SAURON (THE LORD OF THE RINGS)
The Nameless Enemy
The Dark Lord (Post-First Age)
The Lord of Barad-dûr
The Lord of Mordor
The Necromancer (First Age/Third Age)
The Lord of the Rings
Sauron (or Þauron (Thauron); Quenya; IPA: [ˈsaʊron] or Vanyarin; IPA: [ˈθaʊron] – “The Abhorred”), the eponymous Lord of the Rings, was a fallen Maia, the creator of the One Ring, and the most trusted lieutenant of his master Melkor (Morgoth, the first Dark Lord). After Melkor’s defeat in the First Age, Sauron became the second Dark Lord and strove to conquer Arda by creating the Rings of Power. In the Second Age, he was defeated in the War of the Last Alliance by the last line of defense: Elves and Men under kings Gil-galad and Elendil.
During that battle, Isildur managed to cut off Sauron’s finger with the Ring on it, causing the destruction of his corporeal form and scattering his armies. After spending hundreds of years lying dormant and slowly regaining his strength, Sauron returned to power in the Third Age, but was finally defeated in the War of the Ring through the destruction of the One Ring by Frodo Baggins.
He was called Gorthaur the Cruel by the other Maiar.
Also known as Thû the Necromancer, Lord of Wolves, greatest of the servants of Morgoth, dwelling in the Elvish watchtower on Tol Sirion; later name Sauron.
Sauron was originally a Maia of Aulë the Smith, named Mairon, meaning “the admirable”, and learned much from him in the ways of forging and crafting, becoming a great craftsman, and mighty in the lore of Aulë’s people. Although he was a Maia spirit, and not as mighty as the Valar, Mairon was one of the most if not the most powerful Maiar, being far stronger than others such as Olorin and Curumo (who was also a servant of Aulë).
During this time, Mairon was as Eru had created him: good and uncorrupt. His greatest virtue was his love of order and perfection, disliking anything wasteful. However, this would also prove to be the source of his fall, for in the Dark Lord Morgoth, Mairon saw the will and power that would help him achieve his own goals and desires faster than if he had pursed them on his own. So great was his allegiance that even in later days, after Morgoth was defeated and locked outside the confines of the world, Sauron encouraged and coerced some Men to worship Morgoth as the one and true god. However, while Morgoth wanted to either control or destroy the very matter of Arda itself, Mairon’s desire was to dominate the minds and wills of its creatures.
After allying himself with Morgoth, Mairon maintained his appearance of being faithful to the Valar, but secretly fed Morgoth information about their dealings. It was only when Morgoth established his strongholds in Middle-earth that Sauron left the Blessed Realms and openly declared his allegiance, and ever after remained a foe of the Valar and the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. The Sindar in Beleriand called him Gorthaur, meaning “dread abomination”, and to the Ñoldor, he was named Sauron, meaning “the abhorred” or “the abominable” (a mockery of his original name).
During the First Age, the Ñoldorin Elves left the Blessed Realm of Valinor in the Utter West (against the counsel of the Valar) in order to wage war on Morgoth, who had stolen the Silmarils of Fëanor, enchanted gems that glowed with light from the now-destroyed Trees of Valinor. In that war, Sauron was counted as the “greatest of [Morgoth’s] servants that have names”. He was soon feared as a lord of terrible phantoms and dreadful beasts–a shape shifter, sorcerer, and a cunning servant of his dark master.
Before Melkor’s captivity, Sauron commanded the fortress of Angband and served as Melkor’s lieutenant. When the Vala Tulkas came and captured Melkor, Sauron had already fled and was not found.
When Morgoth left Angband to corrupt the newly awakened Atani (Men), Sauron directed the war against the Elves. He conquered the Elvish isle of Tol Sirion, so that it became known as Tol-in-Gaurhoth, the Isle of Werewolves. He was the Lord of the Werewolves there, and Draugluin was the sire of the Werewolves. Sauron’s herald was the vampire Thuringwethil.
After Dagor Bragollach, Sauron’s hunters brought Gorlim and questioned him of Barahir’s, father of Beren, location. Gorlim told them none, until Sauron himself came forth and bartered with the man. Gorlim asked for his wife Eilinel, whom he thought captured. Thus, Sauron agreed and Gorlim yielded the information. However, Sauron revealed that Eilinel was dead, and he put Gorlim to death afterward. During the Quest for the Silmaril, Beren and Finrod King of Nargothrond were captured by Sauron. There Finrod and Sauron fought songs of power. He stripped them off their Orc disguises and cast them into the dark pits where werewolves devoured their companions. When a werewolf came to attack Beren, Finrod wrestled with it and passed away from his injuries.
