This article is undergoing major revisions as part of Tolkien Gateway's countdown to The Hobbit films. To plan and to discuss the changes see here.
The Dark Lord
Gorthaur the Cruel
|Created/born||Before the Music of the Ainur|
|Years influential||circa S.A. 500 - S.A. 3441|
circa T.A. 1000 - T.A. 3019
|Destroyed||25 March, T.A. 3019|
|Realm||Tol-in-Gaurhoth (Tol Sirion)|
|Appearance||Various: see appearance section.|
|Accomplishments||Decieved the Elves into forging the Rings of Power;|
created the One Ring;
brought about the Downfall of Númenor;
and nearly conquered the whole of Middle-earth.
Sauron was the greatest and most trusted servant of Morgoth before and during the First Age. After the downfall of his master, he continuously strove to conquer Middle-earth throughout the Second and Third Ages. Deceiving the Elves of Eregion, who under his guidance had created the Rings of Power, he secretly forged the One Ring in Mount Doom. Thus Sauron became "The Lord of the Rings".
As one of the Maiar, Sauron was created by Ilúvatar before the Music of the Ainur. At the beginning of Time, he was amongst the Ainur who entered into Eä. Here he became one of the Maiar of Aulë, and was known as Mairon. However, he was soon ensnared by Melkor and became his greatest and most trusted servant. Thus he came to be known Gorthaur by the Sindar of Beleriand and Sauron by others.
After Melkor made his great fortress of Angband in the north-west of Middle-earth, he appointed Sauron to be its commander. When the Valar captured Melkor at the Siege of Utumno, they stormed and searched Utumno and Angband; they, however, failed to find Sauron.
Sauron was become now a sorcerer of dreadful power, master of shadows and of phantoms, foul in wisdom, cruel in strength, misshaping what he touched, twisting what he ruled, lord of werewolves; his dominion was torment.
With the unchaining of Morgoth and his subsequent destruction of the Two Trees of Valinor, the Sun first rose and ushered in the awakening of Men. Leaving Sauron in command of the war, Morgoth left Angband in secret to find the second-born kindred of the Children of Ilúvatar and to corrupt them to his will.
After the fall of Fingolfin, Sauron launched an attack on Tol Sirion. Utter fear descended upon Orodreth and those who defended the isle. Sauron assailed Minas Tirith and turned it into a watch tower for Morgoth. Therein Sauron sat and Tol Sirion the fair became Tol-in-Gaurhoth, the Isle of Werewolves.
Upon hearing of the deeds of Barahir and his companions, Morgoth ordered Sauron to find and kill them. Gorlim, one of Barahir's companions, was captured and brought before Sauron. There Sauron promised that he would he would free Gorlim and his wife Eilinel in return for information. Under the terror of Sauron's eyes, Gorlim revealed everything he knew and thus the hiding place of Barahir was betrayed to the enemy. Subsequently, Sauron had Gorlim put to death.
Beren, son of Barahir, promised to avenge his father's death. He wandered Dorthonion as an outlaw and achieved great deeds that were heard far and wide. Thus Morgoth set a high price on his head and Sauron, commanding a great army of werewolves and fell beasts, sought for Beren.
Later, Finrod Felagund, Beren, and their ten companions left Nargothrond in search of the Silmarils. Despite being disguised as Orcs, Sauron espied them as they entered into the vale between Ered Wethrin and Taur-nu-Fuin. He had them captured and they were brought to him. There Finrod and Sauron fought in songs of power; the strength of both was great, but Sauron was more powerful. He then stripped them of their Orc disguise but failed to discern who they were. He had them thrown into a dark pit where one by one they were devoured by a werewolf. Withstanding this horror, they refused to betray one another.
