Did all Rings of Power contain bits of Sauron, and the Three have his good?

Phantion

Well-known member
He did repent and temporarily was good but fell back to evil deeds again of course, and for any interested heres Tolkien's own words on it in a letter:
"He was given an opportunity of repentance, when Morgoth was overcome, but could not face the humiliation of recantation, and suing for pardon; and so his temporary turn to good and 'benevolence' ended in a greater relapse, until he became the main representative of Evil of later ages." -The Letters of J.R.R. Tolken, letter 153 To Peter Hastings.

The intriguing thing about this is that . . . well, we also have to consider Tolkien's frame narrative as well. "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age," in-lore, was written by the Elves, perhaps by Elrond himself, and part of Bilbo's "Translations from the Elvish" in "The Red Book of Westmarch."

So, in-canon, we actually don't know what type of pivot Sauron made: whether it was an abrupt, "Sue for pardon? Nay, I'll return to my old ways at once, muhahahahaha!" or whether it was a more gradual wrestling with the possibility of "facing the Music," pun intended, or returning to evil. Because Sauron is an immortal being, nominally speaking as a Maia, albeit a fallen one, I'm personally inclined more toward the latter interpretation. Centuries pass between the ending of the First Age, the founding of Eregion, and, ultimately, the forging of the One Ring.

Notice Tolkien's language there, "ended in a greater relapse, until he became the main representative of Evil of later ages" --- I'm picking up on the "until" (153). I like to imagine Sauron on his own somewhere wrestling with the idea of returning to the West for quite sometime, perhaps even attempting to fight off this "greater relapse" until ultimately succumbing to it from fear (153). For something to have "ended," it had to begin in the first place, and the "turn to good and 'benevolence,'" I think, hints at the early days when "Annatar" first came to Eregion.

For all we know, Sauron's intentions in Eregion itself may have begun benevolent, but the Elvish account of such events (*which is the lore that we, as readers, receive according to the way Tolkien wrote it) wouldn't even contemplate the possibility because they were ultimately betrayed, their realm brought to ruin, and Sauron became this great evil again.

I think, lore-reasoning here, my view has potential because it has a direct analogue in Gollum of all characters. Gollum has this very surprising tug-of-war with the Ring (*and I have the books in mind, not the films) that builds and builds from his initial plot hatched in the Dead Marshes to the moment he nearly repents and tells Frodo and Sam about Shelob on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol. But, Sam has this accidental moment of accusation at Gollum, which makes Gollum delve deep into evil again. This is still all in the context of Time and the varying forces pulling at Gollum in his story.

I think it's very possible that Sauron had this period of going either way . . . but ultimately chose the darkness and forged the One Ring, not in an abrupt way, but through this remarkable, hidden tale that Tolkien hints at.

In any case, it makes Sauron a more compelling character than, say, Palpatine from "Star Wars" (May the Fourth be with us!!!), who happened to just be an incarnation of evil, of the Dark Side (*various expanded universe accounts aside), and who really had neither a moment, nor a desire, nor the possibility of any kind of repentance.

I suspect there's this untold story about Sauron in the first few centuries of the SA that Tolkien hints at but leaves mysterious and oblique. It's still fun to imagine that there was this one little window where a "heroic Mairon" could have been a thing . . . until he "lost" his inner battle and "Sauron" won. The Elves would be less inclined to tell that tale out of wrath toward what Sauron did to them - and Findegil, the Gondorian editor in the FoA, even less so as Sauron was their centuries-old adversary.

Now, there's a counterargument here: Gil-galad and Elrond's distrust of "Annatar" and the way the text is written, clearly spelling out their distrust and that Sauron had already returned to evil by that point.

I have a couple of answers:

1- To the first point, well, if Sauron is wrestling with his "dark side," it means he hasn't overcome it, and ultimately, he doesn't. He had been steeped in Morgoth's evil for so long that, of course, Gil-galad and Elrond would pick up that "something here isn't as it seems."

