Sauron's perspective on the events of the War of the Ring

Darren Grey

Active Member
Recent discussion on ExLotR of Sauron's perspective on things and how long it would take the Nazgul to return to Mordor make me think about what the Dark Lord really knows throughout the events of the book. We get very little in the book of Sauron's point of view, and it's easy to forget just how little he knows with any certainty. Especially when you consider it would take some time for news of any events to reach him, as he had few agents working west of the Anduin and until the winged Nazgul were active it would take months for messages or reports to come back. Many things that happen he would have zero knowledge of, as forces he sends out just never come back.

Anyway, here is a timeline of what I think he would have known, and how he might have reflected on things. If I've missed anything important or got anything wrong then do let me know (as if I have to ask... ;) )

2939 Sauron’s servants search the Gladden Fields. He learns more of Isildur's end and begins to suspect the Ring could have fallen in this area.

2941 The White Council drive Sauron from Dol Guldur. Smaug is slain. Gandalf appears to be at the heart of both actions. Sauron returns in secret to Mordor.

2951 Sauron declares himself openly and sends three Nazgul to reoccupy Dol Guldur.

c 3000 Saruman uses the palantir and becomes ensnared by Sauron’s will. Just how much he reveals to Sauron is unclear.

3009-17 Around this time a creature called Gollum is captured on the borders of Mordor. Sauron is physically present for his torture (if not conducting it himself), and it becomes clear that the mark of the Ruling Ring is on this strange being. And in spite of how pathetic the thing is it remains hard to completely dominate his will. Gollum eventually reveals that the Ring was taken by a creature called “Baggins” from a place called “Shire”.

3017 Sauron releases Gollum and sets spies to watch him in case he helps lead them to the Ring. Gollum is captured by an unknown man and taken to Mirkwood.

Jun 3018 Sauron attacks Osgiliath and sends his most trusted servants, the Nazgul, on their mission to find “Baggins” and the “Shire” and recover the Ring. The taking of Osgiliath seems to be primarily to allow for their journey. Around the same time his orcs rescue Gollum from Thranduil’s realm, but aren’t able to capture him. What Gollum has revealed to his enemies is unknown.

Now begins a period of long, dreadful silence for Sauron. The ringwraiths are out on their mission in enemy territory, and he has no way of receiving news back of their hunt. At some point Saruman stops reporting through his palantir. All Sauron can do is prepare for war as he awaits further news.

Dec 3018 Around this time we might assume the Nazgul have made it back to Mordor “empty and shapeless” after the confrontation at the Ford of Bruinen. Sauron at this point learns that the Ring has indeed been found, that it is held by a small creature called a “hobbit”, and that this hobbit is being guarded by Gandalf, Glorfindel, the dunedain and a strange man of power (whether he can equate this as the man who captured Gollum is unclear). The hobbit was able to invoke the name of Elbereth against the Witch-king, and was able to resist the Morgul-blade wound for far longer than could be thought possible. When the hobbit was about to be captured on the borders of Imladris someone raised the force of the river against the Nazgul.

The Ring was now certainly in the possession of a union of his most hated enemies, along with people of power he did not know about. This is terrifying. Their plans for the Ring are unknown, though it seems doubtless they will either send it West or one will claim it and confront him. Sauron may have observed that many scouts were sent around from Imladris, though possibly this was done stealthily and it would take some time to get reported back to him.

13 Jan 3019 There is a battle near Caradhras, with spells of fire used. Gandalf is clearly involved. The news of spells being used may reach Sauron quickly, but it could be some time before he hears of the defeat of his forces in the area or gets any hint of who was there (if he learns this at all).

25 Jan 3019 On the peak of Zirakzigil two great powers fight, and both perish. What Sauron can sense of this (if anything) is unclear. Its meaning will be shrouded in mystery.

Feb 3019 There is an altercation with some people on boats coming from the vicinity of Lorien and a Nazgul is shot from the sky, though he'd have no reason initially to suspect this was the party from Imladris. He may eventually learn the arrow was from Lorien. A band of orcs sent to Rohan at the end of this month does not return. By this time Saruman’s ambitions will have become clear, with his own uruk-hai developed in force. Sauron laughs at this slave’s flattery.

