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The main part of this article relates to the last versions of Middle-earth's history, and as such may controvert parts of The Silmarillion. See Middle-earth canon for a discussion. This subject's portrayal in earlier or alternative versions is discussed in the other versions of the legendarium section.




Biographical information

Other names
Mairon, Annatar, Artano, Gorthaur the Cruel, the Enemy, the Dark Power, the Great Eye (TA only), the Necromancer, the Lord of the Ring, the Sorcerer, the Black Hand, the Nameless Enemy, Thauron, Thû, Sauron the Great, Sauron the Deceiver
Abhorred, Necromancer, Dark Lord, Lord of Mordor, Lord of Gifts, Lord of Barad-dûr, Lord of the Earth, Lord of the Rings
Date of birth
Before the creation of Arda
Year ascended to the throne
Date of death
March 25, 3019 (physical death only)
Realms ruled
One Ring, Mace, Sword, Sorcery, Powers of the Maiar

Physical description

Maiar of Aulë (formerly), Dark Servants of Morgoth
Various until SA 3319 (physical body)[1], 9 feet 2.1 inches (2.78 metres) (movie)
Hair color
Various [1]
Eye color
Various [1]
Sala Baker (LOTR Trilogy) Benedict Cumberbatch (The Hobbit Trilogy)
Alan Howard (LOTR Trilogy) Benedict Cumberbatch (The Hobbit Trilogy)
Sauron name tengwar

Sauron (or Þauron; 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 Morgoth's defeat in the First Age, Sauron became the second Dark Lord and strove to conquer Arda, creating the Rings of Power for this purpose. In the Second Age, he was defeated in the War of the Last Alliance by the last line of defense: elves and men.

During the 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.




Sauron during the First Age.

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.[2] Although he was a Maia spirit, and not as mighty as the Valar, Mairon was one of the most powerful Maiar, being far stronger than others such as Olorin and Curumo (who was also a servant of Aulë).[Source?]

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.

Eric Faure-Brac - Morgoth and Sauron

Morgoth and Sauron, by Eric Faure-Brac

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.[Source?] The Sindar in Beleriand called him Gorthaur, meaning "dread abomination",[3] and to the Noldor, he was named Sauron, meaning "the abhorred" or "the abominable" (a mockery of his original name). At first, he was a spy for Morgoth, telling him of the Valar's doings.[Source?]

First Age

During the First Age, the Noldorin 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.[4]

When Morgoth left Angband to corrupt the newly awakened Atani (Men), Sauron directed the war against the Elves.[5] He conquered the Elvish isle of Tol Sirion, so that it became known as Tol-in-Gaurhoth, the Isle of Werewolves.[6] He was the Lord of the Werewolves there, and Draugluin was the sire of the Werewolves. His 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.

Ted Nasmith - Huan Subdues Sauron

Huan subdues Sauron.

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.[7]

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.[8]

Second Age

Forging of the One Ring

"This is the Master-ring, the One Ring to rule them all. This is the One Ring that he lost many ages ago, to the great weakening of his power. He greatly desires it – but he must not get it."
Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings, "The Shadow of the Past"

The Dark Lord's hand of Power.

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, 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.

One Ring To Rule Them All

Sauron wearing the One Ring.

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 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 instead created in them an insatiable lust for gold, which ultimately caused a great deal of grief for the Dwarves.


Ringwraiths in The Fellowship of the Ring.

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.


Sauron overlooking the Orc army of Gorgoroth.

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 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

Sauron's destruction

Sauron's destruction in battle by Isildur.

After losing his body in the destruction of Númenor and a brief period of renewed war, Elendil and his people allied with the Elven-king, Gil-Galad 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, the dark lord 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 Smeagol's friend Deagol.

Third Age

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

Sauron necromancer dol guldur

An Unexpected Journey.

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.

Sauron in DOS

Sauron reveals himself to Gandalf at Dol Guldur.

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.


The Tower of Barad-dûr, Sauron's Mordor fortress. The Eye of Sauron looks out from the topmost pinnacle.

