One of the most popular sayings regarding filmmaking is the one which claims that the hero is only as good as his villain is which is why the antagonist is usually the most memorable part of a story. Lord of The Rings trilogy, being as popular as it is, should have a villain we know everything about. However, most people don’t know much about Sauron beyond that he is the villain represented by a fiery eyeball. One of the first questions that come to mind regarding Sauron is what exactly is he?
Due to the way he is portrayed before the time he takes the appearance of the Dark Lord, many people wonder if he was originally an elf, which is not true.
With this question out of the way, there are still most likely a few things you are curious about. You may wonder what exactly does Sauron look like, and did his appearance change at all throughout time. Or maybe you do not understand why he of all things chose to take on the appearance of a large eyeball. Whichever way it is, if you would like to learn the answers to these questions make sure to read all the way to the end.
What exactly is Sauron?
Despite being the main antagonist in the Lord of The Rings trilogy, Sauron is actually rarely shown in the movies and his origin is not explored further than what is needed for the purpose of explaining the motivations in the movies.
Because of this, for many viewers who are not familiar with the source material, it’s usual to have many questions regarding Sauron. Going along with his appearance the first one coming to mind is what exactly is Sauron?
Originally Sauron was a Maia of Aulë and was named Mairon. Maias were the spirits that were created to help Valar shape the world. Sauron was created as good and pure but was ultimately corrupted by his desire for power which would allow him to achieve the order he desired so much.
To achieve this he joined Melkor, the first Dark Lord in the Lord of The Rings universe. He joined him and became his lieutenant aiding him in achieving his goals.
After Melkor was defeated Sauron took over his position and became the second Dark Lord. Sauron continued his quest to achieve order and rule over Middle Earth.
He deceived the elves of Eregion to help him by creating the Rings of Power. Unbeknownst to the elves, Sauron himself forged the One Ring in the Mount Doom.
This ring would help him rule over Middle Earth through the carriers of the Rings of Power. The Elven smiths created nineteen of these rings; 3 of them were meant for elves, seven for dwarfs, and nine for men.
After he created the rings and used them to his advantage Sauron became known as The Lord of The Rings and the Dark Lord of Mordor.
Towards the end of The Second age, Sauron battled with Númenor and won with the help of Eru, who drowned Númenor. A few lucky Númenóreans managed to escape the fate and fled to Gondor and Arnor.
After Sauron realized that the realms in Middle Eart were commanded by Elendil, whom he despised, Sauron declared a war against him determined to take him down.
In his absence in Middle Earth, Elven king Gil-galad became more powerful and joined Elendil upon this declaration, creating The Last Alliance.
During the Battle of Dagorlad, they defeated Sauron’s army prompting him to come forth and duel them himself. After defeating them both, Elendil’s son took his father’s blade and cut off Sauron’s ring from his finger destroying his physical body.
However, Sauron was not destroyed because Isildur could not bring himself to destroy the ring. He returned in his non-corporal form at the beginning of the Third Age as the Necromancer.
Throughout the events that are depicted in the Lord of The Rings trilogy, he still has the same appearance he did at the beginning of the Second Age, but we do not see him much. Rather we see him through his manifestations like the eye of Sauron or his servants, most notably the Mouth of Sauron.
Was Sauron originally an elf?
Sauron was not an elf. In his original form, he had an elflike appearance but he was not in fact an elf.
All elves were children of Ilúvatar, created by Eru Ilúvatar, the single creator, above the Valar.
Sauron on the other hand was the mightiest Maia set out to help Vala create the physical world.
What did Sauron look like?
Sauron is rarely shown in the movies so there are only a couple of occasions we actually see what he looks like. An important thing to take into consideration is that his appearance changed drastically throughout time.
At first, while he was still a Maia Sauron did not have a physical body. The spirits did not have any fixed appearance because they had the ability to change their appearance. The bodies he created would be real, but he would not be connected to them.
However, whenever Sauron from that time period gets depicted his appearance resembles one of a human being or an elf. Silmarilion on the other hand describes him as a spirit that most often took the appearance of a wolf with a man like a spirit or a bat throughout the First Age.
Once he joined Melkor he took on the appearance that is shown in the movies during the scene where he gets defeated near the end of the Second Age.
During the Second Age, while he still had the ability to shapeshift he also took on the appearance of Elves of Eregion, to enable him to deceive the elves and trick them into making the rings for him. He presented himself as Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, and taught them all the knowledge necessary to make the Rings.
Tolkien described this appearance as a figure with a frame slightly bigger than the one of a man but not gigantic. He also said that he gave off an image of malice, fear, and evil. He purposely did not describe him beyond that to let the reader envision Sauron as someone very terrible.
This appearance is the most similar to the one of his messenger, the Mouth of Sauron with the exception of his open mouth. His face at this time closely resembled Melkor’s face.
He retained the same appearance once he returned after being defeated. Although we do not see much of him from that point on we can determine it from the way Gollum describes him.
Gollum is one of the few creatures who have seen Sauron in person, this happened during the time he was interrogated about the whereabouts of the One Ring seeing he was the last known person to have it in his possession.
He described Sauron as having black skin and a hand with four fingers. He also said that Sauron gave off immense heat from his skin. This was recorded prior in time, in any instance where Gil-galad burned to death from his touch.
Why is Sauron an eye?
The eye of Sauron is a physical manifestation of Sauron himself, which is located atop the Dark Tower inside Mordor.
It is first described once Frodo sees it once he looks into the Mirror of Galadriel. It is described as a lidless eye that appears similar to the eye of a cat or a snake. The eye was yellow in color and was rimmed with fire.
Although it is used to represent Sauron, it was not his physical body. Tolkien, in the books, did not imagine the eye to be as literal as it was shown in the movies, but rather a metaphor for his ability to see what was happening at places he was not present at.
It only appeared to few residents of Middle Earth and unlike Sauron did not appear physically. It was also used as a symbol because Sauron did not allow for his name to be written. It was a tool Sauron used to enable him to see what was happening far away from where he physically was.
The concept of a fiery eyeball atop the Dark Tower most people think to once they hear the name Eye of Sauron is a product of Peter Jackson’s imagination working a bit too hard and oversimplifying the idea from the books.