Soon afterward, Lúthien and Huan the wolf-hound arrived at the bridge of Tol-in-Gaurhoth. Sauron sent wolves to capture Lúthien, but all were slain by Huan. One of them was Draugluin, but he fled and told his master that Huan was there. Therefore, Sauron disguised himself as a werewolf and leaped to attack Lúthien. Huan sprang and subdued Sauron. He yielded the tower to Lúthien and escaped in a form of a vampire.
After his defeat by Lúthien, Sauron played little part in the events of the First Age (possibly hiding from Morgoth’s wrath), and after his master was defeated and taken to Valinor in chains, Sauron seemed to repent and plead to Eönwë and the victorious Host of the West for mercy. Although his plea was probably genuine, Sauron was unwilling to return to the Utter West for judgment, and so he fled and hid somewhere in Middle-earth.
Forging of the One Ring:
After lying hidden and dormant for 500 years, he began revealing himself once more, and by SA 1000 he gathered his power and established himself in the land of Mordor in eastern Middle-earth and began building the dreaded Dark Tower of Barad-dûr near Mount Doom. Sauron, like Morgoth, soon began raising massive armies of Orcs, Trolls, and possibly other creatures, as well as corrupting the hearts of Men with delusions of power and wealth, chiefly Easterlings and Southrons (the Haradrim).
Although Sauron knew that men were easier to sway, he sought to bring the Elves into his service, as they were far more powerful. By about SA 1500, Sauron put on a fair visage in the Second Age, and calling himself Annatar, the “Lord of Gifts”, he befriended the Elvish smiths of Eregion, including Celebrimbor, greatest of craftsman as he was descended from Fëanor, and counseled them in arts and magic. Not all the Elves trusted him, particularly Lady Galadriel, Elrond, and Gil-galad, High King of the Ñoldor.
To the elves who listened, Sauron gave knowledge and encouragement in forging the Rings of Power, though in secret Sauron forged his own, the One Ring, to rule the Elvish rings. Upon that ring Sauron left the black speech inscription, Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul. In Westron the inscription translated into: One Ring to Rule Them All, One Ring to Find Them, One Ring to Bring Them All, and in the Darkness Bind Them.
However, as soon as Sauron put the Ring on his finger the Elves sensed his treachery, and removed their rings and hid them. Enraged, Sauron came against them in open war and demanded that all the Rings of Power be given to him. The Elves managed to hide the three greatest of the Rings from him, but the other sixteen Rings of Power were either captured by Sauron, destroyed, or lost. To the Dwarves he had given Seven, but to Men he had given Nine, knowing that they would be the easiest to enslave. The Dwarf Lords who received the Rings proved to be very resistant to their power, and neither “faded” nor became enslaved to Sauron’s will. The Rings, however, created in them an insatiable lust for gold, which ultimately caused a great deal of grief for the Dwarves.
As Sauron predicted, however, the nine Men were all corrupted by their Rings and became the Nazgûl, Sauron’s deadliest servants. Had the Elves not recognized Sauron’s treachery and forsaken the power of their rings, the results would have been catastrophic for the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. It seems that most if not all of the native Men of Middle-earth succumbed to the power of the Ring once the Nazgûl were created; the Númenóreans were spared because of their distance. The Elves, had they been captured in this fashion, would have become the slaves of Sauron, and thus Celebrimbor’s resistance was of immense importance in the history of Middle-earth.
In this era, during which he marshalled and commanded great armies, Sauron became known as the Dark Lord of Mordor and his fortress of Barad-dûr was completed. He was very powerful even without control of the Elves, and he conquered nearly all of Middle-earth during the War of the Elves and Sauron. However, the armies of Númenór’s King Tar-Minastir were finally able to defeat him at a last battle near Gwathló or the Greyflood in SA 1700. Defeated but not vanquished, Sauron retreated back to Mordor and began recouping his strength over the many centuries.
Towards the end of the Second Age, Sauron was once again powerful enough to raise again large armies to attempt to rule Middle-earth. By this time, he assumed the titles of “Lord of the Earth” and “King of Men”. Sauron’s rise in power and apparent intention to crown himself the King of all Men offended the Númenóreans; the powerful Men descended from those who had fought against Melkor in the War of Wrath. Some were the descendants, through Elros, of Beren and Lúthien.