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. But while Sauron had much of his former strength, he was still much weakened without the One Ring and remained hidden in the shadows, directing his armies from afar.

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 Nazgul, to find Shire and search for Baggins, so that the One Ring might be found and returned to him.


Sauron discovering Aragorn through the Palantír of Minas Tirith.

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 the Halflings bearing the Ring. However, when Aragorn took the palantir and revealed himself, Sauron realized that Saruman had fallen. Concluding that the heir of Isildur carried the One Ring and could possibly use it against him, Sauron sped up his plans and attacked the city of Minas Tirith in Gondor much sooner than he had planned, seeking to raze it and crush last true human resistance to his rule.

Fortunately, due to the combined efforts of Gondor, Rohan, and the Army of the Dead, Sauron's army was defeated. He still had many armies in reserve, however, and enough military strength to easily conquer Middle-earth once Gondor fell. Yet, instead of striking out and covering Middle-Earth in a second darkness akin to Morgoth's near-victory, Sauron feared that Aragorn was attempting to master the ring's powers for himself, and waited for a period of strife between Aragorn and other potential Ringlords in which he would move out and take the Ring for himself.



The Eye of Sauron glaring at Aragorn's army at the Black Gate.

Despite their successful repulsion of Sauron's forces at Minas Tirith, Gandalf and Aragorn knew that an army of 10,000 orcs still stood between Frodo and Mt. Doom, and that Frodo stood almost no chance of reaching the mountain undetected. In a desperate gambit to buy time for Frodo to reach Mount Doom and to distract Sauron from the presence of the Ring in Mordor, Gandalf and Aragorn led the remaining host from Minas Tirith to the Black Gate, making Sauron believe that Aragorn did indeed intend to challenge him directly.[9]

Their ploy worked, as Sauron marshaled the entirety of his remaining forces and marched them towards Udun to utterly crush the Men of the West and regain his prize, leaving the Planes of Gorgoroth completely deserted and allowing Frodo and Sam to reach Mt. Doom unhindered. However, once Frodo reached the Cracks 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.[10]

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 like a "huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, ...terrible but impotent," only to be blown away by a great wind.[11]



Barad D­ûr's downfall.

All of Sauron's old strength that was "native to him in his beginning", in the words of Gandalf, was forever lost. Since his new body was based solely on the powers of the Ring, it was destroyed when the Ring was unmade. Without the strength of the Ring to aid him, he would never regain enough power to form the weakest body in Arda, and thus was restricted to existing as a hateful spirit, weak, and forever unable to take part in the events of Middle-earth. While evil would continue to exist, Sauron could never emerge as a Dark Lord again and never would have the power to create an army or draw evil creatures to his rule as he once did.

""If [the Ring] it is destroyed, then he will fall, and his fall will be so low that none can foresee his arising ever again. For he will lose the best part of the strength that was native to him in his beginning, and all that was made or begun with that power will crumble, and he will be maimed for ever, becoming a mere spirit of malice that gnaws itself in the shadows, but cannot again grow or take shape. And so a great evil of this world will be removed.""
The Return of the King, "The Last Debate"


Sauron is the Quenya term for "the Abhorred".[3] In Sindarin, it is translated as Gorthaur from gor ("horror, dread") and thaur ("abominable, abhorrent").[12]

Other names

His original name was said to be Mairon ("the Admirable, from maira = admirable, excellent"), a name he used while in Númenor, adding the title "Tar" for "Tar-Mairon" ("King Excellent").[13] When disguising himself in the Second Age, he called himself Annatar ("Lord of Gifts, anna = gift and tar = king, lord"), Artano ("High-smith") and Aulendil ("Friend of Aule").[14]

His name is sometimes seen written as Thauron (Þauron), an earlier pronunciation of Sauron.


  • The Enemy
  • The Nameless Enemy
  • The Deceiver
  • The Dark Lord (Post-First Age)
  • The Lord of Barad-dûr
  • The Lord of Mordor
  • The Necromancer (Third Age)

Earlier names

Thû was Tolkien's earlier names for Sauron in the Lay of Leithian.