When all of their companions were dead, Finrod and Beren were the last who remained alive in Sauron's pit. When a werewolf went to attack Beren, Finrod Felegund used all his power to defeat it. In this he was successful. However, he was critically wounded and soon passed away. In that dark moment, Lúthien came to the bridge of Tol-in-Gaurhoth and sang. From his tower of Minas Tirith, Sauron saw Lúthien and knew that it was the famous daughter of Melian and Thingol. He desired to capture her and hand her over to Morgoth. Therefore he sent a wolf to the bridge, but it was quickly and silently slain by Huan. He sent many more and each one Huan killed. Finally, he sent Draugluin, sire of the werewolves of Angband. The fight between Huan and Draugluin was fierce. Eventually Draugluin fled and, before dying, he told his master that Huan was there. Therefore Sauron took the form of a werewolf, the greatest the world had ever seen, and went towards the bridge. He leaped to attack Lúthien, but Huan sprang upon Sauron and there they fought. But Sauron could not subdue the hound of Valinor. He yielded to Lúthien, giving her control of the isle in return for his release. He then took the form of a vampire and fled to Taur-nu-Fuin, filling the forest with horror.
After the War of Wrath, with the downfall of Morgoth and the destruction of Thangorodrim, Sauron adopted a fair form and repented his evil deeds in fear of the wrath of the Valar. Eönwë then ordered Sauron to return to Valinor in order to receive the judgement of Manwë. Sauron was not willing to suffer such humiliation and so he fled and hid himself in Middle-earth.
After lying hidden and dormant for about one thousand years, Sauron put on a fair visage in the Second Age. Calling himself Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, he befriended the Elvish smiths of Eregion, and counseled them in arts and magic. Not all the Elves trusted him, particularly Lady Galadriel and Gil-galad, High King of the Noldor, but few listened to them. The Elves forged Rings of Power, but in secret Sauron forged the One Ring in Mount Doom to rule the other rings, investing most of his own power into the Ring as he forged it.
In this time Sauron became known as the Dark Lord of Mordor. He raised Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower, near Mount Doom; constructed the Black Gate of Mordor to prevent invasion; corrupted nine mortal Men with Rings of Power and turned them into the Nazgûl (Ringwraiths), his chief servants; and raised massive armies of Orcs, Trolls, and Men, chiefly Easterlings and Southrons.
Sauron's power reached its zenith 700 years after Mordor's creation, in the 17th century of the Second Age. Immediately after Sauron created the One Ring, Celebrimbor and the other Ring-bearers realized his treachery and went to war with him. The War of the Elves and Sauron was a bloody conflict which destroyed Eregion and devastated much of Eriador. Celebrimbor was slain and his body impaled on a spike paraded at the head of Sauron's legions. The Elves were pushed back almost to the Blue Mountains, while their Dwarf allies (who had also rejected Sauron) retreated behind the walls of Moria where Sauron could not assail them. Sauron was master of almost all of Middle-earth beyond the coasts, but the Númenóreans responded to the Elves' call for aid and sent a relief force. The combined armies rallied and were able to defeat Sauron's armies in Eriador after heavy fighting, and the Dark Lord fled back to Mordor with little more than his own bodyguard and a handful of orcs.
Nonetheless, while Sauron's subsequent power never quite matched the height it had during the War with the elves, many of his most powerful enemies' homelands had been devastated. Relative to his enemies, Sauron's empire was actually in a stronger position than it used to be. His empire continued to expand to dominate barbarian Men to the far south and east. Throughout this, Sauron remained faithful in his old allegiance, building temples to the worship of Morgoth, where human sacrifice was practiced. Because of this, towards the end of the Second Age, Sauron assumed the titles of Lord of the Earth and King of Men.
This offended the Númenóreans, the powerful Men descended from the line of Beren and Lúthien, who lived on the island of Númenor in the sea between Middle-earth and Valinor. The proud Númenóreans came to Middle-earth with great force of arms, and Sauron's forces fled. Realizing he could not defeat the Numenoreans with military strength, Sauron allowed himself to be taken as a hostage to Númenor by King Ar-Pharazôn. There, he quickly grew from captive to advisor and was known as Tar-Mairon; he converted many Númenóreans to the worship of Morgoth, and raised a great temple in which he performed human sacrifices. Finally, he convinced the king to rebel against the Valar and attack Valinor itself. Eru, the supreme god, then directly intervened: Númenor was drowned under the sea, and the great navy of Númenor was destroyed. Sauron was diminished in the flood of Númenor, and fled back to Mordor, where he slowly rebuilt his strength during the time known as the Dark Years.