26 Feb 3019 Sauron senses a force spying on Mordor from afar. It seems he can tell that this force bears the Ring. He puts out his will to locate the bearer, but a third will contests with him and the bearer disengages before he can be found.

5 Mar 3019 A hobbit appears in the palantir of Orthanc! Sauron sends a firm message to Saruman that the Ring is not for him and will be sent for. This is the first solid news of the Ring since the confrontation at the Ford of Bruinen, though how it got across the mountains and into the hands of Saruman is unknown.

6 Mar 3019 The Nazgul report that Isengard is overthrown and flooded, and that the long-forgotten Ents have risen up in force. A new face appears in the palantir of Orthanc - that of Aragorn, heir of Isildur, bearing reforged the blade that once cut the Ring from his finger. Isildur’s heir wrests control of the palantir from Sauron’s will.

This is a dreadful and shocking moment for Sauron. It seems clear that Isildur’s heir has the Ring and is uniting forces against him and his allies. Did this man overthrow Saruman in his stronghold even though the wizard held the Ruling Ring? The image of Isildur's heir and the sword reforged strike terror in his heart, and losing the battle of wills for control of the palantir will have caused shame and anger. He accelerates his war plans, and within a few days commands Mount Doom to bring forth a black cloud. By this stage he has also invested new power into the Witch-king, and the forces of Minas Morgul march to war with the Witch-king as their captain.

12 Mar 3019 Sauron attacks Rohan, but is driven back by the Ents. His forces at Pelargir are driven out by Isildur’s heir and an army of dead. (How quickly Sauron learns of these is unclear, but the pattern of unexpected defeats across the west will start to become obvious.)

15 Mar 3019 After besieging Minas Tirith with overwhelming force, Sauron is shocked by the sudden death of the Witch-king. His forces are routed and destroyed in a way he could not have imagined. Meanwhile an orc captain returns injured from Cirith Ungol reporting of spies and bearing tokens from the enemies, including a mithril coat. He reports of the captured hobbit, and of the activity of some elf-lord that managed to injure Shelob.

18 Mar 3019 An army marches from Minas Tirith with Isildur’s heir at its head. It seems clear he has overthrown Denethor and taken control of all the powers of the West. He marches with a pitifully small force, and is heading right to the gates of Mordor. After all that has gone wrong for Sauron, now he can relish the reckless pride of this foolish new ringbearer. But though the force seems almost in jest, Sauron must take this seriously - there is still a real threat to him here.

22 Mar 3019 There are reports of spies within Mordor, and a black creature that could be Gollum. However these are distractions that can be dealt with later - he is busy mobilising his forces to ensure a complete and utter victory against the attacking army. He can take no chances after the misfortunes that have occurred to date, and so he moves all his troops to be ready for the confrontation at the Black Gate.

25 Mar 3019 Isildur’s heir arrives at the Black Gate with Gandalf at his side and a hobbit in his company. He is vastly outnumbered by the forces of Mordor. Sauron begins his attack, absolutely sure that his final and total victory is at hand. Eagles attack his Nazgul as the western forces defend themselves. Then, suddenly, he senses that right in the heart of his realm, in the very chamber of the Sammath Naur, someone has laid claim to the Ring. His misjudgments are laid bare and he turns all his will to Mount Doom, forgetting utterly his armies. The Nazgul turn from battle and speed towards Mount Doom. But it is too late, as by some strange chance the Ring falls into the Fire and is destroyed. Sauron is reduced to a spirit of nothingness, and all his servants and creations fall.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Good work Darren,

Here are some additional thoughts:

1. We do not really know what Sauron knows about the Ring, and exactly why he wants to get it back so badly. In 'The Shadow of the Past', Gandalf states, "He believed that the One had perished; that the Elves had destroyed it, as should have been done. But he knows now that it has not perished, that it has been found. So he is seeking it, seeking it, and all his thought is bent on it. It is his great hope and our great fear".