Maureval - Mairon

Idea of the appearance of Sauron, by Maureval

Despite being the title character of the Lord of the Rings, Sauron is notable in that he never directly appears during the events of the trilogy. Nowhere is any detailed description given of what he looks like, other than in vague terms.

In The Silmarillion, Sauron is described as being a shape changer, and took many forms, including that of a serpent, a vampire, and a great wolf. After Morgoth's fall, Sauron appeared in fair form as Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, and maintained this appearance until the Fall of Numenor, in which he was unable to ever take fair form ever again. The History of Middle Earth include a passage describing (again, vaguely) how the Numenoreans saw him: "Upon that ship which was cast highest and stood dry upon a hill there was a man, or one in man's shape, but greater than any even of the race of Numenor in stature...And it seemed to men that Sauron was great; though they feared the light of his eyes. To many he appeared fair, to others terrible; but to some evil."[15]
A few clues are given as to Sauron's appearance as the Dark Lord, after he lost his ability to take a fair form: Tolkien described Sauron in one of his letters as having the form of a man of more than human stature, but not gigantic, and as an image of malice and hatred made visible. He apparently gave off great heat, so much so that Gil-Galad was burned to death by his mere touch, and Isildur described Sauron's hand as black, yet burning like fire, suggesting that his entire body was blackened from fire and heat.

Gollum, having apparently seen Sauron directly, described him as having only four fingers on his black hand, suggesting that Sauron was unable to regenerate the finger from which Isildur took the One Ring, similar to how the wounds Morgoth took from Fingolfin never healed.

In addition to his physical appearance, Sauron also apparently had an aura of incredible malevolence. A passage in The Silmarillion describes him as having a "dreadful presence," and daunting eyes. Furthermore, his mere presence could bend all but the strongest wills.[7]

Regarding Sauron's personality, Tolkien had this to say from his letters:

"In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to the wholly evil will as is possible. He had gone the way of all tyrants: beginning well, at least on the level that while desiring to order all things according to his own wisdom he still at first considered the (economic) well-being of other inhabitants of the Earth. But he went further than human tyrants in pride and the lust for domination, being in origin an immortal (angelic) spirit. Sauron desired to be a God-King, and was held to be this by his servants, by a triple treachery: 1. Because of his admiration of Strength he had become a follower of Morgoth and fell with him down into the depths of evil, becoming his chief agent in Middle Earth. 2. when Morgoth was defeated by the Valar finally he forsook his allegiance; but out of fear only; he did not present himself to the Valar or sue for pardon, and remained in Middle Earth. 3. When he found how greatly his knowledge was admired by all other rational creatures and how easy it was to influence them, his pride became boundless."
J.R.R. Tolkien[16]

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.

Annatar sauron

Sauron's fair disguise.

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.

Coat of Arms of Sauron by Alexander Liptak

Sauron bears a coat of arms that is black charged with a red eye.

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. Consistent with Tolkien's theme of evil being finite, wasteful, and self-destructive, Sauron's powers gradually decreased as time went on. 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.

In The Bestiary under the section "Wolfhounds," it is said Huan "took the greatest of the Maiar by the throat," referring to his fight with Sauron. However in the section Maiar it says "the mightiest of the Maiar is Eönwë."

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, but Sauron just controls it. 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.

Other versions of the legendarium

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, Prince of 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. 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 Numenor he was known (according to the Notion Club Papers and associated writings) as Zigûr.


In the books

In films

In video games

Portrayal in adaptations

Prior to the publication of The Silmarillion, Sauron's origins and true identity were unclear to those without full access to Tolkien's notes, so that early editions of the Guide to Middle Earth described Sauron as "probably of the Eldar elves".

The Hobbit film trilogy

"There is no light, Wizard...that can defeat darkness."
Sauron confronts Gandalf in Dol Guldur

Sauron, as he appears in The Desolation of Smaug.

