuing the rare ore any further.
How The Rings Of Power’s Balrog Can Avoid Breaking Canon
One way The Rings of Power might avert rupturing established continuity (and the most likely outcome) is by simply not showing any more of Durin’s winged Bane. The creature is roused by a falling leaf, has a little stretch, then goes back to sleep for another 2000 years. While Tolkien’s canon would remain intact, audiences might justifiably feel duped that episode 7’s Balrog tease (which was given a prominent spot in trailer footage) doesn’t lead to any significant payoff – little more than a CGI Easter egg to foreshadow future events made famous by The Lord of the Rings. It’d also feel a mite strange for the Balrog to wake up due to a single leaf, but then somehow sleep soundly when the Dwarves begin mining in the shaft directly above.
The trickier option would be for Amazon’s The Rings of Power to somehow integrate the awakened Balrog into its narrative, while explaining why it goes back to sleep for several millennia, and why the Dwarves not only survive but continue mining mithril regardless. Maybe the awakened Balrog launches an assault, but only a few Dwarves are present in the Old Mine at the time. They manage to subdue it (could Disa’s singing work?) and Durin’s Bane goes back to sleep. The witnesses choose to keep their traumatic encounter secret to avoid their faint hopes of mithril fortune being scrapped completely. Whatever comes next, The Rings of Power walks a tricky balance between paying off its Balrog tease, and not altering Moria’s future.
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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power continues Thursday/Friday on Prime Video.