OK, pay attention, please! The main bad guy in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” is someone called Sauron. He began his life as servant to the good-god-gone-wrong Morgoth (also known as Melkor). In Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion,” which was published after the author’s death, he is also described as the “Chief Lieutenant of the first Dark Lord.” Then, after his boss was defeated in the First Age and chucked into the Void, Sauron carried on his master’s work for three whole ages. This meant essentially world domination through death and illness, getting animals to kill one another and growing copious hordes of flies.
Sauron was eventually called “The Lord of the Rings” because, at some point in the second age of Middle-earth, he forged a Ring that could control all of the other rings of power being produced at the time. However, Sauron’s ring, the “One Ring” was something of a double-edged sword since it not only allowed him great power when wearing it but also brought extreme vulnerability when not. What’s more, after Sauron’s demise the ring became a powerful destroyer of whoever bore it and could only be destroyed itself in the very fires where it had originally been forged.
So now that you’ve had the book review, let’s take a closer look at the Dark Lord of Mordor through 15 things you didn’t know about him.
15. Cosmic Music
Tolkien created the idea of a beautiful and angelic music, revealed to the spirit children (Maiar) by the Supreme Being Eru Ilúvatar, being all-encompassing and connecting, rather like the words of the Christian bible. The children of Ilúvatar were taught the art of music and sung “alone or in small groups about themes given each of them by Ilúvatar, who proposes a ‘great’ plan for them all: a collaborative symphony where they would sing together in harmony.” (Wikipedia)
As Melkor feels the need to big himself up, he begins to introduce discordant music to the spirit children’s songs. “Straightway discord arose around him, and many that sang nigh him grew despondent … but some began to attune their music to his [including Sauron, eventually] rather than to the thought which they had at first.” As a consequence, the cosmic music began to represent conflict between good and evil paralleling the stories in the Book of Genesis, according to Tolkien’s researchers.
14. Five Little-Known Facts
The Eye of Sauron is referenced in two Stephen King novels: “The Stand” and “The Dark Tower,” both alluding to a world watched over by an evil power.
In his novel “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” author Junot Diaz compares Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo as “our Sauron.”
In comic series “Fables,” one character called “The Adversary” was inspired by Sauron according to author Bill Willingham.
In the television series “My Little Pony,” antagonist King Sombra is mainly based on Sauron.
Under his watchful eye, Sauron incited the Elven smiths of Eregion, led by Celebrimbor, to forge nineteen rings. Three of the rings were for the Elves, Seven for the Dwarves, and Nine for the Men. While those for the Dwarves and the Men were forged under Sauron’s management, the three for the Elves were made in secret. These Elvish rings were called “Narya,” the Ring of Fire, “Nenya,” the Ring of Water or Ring of Adamant, and “Vilya,” the Ring of Air and supposedly the “mightiest of the Three.”
Unsullied by Sauron’s One Ring, the Elvish three proved invaluable in the, “Preservation and enhancement of three remaining realms of the Eldar.” Despite Sauron’s plan to control all nineteen rings by his One, the three made in secret proved a constant thorn in his side. Sauron’s ring would also prove his weakness, and having it cut from his hand lost him much of his power. He had relied on the ring for his planned capitulation of Middle-earth, so he spent most of the Third Age trying to get it back.
12. Servant of Valar
Despite following in his master’s footsteps and planning world dominance, Sauron continued to pretend to his fellow Maiars (“Spirits whose being also began before the world, of the same order as the Valar but of less degree”) and the gods (Valar) that he was fully behind the creation of the Earth. To an extent, this could have been true, but what was more important to Sauron at the time was Melkor’s war with the Valar, which had come off the back of his constant pitchy singing.
The Valar eventually made a place called Almaren as their first “physical abode in the world,” but all the while, Sauron was passing information back to his master like the loyal servant he was. As a consequence, Melkor knew day to day how things were going. “Melkor knew of all that was done; for even then he had secret friends and spies among the Maiar.” (Wikipedia) Pretty soon, Melkor made his first strike and eradicated Almaren.
11. The Hobbit
There’s some stiff debate about Sauron’s emergence in Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” as a “necromancer,” officially someone who “communicates with the deceased — either by summoning their spirit as an apparition or raising them bodily — for the purpose of divination.” This role for Sauron, who in the earlier book was called Thû, brings into question the extent of his powers. What’s more, his “LOTR” curriculum vitae states he has a hand in “all the evil events to transpire” but mentions nothing about summoning the dead.