In the The Hobbit film trilogy, Sauron appears in the film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in the form of a black, humanoid, ghostly shape, perhaps alluding to Tolkien's description of a man with blackened skin, and appears as a mass of black, tendril-like smoke in the next film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. In the latter film, Sauron revealed more of his powers; when Gandalf searches through Dol Guldur, Sauron confronts him and a duel erupts between the two. Sauron unleashes a barrage of dark spiritual energy at Gandalf, and then gives off a burning heat which melts Gandalf's staff, possibly a reference to the heat that Sauron radiates. He then telekinetically pins Gandalf against a wall and reveals himself to the wizard in an aura of flame. Gandalf is later seen imprisoned after this encounter. English actor Benedict Cumberbatch, (known for his works in Sherlock), who also voices the dragon Smaug, provides the motion performance and voice of Sauron as The Necromancer of Dol Guldur. The extended edition confirms he and Smaug are working together. This implies that although he is not strong enough to face the Wise, he would have had enough power to subdue Smaug if he attempted to attack him.

"It has begun. The East will fall. So shall the Kingdom of Angmar rise. The time of the Elves is over. The Age of the Orc has come."
Spoken in the Black Speech, as Sauron reveals himself to Galadriel

In The Battle of the Five Armies, Galadriel arrives in Dol Guldur to free Gandalf from imprisonment. As she tries to leave, Sauron (as a disembodied voice) taunts her and sets the Nazgul in wraith forms on her. As the Nazgul surround her, she reveals that she had come with allies: Saruman and Elrond emerge and engage the Nazgul in a fight. After Radagast has taken Gandalf to safety, Sauron gathers the Nazgul to him and materializes in his flame form to engage the White Council. Galadriel rises from the floor, taking on an etheral form and engages Sauron in a battle of wills and words. The Nazgul are dispatched and the Dark Lord's spirit is repelled from Dol Guldur and thrown far into the east, towards Mordor. After the battle, Galadriel is severely weakened and Saruman instructs Elrond to take her away while he deals with Sauron.

The Lord of the Rings film trilogy

"There is no life in the void, only death."
Sauron's voice to Frodo Baggins through the Great Eye, while Frodo wears the Ring.

In Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring, Saruman (Christopher Lee) refers to Sauron as "Lord of the Earth" while speaking to him through the Palantír. His most common titles, the Dark Lord of Mordor and the Lord of the Rings, appear only a few times in the books. His other titles were similar to Morgoth's. In the film adaptation, Sauron was originally intended to appear at the Battle of the Morannon to fight Aragorn. However, this was ultimately scrapped from the film, due to the fact it was not in the book and the developers believed it would take the main focus away from Sam and Frodo. Furthermore, Jackson believed it would be demeaning to what Aragorn was trying to accomplish.

As seen in Peter Jackson's film trilogy, Sauron appears as a massive figure in black armor, measuring over nine feet tall and wielding a horned mace. His armor is based on Morgoth's primary form in The Silmarillion, though scaled down a great deal. The way the Great Eye of Sauron appears in Peter Jackson's trilogy (as a giant cat's eye) is a reference to the character of Tevildo in the first drafts, who took the form of a cat.

In the movies, Sauron's weapon is a large black mace used against the Last Alliance to kill both Gil-galad and Elendil. The mace is extremely powerful (either that or Sauron uses magic to strengthen his might), as it can blast back and kill entire battalions in one hit.

Video games


Portrait of Narmaleth from The Lord of the Rings Online.

  • In The Lord of the Rings Online, Annatar was depicted in a mural in the ruins of Tham Mírdain. He was called Antheron (Gift Lord), because Turbine doesn't have the rights to the name Annatar. In the session play quest 'Daughter of Strife' from Volume I: Book XV, where the player takes on the character of Narmaleth, Sauron is also encountered in his disguise of Annatar (Antheron), at the time he taught the elves of Eregion the secrets of the Rings.

Translations around the World

Foreign Language Translated name
Chinese (Hong Kong) 索倫


In film versions of The Lord of the Rings, Sauron has been portrayed as either a humanlike creature (as in Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated version, The Lord of the Rings) or a physical, disembodied Eye (as in the 1980 animated The Return of the King), or both.

This last option is shown in the 2001-2003 film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson. Here, Sauron is shown to have a large, human-like form during the forging of the Ring and up to his losing it, then being "limited" to the disembodied Eye form throughout the rest of the storyline.

