Why is Sauron more powerful than Balrogs? Is he, in fact, more powerful?

What do you mean by “more powerful”?

powerful
powerful

Tolkien’s lore surrounding the Balrogs is not as expounded upon as fans would perhaps like, but from the little that can be said with certainty regarding their nature, it appears they were primarily stationed as vanguards in the Host of Utumno (and later Angband), and when not employed in that capacity, served Morgoth as his personal aegises. They were Maiar with faculties most suited to warfare and, more broadly, willful destruction. That’s why they took such monstrous forms. Their power was expressed in raw physicality; in their configurations of flame and shadow incarnate.

blinding darkness
blinding darkness

Sauron it’s my own fan theory

I’ve always hypothesized that the Balrogs were Maia who were initially in Melkor’s service during his tenure as one of the Valar. It would explain why they among all of his servants best exemplified his attributes, both in a physical sense and a thematic one. Morgoth was Tolkien’s god of chaos and wanton destruction—of bloodshed and war, consuming fire, blinding darkness, death, and decay. The Balrogs are physical manifestations of all those elements.

Sauron is a completely different beast
Sauron is a completely different beast

Sauron is a completely different beast. If the Balrogs are incarnations of Morgoth’s chaos, Sauron is the incarnation of tyrannical order. In his “youth”, Sauron was not affiliated with Morgoth at all but was instead the greatest student of the Vala Aulë, the Smith. According to Tolkien, Mairon (Sauron before his corruption) was actually initially horrified by Melkor’s talent for sewing discord. In his capacity as an angelic servant of the god of crafting and creation, Sauron’s innermost, pathologically assiduous nature was affronted by Morgoth’s malice, more perhaps than any of the other Ainur, which makes the former’s fall all the more tragic and ironic. Morgoth, Tolkien’s deity of chaos, was able to seduce into his service the one amongst his kin most predisposed to orderliness, and he did so by exploiting that predisposition. Sauron’s obsession with the concepts of structures and systems, and likewise his zealous devotion to their maintenance, made him easy prey to Morgoth’s enterprising yoke.

Because Sauron was a spirit
Because Sauron was a spirit

Because Sauron was a spirit in the vein of Aulë’s own, their “powers” were similar. If the Balrogs were Morgoth’s vanguards, Sauron was his administrative lieutenant, vizier, royal architect, and herald. His skills were not martial in nature (though the innate strength of his “soul” easily made him a more capable combatant than any mere mortal or elf), but hegemonic and logistical. He commanded legions but seldom joined them in battle. Even during the Siege of Barad-Dur, Sauron only entered the fray when his infantry had been depleted. When in Morgoth’s service, Sauron was more interested in exercising his powers towards the goal of creation instead of destruction, although in contrast to that which he devised as apprentice to Aulë, Sauron’s new inceptions were all borne of malice.

We are never explicitly given a power comparison between Sauron and the Balrogs. And since their natures and powers are so divergent, it’s challenging to gauge who was greatest among them. What can be measured are the respective strengths they possessed— the Balrogs in the domains of war and martial combat, and Sauron in the realms of administration, sorcery, industry, and technology.

And moreover, their subsequent fates in the wake of Morgoth’s defeat in the War of Wrath might provide an indication by which we may glean a superior— in the Third Age, the vanquished Balrogs fled into exile, seeking out the furthermost reaches of the earth, where they lay dormant in anticipation of their master’s renascence and the subsequent incitement of the Dagor Dagorath.

Meanwhile, Sauron usurped his master’s dominion and became the second Dark Lord of Arda.

Make of that what you will.

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