Life in Númenor:
These Men lived on the island of Númenor in the sea between Middle-earth and Valinor. The Númenóreans, who were then proud, came to Middle-earth with astounding force of arms. King Ar-Pharazôn, who desired no less than the kingship of Middle-earth, marched his troops all the way to Mordor without a single battle, and demanded that Sauron abase himself before the King. Sauron could see clearly that even the most powerful of his servants could not stand against the Númenóreans, and so came from Barad-dûr without any offer of battle. He assumed a fair form and flattered Ar-Pharazôn, but the King demanded that Sauron come back to Númenor as a hostage. Sauron feigned unhappiness at this development but secretly was delighted, for this presented him with an opportunity to destroy the Númenóreans from within. After only a few short years in Númenor he grew from captive to the King’s most trusted adviser, and nearly all the King’s court fawned upon him. Drawing on their fear of death, he converted many Númenóreans to the worship of Morgoth, lying that Morgoth had the power to save them from mortality. As his power and influence reached its peak, he raised a great Temple in which he performed human sacrifices to Morgoth. Finally, he convinced Ar-Pharazôn to rebel against the Valar and attack Valinor itself and claim it for himself.
But here, Sauron’s cunning overreached itself, for Eru then directly intervened – Númenor was drowned under the sea, and the great navy of Númenor was destroyed and the army that reached Aman was buried under mountains of falling rock and imprisoned in the Caves of the Forgotten. The world was bent, so that thereafter, only Elven-Ships could sail into the Utter West. Sauron’s body was destroyed, but his spirit was not diminished, and he fled back to Mordor bearing the Ring, where he slowly rebuilt a new body and his strength during the time known as the Dark Years. From this point on, he lost the ability to assume a fair shape, and ruled now through terror and force. A few faithful Númenóreans led by Elendil were saved from the flood, and they founded Gondor and Arnor in Middle-earth.
Loss of the Ring:
After learning that Elendil, whom he had most hated, had survived and was ordering a realm on his borders, Sauron, after a while, made war with them. He struck too soon, however, and had not restored most of his strength, whereas the Elven-king, Gil-galad had increased his power on Middle-earth in his absence. Therefore, when Gil-Galad allied with Elendil to create the Last Alliance and together fought Sauron, they finally defeated his armies at the Battle of Dagorlad, and laid siege to Barad-dûr for seven years. Finally, Sauron himself came forth and dueled both Elendil and Gil-galad, slaying them both singlehandedly. Then Isildur, son of Elendil, took up his father’s broken sword, Narsil and cut the One Ring from Sauron’s finger. Sauron’s physical body was destroyed. With nearly all of his power stored in the ring, he was vanquished when it was cut from his finger. Without their leader’s dark will driving them on, Sauron’s armies were routed and fled, and thus, his campaign to defeat the free peoples was seemingly ended, and his greatest weapon taken from him.
But while Isildur had taken the ring, he could not bring himself to destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom where it was forged, instead he became corrupted by the One Ring and kept it for himself. He was eventually betrayed by it a few years later, and slain by Orcs at Gladden Fields. The Ring fell into the river Anduin, and was lost for centuries before being found by the two Stoorish friends Smeagol and Déagol.
Despite his defeat, Sauron was not vanquished permanently. Though greatly weakened, and in non-corporeal form, he still existed, due to pouring most of his native power, strength, and will into the One Ring. Thus, as long as it existed, he could never be truly defeated, and during the first thousand years of the Third Age, he lay in hiding, slowly recovering his strength until he was once again able to create a body for himself.
The Necromancer of Dol Guldur:
In the year TA 1000, Sauron at last began to rise again, taking the stronghold of Dol Guldur, the Hill of Sorcery, in southern Mirkwood in TA 1050. There, he was disguised as a dark sorcerer known as “the Necromancer”, and the Elves did not realize at first that he was actually Sauron returned.
Around this time, the Valar sent the five Wizards, or Istari, including Gandalf Greyhame, who later changed into Gandalf the White, to oppose Sauron and rally the free peoples of Middle-earth against him.
While Sauron continued to gather his strength, the Ringwraiths reappeared in the year TA 1300, and began steadily assaulting the Numenorian kingdoms in exile until, one by one, they fell. Whether the Witch King was acting on his own, or was being guided by Sauron, is not known.