Though the 1978 animated film and the 2001 live-action film both contain a prologue featuring the forging of the Rings of Power, the War of the Elves and Sauron goes unmentioned and the films jump straight to the much later War of the Last Alliance. In both, Sauron does not have the form he wore as "Annatar" when he forges the One Ring, but rather the one reflecting his identity as Dark Lord, and he is defeated by Isildur alone.

In Jackson's series, Sauron is originally portrayed as a towering "black knight" wielding a huge black mace (reminiscent of Tolkien's descriptions as well as conceptual artist John Howe's illustrations of Morgoth); in this form, he is portrayed by Sala Baker. Sauron's armor is brutal, spiky, but of very high quality: it has very ornate filigree but is also quite functional. In the DVD commentary, the production team explained their intent was to represent Sauron's great skill as a craftsman and ring-maker: Sauron was originally a Maia spirit in service to the smith-vala Aulë, and thus was very wise in the lore of physical construction. Sauron may have fallen from his previously angelic state, but a shadow of his great skill in forging and construction remains, even though it has been twisted to making weapons of war. Thus they chose to depict Sauron as wearing frightening, but very high quality and ornate armor of his own creation. This body disintegrates with explosive force after Isildur cuts off the Ring with the hilt-shard of the sword Narsil. After this defeat, he is thereafter portrayed as the Eye, which is presented as an actual physical manifestation. Sauron is voiced by Alan Howard and, in The Hobbit, Benedict Cumberbatch.

Later in the first film, Saruman remarks that Sauron cannot yet take physical form, so the audience is apparently to assume that the flaming Eye of Sauron is his disembodied spirit. This Eye hovers between the twin horn-like spires above Barad-dûr. In the novel, Sauron was inside the tower, gazing out through "the Window of the Eye in [his] shadow-mantled fortress". In the extended edition of The Return of the King, Sauron's humanoid form appears when Aragorn looks into the palantír.

In interviews, Jackson repeatedly refers to Sauron as "just a giant floating eyeball". In the novel, even if one interprets the text as saying that the Eye exists physically, it is never clear whether it is disembodied or not.

In the Jackson films, Sauron wears plate armour, but the author nowhere specifically discusses what kind of armour (or even clothing) Sauron may have worn during his physical incarnations.

According to Saruman in the first film, the Eye of Sauron "sees all"—though this is somewhat clarified in the third film. Here, the Eye of Sauron is shown scanning Mordor rather like a searchlight, and can only observe one location at a time. The effect in Mordor is seen as a red beam that moves across the land, forever probing. A later statement regarding Sauron's observational powers shows they are akin to the novel, as Gollum says at one point that Sauron can see everything, but he cannot see everything all at once. It also seems to be visible to Frodo (and to see him in turn) any time that he is wearing the Ring.

Pippin has a brief encounter with the Eye, after gazing into the palantír of Orthanc. In the book, Pippin indicates that he somehow perceived Sauron, but it is not made clear exactly what he saw, whether the Eye or some other manifestation of the Dark Lord.

The Dark Tower crumbles with the destruction of the Ring, and as it does so the Eye appears to turn more yellow and the dark clouds of Mordor swirl in around it before finally being wiped from existence with a final massive explosive force, which in turn destroys anything under the control of Sauron (the Black Gate, the Ringwraiths, and the Orcs).

In earlier versions of Jackson's script, Sauron would indeed "come forth" at Aragorn's challenge, and do battle with him: The extra materials published together with the extended DVD version of the third movie indicate as much. Scenes of the fight were shot, but later this idea was discarded and was replaced by a scene (in the extended version) where Aragorn kills the "Mouth of Sauron" (a representative of Sauron) before fighting a Mordor troll. In fact, the footage of the battle with the troll was the same footage of Aragorn fighting Sauron, with the CGI troll mapped over a painted-out Sauron, as seen in the DVD special features. In this abandoned scene, when Sauron first emerges from the Black Gate, he appears in his fair and seductive form as "Annatar the Lord of Gifts", trying to entice Aragorn and the other leaders with offers of peace and dominion. When they reject him the image fades and he appears as the armored Sauron from the prologue. Jackson said he removed the scene when he realized it was too much of a departure from the source material and thematically missed the point: the battle was supposed to be a selfless sacrifice by Aragorn and his army, and making it into a duel between Aragorn and Sauron made it more about personal glory.

