Tolkien’s Legendarium is one of the biggest, most popular and most interesting fictional universes we have. It is – in a way – the epitome of a fantasy-based universe and served as a prototype for all later similar universes that are part of the fantasy genre. Tolkien’s universe has a lot of mysteries and while some of them are unclear, there are some that are solved but need further clarification. Today’s story is certainly a mystery, but one that actually has an answer but an answer that needs to be clarified. Today’s article is about the Necromancer, the mysterious character from The Hobbit and his connection to the Dark Lord Sauron. Are they one and the same, or two separate characters? Keep reading to find out.
Although the character of Sauron did not exist at the time of writing The Hobbit, at least not in the form he was introduced in during The Lord of the Rings, the Necromancer called Thû actually is Sauron, which was canonised when Tolkien published The Lord of the Rings and subsequently reworked The Hobbit so that it became a prequel to the main narrative.
Today’s article is going to focus on the characters of the Necromancer, as he appears in The Hobbit, and Sauron, as he appears in The Lord of the Rings. You are going to see the exact connection between these two characters and find out everything else you need to know about the Necromancer and Sauron, so keep reading to the end!
Who is Sauron?
Sauron, “the Abohorred”, is a fictional character and the principal villain of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings franchise. He has been a threat to Middle-earth ever since the First age and has played a role in the events during all three Ages of Sun.
Sauron was originally a Maia named Mairon, who was in the service of Aule. He is seduced by Melkor (Morgoth), whom he admires and at the same time fears, and becomes one of his most powerful servants, without however possessing the power and temperament of his great idol. During Melkor’s banishment to the Outer Void at the end of the First Age, Sauron escapes and begins to forge his own schemes in Middle-earth. Sauron’s goal is sole rule over Middle-earth. He built the mighty fortress Barad-dûr in the land of Mordor.
He learns from the Elves and in turn teaches them to make Rings of Power. The Elf Celebrimbor then creates 19 Rings of Power. However, Sauron secretly forges the One Ring, the Master Ring, to which he transfers much of his power. Vigilant elven lords like Círdan, Gil-galad and Galadriel see through him and therefore keep the three rings of the elves hidden from him. Sauron begins a war against the Elves of Eriador, but finally submits apparently to the powerful people of Númenor. With a trick he succeeds in inciting the king of Númenor, Ar-Pharazôn, against the Valar. In the year 3319 of the second age, Ar-Pharazôn attacks Valinor, the island of the gods, with his entire fleet, whereupon Ilúvatar changes the world. With the associated fall of Númenor, Sauron is able to escape, but forever loses his appealing form in which he succeeded in seducing elves and humans.
As a ghost, he travels back to Middle-earth, where he can only give himself a new shape much later. Sauron returns to Mordor and builds a new army towards the end of the Second Age. He is defeated by the Last Alliance of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth, led by Ereinion Gil-galad, High King of the Elves of Middle-earth, and Elendil, King of the Western Men, in 3441. Elendil’s son Isildur cuts off the finger on which the one ring is stuck. With that, Sauron’s power is broken and the second age ends. Although Sauron’s life force is bound in the ring, Sauron can, as a weakened and disembodied being, begin to rebuild his power over many years. First he built the fortress Dol Guldur in the Eryn Lasgalen “Green Forest”, which was soon called Taur-nu-fuin “Forest of Fear” or “Dark Forest”. Here he learns of the imminent invasion of the members of the White Council and fled again to Mordor without his whereabouts known to them and had his fortress Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower, rebuilt. Soon afterwards he begins to look for the One Ring, because this one has reappeared on the surface of the earth through Bilbo and “calls” for him.
With the destruction of the One Ring in the fire-embers of Mount Doom (Orodruin, Amon Amarth), in which it was forged, Sauron’s fate is finally sealed, Barad-dûr collapses, Sauron’s influence on the “evil” creatures is extinguished, and they too Power of the three elven rings is disappearing.
Are Sauron and the Necromancer the same characters?
Now, we all know that Sauron and his story were fully presented in The Lord of the Rings, where Sauron was the main antagonist. Certainly, Tolkien had developed the character of Sauron to a certain degree by that point, but not all of the details had been worked out. The character of the Necromancer, on the other hand, was present in The Hobbit, but the connection with Sauron wasn’t initially clear because, at the time of writing The Hobbit, Sauron had not yet been created. So, initially, the character appearing in Dol Guldur was a Necromancer called Thû and if you had read the novel at the time – you could not connect the Necromancer to Sauron. Yet, Tolkien’s intention was always for the two to be one and the same person.