Suspecting that Sauron had returned and was guiding the Nazgûl, the wizard Gandalf infiltrated the fortress in TA 2063 to confirm his theory, but Sauron fled into the East to conceal his identity. This marked the beginning of the Watchful Peace, which ended with Sauron’s return to Dol Guldur in TA 2460. During the same year, the One Ring was finally discovered by the stoor Smeagol and his friend Deagol. Gandalf the Grey made a second intrusion into Dol Guldur in TA 2850, and finally discovered that the Necromancer was indeed Sauron. Eventually, the White Council put forth their might and drove Sauron from Dol Guldur permanently in TA 2941. Without the Ring in his possession, Sauron could draw on only the smallest fraction of its strength, so that his enemies were able to drive him from Dol Guldur with relative ease. However, the Dark Lord, having had ample time to prepare, was willing to abandon Dol Guldur, and returned to Mordor, where he openly declared himself in TA 2951, and began preparations for his final war against the free peoples of Middle-earth.
Sauron bred immense armies of Orcs and allied with and enslaved Men from the east and south. He gathered his most terrifying servants, the Nazgûl (airi in Quenyan), or Ringwraiths, each wearing one of the nine rings designed for mortal men. He adopted the symbol of a lidless eye, and was able to exert his will over Middle-earth, so that the Eye of Sauron became a symbol of power and fear.
War of the Ring:
After the creature Gollum, who had previously possessed the ring, was captured, Sauron had him tortured and learned that he once had a magic ring, and from him he heard the words Shire and Baggins. He deduced that Gollum’s ring was the One Ring, and sent his servants, the dreaded Nazgûl, to find Shire and search for Baggins, so that the One Ring might be found and returned to him.
Meanwhile, Sauron had allied with Saruman the White (another fallen Maia, or Istari), whom he had ensnared into his service, expecting the wizard to move against Rohan and thus remove one of the major threats Sauron faced in his planned conquest of Gondor and the remaining Elves. Saruman failed however, and Sauron lost his most potent ally as well as Saruman’s massive orc army of Uruk-hai.
Shortly after Saruman’s defeat, Peregrin Took looked into the Palantír that Saruman had possessed and accidentally communicated with Sauron, who believed that Saruman had captured either the Halflings bearing the Ring, or some who might know of it. However, shortly thereafter Aragorn took the Palantir and revealed himself to Sauron with the intent of causing him unease. Upon seeing Aragorn, Sauron realized that Saruman had fallen and concluded that the heir of Isildur carried the One Ring. Fearful that his enemies would use the Ring against him, Sauron sped up his plans and attacked the city of Minas Tirith in Gondor sooner than he had planned, seeking to raze the city and crush last true human resistance to his rule before his enemies could fortify it.
Fortunately, due to the combined efforts of Gondor, Rohan, and the Dúnedain of Arnor, Sauron’s army was defeated. Despite still possessing more than enough armies to destroy Minas Tirith and enough military strength to easily conquer Middle-earth once Gondor fell, doubt began to grow on Sauron. As such, he watched and waited, hoping for a period of strife between Aragorn and other potential Ringlords in which he could move out and take the Ring for himself.
Despite their successful repulsion of Sauron’s armies at Minas Tirith, Gandalf and Aragorn knew that the bulk of Sauron’s forces remained in Mordor, readying themselves for another, deadlier strike against the city. Filled as Mordor was with Sauron’s troops, Frodo stood almost no chance of reaching Mt. Doom undetected. In light of the situation, Aragorn called for a council consisting of the major commanders of all the forces present in Minas Tirith, and appointed Gandalf to be their overlord until the crisis had passed. Gandalf made it clear to all those present that, despite their great victory, they ultimately could not hope to defeat Sauron’s armies by force. Therefore, they had two options available. They could station their remaining force, considerably greater than it had been before the battle due to the reinforcements from Rohan and southern Gondor, at Minas Tirith and hope to endure Sauron’s next attack. Or, they could take a force to the Black Gate and attempt to challenge Sauron directly. This force, as Gandalf suggested, would only need to be great enough to challenge battle, and the rest of their forces could remain behind to garrison Minas Tirith. This option, though suicidal for all those involved, would serve to distract Sauron from gazing into his own land, through which the Ringbearer would be trekking. Furthermore, Gandalf theorized that once Sauron learned that a force too small to pose any real threat to him was on its way to the Black Gate to directly assault Mordor, that he would likely believe that whomever was leading the attacking force would have the One Ring in their possession. Gandalf believed that Sauron would assume that the Ring itself would influence its wielder, and that in the wielder’s pride in his newfound power, he might be foolish enough to challenge Sauron’s might with a force too small to assault Mordor in earnest.