Now, of course, this is Gandalf's assumptions about Sauron's attitudes, rather than direct evidence from Sauron. However, if Gandalf is right, then Sauron probably does not overly fear destruction of the Ring. If he believed once that it was destroyed and he survived, it is likely that he believes he would survive if it were actually destroyed? Why is the Ring Sauron's great hope? Elrond thinks he is strong enough to conquer all of Middle-earth without it. So why covet it so much? Why is it 'our great fear'? Sauron can conquer all without the Ring. Actually the Ring turns out to be 'our great hope', rather than 'our great fear.'

Sauron does not really seem to need the Ring to fulfil his objectives? So, what is his 'great fear'? And, why is he 'seeking it, seeking it'? I suggest that his 'great fear' is someone wielding the Ring against him. He is seeking it primarily to prevent that, though also, possibly through sheer posessivness? (We know the Ring induces extreme posessiveness in its bearers.)

I do not think that Sauron's powers will be increased by reclaiming the Ring. He traded some of his powers into the Ring to gain the ability to bind the other Rings. It seems unlikely that he can reverse the trade, and get those powers back. Of course, he would be able to bind the Three (or would he? They were hid from him before when he made the Ring. Could they be hid from him again?) Anyway, is it any great advantage to be able to bind the Three? Elrond believes that he will defeat the Elven refuges anyway, even without the Ring. There seems little evidence that Sauron will gain anything temporal from re-gaining the Ring, except the possiblility of swifter victory over the Three.

Would Sauron be fearful of the Ring being sent over the Sea? He might be a bit anxious; 'What might the Valar be able to do with it'? However, he must have deduced the Valars' 'hands off' policy for Middle-earth long ago, or he would not be operating so openly?

So, Sauron's fear is presumably the emergence of a rival Ring-wielder?

2. June 2018 - I don't think that the attack on Osgiliath is 'primarily' to allow the Ring-wraiths to cross the Anduin. There are many easier and more covert ways to get the Nine across the River. Sauron's attack is to secure the bridge over the Anduin. He is denied by the defense of Boromir and Faramir while the bridge is destroyed. Had he taken the bridge, he would have had strategic and timing flexibility for an assault on Gondor. Without the bridge, he cannot mount an assault until he has completed "building floats and barges in great numbers in East Osgiliath." This seems to have taken almost nine months, and delayed any possible invasion of Gondor. Since Sauron did not send the Nazgul on the quest for the Ring until after the failure to take the bridge at Osgiliath, it seems clear that taking the bridge was a higher priority objective for Sauron than searching for the Shire and the Ring? It is only after that attempt failed, and invasion of Gondor was delayed (presumably for an unknown period at first) that Sauron sends the Nine on their quest.

3. When 'Isildur’s heir arrives at the Black Gate with Gandalf at his side and a hobbit in his company, vastly outnumbered by the forces of Mordor, Sauron begins his attack'. Is he 'absolutely sure that his final and total victory is at hand'?

I suggest that Sauron's vast army is (to him) a sideshow, or a plan B. He must assume that a new and rival Ring-wielder rides with the host of the West. The real battle is likely to be a one-on-one war of will between himself and his rival. This battle is likely to start when the new Ring-wielder tries to take control of the Nazgul. "Rule them! Find them! Bring them! Bind them!", that is the primary power of the One. Surely it is the logical first power for a new Ring-lord to try to exert? What good will Sauron's vast armies be if the remaining eight Nazgul swoop over them broadcasting defeat and despair?

I suggest that Sauron is far from absolutely sure that final and total victory is at hand. He probably believes that he will win (thinking himself shrewder, more powerful, and vastly more experienced than a new Ring-wielder), but he must be anxious?

Sauron's plan is probably something like: 1) Detect an attempt to bind and rule the Nazgul and fight it. 2) Identify the new Ring-lord immediately. 3) If the Nazgul are turned, keep his own hold on the will and purpose of his army in opposition to the Nazgul attempt to subvert and reverse it. 4) Simultaneously assault the new Ring-lord, will-vs-will, and attempt to either dominate him, or keep him occupied so he cannot effectively control the Nazgul or subvert the army until the rival Ring-lord is either killed or captured.

