Sauron as he should have been


New Member
Hello all,

First time posting here. I've been working to get caught up for a year and a half and I'm finally there! It's good to be finally joining you all for the conversation. Since we are about to be going through similar questions in the text I thought now would be a good time to bring this up.

What would an unfallen Sauron look like? If everything that was essential to Sauron remained part of his character but in an uncorrupted state, what would he be like?

It is perhaps not necessary that he should be so incredibly different. Is the desire for a land of your own design and making evil? As a sub-creator himself, Tolkien answers a definite no to that question and argues that the creative impulse is entirely natural to created beings. As the sub-creator of your own little world, there is naturally a power over that subcreation. Even authority over one's subjects, when properly understood, can be without corruption. Aule's making of the Dwarves is an excellent example of this.

So when I begin the thought experiment of what Sauron's story might have been if he simply hadn't fallen in with Melkor, I reach a somewhat startling conclusion. Imagine one of the Ainur, a Maia, joining in the Song of Illuvatar. He sings the theme, and puts in his own particular flourishes that express his creative impulses. Entering into the world at the beginning of time, he is tickled pink to see that his flourishes have been given form; a land of his own devising. And being given permission to continue sub-creating and finishing the work, he gladly enters into his own creation and becomes a part of it, its sub-creative animating spirit in a derivative but very real way.

Whereas the Valar did this same thing with major elemental things (the oceans, the skies, the very ground itself, etc.), I'd expect to see this particular Ainur's domain take on a much smaller, more local size. I wouldn't be surprised to see it develop into a realm with distinct geographical borders. He would have a real authority over it. Those that enter into the realm would naturally be subject to that authority. He could be quite powerful in his own realm, a sub-creative and derivative image of Illuvatar.

But here is where the picture begins to differ. An unfallen Sauron would be content with those geographic borders, he would have a love of home without expansionism. Authority in his realm would be properly understood as necessary to achieving its design. Creatures that enter in would be subjects but never slaves. And the land would take its being and shape from him, but without Ownership. An unfallen Sauron should look out on the realm he has sung into existence with joy and satisfaction, seeing it for the world he created and yet love it as something apart from himself.

And so, when I come to the conclusion of this exercise, I arrive at a very startling picture of what it looks like to be Sauron as he should have been. And I have no difficulty believing that in addition to all these things, he just might be the type to wear yellow boots.


I really like this thought experiment and where you went with it. I started thinking of Bombadil about half-way through your post, and was happily surprised to see you ended up there too! Another possibility that occurs to me is that Sauron -- or Mairon, as I believe his first name was -- could perhaps have become less a master of a particular land and more a master of a particular craft. In some sense, perhaps he could have been what he pretended to be in his interactions with Celebrimbor and his smiths: a gift-giver or a sort of patron of the arts, inspiring and cultivating beauty and excellence in the subcreative endeavours of others. For me, that would seem consistent with the way we see him approach and wield destructive power: inclined to work through artifacts and intermediaries, presenting himself as someone bringing new knowledge or enlightenment, and so on. I can imagine him as a benevolent teacher figure, taking delight in inspiring others to advance in artistry or craftsmanship. I think that would make a lot of sense given his background as one of Aule's people.

The tragic thing is, I would have liked to know either of the Sauron alternatives described in this thread. If only...


New Member
I love that reading! And we're in definite agreement that an unfallen Sauron should have made a really good teacher and inspired a lot of great works. Mordor as an artisan's colony, perhaps? That's an awesome thought.

Sauron and Bombadil are definitely not personality-wise or interest-wise the same, but I think the conclusion to draw is that Bombadil seems very much to function as a counterpoint to Sauron in the story, a vision of a similar creature of significant power but with an unfallen and one might say pacifistic bent. As I recall when the group was first discussing Bombadil there was a question about what it meant when Bombadil said he had to get back to his making and his singing. Well, they do seem to be the same thing. He began singing in the great music at the beginning of time and has been doing it ever since. His singing IS his making.

But since we are about to enter the council's discussion of Bombadil and whether he may be able to help them out of their difficulty, I thought Tolkien's letter to Naomi Mitchison, (I believe it's letter number 144), would be relevant to bring up here.

"Tom Bombadil is not an important person – to the narrative. I suppose he has some importance as a ‘comment’. I mean, I do not really write like that: he is just an invention (who first appeared in the Oxford Magazine about 1933), and he represents something that I feel important, though I would not be prepared to analyze the feeling precisely. I would not, however, have left him in, if he did not have some kind of function. I might put it this way. The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, moderated freedom with consent against compulsion that has long lost any object save mere power, and so on; but both sides in some degree, conservative or destructive, want a measure of control. but if you have, as it were taken ‘a vow of poverty’, renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself, watching, observing, and to some extent knowing, then the question of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power quite valueless. It is a natural pacifist view, which always arises in the mind when there is a war. But the view of Rivendell seems to be that it is an excellent thing to have represented, but that there are in fact things with which it cannot cope; and upon which its existence nonetheless depends. Ultimately only the victory of the West will allow Bombadil to continue, or even to survive. Nothing would be left for him in the world of Sauron."


Sauron was originally attached to Aule, the Vala of craft and art. And, btw, somewhere in the let-over papers his name among the Eldar is given as Mairon, 'Lord of Excellence', a sort of inverse of his later title, 'Lord of Horror'. But why should Sauron/Mairon have had a specific realm of his own? This seeking for direct power is the sort of thing that Tolkien demonstrates as wrong and productive of all sorts of tragedy throughout his works. An unfallen Sauron would probably have been a teacher of the Eldar who let them create what they chose with the arts he gave them. He would have been a great friend of the Noldor instead of their enemy, since they were so interested in artistry and crafts. But seeking to have 'his own' realm is precisely what makes him fallen and out of harmony with the rest of creation.


New Member
By "realm" perhaps a better definition for how I am intending it here would be "the particular contribution of a sub-creator to the whole". It is that which the creature added to the whole and helped bring into being through their inspiration and sub-creative act. It is their own particular area of creative expertise, so to speak. For Bombadil, this seems to me to be the Old Forest, a realm in a geographic sense. For Sauron, I agree with Eliza that his realm would be that of artistry and inspiring art in others.

I agree that the desire for power is generally a sign of corruption and an evil. And yet... to sub-create means having a power over your creation just as the author of a story has authority over its characters. The desire to sub-create, then, is necessarily a desire to hold that power. Tolkien is quite decided that this "world-dominion by creative act" (to borrow a line from Mythopoeia) is both natural and proper to created beings. The important difference is that one is the natural and unfallen desire to have and use sub-creative power (Bombadil) and the other is a corrupted desire to dominate the realms of others as well as the others themselves (Sauron).