2- To the second point, it's the frame narrative once again. Who really wants to admit they were conned, that they were tricked and deceived by someone? It's a pride matter. The Elves tend to be quite proud of themselves, especially the High Elves. Admitting to such a deception is doubtessly a painful, traumatic admission in such a case. It helps "soften the blow" to write that Sauron had tricked them the whole time. The idea that, had Sauron chosen differently, their whole history could have been different? Ouch!!! That's even more painful and probably why they wouldn't even want to contemplate that possibility. It's much easier to just write: "He was evil from the beginning," sort to speak. Notice that, in the Council of Elrond, it's Gandalf, not the Elves, who says that: "Nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so" (FOTR) - and he can say that as a higher power and authority, as Olorin of the Maiar, servant of the Vala of Pity.

Part of it makes me sorry Tolkien didn't attempt to write it outright as a narrative, though I understand the "frame reasoning." That's the other thing to remember with the Legendarium. Rather than "The Lore," or "The Canon," it's multiple "Lores" that depend on who the narrator is, who the speakers are, and who is telling the story. Tolkien's as attentive to this as he is to the idea of broken or fragmented tales that lost parts to Time as manuscripts were lost or crumbled and were not re-copied. It's these aspects of Tolkien that really help make Middle-earth feel ancient. He very much wanted to mirror something like Beowulf in how he wrote the Legendarium: a text copied and edited multiple times, by different people, and which have some lost or missing parts or even incomplete verses or sentences. It's what makes Tolkien a masterful writer and storyteller.

Cheers! :D
 
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Erei

Well-known member
As I understood it, the One ring contain a big chunk of Sauron's power. That's the malice semi "sentient" presence in it (I assume), that is used to control the others.
The 3 are unique because he was not involved in their creation and never saw them, as his betrayal was known at the time.

Although just like the other rings, without the One they are bound to fade in power.

Ironically, Sauron fell the same way His master did. He poured his power into physical object that were his downfall when destroyed. Like Morgoth poured his own power into Angband and the Thangorodrim. When the Valar shattered it, he fell.

So, if you ever become a Lord of Darkness and Evil, remember not to channel your power into physical objects.
 
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Phantion

Well-known member
As I understood it, the One ring contain a big chunk of Sauron's power. That's the malice semi "sentient" presence in it, that is used to control the others.
The 3 are unique because he was not involved in their creation and never saw them, as his betrayal was known at the time.

Although just like the other rings, without the One they are bound to fade in power.

Ironically, Sauron fell the same way His master did. He poured his power into physical object that were his downfall when destroyed. Like Morgoth poured his own power into Angband and the Thangorodrim. When the Valar shattered it, he fell.

So, if you ever become a Lord of Darkness and Evil, remember not to channel your power into physical objects.

Totally. As we understand it, his "grand plan" was to basically mind-control the Elves through their Rings of Power, to dominate their wills, and by dominating them, basically conquer the whole world.

Another little detail is that the temptations Sauron used were expressed by someone else: by Fëanor of the Noldor, and they were the initial temptations "Melkor" used on the High Elves to goad their possessiveness over the Silmarils, cause the Kinslayings, march to Middle-earth, etc. Morgoth especially goaded Fëanor, through his influence, to want to stop the existence of humans or enslave them and basically build this giant Elven Kingdom controlling all of Middle-earth, and there was a kernel of truth to it: the fact the Second-born were destined to possess the Earth and not the First-born Elves. But, when Morgoth used those temptations, it was mainly to trick the Elves into getting crushed by him in Beleriand.

Sauron, however, means to do precisely what he intends. I think the Dark Tower and the Orcs were "Plan B" in the event he couldn't control the Elves. The Orcs were "insurance." "Plan A" was to control the High Elves and have them build this huge realm that, ultimately, he, Sauron, would command through his One Ring. Sauron was much more clever than his master. Morgoth was just about destruction. Sauron wanted to conquer and rule.

The irony with Morgoth was that he was short-sighted. If he had just not bothered to trick the Elves in Valinor and just returned to Angband, he could've easily taken Doriath (*well, ok, Melian and Thingol would've put up quite a fight, and Melian had her Girdle, but I'm pretty sure Morgoth would've won in the end through sheer numbers; forests wouldn't fare too well against Balrogs and dragons, and we know what Balrogs and dragons like to do with Dwarven-style, delved halls like Menegroth, Moria, and Erebor), conquered Beleriand, and pretty much ruled over the whole world. The stirring of the Noldor out of the West, ironically, results in all the sequences of events he couldn't predict and ultimately his utter downfall at the end of the First Age.

