The Rings of Power Reveals A Major Lord of the Rings Villain in Episode 7

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has kept fans playing hide-and-go-seek with Sauron, the overarching evil villain from the lore of Middle-earth. However, while fans were so busy trying to discern where (or in what skin) the evil overlord is hiding during the Second Age of Middle-earth, the penultimate episode of Rings of Power Season 1 teases the coming of a different major villain from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings saga... 

WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW! 

In "The Eye" a major part of the ensemble storyline focuses on Elrond (Robert Aramayo) and Durin IV's (Owain Arthur) friendship, and how it struggles under the burden of the burning question of whether or not the Dwarves can supply the miraculous light material Mithril to the Elves in time to save them from doom. While Durin wants to help Elrond, his father King Durin, refuses to go against the prophecies that compel him not to intervene. After seeing first hand had Mithril cures the dark rot killing the Elves's sacred tree, Prince Durin and Elrond try to proceed excavating it themselves, get caught, and the half-Elf statesman ends up being banished from the Dwarven city of Khazad-dûm.

Prince Durin's final appeal to his father had been showing him a breach in the rock that revealed just how many Mithril deposits there were, just waiting for the Dwarves to dig it out. Instead of taking the message as intended, King Durin instead has his son's discovery walled off, throwing the cured leaf from the Elf tree into the breach. The camera follows the leaf's descent through the dark rock of the mines, until it touches ground. The leaf is then immediately incinerated by the hand of the Balrog that lurks deep in the bowls of the mind. 

Lord of the Rings' Balrog Revealed

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(Photo: New Line Cinema)

For those wondering: yes! This scene in The Rings of Power reveals the Balrog monster that we would later see fully emerge from its place in the darkness, during the events of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring.

 By the time of Middle-earth's Third Age, the glorious Dwarven kingdom of Khazad-dûm had fallen to ruin, and become "The Mines of Moria," a tomb for the end of the Dwarf kingdom, overrun with evil creatures like Goblins and Orcs. The One Ring's presence in Moria also draws out one of the most ancient evils lurking in the mines: The Balrog. Gandalf the Grey stood against the flaming monster, and gave his life stopping it. That battle would see Gandalf reborn as "Gandalf the White," whose power would ultimately help defeat Sauron. 

What Is A Balrog? 

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(Photo: Prime Video)

In Tolkien lore, Balrogs were once the primordial spirits known as "Maiar" who were used by the Valar to help shape the world. However, where some Maiar like Gandalf and Saruman become the humanoid sorcerers that aided Middle-earth, other Maiar sided with Morgoth, the first Dark Lord and Sauron's master. The Maiar that sided with Morgoth were fiery beings how eventually transformed into monsters of shadow and flame called Balrogs. The Balrogs fought for Morgoth in the First Age's War of Wrath; most of the monsters were killed in the war, but some escaped after Morgoth's fall, and remained on Middle-earth by hiding in the deepest, darkest and most unreachable places. 

The 'Durin's Bane' Balrog

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The Balrog seen in The Rings of Power Episode 7 is not just a gimmicky tie-in to Lord of the Rings – it's actually a statement on the deeper themes of the episode. It will now be forever a "chicken or the egg" question, but what happened between King Durin and Prince Durin inevitably does bring ruin to the Dwarf race, as King Durin feared. 

We know that the mining for Mithril eventually begins under Prince Durin's reign as king – a foreshadow made clear by his talk with his wife Disa (Sophia Nomvete) about how they will  one day harvest all the Mithril that King Durin won't. Well, King Durin IV keeps to that pledge and indeed mines heaps of Mithril from his mines. However, by the time of Durin's grandson's reign (Durin VI), the dwarves' mining has gone so deep that it wakes the Balrog and provokes it to attack in order to claim its territory. King Durin VI is killed fighting the Balrog, and his son Náin dies fighting the monster thereafter. With those deaths and the Balrog continuing to terrorize Khazad-dûm, the Dwarves are forced to flee their great kingdom, leaving its halls to be refilled by evil forces. 

It will be forever unclear whether that dark fate for the Line of Durin would've been suffered if King Durin III had listened to his son – or if Durin IV's unyielding ambition to get the Mithril (even for benevolent reasons) is the tragic choice that dooms his family and kingdom. 

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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is now streaming on Prime Video.