I’ve been listening to the Tolkien Professor podcast, which I enjoy, though I do not always agree with his conclusions. For example, I’m reasonably sure that some Balrogs have wings. Maybe not all, but some.
I am basing this contention on two pieces of information. First, when Morgoth is assailed by Ungoliant, he lets out a dreadful cry, which summons the Balrogs to him. Now the Silmarillion says that they cross Hithlum to reach the region know afterward as Lammoth. So, if they are wingless, we’re left with the image of a shit ton of Balrogs running their asses off across Hithlum and over mountains to reach Morgoth in time to prevent Ungoliant from eating him. I just don’t buy it.
The second is a kind of negative proof. Olsen, the Tolkien Professor, maintains that as two of the Balrogs that died did so, at least in part, by falling, it does not make much sense to envision them with wings. However, in the War of Wrath, it is clearly stated that Ancalagon the Black, a very pointedly winged dragon, plummets to his death after having the bad sense to take on a dude with a crystal ship and a Silmaril bound on his brow. If a winged dragon can die by falling (see also: Smaug, yes I know, but he did fall) then so can a winged Balrog.
If you enjoyed this picayune entry, please stay tuned for my discussion in praise of bad folk music.