It's really no wonder that Sauron - not Morgoth - is the big threat for multiple Ages of the world. We often think that Morgoth was the greater evil. I don't. I think Sauron turned out the more difficult of the two to thwart - a darker take on the saying, "the student surpasses the teacher."

Cheers! :D
 

Erei

Well-known member
Well, Morgoth nearly won. Without Earendil, ME was gone. Most of it was under his rule when the valar came.

Ironically, the same situation than Sauron after Eregion fell. The Numenorean came and saved the day.

There is a lot of similarities between them. And their successes/failures.


Also I think it's important to remember that Sauron was allowed to exist simply because the Valar allowed that. While for Morgoth they didn't pick a fight because they didn't want to shatter Arda (which they nearly did before the first Elves), they could have kicked Sauron any time with little risk. His power was much less than Morgoth, after all.
But they wanted the Free People to, well, be the grown up that can do it without the parents, basically. Only sending the wizards to unite them, but specifically not seek direct confrontation.

Also, the Pelennor fight was a kindergarten fight compared to the 1rst age battles between Morgoth and the Firstborn Lords. I mean, dragons + balrogs+werewolves+orcs vs Eldars with some weapons and armor forged upon the Valar's forge, weaved with powerful enchantement. The first and greatest of Elves lords. The first Men, and Dwarves to. I mean, one of those Elves fought Morgoth in a 1v1 and wounded him several times.
If Sauron had half that, he would have crushed Gondor and Rohan in a single swoop without stopping in between.
 

Ena

Keeper of the Forgotten Treasury
Well, Morgoth nearly won. Without Earendil, ME was gone. Most of it was under his rule when the valar came.

Ironically, the same situation than Sauron after Eregion fell. The Numenorean came and saved the day.

There is a lot of similarities between them. And their successes/failures.


Also I think it's important to remember that Sauron was allowed to exist simply because the Valar allowed that. While for Morgoth they didn't pick a fight because they didn't want to shatter Arda (which they nearly did before the first Elves), they could have kicked Sauron any time with little risk. His power was much less than Morgoth, after all.
But they wanted the Free People to, well, be the grown up that can do it without the parents, basically. Only sending the wizards to unite them, but specifically not seek direct confrontation.

Also, the Pelennor fight was a kindergarten fight compared to the 1rst age battles between Morgoth and the Firstborn Lords. I mean, dragons + balrogs+werewolves+orcs vs Eldars with some weapons and armor forged upon the Valar's forge, weaved with powerful enchantement. The first and greatest of Elves lords. The first Men, and Dwarves to. I mean, one of those Elves fought Morgoth in a 1v1 and wounded him several times.
If Sauron had half that, he would have crushed Gondor and Rohan in a single swoop without stopping in between.

Yes, somewhat. More precisely, Notes on Motives in the Silmarillion cover on quite a few subjects you mentioned.
 

Phantion

Well-known member
Well, Morgoth nearly won. Without Earendil, ME was gone. Most of it was under his rule when the valar came.

Ironically, the same situation than Sauron after Eregion fell. The Numenorean came and saved the day.

There is a lot of similarities between them. And their successes/failures.


Also I think it's important to remember that Sauron was allowed to exist simply because the Valar allowed that. While for Morgoth they didn't pick a fight because they didn't want to shatter Arda (which they nearly did before the first Elves), they could have kicked Sauron any time with little risk. His power was much less than Morgoth, after all.
But they wanted the Free People to, well, be the grown up that can do it without the parents, basically. Only sending the wizards to unite them, but specifically not seek direct confrontation.

Also, the Pelennor fight was a kindergarten fight compared to the 1rst age battles between Morgoth and the Firstborn Lords. I mean, dragons + balrogs+werewolves+orcs vs Eldars with some weapons and armor forged upon the Valar's forge, weaved with powerful enchantement. The first and greatest of Elves lords. The first Men, and Dwarves to. I mean, one of those Elves fought Morgoth in a 1v1 and wounded him several times.
If Sauron had half that, he would have crushed Gondor and Rohan in a single swoop without stopping in between.