If this approximates Sauron's plan, then it involves multiple, and simultaneous offensive and defensive battles of will against a new Ring-lord of unknown power. I think Sauron must be at least anxious and apprehensive, even if still arrogantly confident of his own powers and abilities? And, how arrogantly confident is Sauron anyway? He has been beaten many times before. He knows from personal experience that he can lose, and lose, and lose.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
A tour de force, Darren. I had to reread the Rohan chapters after your timetable. It has always seemed to me several days before Aragorn uses the Palantir, but it seems that so many events happen almost simultaneously, with rests at odd times that it seems a longer time than it is.

"He believed that the One had perished; that the Elves had destroyed it, as should have been done. But he knows now that it has not perished, that it has been found. So he is seeking it, seeking it, and all his thought is bent on it. It is his great hope and our great fear".

Now, of course, this is Gandalf's assumptions about Sauron's attitudes, rather than direct evidence from Sauron. However, if Gandalf is right, then Sauron probably does not overly fear destruction of the Ring. If he believed once that it was destroyed and he survived, it is likely that he believes he would survive if it were actually destroyed? Why is the Ring Sauron's great hope? Elrond thinks he is strong enough to conquer all of Middle-earth without it. So why covet it so much? Why is it 'our great fear'? Sauron can conquer all without the Ring. Actually the Ring turns out to be 'our great hope', rather than 'our great fear.'
Sauron wants the One Ring because he wants ever greater power. And he survived when he thought it had been destroyed? It took him a couple of thousand years to recover and revive. I would guess he wouldn't want to go through that again. He is intent on taking over all of the west of Middle-earth this time, and has mustered the forces to do it. My guess is that he thinks someone else with great power and the Ring could stand in his way, and he wants to avoid that. Besides, he wants what is his own. I think it is worse for him to realize that it still existed all those years in other hands than his, than to think it was destroyed. Think of Frodo's voice saying "The Ring is MINE!" and increase it exponentially to get Sauron's feelings about it.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Did Sauron attribute his long recovery (probably less than 1,000 years, rather than 'a couple of thousand', as it is probably his 'shadow that falls upon Greenwood' in 1050 Third Age) to the loss of the Ring? Or did he attribute it to being killed?

(Yes, Sauron's bodily form has perished before, in the Downfall of Numenor, and it only took him 110 years before he had recovered enough to attack Gondor again. However, was he killed? We don't know. All we are told is, "Sauron was indeed caught in the wreck of Numenor, so that the bodily form in which he long had walked perished; but he fled back to Middle-earth, a spirit of hatred borne upon a dark wind. He was unable ever again to assume a form that seemed fair to men, but became black and hideous, and his power thereafter was through terror alone." Was Sauron's bodily form killed by the flood of Numenor (with his spirit still attached), or did he just dump and abandon it to flee in spirit form back to Middle-earth? If the latter, might he have attributed the longer recovery after the Battle of the Last Alliance to being killed, rather than just shedding his bodily form?)

Sauron has been without the Ring before. Indeed, his greatest triumph of his career, the utter destruction of Numenor, all came about when he had left the Ring behind in his safety deposit box in Barad Dur. Sauron just does not need the Ring to be powerful. All the Ring helps him with is ruling, finding, bringing, binding the other Rings of Power and their bearers (and it does not even do that very well in many cases).

Yes, he is worried about a rival Ring-lord wielding the Ring against him. Many (Saruman, Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond) think that a powerful wielder could use the Ring to vanquish Sauron. How exactly this would work is very unclear. How would the Ring allow a new wielder to replace Sauron? Presumably a new wielder could take over command of the Nazgul. Would that be enough to defeat Sauron? (It might well be?)

It is very unclear what other powers the Ring might bestow upon a new wielder. Gandalf says, "With that power I should have power too great and terrible." Why? How?

Galadriel says that with the Ring she would be, "Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the Earth. All shall love me and despair." Again, why? How?

