Balrog-slayer: a new word
I’m about to talk about Glorfindel again, though this time with Ecthelion. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe I’ve missed any and all fanfiction containing it, but I’ve always felt like there’s been something lacking overall in the stories/conversations revolving around the subject of them being Balrog-slayers. And that something is the fact that they became Balrog-slayers at all.
Don’t confuse what I’m saying here. I’m not talking about the laud and acclamation they get from people. I’m talking about the surprise or disbelief or outright shock those people must have exhibited when hearing about their deeds, at the mere concept of a Balrog being killed at all, let alone two of them over the span of a day. You don’t see that in fanfic (at least I never have). You see the first part of what I said aplenty (and I love it), but not the second.
Think about it. Prior to the fall of Gondolin it was probably believed by all and sundry, be he Elf, Dwarf or Man that Balrogs were undefeatable. That it was impossible to assail them, let alone kill them. Every single person who’s had the misfortune of fighting a Balrog has died as a result, with said Balrog happily moving along to the next poor Elf. Even mighty Feanor himself (that was probably a clincher in itself to establishing the terror of Balrogs). Centuries go by and still no one could kill these things. I mean, they always win! Every single time. It’s no wonder they were so feared in Beleriand, so dreaded by everyone. Part of me wonders if it actually got to a point of belief among some people that Balrogs literally couldn’t be killed, at least not by any creature not among the Ainur.
But Glorfindel and Ecthelion did.
That news had to be so momentous, so earth-shattering and ground-breaking that yeah, I wholeheartedly believe that the feats of these two new heroes spread like wildfire.
I would sincerely love to read a story about Tuor’s people coming into Sirion straight from the crags of the Echoriath. Unless by messenger or Cirdan receiving word from the waters, no one knew that Gondolin had fallen yet until Tuor and Idril and all those survivors arrived. And with them came the account of how it happened, detailing of how Orcs and Balrogs attacked their city. And then the audience hears that two of those Balrogs were killed. Killed. Solely by two Elves. Can you imagine the hope that must’ve inspired in everyone? Especially at such a time when everyone’s home was being destroyed? That whoa, Morgoth’s deadliest creatures can actually be defeated. We actually can beat them.
Because before this point, killing a Balrog was unheard of. I mean, face it, the very term Balrog-slayer wasn’t even a term (it certainly never existed in anyone’s vocabulary). And for over two whole Ages they are the only two people to achieve such a feat until a certain bridge in Khazad-dum. Glorfindel and Ecthelion are the only two mirroanwi in all of recorded history to do it.
Believe me, I’m not discrediting or demeaning any other hero of the legendarium or lessening whatever heroic actions they had done (including the unnamed heroes). It just makes sense why those two went down in history as greatly as they did, why they are so admired and renowned. They did what should’ve been impossible.
Seriously, I would love to read a fic about the Gondolin refugees arriving in Sirion, when Glorfindel’s and Ecthelion’s stories are told for the first time. Or later of someone attending the Feast of Glorfindel and hearing about it there. I love imagining what peoples’ initial reactions must’ve been. It’s no wonder songs were composed about it.
You know, writing about this really makes me wonder what Morgoth and/or Sauron thought about this when word reached them. There were only seven Balrogs and now two of them are dead (one of them their general), and at the hands of two random Elves. Losing two of those specific Umaiar must’ve been a blow, but it had to have been a blow all on its own that they were killed at all. What did they think? How must’ve they responded? Like “yay! Gondolin’s dead!” but “WHAT?!” I’d hate to be the sucker that had to report that to them.
Maybe it was similar to the response garnered from Fingolfin’s duel with Morgoth. In that yes! victory was theirs, but instead of jubilation there was resounding silence.