Just to clarify, I think we agree but are discussing different types of power. With martial strength and, well, "awesomeness," yes, Pelennor was far more pedestrian compared to the War of Wrath.

Certainly, Morgoth disrupted the good, thereby causing evil, through his discord in the Great Music in the first place. Morgoth was the far greater --- celestial --- evil, the utter source of the power behind the One Ring and what Sauron pretended to possess in craft and skill all on his own.

But my post is far more about results than relative strengths: what actually happened in the history.

You're forgetting that Earendil is Tuor and Idril's son - and that Idril was one of the Noldor who migrated over to Beleriand from Valinor with her father, Turgon, and her uncle, Fingon, and their sire, Fingolfin.

No flight of the Noldor from Valinor = no Idril = no Earendil = no War of Wrath, and Morgoth isn't defeated.

At the end of the day, Morgoth, as a martial antagonist, was a great and terrible threat to a relatively small corner of the world of Middle-earth. Beleriand is about the size of Rhovanion. His threat, regionally speaking, is more akin to Smaug the Golden in "The Hobbit": a significant problem if the Dwarves stir the dragon if you happen to live in northeastern Middle-earth but not so much a problem if you live in Gondor or Rohan.

Morgoth was a greater threat, arguably, as the lone Dark Hunter who captured hapless Elves on the Great Journey before the Years of the Trees. He was at his peak threat, beyond that of Sauron, during the Age of the Lamps and all that crazy rough analogue to the dinosaurs where the "warfare" consisted of throwing up vales into mountains and crushing mountains into vales.

But by the time we get to the latter years of the First Age, Morgoth mostly hides-out doing nothing, and he has a couple of bad wars over the course of a few hundred years. But, ultimately, his theft of the Silmarils weakened him (*they caused him great pain), and the War of Wrath cleared him out completely. This was because, as in the linked notes from Tolkien Ena kindly shared, Morgoth's power had diminished to that of an earthly tyrant, and his goal was, in Tolkien's words, "nihilistic": he just wanted to destroy everyone and everything, not rule over it or command it.

Sauron was more deadly in that he didn't just want to destroy. He wanted to enslave everyone, dominate over everyone, and control everyone. The idea of Sauron controlling the minds of leaders through rings of power is frankly scarier to me. Think about what the Witch-King threatens to do to Eowyn. Even what Morgoth did to Hurin, Turin, and their family wasn't quite as bad as what the WK threatened to do in the Houses of Lamentation: a terrifying image of a slow, painful, psychological, spiritual, and then physical torture - and the WK was but a servant of Sauron.

Sauron also managed to return thrice. First, after Numenor fell. Second, in Dol Guldor. Third, in Mordor itself. Sauron's actions arguably slew far more of the Free Peoples over a far vaster portion of Middle-earth across nearly Two Ages of the world, unlike Morgoth's few hundreds' years in the FA. He was the greater - personal - threat to the Free Peoples. Just the war between Arnor's 3 realms and Angmar alone lasted on and off for 600 years straight, a timespan comparable to the FA, and that conflict alone ruined most of Eriador. Sauron's untold activities in Easterling and Southron lands encompassed a far more vast geography; you could probably fit 3-4 Beleriand's in those regions.

Sauron's actions across the Ages also resulted in vast depopulations of western Arda. Between the Elves sailing West, the great Kingdoms of Men falling, and Gondor diminishing, most of it were some groups of wilder folk like the Dunlendings and a smaller country of Rohan, with Gondor largely contracting just to the lands and coasts nigh the southern half of the White Mts.

So, your post is right as far as -scale- goes, and as far as Morgoth fared as a celestial evil. But Gil-galad and Elendil wrestled Sauron at the cost of their own lives, a mirroring of what Fingolfin did in his duel with Morgoth, and yet, where Morgoth simply hid-out in his fortress to the end of the war, Sauron's spirit kept enduring for far longer thanks to the Ring. Plus, there was Isildur's outright stupidity combined with Elrond's . . . honor.