Their ploy worked, as Sauron marshaled most of his remaining forces and marched them towards Udun to crush the Men of the West and regain his prize. This action left the Plains of Gorgoroth largely deserted and allowing Frodo and Sam to reach Mt. Doom with far less difficulty than they would have otherwise had. However, once Frodo reached the Crack of Doom, he finally succumbed to the power of the Ring. As he put it on and prepared to leave Mt. Doom, Sauron suddenly became aware of him, immediately drawing his gaze towards the mountain. Though enraged, Sauron was suddenly gripped with terror having realized his own folly, and he frantically sent the Ringwraiths towards the mountain to retrieve the Ring. He was too late however, and Gollum, after taking the Ring from Frodo, slipped and plunged into the Cracks of Doom, and the Ring was unmade. The earth shook as a great shockwave rippled across Mordor, and the foundations of Barad-dûr were finally destroyed, causing the great fortress to fall into ruin once and for all. Mt. Doom was completely destroyed in a cataclysmic eruption that consumed the eight remaining Nazgul, who had left their combat with the Great Eagles to race to Mount Doom, in its fiery ruin.
With his source of power gone, Sauron was utterly defeated and his armies were destroyed or scattered, bereft of the driving will behind their conquest. With the Ring’s destruction, Sauron was permanently robbed of his physical form, reducing him to a malevolent spirit that hovered above Mordor as a “huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, …terrible but impotent,” only to be blown away by a great wind.
With the destruction of the Ring, the vast majority of Sauron’s being and his power was forever lost. With that, Sauron’s power was forever crippled, and the threat of his dominion was forever removed.
Signs and Symbols
The Symbol of Sauron was the Eye of Sauron, particularly after he arose in Mirkwood at Dol Guldur. The Evil Eye is also the most popular representation of Sauron, though it is but a representation of his will and semi-omniscient. It is known as The Eye of Sauron in The Silmarillion, and in The Lord of the Rings is also known as the Great Eye, the Eye of Barad-dûr, the Red Eye, the Lidless Eye, and the Evil Eye. The term Red Eye is also used to refer to the actual Eye of Sauron.
Weapons and powers
Sauron was among the mightiest of the Maiar. Originally of Aulë’s people, he acquired great “scientific” knowledge of the world’s substances and how to use them. He would retain this knowledge throughout his tenure as the Dark Lord in Middle-earth, using it to forge the One Ring and construct his fortress of Barad-dûr. Sauron also seemed primarily linked to the use of fire, and as Morgoth’s chief lieutenant, his ability to tap into the fires in the earth was of great value.
Among Sauron’s chief powers were deception and disguise: In the First Age Sauron took on many forms. His battle against Luthien and Huan in The Silmarillion has him taking on no less than four separate shapes: his “normal” shape, presumed to be that of some kind of terrible dark sorcerer, a great wolf, a serpent, and finally a vampire “dripping blood from his throat upon the trees” (“Of Beren and Lúthien,” The Silmarillion). At the end of the First Age, Sauron took on a fair form to appeal to the Captain of the Hosts of the Valar and ask for pardon. In the Second Age, Sauron took up that fair form again and used it under the alias “Annatar” to deceive the Elves into creating the Rings of Power. The level of deception required to fool the Elves of Eregion must have gone beyond simply taking on a fair form. Sauron was literally instructing the Elves to make artifacts that while capable of great good, were ultimately purposed for his own domination and were imbued with power to arrest the natural order of the world. The Elves were unaware of who they were dealing with until the eleventh hour, and only narrowly escaped his trap. Centuries later, Sauron was able to deceive the Númenóreans and steer them directly to their own destruction under promises of eternal life. Such destruction is a testament to Sauron’s manipulative nature and ability to twist the perceptions of his enemies.
An interesting dichotomy is set up between his deceptive nature and his symbol. While rarely appearing personally and deceiving all but the most wary, he represented himself as an all seeing eye that could pierce all disguises. He himself was able to disguise himself by changing shape and taking a fair form. But after the Fall of Númenor he was incapable of taking physical form for many years, and then later became a horrific Dark Lord. After losing the Ring it took even longer for him to regain physical form, although by the War of the Ring he had regained it.
The extent, nature, and specifics of Sauron’s power are largely left to the imagination. Like his master Morgoth, he was capable of altering the physical substance of the world around him by mere effort of will.