Yes, Tolkien intended for the Necromancer (or Thû) to be Sauron even before Sauron was officially introduced and there are several pieces of evidence that clearly point to that and the fact that the Necromancer and Sauron are the same person. In The History of the Hobbit, which was published in 2007, but contains Tolkien’s original drafts and ideas from before the publication of The Hobbit, it is written (about the Necromancer):
“‘Don’t be absurd’ said the wizard. ‘That is a job quite beyond the powers of all the dwarves, if they could be all gathered together again from the four corners of the world. And anyway his castle stands no more and he is flown to another darker place – Beren and Tinúviel broke his power, but that is quite another story.'”
This is an obvious reference to the story of Morgoth, part of which is a young Sauron. The connection is referenced in both The Lay of Leithian (“Men called him Thû (…) In glamoury that necromancer held his hosts”), which also confirms that the Necromancer is Thû, and in Letter 19, a pre-LotR letter written by Tolkien, where the author says: “even Sauron the terrible peeped over the edge”. Sauron’s character went through a lot of revisions even before the publication of The Hobbit – he was even a giant, demonic cat at one point – but even though the concept of the One Ring was created later, most of his backstory had already been established, which is why there is absolutely no doubt that Sauron and the Necromancer are one and the same person.
Why is Sauron called the Necromancer?
Due to the fact that Sauron, when he appeared in The Lord of the Rings, didn’t seem to have the powers of necromancy, a lot of people were confused as to why he was called the Necromancer in The Hobbit, since it suggested that he had a power he seemingly did not have. We know that he can extend a character’s life infinitely (as witnessed by the Gollum, via the One Ring) or create and control the half-alive monstrosities known as the Ringwraiths, but it was never explicitly confirmed that he could revive the dead, at least not in The Lord of the Rings. Yet, several other sources confirm that he could actually summon the dead, which explains why he was called the Necromancer. For example, The Lay of Leithian states the following in its verses:
Men called him Thû, and as a god
in after days beneath his rod
bewildered bowed to him, and made
his ghastly temples in the shade.
Not yet by men enthralled adored,
now was he Morgoth’s mightiest lord,
Master of Wolves, whose shivering howl
for ever echoed in the hills, and foul
enchantments and dark sigaldry
did weave and wield. In glamoury
that necromancer held his hosts
of phantoms and of wandering ghosts…
The last two and a half lines confirm both that Thû is the Necromancer – which we already knew – but also that he did have a group of “phantoms and of wandering ghosts” at his disposition. This doesn’t really tell us why he was called the Necromancer, but it does confirm he could use necromancy for his own goals. Another passage, from The History of Middle-earth, gives a proper confirmation:
“It is therefore a foolish and perilous thing, besides being a wrong deed forbidden justly by the appointed Rulers of Arda, if the Living seek to commune with the Unbodied, though the houseless may desire it, especially the most unworthy among them. For the Unbodied, wandering in the world, are those who at the least have refused the door of life and remain in regret and self-pity. Some are filled with bitterness, grievance, and envy. Some were enslaved by the Dark Lord and do his work still, though he himself is gone. They will not speak truth or wisdom. To call on them is folly. To attempt to master them and to make them servants of one own’s will is wickedness. Such practices are of Morgoth; and the necromancers are of the host of Sauron his servant.”
This passage confirms that Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, is the one who knew these practices, and that Sauron, his most faithful servant, likewise had the powers of necromancy, which explains the name and his role in The Hobbit; there, he had to hide as the Necromancer because he was not at the height of his powers, since he was in a stage of revival at the time.
Did Gandalf know that Sauron was the Necromancer?
When the character of the Necromancer appeared in the fortress of Dol Guldur, no one was aware of his true identity. The Elves and the White Council suspected that he might be Sauron, but they did not know it; meanwhile, Sauron was gathering his strength and establishing a loyal army of Ringwraiths. Gandalf, suspecting that the Necromancer might be Sauron, infiltrated Dol Guldur on one occasion, but Sauron fled so he could hide his real identity, as he was not yet powerful enough to defend himself.
Not giving up on his suspicions, Gandalf made a second intrusion into Dol Guldur, when he finally confirmed that the Necromancer was, indeed, Sauron. He informed the White Council who, despite Saruman’s opposition, gathered their powers and attacked the Necromancer, eventually driving him out of Dol Guldur permanently, but not defeating him.
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we helped solve this dilemma for you. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!