One of the most popular sayings regarding filmmaking is the one that claims that the hero is only as good as his villain, which is why the antagonist is usually the most memorable part of a story. The 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? Was he originally an Elf?
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 to explain the motivations in the movies. Because of this, for many viewers unfamiliar with the source material, it’s usual to have many questions regarding Sauron. Going along with his appearance, the first one that comes to mind is, what exactly is Sauron?
Originally, Sauron was a Maia of Aulë and was named Mairon. Maia 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.
What happened to Sauron after the fall of Morgoth?
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 the 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.
After Sauron realized that the realms in Middle-earth were commanded by Elendil, whom he despised, Sauron declared war against him, determined to take him down. Elven king Gil-galad became more powerful in his absence in Middle-earth and joined Elendil upon this declaration, creating The Last Alliance.
They defeated Sauron’s army during the Battle of Dagorlad, 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 as the Necromancer in his non-corporal form at the beginning of the Third Age.
Throughout the events depicted in The Lord of The Rings trilogy, he still has the same appearance 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.
Sauron’s physical appearance changed over the years
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 consider is that his appearance changed drastically over time.
At first, while he was still a Maia, Sauron did not have a physical body. The spirits had no fixed appearance because they could 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. On the other hand, Silmarillion describes him as a spirit that most often appeared as 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 could 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, except for 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 then on, we can determine it from how Gollum describes him.
Gollum is one of the few creatures who have seen Sauron in person. This happened when 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 does Sauron manifest as 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 when Frodo sees it when 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 is not his physical body. In the books, Tolkien 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.
It only appeared to a 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.
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