From this point on he was unable to assume a fair shape, and ruled now through terror and force. A few faithful Númenóreans were saved from the flood, and they founded Gondor and Arnor in Middle-earth. These faithful Men, led by Elendil and his sons, allied with the Elves of Lindon under the Elven-king Gil-galad, and together fought Sauron in the War of the Last Alliance and, after a long period, defeated him in the year S.A. 3441, although both Elendil and Gil-galad were killed. Isildur, son of Elendil, cut the One Ring from Sauron's finger and claimed it. Later, the Ring betrayed him and was lost for more than two thousand years.
After his defeat in the War of the Last Alliance, Sauron had lost his ability to form a physical body for a great while. It is thought that he fled to the far east to regain his power and strength before returning. It was not until c. T.A. 1000 that Sauron could again begin to take shape and in 1050 his power was enough that he began again to throw a shadow across portions of Middle-earth. It is around this time that he first began to inhabit southern Greenwood the Great, choosing the hill of Amon Lanc as a place to build the fortress of Dol Guldur. At first, it was thought by the wise that it was one of the Nazgûl who had returned and taken up residence in southern Greenwood, but when Gandalf entered the fortress in 2063 the power in Dol Guldur fled before him into the East thus beginning the Watchful Peace.
The Watchful Peace
Sauron returned from the east in 2460 and again took up residence in Dol Guldur. Eventually, after many hundreds of years of pressing the White Council to take action against the Necromancer, Gandalf entered Dol Guldur in secret in 2850 and learned that the Necromancer was actually none other than Sauron. In 2851, the White Council were informed of this, and Gandalf urged an immediate attack upon the fortress, but Saruman the White opposed him, having already learned of the presence of the Ruling Ring near the Gladden Fields.
It was not until 90 years later, in 2941 that Gandalf finally prevailed upon the White Council to attack Dol Guldur and drive Sauron out (see Attack on Dol Guldur). At this point, Sauron returned to Mordor and finalized the reconstruction of Barad-dûr, which had been prepared for him by the Nazgûl for many years prior to this.
The War of the Ring
Sauron bred immense armies of Orcs and allied with or enslaved Men from the east and south. He adopted the symbol of a lidless eye, and he was able at that time to send out his will over Middle-earth, so that the Eye of Sauron was a symbol of power and fear.
After torturing Gollum, he learned that the One Ring had been found by Bilbo Baggins. He sent his deadliest servants, the Nazgûl, to the Shire, only to find that both Bilbo and his nephew, Frodo, had departed. Unbeknownst to Sauron, Frodo had, at the behest of Gandalf, joined the Fellowship of the Ring on a quest to destroy the Ring. He rallied his vast armies to conquer the resistance's strongholds, and sent the Ringwraiths to find and kill Frodo. At about this time, he also learned that Aragorn, Isildur's heir, had also joined the Fellowship, and was rallying armies to defeat his.
When Saruman's army was defeated at Isengard, Aragorn used the Palantir of Orthanc to reveal himself to Sauron. Sauron made the premature conclusion that Aragorn had the Ring, and sent an army commanded by his strongest servant, the Witch-King of Angmar, to overthrow Minas Tirith. This battle would become known as the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
Although Sauron lost the Battle of Pelennor Fields, the free forces of the West were greatly weakened, and Sauron still had sufficent armies in reserve to ensure military victory. He was outwitted, however, by the strategy of Gandalf, who urged the captains of the Free peoples to march against Sauron, thus diverting the Dark Lord's eye from the real threat of Frodo, the Ring Bearer, who was nearing the end of his quest to destroy the One Ring.
Frodo, however, failed at the last moment, unable to resist the power of the Ring at the place of its birth. But Gollum inadvertently saved him by recovering the Ring in a desperate attempt to possess it, and then falling with it into the fire. Thus Sauron's power was unmade, and his corporeal power in Middle-earth came to an end. His spirit towered above Mordor like a black cloud, but was blown away by a powerful wind from the West. Sauron was now permanently crippled, never to rise again. Saruman would suffer a similar fate.
This article or section is a stub. Please help Tolkien Gateway by expanding it.
During the First Age, Sauron has several appearances. He is both a werewolf and a vampire when Luthien and Huan came to save Beren.
