Sauron was the Dark Lord in The Lord of the Rings saga, written by J.R.R. Tolkien. The villain created The One Ring, where he put most of his power. It allowed him to recover multiple times after his physical body got destroyed. That means Frodo had to destroy the Ring to destroy Sauron for good. So, what happened to Sauron after the Ring was destroyed?
Sauron did not die completely after the Ring was destroyed. However, his power was diminished, so low that his spirit could never recover, let alone a physical form. He would remain “a mere spirit of malice that gnaws itself in the shadows, but cannot again grow or take shape.”
In Tolkien’s universe, one’s spirit can never be annihilated or reduced to zero. However, recovery is impossible if it falls under a certain point. There’s more to know about how it works and why many fans didn’t know that Sauron’s dwindled spirit still lingers. Here’s everything you need to know about what happened to Sauron.
Was Sauron Killed After the Ring Was Destroyed?
At the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, we learn that the Dark Lord Sauron is returning to power after spending thousands of years resting, recovering, and planning. He recovered because of the One Ring, which Sauron forged (among 19 other Rings of Power created).
The Dark Lord put most of his power into the One Ring, which not only gave him incredible powers but allowed Sauron to recover numerous times after his body had been destroyed. I’ll expand on this point later.
So, when the One Ring was destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom, Sauron should’ve died, right? Well, yes – but not completely. You see, Sauron’s physical form is destroyed beyond repair after most of his power evaporates with the Ring. However, Sauron’s spirit could never be completely destroyed, or as the Elves say, ‘reduced to zero.’
The fea, or one’s spirit form, can never be made non-existent. It can recover, get hurt again, and get renewed. Since Elves are granted immortality, death is not a natural path for them. So, if an Elf dies of unnatural causes (in battle, for instance), their spirit awaits reincarnation in the House of Mandos until the Gift of Eru allows Elves to give up on their life, transcending into a new form.
On the other hand, mortal spirits can remain lingering in the world. They can heal, grow in power, and even retake form – until they are pushed below a certain point, in such a weak state that they can’t ever recover. Such diminished spirits can’t even produce coherent thoughts, let alone affect this world in any way. As Gandalf described during the Last Debate:
“If it is destroyed, then he will fall; and his fall will be so low that none can foresee his arising ever again. For he will lose the best part of the strength that was native to him in his beginning, and all that was made or begun with that power will crumble, and he will be maimed for ever, becoming a mere spirit of malice that gnaws itself in the shadows, but cannot again grow or take shape. And so a great evil of this world will be removed.”
That pretty much sums up what I was talking about. No spirit can ever be completely eradicated, but due to Sauron’s move of most of his power into the Ring, his spirit was pushed below the recovery point when it was destroyed. It was still alive, but barely.
It was a huge gamble for Sauron, but he knew the Ring could only be destroyed on Mount Doom where it was forged, ring in the heart of Mordor. The Dark Lord didn’t think anyone could complete such a task, but in the end, Frodo and Sam proved him wrong.
Still, the Ring did help Sauron recover several times after being killed/destroyed in the past. Let’s take a look into the Dark Lord’s history.
Spirits can regain strength, heal, diminish, and recover, but not in a physical form. For instance, when Gandalf killed the Balrog, the beast’s spirit remained alive – but never again capable of physical form. Sauron was an exception to this rule because most of his “native power” was in the Ring. That allowed him to come back and heal numerous times.
There were 20 Rings of Power in total, most of which Sauron helped forge. Nine went to Men, Seven went to Dwarves, and Three Rings – the most powerful of the bunch – were given to the Elves. However, Sauron secretly forged the One Ring, the most powerful Ring of all, harnessing all his might.
The first time Sauron’s physical body was destroyed was during the destruction of Numenor. However, the Ring allowed the Dark Lord to return within mere decades. However, his appearance was horrifying, never capable of a pleasing form.
In a subsequent battle, Gil Galad and Elendil destroyed Sauron’s physical form yet again, but his true loss of power came when Isildur cut off his finger and took away the Ring. Sauron needed around 3000 years to recover with the Ring lost, instead of just decades like the first time.
Luckily for him, Isildur got caught in a river, from which Orcs killed him with arrows as he resurfaced. The Ring got lost in the waters until Deagol found it, and Smeagol took it, which led to Bilbo Baggins finding it, and you know the rest of the story.
The Ring harnessed most of Sauron’s life force, so his power diminished beyond repair when it was destroyed. The Dark Lord could never return as he did many times before.
As I mentioned, there are two parts of every being – fea, or the spirit, and hroa, or the body. The separation of the two is what we know to be death. The physical body dwindles, but the spirit lives on. It can recover, transform, hear, grow in power – but also, it can get hurt, weakened, crippled. If it reaches a certain point, it’s unrecoverable.
It’s very hard for a spirit to reach such low levels. For instance, it never happened even to Morgoth (the Dark Lord before Sauron). He was taken prisoner while still in physical form, and then banished from the Blessed Realm into the Void, as described in the Morgoth’s Ring. However, due to Sauron’s One Ring, he was the exception to the rule.
It ultimately led to his spirit being pushed beyond the point of ever recovering. After Barad Dur collapsed, nothing remained of Sauron but a cloud of hateful mist blown away by the wind. He remained so weak that the spirit can’t even put coherent thoughts together – it is only a memory of endless rage, “gnawing itself in the shadows.”
Alive but unaware of its existence. A threat, never again.