The exact nature of the power which Gandalf and Galadriel seem to envision as possible for a wielder of the One to use against Sauron is very unclear. The Ring was made to rule the other Rings. Why should it have powers beyond that? Does it? Or, (Sauron being the Lord of Lies) is it a feature of the Ring (perhaps of all the Great Rings) that it projects the dream of power, the lure of power, the false promise of power, as part of the designed (by Sauron) enticement for powerful people to want to wear the Rings of Power so he can enslave them?

Really, there is no evidence that the One Ring confers the sort of power that Gandalf, Galadriel and Elrond seem to imagine. Sauron without the Ring, in Numenor, is perfectly capable of dominating and corrupting most of the Numenoreans, getting them to worship Melkor, and break the Ban of the Valar. Sauron with the Ring, back in Middle-earth, is incapable of dominating the Gondorians before the Battle of the Last Alliance and making them 'love him and despair'.

So, would Sauron get more power if he recovered the Ring? Maybe. He might be able to dominate the Three. Then again, they were hid from him once before, perhaps they could be again?

Would a powerful rival Ring-lord be able to defeat Sauron? Perhaps. One should be able to take over control of the Nazgul, and that might be enough to allow Sauron to be defeated. Would a new Ring-lord gain any other powers from wielding the Ring to use against Sauron? Unclear.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
I recently read somewhere - and I'm not sure where, perhaps in The Nature of Middle-earth, but somewhere in Tolkien's writing - that Sauron was so successful, was able to corrupt the Numenorans as quickly has he did, because he had the Ring with him. I'll have to go looking for it again.

We're back to the fact that we don't actually know what the powers of the Ring (or any of the Rings of Power, for that matter) actually are. What powers did the Nine give their bearers? Or the Three? And I rather like it that way - magic should have some mystery about it. And I think that power the One would give Galadriel comes from what she is in herself - her beauty and power would become terrible so that people would love her and despair. I imagine the power it would give Sauron would be quite different.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
I recently read somewhere - and I'm not sure where, perhaps in The Nature of Middle-earth, but somewhere in Tolkien's writing - that Sauron was so successful, was able to corrupt the Numenorans as quickly has he did, because he had the Ring with him. I'll have to go looking for it again.

We're back to the fact that we don't actually know what the powers of the Ring (or any of the Rings of Power, for that matter) actually are. What powers did the Nine give their bearers? Or the Three? And I rather like it that way - magic should have some mystery about it. And I think that power the One would give Galadriel comes from what she is in herself - her beauty and power would become terrible so that people would love her and despair. I imagine the power it would give Sauron would be quite different.
Hi Rachel,

You are right that we do not really know all the powers of the Rings of Power. (We know some of them.) One of the benefits of close reading is that we can try to understand what exactly the book says about such things, rather than what the more casual reader might infer.

Then we can speculate about what is uncertain or unclear.

There is a logic gap in that the One Ring was made to rule and bind the other Rings. It does have some additional powers (invisibility, possessiveness), but no logical reasons for it to have any powers necessary for a rival Ring-lord to be able to defeat Sauron other than siezing control of the Nazgul (which might be enough). So, what other powers might it have? Well, one power that is possible is enhancing the ability of the bearer to dominate the wills of others. This power is closely aligned with, and would be a useful part of, the 'rule them, bind them' mission towards other Ring-bearers.

However, it is obvious that if the Ring confers enhanced powers to dominate the wills of others, this is not an absolute or all-encompassing power. There are many who's wills cannot be dominated by Ring-wielding Sauron (or else Elendil, Gil-galad, Elrond and Isildur would never have been able to defeat him in the Battle of the Last Alliance.) So if this was a power of the Ring, it might help a rival Ring-lord gather allies or resources. It might help him or her resist the will of Sauron, or resist his domination of others. But could it be strong enough to allow a rival Ring-lord to dominate Sauron's own will? It seems highly unlikely from the evidence.