Sauron's appearance during the Second Age is not described that much, save that he was pleasant and fair to look at, and so he took the King of Númenor and the Elves of Hollin in. After the Downfall, Sauron was not able to regain a fair shape.
During the Third Age, Sauron took the shape of a great Eye. It is described as being of fire. Frodo sees it as an eye of flame, "stabbing northward" while he and Sam are just about to enter the Sammath Naur in Mount Doom.
In the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, directed by Peter Jackson, Sauron is briefly seen as the Necromancer by Radagast. He is seen as the figure of a man.
In the Lord of the Rings, directed by Peter Jackson, Sauron appears several times. In the flashback scene of the Last Alliance, Sauron is a human figure dressed in black, with armor, a black metal helmet, and the Ring on his finger. He carries a mace and is depicted as being taller than Elves or Men. As the Red Eye, he is an eye of fire situated on the top of Barad-dur between two pillars of metal. Beams of light can be seen radiating from the Eye.
Several accounts of the origin of the name Sauron were suggested in different linguistic manuscripts:
- deriving from Quenya saura ("foul, evil-smelling, putrid", from the root THUS).
- deriving from Quenya saura ("foul, vile"; from root SAWA). The manuscript continues saying that Sauron "could be a genuine Sindarin formation from saur; but is probably from Quenya". However, this origin appears to have been rejected, as it is followed by the comment "No. THAW-, cruel. Saura, cruel" in the manuscript.
- deriving from the Primitive Quendian form Øaurond- (formed from the adjective Øaurā "detestable", from root THAW).
- deriving from Thauron, which includes the Sindarin element thaur ("abominable, abhorrent"; also found in Gorthaur).
Other names and titles
In some of Tolkien's notes from the 1950s, it is said that Sauron's original name was Mairon, "the admirable" (Q, pron. [ˈmaɪron]), "but this was altered after he was suborned by Melkor. But he continued to call himself Mairon the Admirable, or Tar-mairon 'King Excellent', until after Númenor's downfall."
Among his many titles were the Necromancer, the Abhorred Dread, the Nameless Enemy, the Cruel, the Dark Lord of Mordor and the Lord of the Rings. The Dúnedain called him Sauron the Deceiver due to his role in the downfall of Númenor and the Forging of the Rings of Power.
Other versions of the Legendarium
Prior to the publication of The Silmarillion Sauron's origins and true identity were unclear to those without full access to Tolkien's notes. In early editions of the Guide to Middle Earth, Sauron is described as "probably of the Eldar elves."
Since the earliest versions of the Silmarillion legendarium as detailed in the History of Middle-earth series, Sauron has undergone many changes. The prototype of this character was Tevildo, lord of the cats, who played the role later taken by Sauron in the earliest version of the story of Beren and Lúthien in The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, The Tale of Tinúviel. Tevildo later (but still in the Book of Lost Tales period) was transformed into Thû, the Necromancer. The name was then changed to Gorthû, Sûr, and finally to Sauron. Gorthû, in the form Gorthaur remained in The Silmarillion.
In The Hobbit the Necromancer is an obscure villainous entity mentioned fleetingly by Gandalf as one of the dangers of the wider world. He is peripheral to the plot of the book: explaining why the company takes the dangerous road though Mirkwood rather than going around, and providing a reason for Gandalf's absence for that section of the journey. Thematically the Necromancer, a truly 'terrible' force beyond the power of the main protagonists, gives the world of The Hobbit a greater level of reality which Tolkien felt was necessary for a 'fairy-tale' to ring true.
Despite the alias it would appear that the Necromancer was always intended to stand for Sauron, a figure from the very earliest phases of his Legendarium (as Tevildo in The Tale of Tinúviel). Shortly after the publication of The Hobbit Tolkien wrote:
Mr Baggins began as a comic tale among conventional and inconsistent Grimm's fairy-tale dwarves, and got drawn into the edge of it – so that even Sauron the terrible peeped over the edge.