That's another area where I don't let the Elves off the hook. Elrond really should've had Isildur seized and the Ring tossed in the fire right then and there. But apparently, being friendly and goody-good was more important to him! *Laughs!* Alas for Middle-earth! That nicety had a very high cost.
But that, dear friends, is another tale for another time ;)

Cheers! :D
 
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Harvain

Well-known member
At the end of the day, Morgoth, as a martial antagonist, was a great and terrible threat to a relatively small corner of the world of Middle-earth. Beleriand is about the size of Rhovanion. His threat, regionally speaking, is more akin to Smaug the Golden in "The Hobbit": a significant problem if the Dwarves stir the dragon if you happen to live in northeastern Middle-earth but not so much a problem if you live in Gondor or Rohan.
The other thing was that Morgoth chose to keep most of his Forces as close to Valinor as possible. Basically a "We'll meet them on the beaches and throw them back into the Sea, stopping any incursion before it can gain a foothold" type of strategy.

We see Morgoth known as Melkor at that time using the same type of Strategy as Sauron will be known for:
  • Morgoth himself being a singular powerhouse that few could stand against at what is the height of his Powers.
  • He would gather his Armies.
  • His greatest Servants, the Maiar following Morgoth, becoming what we would know as Balrogs & would be a key element for his Armies.
  • 2 Fortresses from which he could defend against the West & strike against them if they came close to his realm.
  • The "West" or the Valar defeated for a time and unable to truly confront Morgoth in Middle-earth as he was powerful enough alone to face many of the Valar & still win.
  • Free reign across most of Middle-earth.
For a time Morgoth "was" the Master of the World.

This all before the Elves would begin to awaken, some being taken by the First Dark Lord, and that finally the Valar would put everything on the line to save Middle-earth & Iluvatar's First Children.



It's really only during Morgoth's 3rd time in Middle-earth where he's far more confined due in part to the various Free Peoples scattered throughout Middle-earth who collectively had the Strength to confront him, mostly near Beleriand, and the ever constant threat of a 3rd Valar Invasion in Middle-earth proper against him.

Here he is more akin to Sauron in the aftermath of the Fall of Numenor, striking too soon, with his various Enemies being powerful enough to deal him many losses but not outright destroy him for good. We have the back & forth Victories & Defeats on both sides, akin to what we see in the Second & Third Ages with Sauron where there are times of War, times of uneasy Peace, and then even greater Wars & Battles being fought.

Then Morgoth is victorious in Northern Beleriand in the aftermath of the Fall of Gondolin but he wasn't able to secure a complete victory as some would escape. Among the refugees would be Earendil who would in time sail West to seek the pardon of the Valar which they would grant it with conditions for Earendil but finally the Valar set forth once again to Middle-earth.

Morgoth by this point now physically being weaker, his Armies having taken key losses such as losing Gothmog during the Fall of Gondolin, and the Might of the Valar alone being too great before his 3rd & somewhat permanent defeat.
 

Phantion

Well-known member
The other thing was that Morgoth chose to keep most of his Forces as close to Valinor as possible. Basically a "We'll meet them on the beaches and throw them back into the Sea, stopping any incursion before it can gain a foothold" type of strategy.

We see Morgoth known as Melkor at that time using the same type of Strategy as Sauron will be known for:
  • Morgoth himself being a singular powerhouse that few could stand against at what is the height of his Powers.
  • He would gather his Armies.
  • His greatest Servants, the Maiar following Morgoth, becoming what we would know as Balrogs & would be a key element for his Armies.
  • 2 Fortresses from which he could defend against the West & strike against them if they came close to his realm.
  • The "West" or the Valar defeated for a time and unable to truly confront Morgoth in Middle-earth as he was powerful enough alone to face many of the Valar & still win.
  • Free reign across most of Middle-earth.
For a time Morgoth "was" the Master of the World.

This all before the Elves would begin to awaken, some being taken by the First Dark Lord, and that finally the Valar would put everything on the line to save Middle-earth & Iluvatar's First Children.



It's really only during Morgoth's 3rd time in Middle-earth where he's far more confined due in part to the various Free Peoples scattered throughout Middle-earth who collectively had the Strength to confront him, mostly near Beleriand, and the ever constant threat of a 3rd Valar Invasion in Middle-earth proper against him.