Now, Gandalf, Galadriel, Saruman and Elrond all seem to think that the Ring would give a strong enough bearer some kind of power. Power strong enough to challenge Sauron. But would it really? First, where do they get this idea from? Probably from Saruman, the guy who made a study of Rings, and does he really know? And how? Second, I kind of like the speculation (totally unsupported) that the Ring broadcasts a sort of temptation to power (much like it seems to induce extreme posessiveness). The Ring is 'altogether evil', as Elrond says. If so, it is certainly capable of lying, or of implying more to its bearers or prospective bearers than it can deliver. Or, maybe the Ring does not induce a power vibe? Maybe it is Saruman, desperate to find somehow somewhere enough power to do his job and defeat Sauron, who first infers additional powers to 'The Ring of Power', and starts thinking about how to make powerful Rings of his own to use in the war. It may be from him that the others gain the impression that the One Ring could deliver great, if vague and evil, powers to a powerful enough wielder?

Anyway, we have statements that the Ring can deliver enhanced powers that might be used against Sauron. But, other than being able to sieze control of the Nazgul, we have no evidence nor logic that such powers do or should exist. We have some evidence (from Sauron himself and his actions versus his enemies) that such powers either do not really exist, or, if they do, are not particularly powerful.

The puzzle is that the Wise seem to think that the Ring can confer vast (and evil) powers on a powerful enough wielder. Maybe they are right? But, the history of Middle-earth, and especially the history of Sauron would imply that they are wrong. I don't think we would see this puzzle if we were not close reading? I suspect most readers just implicitly adopt the inference that 'sure, the Ring could give a wielder vast though evil power'.

When we read closely, however, we must have our doubts.

I suspect that JRRT was aware of this puzzle. I, like you, have the vague impression that he dithered back and forth on the question of whether Sauron had the Ring when he went to Numenor. He probably would have ret-conned the issue of the powers of the Ring one way or another if he had ever got around to it. But, I don't think he ever did?
 
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Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
We come back to my old Ring-as-McGuffin idea - only we can also say Ring-as-placebo, or Ring-as-Rorschach-test. It doesn't really matter what the Ring's actual powers are, the point is how different characters perceive and react to it - and perhaps also different readers.

But would your idea of the Ring causing exaggerated or false notions of its powers make Gandalf's and Galadriel's monologues be Ring-induced?
 
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Darren Grey

Active Member
Tolkien wrote in letter 211 that Sauron had the One Ring with him in Numenor and it helped him dominate and corrupt the Numenoreans all the faster:

Ar-Pharazôn, as is told in the 'Downfall' or Akallabêth, conquered a terrified Sauron's subjects, not Sauron. Sauron's personal 'surrender' was voluntary and cunning: he got free transport to Numenor! He naturally had the One Ring, and so very soon dominated the minds and wills of most of the Númenóreans. (I do not think Ar-Pharazôn knew anything about the One Ring. The Elves kept the matter of the Rings very secret, as long as they could. In any case Ar-Pharazôn was not in communication with them. In the Tale of Years III p. 364 you will find hints of the trouble: 'the Shadow falls on Numenor'. After Tar-Atanamir (an Elvish name) the next name is Ar-Adunakhôr a Númenórean name. See p. 315. The change of names went with a complete rejection of the Elf friendship, and of the 'theological' teaching the Númenóreans had received from them. )

Sauron was first defeated by a 'miracle': a direct action of God the Creator, changing the fashion of the world, when appealed to by Manwë: see III p. 317. Though reduced to 'a spirit of hatred borne on a dark wind',
I do not think one need boggle at this spirit carrying off the One Ring, upon which his power of dominating minds now largely depended.
(relevant parts bolded by me)

So the Ring certainly helps him. He wasn't sure of his victory of the West without it, and without it I'm sure we'd have resistance groups still active. With it and it's hard to imagine any positive future for Middle-Earth.

But of course the Ring also contains a part of him, and it's natural that he would want it back. Heck, I imagine even if it didn't contain part of him he'd want it back. It's his! I doubt he takes kindly to others nicking things off his corpse. I'm pretty sure he wanted Frodo back in Mordor precisely for the purposes of torturing him as punishment for having hold of his prized possession.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
That must be where I read it about the Ring and Numenor - I've been leafing through both the Nature of Middle-earth and the Letters recently.