Sauron appears as The Necromancer in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit film adaptations, where he is portrayed through voice and motion capture by Benedict Cumberbatch. As a shadowy humanoid, the Necromancer appears briefly in the first film when Radagast the Brown enters Dol Guldur. In the second film, Jackson moves Gandalf's decisive expedition to Dol Guldur forward in time to coincide with the quest of Bilbo Baggins and the Dwarves in 2941. The Necromancer is shown as an amorphous entity of shadowy mist floating around in the ruins. Only when Gandalf confronts him is Sauron's form partially consolidated as a glowing, armored figure before the entity reforms into the Eye of Sauron to subdue the wizard. By the third film, his form is sharper and more pronounced; however he remains a shadowy figure encased in fire until his banishment to the Void by Lady Galadriel.

Sauron appears in merchandise of the Jackson films, including computer and video games. These include The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II, The Lord of the Rings: Tactics and The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age. Sauron also appears as a playable character in the game, The Lord of the Rings: Conquest. He is also a playable character in LEGO The Lord of the Rings.


Sauron the Dark Lord concept art.
437px-Sauron hi res-1-
Sauron in his Dark Lord appearance.
Sauron the Necromancer.
Sauron copy
Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor.
Sauron Guardians of Middle-Earth wallpaper.
Sauron in Guardians of Middle-Earth.
4466233230 833fdfcbed
A statue of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings Online.
040710 Antheron
Sauron as Annatar in Eregion during the Second Age.
The Eye of Sauron as it appears in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Sauron in DOS
The Necromancer revealed to be the Dark Lord Sauron.
Lord-of-the-rings -conquest--ss-99
Sauron in The Lord of the Rings: Conquest.
Sauron as he appears in The Hobbit- The Battle of the Five Armies
Sauron as he appears in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
Ainur of Arda
Lords of the Valar (of Valinor):  Manwë (Súlimo) | Ulmo (Ulubôz) | Aulë (Návatar) | Oromë (Aldaron) | Námo (Mandos) | Irmo (Lórien) | Tulkas (Astaldo)
Queens of the Valar (of Valinor): 
Varda (Elentári) | Yavanna (Kementári) | Nienna | Estë | Vairë | Vána | Nessa
Maiar (of Valinor): 
Eönwë | Ilmarë | Ossë | Uinen | Salmar | Melian | Arien | Tilion | Curumo (Saruman) | Olórin (Gandalf) | Aiwendil (Radagast) | Alatar (Morinehtar) | Pallando (Rómestámo)
Lords of the Valar (The Enemy): 
Morgoth (Melkor)
Maiar (The Enemy):  Sauron (Mairon) | Gothmog | Durin's Bane | Ungoliant | Shelob | Curumo (Saruman)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
  2. The Silmarillion, Valaquenta, "Of the Maiar"
  3. 3.0 3.1 The Silmarillion, Index of Names
  4. The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter III: "Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor"
  5. The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter XVII: "Of the Coming of Men into the West"
  6. The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter XVIII: "Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin"
  7. 7.0 7.1 The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter XIX: "Of Beren and Lúthien"
  8. The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter XXIV: "Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"
  9. The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Book Five, Chapter IX: "The Last Debate"
  10. The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Book Six, Chapter III: "Mount Doom"
  11. The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Book Six, Chapter IV: "The Field of Cormallen"
  12. The Silmarillion, Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin names
  13. Parma Eldalamberon, Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  14. Unfinished Tales, Part Two: The Second Age, IV: "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn, and of Amroth King of Lórien", Note 7
  15. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 5: The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part One: "The Fall of Númenor and the Lost Road"
  16. The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, 183 Notes on W. H. Auden's review of The Return of the King

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