Today’s XKCD comic is Tolkien related
and as with all XKCD comics, the alt-text (what you see if you hover your mouse over the image) is almost the funnest part. Today’s:
If we get the doors open and plug up the dam on the Sirannon so the water rises a little, the pool will start draining into Moria. How do you think the Watcher would fare against a drenched Balrog?
Because things have been a bit heavy around here lately, here’s an answer for a bit of fun. First, water affects balrogs but it doesn’t destroy them. As Gandalf told the Three Hunters:
‘Long I fell, and he fell with me. His fire was about me. I was burned. Then we plunged into the deep water and all was dark. Cold it was as the tide of death: almost it froze my heart.’
‘Deep is the abyss that is spanned by Durin’s Bridge, and none has measured it,’ said Gimli.
‘Yet it has a bottom, beyond light and knowledge,’ said Gandalf. ‘Thither I came at last, to the uttermost foundations of stone. He was with me still. His fire was quenched, but now he was a thing of slime, stronger than a strangling snake.
And even after his “fire was quench,” the balrog can still give Gandalf a good run for his money – so much so that after their fight Gandalf passes out of thought and time. So a balrog can fall through much worse water than the Sirannon could cough up and still come out as a worthy match for a wizard.
Which leaves the question of the Watcher. What kind of creature (or whatever else) is he? Gandalf says, discussing his fight with the Balrog in the deeps beneath Moria, “Far, far below the deepest delving of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he.” I take these to be the allies of Morgoth, the Maiar who followed him to Middle-earth and the Valar for whatever ineffable reason chose not to root out. I suppose it’s possible the Watcher is in that set, but it just doesn’t feel that way. In the movie PJ makes it out like the Watcher is specifically after the Ring, but I never got that impression rom the book. He seems a ate arrival on the scene (the first mention of him is in the Book of Mazarbul), and he seems on the surface sitting there to heckle the occasional passer-by, not down in the deep places. Frankly, he strikes me as a particularly vicious animal but not even an intelligent one, let alone a Maia.
If he’s a Maia, I can see him putting up a good fight. Either this balrog isn’t in the same league as the ones Morgoth called on in the Dagor Bragollach, or he really did lose a significant amount of power when he passed through the water, because wizards lose a fair bit of their power when they become wizards. A weakened Olorin was about on equal terms with the balrog after he passed through water. So I guess, maybe the Watcher could be a serious threat if he was more powerful than Tolkien seems to imply. But given we’re just talking about the Sirannon and not those great waters underground, my money’s still on Mr. Balrog.
On a related Tolkien note (and SPOILERS…) this screencap has been floating around Pinterest:
So we have a surprisingly Arwen-look-alike-ish elf wielding a sword and threatening to behead an orc right in front of her king, not because she has to but because she’s been insulted.
(a) This is the worst deja vu for what PJ threatened to do at Helm’s Deep. I don’t mind women warriors when the story actually calls for them, but something about this just feels so… wrong.
(b) Given the elves of Mirkwood hadn’t been so far as Lothlorien in Legolas’s lifetime, Elven fashions are remarkably consistent. Is there some kind of Elven Vogue the couriers carry back and forth?
(c) Just when did the Elves get so violent? I thought the Shadow descended on Mirkwood at most a week or two before the dwarves stumble into Imladris. Or are we saying they’re just this violent by nature? Is he some kind of elvish racist or something?
(d) Apparently this is the kind of addition we can look forward to so PJ can fill another three hours? *bites nails nervously*