Flammifer, we don't know the specifics of what powers lots of other things in Middle-earth have either - can you actually name Galadriel's powers, or Gandalf's, or Elrond's? We can guess at some of them - but Elrond's healing power, for example, can be the result of knowledge gained over a long life - Aragorn hints as much when he wishes Elrond was in the Houses of Healing because he was the eldest of their kin, and the strongest healer. But Aragorn and Elrond's sons (and perhaps his daughter) also have the power/knowledge of healing. I think the vagueness, the hints of things beyond our understanding, is part of the wonder of these books.
 
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Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Hi Darren,-dur."

JRRT also wrote exactly the opposite in other places (that Sauron did not take the Ring to Numenor). One such is in the published Silmarillion, "But Sauron was not of mortal flesh, and though he was robbed now of that shape in which he had wrought so great an evil, so that he could never again appear fair to the eyes of Men, yet his spirit arose out of the deep and passed as a shadow and a black wind over the sea, and came back to Middle-earth and to Mordor that was his home. There he took up again his great Ring in Barad-dur."

I think JRRT also wrote this elsewhere. Does anyone know where?
 

Darren Grey

Active Member
That's in the Akallabeth text in the published Sil. I don't know the textual history of this, so it's hard to say when this was written and if it was something stitched together by Christopher. Regardless I think it's easy to read it as taking up the mantle of Lord of the Rings again, rather than meaning he left his Ring behind. It would be strange for him to leave it behind, surely? Note that you've cropped the line from its full context:

"There he took up again his great Ring in Barad-dûr, and dwelt there, dark and silent, until he wrought himself a new guise, an image of malice and hatred made visible; and the Eye of Sauron the Terrible few could endure."

The full quote comes off more about him establishing his power base rather than physically wielding the Ring again.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
That must be where I read it about the Ring and Numenor - I've been leafing through both the Nature of Middle-earth and the Letters recently.

Flammifer, we don't know the specifics of what powers lots of other things in Middle-earth have either - can you actually name Galadriel's powers, or Gandalf's, or Elrond's? We can guess at some of them - but Elrond's healing power, for example, can be the result of knowledge gained over a long life - Aragorn hints as much when he wishes Elrond was in the Houses of Healing because he was the eldest of their kin, and the strongest healer. But Aragorn and Elrond's sons (and perhaps his daughter) also have the power/knowledge of healing. I think the vagueness, the hints of things beyond our understanding, is part of the wonder of these books.
Hi Rachel,

I agree that some mystery about things is part of the effect of TLOTR as a work of art. However, one of the features of close reading is that we should be able to gain enough evidence to determine what is certain, what is probable, what is possible, and what remains a mystery.

As for Elrond, we already know many things about his powers. We know that, "the river of this valley is under his power, and it will rise in anger when he has great need to bar the Ford." We know that, "Elrond is a master of healing." We know that Elrond is the Master of 'The Last Homely House East of the Sea'. We have deduced that Elrond has a good sense for the flow of events and 'what should be'. We know that he often has foresight, though 'under the shadow' all is dark to him. We will learn (though we have probably guessed) that he bears one of the Three, which we know have the power of enhancing 'understanding, making and healing, and to preserve all things unchanged'. We know that he is one of the Wise, and presume one of the White Council. We know that he is a great lore-master, We will learn that Elrond can speak to others (at least to Gandalf, Galadriel and Celeborn), 'looking from mind to mind; and only their shining eyes stirred and kindled as their thoughts went to and fro."

That is quite a list of Elrond's powers that we have learned through close reading. Also, I don't think we have seen anything which would lead us to speculate about Elrond having other powers of which we do not know? Can anyone think of any? (Oh, here is one: I speculate that he has other powers to protect or hide Rivendell from enemies besides commanding the River.)

Of course, we don't know which of Elrond's powers are innate, and which enhanced by, or derived from, his Ring.

I am sure, when we get to Galadriel, close reading will also inform us greatly about what powers she has.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
That's in the Akallabeth text in the published Sil. I don't know the textual history of this, so it's hard to say when this was written and if it was something stitched together by Christopher. Regardless I think it's easy to read it as taking up the mantle of Lord of the Rings again, rather than meaning he left his Ring behind. It would be strange for him to leave it behind, surely? Note that you've cropped the line from its full context:

"There he took up again his great Ring in Barad-dûr, and dwelt there, dark and silent, until he wrought himself a new guise, an image of malice and hatred made visible; and the Eye of Sauron the Terrible few could endure."

