The epic fantasy three-part story, The Lord of The Rings, portrays Sauron as an ambitious villain who wants the ultimate power and rule over all. Even though Tolkien conceals Sauron’s figure, his evil presence is felt heavily in the story through his fiery disembodied eye. But, why and how did Sauron become so evil?
Sauron possessed a trait of orderliness right from his origin. With time, he became obsessed with this trait and wanted things done as per his order. This obsession lured him to the Dark Lord, Morgoth, who corrupted his soul as he did to others.
Although Sauron was not always evil, it’s possible there was some evil buried deep inside him. Otherwise, how would the neutral trait of orderliness attract so much evil? This article explains more on how and why Sauron turned evil in The Lord of The Rings.
Was Sauron Always Evil?
Sauron was originally good and angelic, as created by Eru. His name was Mairon, which means ‘The Admirable.’ The Silmarillion describes him as the Maia of Aule the Smith, whose primary role was to help the Valar create Arda. He committed to this role until his desire outweighed his good nature and pushed him towards evil.
He was a perfectionist and loved coordination. His logic was to have everything done per his prescribed order so that there’s no confusion or unnecessary friction. This obsession led him to believe that there would be peace and ease of operation if everyone listened to him and followed his commands.
As part of the team creating Arda, his agitation towards imperfection might have grown bigger and wanted everything to be done in an orderly manner. It’s obvious that everyone would have their own definition of perfection, which is far from what Sauron perceived as perfection.
Unlike Morgoth, who hated anything good and thrived in destroying everything, Sauron only wanted to rule overall. His desire for order and perfection became his weakness, and Morgoth used it to corrupt him.
Why Did Sauron Turn Evil?
As mentioned earlier, Sauron was created good and uncorrupted. However, Sauron turned evil and committed to a new master, Morgoth. At that time, Morgoth was the Dark Lord and had the power to do whatever he wanted.
Morgoth’s hatred was against anything good, and his plan was to lure ambitious souls like Sauron and corrupt them to be like him. This would help him in his mission to subvert and destroy the earthly realms.
Sauron’s love for orderliness everywhere led him to desire the power Morgoth had to do whatever he wanted. If Sauron could get that power, then others would respect him and do as he would tell them. That means everybody would follow his prescribed order and do everything in coordination.
The only way for Sauron to achieve this power was to join Morgoth and serve under him. There could have been other ways to do it, but Sauron didn’t think his method would have harmed the people. At this point, Morgoth had already lured others and corrupted them. So, Sauron would follow the same path.
Why Was Sauron Corrupted?
Sauron’s desire for perfection and orderliness became a loophole that Morgoth used to lure him to evil. From the beginning, Sauron had no desire to destroy people like Morgoth, but he would have wanted to have so much power like him.
Even though Sauron’s intention to clinch this power was good, Morgoth saw it as an opportunity to bring another powerful man into his army. He needed a big army to fight and win against the Elves and the Men in the First Age.
With a sharp ambition, Sauron didn’t care about the path he followed to achieve it. His ultimate goal was to be the one with the ultimate power.
How Did Sauron Turn Evil?
When Sauron joined Morgoth’s camp, he started to serve under him and learn his ways. At this point, his name could no longer identify him as ‘the admirable,’ so he got the new name ‘Sauron,’ which means ‘the abominable.’ He was no longer admirable, and everyone loathed him because of his evil actions.
Over time, Sauron’s progress was noticeable as he kept on rising the demonic ranks and out-performing those who had been under Morgoth longer than himself. He was skilled in every way, and his ambition propelled him to learn faster. He later became Morgoth’s second in command after taking over the mantle of Gorthaur the Cruel.
After the destruction of Morgoth, Sauron assumed his master’s position as the overall ruler and the second Dark Lord. This was a dream come true for him, and he was ready to implement his rule. Unlike his master, Sauron was interested in maintaining order as he had always wanted. This goal was never forgotten, even when he was serving under Morgoth.
Analysts can argue that even though Tolkien portrays him as the primary antagonist, his intentions were not fueled by evil. His egoistic character and the untamed obsession with orderliness pushed him to act in evil ways.
Though he desired to rule unopposed and establish peace through order, he didn’t quite care what means he would use to get there. That could be the reason he moved to Morgon’s camp as he could see Morgoth doing it.
After succeeding Morgoth, his desire for more power pushed him to launch a war against Middle Earth in an attempt to conquer them. The creation of the One Ring came close to giving him the ultimate power as he used it to control all the other ring holders. However, the Elves remained unconquerable as he had failed to corrupt and control them.
A great war erupted, culminating in the Last Alliance. Sauron later returned to Middle Earth to claim the Fortress of Dol Guldur and to gather his army. At this point, Samuran had joined him and helped in marshaling the army. This was when he assumed the Eye form as a symbol of piercing perception and the deep horror of evil.
His evil traits had become too much that the author describes him as the closest anyone has ever come to becoming pure evil. His distraction was not too far as he followed his master’s way until he was completely destroyed.
When Did Sauron Turn Evil?
You already know that Sauron was not evil from the beginning, but Morgoth corrupted him along the way. The exact instance when he first got corrupted is not very clear because Tolkien does not tell us clearly when it happened. The much I can do is to speculate and conclude from there.
However, I can mention a few of these instances, and you can deduce the most approximate time of Sauron’s corruption.
1. Before Arda – At the Music of Ainur
Morgoth disrupted the songs during the music, and many of the Maiar sang along with him. According to the Silmarillion, he disrupted the songs and lured them to change their tunes to his and then sing with him.
In this event, one of the Aulean Maiar joined Morgoth and became part of his camp. I can only guess that this Aulean Maiar is Sauron since the identity is not clear in the text, and we already know that Sauron was one of the Aulean Maiar.
2. When the Valar Were Shaping Arda
The Silmarillion records that Morgoth attempted severally to destroy or corrupt the work. During this time, he corrupted more servants as he fled and forsook Arda. If Sauron was not among those corrupted in the Music of Ainur, he could have been part of the corrupted lot in this period.
Even though Morgoth left Arda at this time, the corrupted men could have been left behind as spies. The Silmarillion records that Morgoth had secret friends and spies among the Maiar who had converted and followed his cause.
3. Spring of Arda
This is after the shaping of Arda was complete. If Sauron had not been corrupted in the previous two episodes, this would be the time for his corruption. However, in most texts in the Silmarillion, Sauron’s name is omitted. This could indicate that he is already in Morgoth’s camp.
However, the context in which Sauron would have been corrupted during the spring still remains unclear. So the most probable time is during the preparation for the spring.
If at all Sauron had not changed camp by this time, maybe he did much later. It could have been in Valinor during the destruction of the lamps or before Morgoth’s captivity. It could also have been after Morgoth’s captivity. I mean, that would have allowed Sauron enough time to observe Morgoth’s power moves and desire to have as much power.
Sauron’s downfall was as sure as that of his master, Morgoth. The Silmarillion sums his rise and fall as one who ‘rose like a shadow of Morgoth and a ghost of malice, and walked behind him on the same ruinous path down into the Void.’