In “The Hobbit,” Tolkien writes of Thû, “Master of Wolves, whose shivering howl for ever echoed in the hills, and foul enchantments and dark sigaldry did weave and wield. In glamour that necromancer held his hosts of phantoms and of wandering ghosts…” but with still no evidence for raising the dead. Perhaps calling him a necromancer is just a representation of the threatening notion of beings outside of the hero Bilbo Baggins’s experience.
10. Promising Beginnings
After his necromancing salad days, Sauron arrived in “LOTR” a new man. In fact, before being turned to the dark side by his Lord Melkor, Sauron was a fully paid-up member of the Maiar, the “nearly-primordial spirits that descended into Arda (Earth) to help the Valar (god) first shape the World.” These guys were not evil or corrupt, actually; Lord of Rivendell, Elrond, looking back over the course of time recalls, “Nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so.”
However, it was during his time in service to Melkor that we see Sauron’s evilness emerge. Possibly because his master was like-minded when it came to his love of “order and coordination, and dislike [of] all confusion and wasteful friction,” the two quickly became allies. Sauron, however, never really felt at ease with his master’s war against the “Lords and Ladies of the Valar.”
9. Name Change
So Sauron came about in Tolkien’s 1937 novel “The Hobbit” but was then called Thû. Appearing next in “LOTR” as the naughty eponymous protagonist, he was originally called Mairon (the Admirable), but after joining Melkor in his fight with just about everyone, he changed his name to Sauron. Sauron itself comes from the adjective saura meaning “foul or putrid” in Tolkien’s invented language of Quenya and can be translated into English as “the Abhorred” or “the Abomination.” Either way, it’s not going to be a name that appears on a favorite boys’ names list anytime soon.
In the Second Age, Tauron calls himself Tar-Mairon, which translated means “King Excellent.” As the book goes on, Sauron is given other names, such as “Gorthaur” (Elfish for “the Abhorred Dread”), “Nameless Enemy,” “Sauron the Deceiver,” and the “Base Master of Treachery.” His two most common titles, the “Dark Lord of Mordor” and, of course, the “Lord of the Rings” are the ones you’ve probably heard of the most.
In the First Age, Sauron was left in charge of Angband from where he ruled Middle-earth. It was here that Melkor’s young apprentice began to create an army to consolidate their power. Sauron had “secretly repaired Angband for the help of his Master when he returned; and there the dark places underground were already manned with hosts of the Orcs before Melkor came back at last, as Morgoth the Black Enemy.” (Wikipedia)
Yet at the same time, Sauron also took over control of an island called Tol-in-Gaurhoth or the Island of the Werewolves. Here, he also began to breed large wolves, and it was from Tol that Sauron dispatched some wolves to kill the elf Lúthien and big dog Huan. Fortunately, Huan was able to kill the wolves, but when Sauron heard the news, he dispatched himself to join the battle; he soon fled, however, when things didn’t go his way, and in doing so, he capitulated Tol-in-Gaurhoth to Lúthien.
7. Second Age
Falsely endearing himself to the Elves of Noldor, Sauron’s motives were still not wholly evil at this point. In fact, his plans included world peace, which Tolkien himself admitted manifested in good intention: “His capability of corrupting other minds, and even engaging their service, was a residue from the fact that his original desire for ‘order’ had really envisaged the good estate (especially physical well-being) of his ‘subjects.’” (Middle-Earth.org)
Encouraging the Elves to forge rings of power seemed to most to be a great plan, especially if it meant the bearers would themselves be made powerful in their quest for peaceful rule. However, unbeknown to everyone at the time, Sauron had also forged his own ring that had the power to control the others. This “one Ring to rule them all” was soon a hot topic of conversation among Elves, who then refused to wear their rings for as long as Sauron had his.
After Melkor had levelled Almaren — essentially the Zion of Middle-Earth — the Valar, along with Sauron, moved west to the Blessed Realm of Valinor. Meanwhile, Melkor moved in to conquer Middle-earth and began to rule with an iron fist from the stronghold of Angband. The fortress was underneath the Iron Mountains, so it was quite hard to get to; however, the Valar did after some time. They captured Melkor and imprisoned him in Valinor for three ages but let him out in the end so he could continue his reign of terror.