However, as The Hobbit was not originally intended to be integrated with Tolkien's wider mythology the Necromancer did not necessarily need to be consistent with his First Age counterpart Sauron, rather the two were loosely linked to add an 'impression of depth' to the narrative of The Hobbit. With Tolkien's decision to merge the two 'worlds' and make Sauron the central antagonist Lord of the Rings came the need to reconcile the two figures and account for his whereabouts in the millennia between the end of the First Age and his dwelling in Bilbo's Mirkwood. This was largely achieved in the Tale of Years, with Sauron becoming a much greater figure after the fall of his master, one who argueably drove the history of the entire Second and Third Ages of Middle-earth.
Portrayal in adaptations
|Sauron in Adaptations|
2001-03: The Lord of the Rings (film series):
2012-14: The Hobbit (film series):
- Sauron is mentioned only very briefly at the end; Gandalf and Elrond discuss how the "Necromancer" had been driven from his abode in the south of Mirkwood.
1985: Lord of the Rings: Game One:
- Sauron is mentioned by Gandalf in the beginning of the game.
- Sauron is mentioned in the beginning of the game, when Gandalf explains the history of the One Ring.
2003: The Hobbit (2003 video game):
- Sauron and the events of the south of Mirkwood are left unmentioned. However, whilst in Mirkwood, Bilbo has to defeat creatures that he calls "Minions of the Necromancer".
- At the end of the game, Berethor and company (the playable characters) have to defeat the eye of Sauron by physically attacking him on top of Barad-dûr.
2012: Guardians of Middle-earth:
- Sauron is a "guardian".
1982-97: Middle-earth Role Playing:
- Sauron is treated as a Mage of level 180 (level 360 if using the One Ring). Among his items are the Elf-slaying Black Sword (S. Mormegil), the Gauntlet of Slaying ("Narsil's Bane"), and the Black Scale of dragonskin. Among his special powers are Domination (control over other players using the One Eye), resistance to normal weapons, and the ability to force anyone within his sight to resist fear (or otherwise becoming frozen).
1995-8: Middle-earth Collectible Card Game:
- The card "Sauron", appearing in the set The Balrog, is playable as a manifestation of the card "The Lidless Eye" (from the set The Lidless Eye), and can be used by players to enhance their general influence.
- ↑ Sauron is pronounced "sour-on" (sour as in not sweet).
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Index of Names"
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Valaquenta: Account of the Valar and Maiar According to the Lore of the Eldar"
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 183
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Ainulindalë: The Music of the Ainur"
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor"
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Coming of Men into the West"
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Beren and Lúthien"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Index of Names"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Three: The Etymologies", p. 393 (entry THUS-)
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), pp. 183-4
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 297, (dated August 1967), p. 380
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names" (entry for thaur)
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Two. The Later Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin (Chapter 15)", p. 240
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Valaquenta: Of the Enemies"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lays of Beleriand, "III. The Lay of Leithian"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "The Tale of Tinúviel"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 17, (dated 15 October 1937)
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 19, (dated 16 December 1937)
- ↑ Radio Times, Volume 133, No. 1724, November 23, 1956
- ↑ "Guardians of Middle-earth: First Official Gameplay Trailer" dated 29 June 2012, YouTube (accessed 16 July 2012)
- ↑ Peter C. Fenlon, Terry K. Amthor, R. Mark Colborn (1986), Lords of Middle-earth Vol I: The Immortals (#8002), pp. 98-102
- ↑ Peter C. Fenlon, Jr. (1993), Valar and Maiar (#2006), pp. 97-105
- ↑ "Home page for the game Middle Earth" , Trade Cards Online (accessed 5 January 2012)
c. S.A. 1600 – 3441
|Lords:||Manwë · Ulmo · Aulë · Oromë · Mandos · Irmo · Tulkas|
|Queens:||Varda · Yavanna · Nienna · Estë · Vairë · Vána · Nessa|
|Manwë:||Eönwë · Olórin||Varda:||Ilmarë · Olórin · Arien|
|Ulmo:||Ossë · Uinen · Salmar||Yavanna:||Aiwendil|
|Aulë:||Mairon · Curumo||Estë:||Melian|
|Oromë:||Tilion · Alatar · Pallando||Vána:|
|Balrogs:||Gothmog · Durin's Bane · Lungorthin|
|Wizards:||Saruman · Gandalf · Radagast · Blue Wizards (Rómestámo · Morinehtar)|
|Music · Valarin · Almaren · Valinor · Valmar · Second Music|