Here he is more akin to Sauron in the aftermath of the Fall of Numenor, striking too soon, with his various Enemies being powerful enough to deal him many losses but not outright destroy him for good. We have the back & forth Victories & Defeats on both sides, akin to what we see in the Second & Third Ages with Sauron where there are times of War, times of uneasy Peace, and then even greater Wars & Battles being fought.

Then Morgoth is victorious in Northern Beleriand in the aftermath of the Fall of Gondolin but he wasn't able to secure a complete victory as some would escape. Among the refugees would be Earendil who would in time sail West to seek the pardon of the Valar which they would grant it with conditions for Earendil but finally the Valar set forth once again to Middle-earth.

Morgoth by this point now physically being weaker, his Armies having taken key losses such as losing Gothmog during the Fall of Gondolin, and the Might of the Valar alone being too great before his 3rd & somewhat permanent defeat.

Strategically, yes, there are similarities. But I'd nitpick a little bit - :) - at "free reign" and "Master of the World."

"Free reign" was, on a foundational level, never Melkor / Morgoth's goal. It was the total destruction of Arda and all of its inhabitants. Now, Sauron wanted "free reign," and I'd say that he was quite close to becoming "Master of the World" in the true sense of ruling, commanding, enslaving, dominating, etc., far closer than Morgoth, on several occasions.

It was always a tiny number of narrow chances that caused Sauron's multiple defeats. He logically thought the Valar would never want to intervene in Middle-earth again; Eru sinking Numenor was a total shock to him. He also never thought that Feanor's grandson, Celebrimbor, would somehow - resist - his temptations and order the Mirdain to take-off their rings. He also never thought the Queen of Numenor would finally intervene and send the whole fleet to drive him out of Eriador. He also never thought that a relatively small number of Faithful would escape Numenor's downfall and that Gil-galad and Elendil combined could best him on the field of battle. And he certainly never thought that two tiny little Hobbits and one very old, Ring-obsessed former Hobbit-turned-creature would manage to reach Mt. Doom itself and, after a brief scuffle, destroy his Ring by "accident."

Ironically, the times Sauron was at his peak were in the times he was either not at open war or on the verge of winning an open war. I'd say that, right before Numenor intervened, Sauron nearly mirrored Morgoth: the Elves beleageured and besieged in Lindon and Imladris like the Isle of Balar, except, again, the goal was different. Morgoth wanted to toy with them and kill 'em all off. Sauron wanted to command them, crushing only those who would refuse to bow to him.

I'd say the second time was, quite ironically, during the so-called "Watchful Peace," during which time the nascent realm of Rohan faced combined forces of Easterlings, Dunlendings, and Umbari. During this era, the "Ghost Faramir" we meet in the Wastes met his ending, and although the Battle of the Camp was successful, much damage had already been done to Gondor. Gondor's borders significantly contracted. Arnor was no more. Sauron pretty much had complete command over the East and South. Oh, and he was rebuilding Barad-dur and controlling Mordor in secret.

When the White Council came after him in Dol Guldor finally, it was on Sauron's terms - not Galadriel's, Gandalf's, Saruman's, nor Elrond's. Saruman had also already secretly fallen, aside from Galadriel's suspicions, and was hunting for the Ring himself by that point. That's something I'm not sure Peter Jackson understood with "The Hobbit" adaptation, awesome as the Dol Guldor confrontation was visually.

Sauron was never truly "driven" from Dol Guldor (*the Elves wrote that in that particular Appendix; it looks better on paper!); Barad-dur was ready and waiting for him. He was ready to assume his true identity once more. Sauron also had vast numbers of armies, in the late TA, beyond the two he sent after Minas Tirith. He was pretty much about to crush Aragorn and the last defenders of the West in front of the Black Gate when Gollum danced off the cliff.

That's a far cry of difference compared to the War of Wrath, during which Morgoth had pretty much a zero chance of victory. With Sauron, it was the total opposite. Gollum's fall into the fire with the Ring is comparable to, in "Star Wars," Luke's 1-in-a-million shot that destroyed the Death Star - and even more of a "chance" as it was not an intentional act on the part of Gollum, unlike Luke whose intentions were quite clear and direct (*and yes, there's the hidden hand of Eru in the Ring's destruction as Luke used the Force in SW ;) LOTR actually had quite an influence on younger George Lucas in that movie).

Cheers! :D
 
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