The full quote comes off more about him establishing his power base rather than physically wielding the Ring again.
To read 'he took up again his great Ring' as anything other than he had previously put it down, requires a considerable stretch. However I am pretty sure I remember JRRT saying somewhere else that he left The Ring behind when he went to Numenor. I just cannot remember where.
 

Beech27

Active Member
In Letter 211, Tolkien states:

Ar-Pharazôn, as is told in the 'Downfall' or Akallabêth, conquered a terrified Sauron's subjects, not Sauron. Sauron's personal 'surrender' was voluntary and cunning*: he got free transport to Numenor! He naturally had the One Ring, and so very soon dominated the minds and wills of most of the Númenóreans. (I do not think Ar-Pharazôn knew anything about the One Ring. The Elves kept the matter of the Rings very secret, as long as they could. In any case Ar-Pharazôn was not in communication with them. In the Tale of Years III p. 364 you will find hints of the trouble: 'the Shadow falls on Numenor'. After Tar-Atanamir (an Elvish name) the next name is Ar-Adunakhôra a Númenórean name. The change of names went with a complete rejection of the Elf friendship, and of the 'theological' teaching the Númenóreans had received from them.)

Sauron was first defeated by a 'miracle': a direct action of God the Creator, changing the fashion of the world, when appealed to by Manwë: see III p. 317. Though reduced to 'a spirit of hatred borne on a dark wind', I do not think one need boggle at this spirit carrying off the One Ring, upon which his power of dominating minds now largely depended.
Needless to say, many readers do boggle at this, and will continue to do so. And how canonical you want to consider Tolkien's letters is, of course, up to you.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Being the Master of the Last Homely House East of the Sea is not a power, it's simply a statement of his position as founder of the refuge of Rivendell (and his address). Yes, the power over the River is named, but is it derived from the Ring or from the fact of his being Master of the Last Homely House? And again, healing seems to be a family trait, not a power of the Ring. We infer that it is enhanced by the Ring, but, as I said, also because of wisdom acquired in his long life. We know what some of his powers are - are some of those powers of the Ring, or are they powers that belong to the High Elves, or all who have lived in the West? It seemingly is shared by Gandalf, and perhaps the other Wizards and Maiar?

My point was that the Ring itself is not specified as the source of his powers.
 

Flammifer

Well-Known Member
Being the Master of the Last Homely House East of the Sea is not a power, it's simply a statement of his position as founder of the refuge of Rivendell (and his address). Yes, the power over the River is named, but is it derived from the Ring or from the fact of his being Master of the Last Homely House? And again, healing seems to be a family trait, not a power of the Ring. We infer that it is enhanced by the Ring, but, as I said, also because of wisdom acquired in his long life. We know what some of his powers are - are some of those powers of the Ring, or are they powers that belong to the High Elves, or all who have lived in the West? It seemingly is shared by Gandalf, and perhaps the other Wizards and Maiar?

My point was that the Ring itself is not specified as the source of his powers.
Hi Rachel,

Being the Master of a house is not a 'magical' power. Somehow creating 'The Last Homely House East of the Sea' implies a specialness to the House which might well require power.

Elrond's power over the River is likely (though not certain) to derive from his Ring. The Three are ascribed the power to 'preserve all things unchanged'. It is logical that this should include defensive power to try to preserve things (such as The Last Homely House, or Lothlorien) from violent change imposed by enemies.

Elrond has not lived in the West. So, he cannot have powers from that source (such as Glorfindel seems to have). Gandalf, the other Wizards, Galadriel, and Maiar have lived in the West. So perhaps they do have powers similar to Glorfindel?
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Oops about the West thing.

Elves are by definition magical creatures and so we expect magical powers from them. The river could be under a spell, or Elrond's power to call on its aid could come from the Ring. The point is, we don't know. And that's the mystery woven about the Rings of Power - we don't know. And that's another power they have - they intrigue and seduce us into speculation.
 
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