The Valar headed for Valinor, not knowing that Sauron had been the scoundrel who had divulged their whereabouts to Melkor. They trusted him in his role as a “Being of Valinor” even though, as Tolkien points out, “In Valinor he had dwelt among the people of the gods, but there Morgoth had drawn him to evil and to his service.” Essentially, he was a mole among the good working for the bad, and in time, he left Valinor to join the Valar’s arch enemy, much to their chagrin.
5. The New Master
As soon as Sauron joined up with Melkor at Angband, the two set to work and made the dominance of Middle-earth their one mission. Melkor needed Sauron’s help, and he didn’t disappoint. He proved a devoted and capable servant in his new role as “Chief Lieutenant of the first Dark Lord, Morgoth.” It was after he had taken up this position that the Valar realised what dark force had taken hold of Sauron, and he quickly became their mortal enemy.
Melkor still sang badly, and in the “furious haste of his malice,” he relied heavily on Sauron for support. According to Tolkien, Sauron “did not seek his own supremacy but worked and schemed for another, desiring the triumph of Melkor, whom in the beginning he had adored.” By the time the Elves arrived in Middle-earth, the stage was set for a showdown between the ones with pointed ears and Melkor the Morgorth, with Sauron effectively in full command.
4. Elvish Wars
Ten years after the Elvish wars, Finrod Felagund, the king of Nargothrond and former lord of Tol Sirion, arrived at Tol-in-Gaurhoth — the Island of the Werewolves — with Beren and ten Elves dressed as Orcs. Sauron was ahead of the game and defeated Finrod, whom he suspected may pull such a trick. Finrod died protecting Beren against a wolf, and the visitors were imprisoned in the island’s dungeons at the behest of Sauron; 10 of them were eaten by wolves.
You’ve already heard about the exploits of Huan, the Hound of Valinor, who, after a rescue party was sent to find Finrod, ended up in a vicious battle with Sauron. But did you know that Tolkien had imagined the giant Wolfhound to be “as big as a small horse, immortal, tireless and sleepless, and was allowed to speak three times before he died”? Nor did we.
3. The Eye
The question remains to this day about Sauron’s incarnation. Did he ever possess a real body, or was he always in spirit form? It’s logical to think since Sauron was part of the Maiar (one of the spirits that rank below the Valar in terms of power) and was present at the inception of Middle-Earth that he was, in fact, a divine being without a body. But then, his abilities to shapeshift and assume other identities are also well documented in The Silmarillion: “In the beginning he assumed a beautiful form, but after switching his allegiance to Morgoth, he took a sinister shape.”
The Great Eye is thought by some to represent Sauron’s all-encompassing evil, and in Tolkien’s draft text of “LOTR”, the Eye stands for Sauron’s “very person, with emotions and thoughts […] before his body was lost in the War of the Last Alliance.” (Wikipedia)
After disappearing during the War of Wrath, which the Valar waged against Melkor, Sauron turned up near Valinor, but this time, to a less than favourable reception. Sensing a need to repent, Sauron approached emissary of the Valar Eönwë, who reported back to the Valar Sauron’s wish to be considered for re-employment. On hearing about the meeting Manwë, Lord of the Valar, was happy to receive Sauron and even considered “repentance and ultimate rehabilitation.”
However, Sauron, having enjoyed his time serving Melkor, had second thoughts about appearing before Manwë and, perhaps out of fear, “was ashamed to return to Valinor and receive a judgement or sentence due to his long service to Morgoth.” (Wikipedia) Instead, he disappeared into Middle Earth and “bereft of his lord…[he] fell into the folly of imitating him. Very slowly, beginning with fair motives: the reorganizing and rehabilitation of Middle-Earth.”
1. Tolkien On Sauron
Tolkien’s depiction of Sauron is not altogether negative. Especially at the start of “LOTR,” the author is keen to make the point that Melkor’s second in command had not the intention of becoming evil himself but had seen in his master something appealing to his divine morality. As for his motives, Tolkien says, “He was not indeed wholly evil, not unless all ‘reformers’ who want to hurry up with ‘reconstruction’ and ‘reorganization’ are wholly evil, even before pride and the lust to exert their will eat them up.”
Although Tolkien doesn’t provide a detailed description of Sauron’s appearance even during any of his incarnations, an illustration by the author glimpses what Sauron’s appearance may have been: a grey humanoid except for a black arm and hand and a red eye; there are also spikes on Sauron’s head, which could suggest a crown for the self-styled “King of Men.” The references to the devil are never too far from the shore.