Sauron during the Second Age
“This is the Master-ring, the One Ring to rule them all. This is the One Ring that he lost many ages ago, to the great weakening of his power. He greatly desires it – but he must not get it.”
—Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings, “The Shadow of the Past”
After lying hidden and dormant for 500 years, he began revealing himself once more, and by SA 1000 he gathered his power and established himself in the land of Mordor in eastern Middle-earth and began building the dreaded Dark Tower of Barad-dûr near Mount Doom. Sauron, like Morgoth, soon began raising massive armies of Orcs, Trolls, and possibly other creatures, as well as corrupting the hearts of Men with delusions of power and wealth, chiefly Easterlings and Southrons (the Haradrim).
Although Sauron knew that men were easier to sway, he sought to bring the Elves into his service, as they were far more powerful. By about SA 1500, Sauron put on a fair visage in the Second Age, and calling himself Annatar, the “Lord of Gifts”, he befriended the Elvish smiths of Eregion, and counseled them in arts and magic. Not all the Elves trusted him, particularly Lady Galadriel, Elrond, and Gil-galad, High King of the Ñoldor.
To the elves who listened, Sauron gave knowledge and encouragement in forging the Rings of Power, though in secret Sauron forged his own, the One Ring, to rule the Elvish rings. Upon that ring Sauron left the inscription, Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul. In Westron the inscription translated into:One Ring to Rule Them All, One Ring to Find Them, One Ring to Bring Them All, and in the Darkness Bind Them.
However, as soon as Sauron put the Ring on his finger the Elves sensed his treachery, and removed their rings and hid them. Enraged, Sauron came against them in open war and demanded that all the Rings of Power be given to him. The Elves managed to hide the three greatest of the Rings from him, but the other sixteen Rings of Power were either captured by Sauron, destroyed, or lost. To the Dwarves he had given seven, but to Men he had given Nine, knowing that they would be the easiest to enslave. The Dwarf Lords who received the Rings proved to be very resistant to their power, and neither “faded” nor became enslaved to Sauron’s will. The Rings instead created in them an insatiable lust for gold, which ultimately caused a great deal of grief for the Dwarves.
As Sauron predicted however, the nine Men were all corrupted by their Rings and became the Nazgûl, Sauron’s deadliest servants. Had the Elves not recognized Sauron’s treachery and forsaken the power of their rings, the results would have been catastrophic for the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth. It seems that most if not all of the native Men of Middle-Earth succumbed to the power of the Ring once the Nazgûl were created; the Númenóreans were spared because of their distance. The Elves, had they been captured in this fashion, would have become the slaves of Sauron, and thus Celebrimbor’s resistance was of immense importance in the history of Middle-earth.
In this era, during which he marshalled and commanded great armies, Sauron became known as the Dark Lord of Mordor and his fortress of Barad-dûr was completed. He was very powerful even without control of the Elves, and he conquered nearly all of Middle-earth during the War of the Elves and Sauron. However, the armies of Númenór’s King Tar-Minastir were finally able to defeat him at a last battle near Gwathló or the Greyflood in SA 1700. Defeated but not vanquished, Sauron retreated back to Mordor and began recouping his strength over the many centuries.
These Men lived on the island of Númenor in the sea between Middle-earth and Valinor. The Númenóreans, who were then proud, came to Middle-earth with astounding force of arms. King Ar-Pharazôn marched his troops all the way to Mordor without a single battle, and demanded that Sauron abase himself before the King. Sauron could see clearly that even the most powerful of his servants could not stand against the Númenóreans, and so came from Barad-dûr without any offer of battle. He assumed a fair form and flattered Ar-Pharazôn, but the King demanded that Sauron come back to Númenor as a hostage. Sauron feigned unhappiness at this development but secretly was delighted, for this presented him with an opportunity to destroy the Númenóreans from within. After only a few short years in Númenor he grew from captive to the King’s most trusted adviser, and nearly all the King’s court fawned upon him. Drawing on their fear of death, he converted many Númenóreans to the worship of Morgoth, lying that Morgoth had the power to save them from mortality. As his power and influence reached its peak, he raised a great Temple in which he performed human sacrifices to Morgoth. Finally, he convinced Ar-Pharazôn to rebel against the Valar and attack Valinor itself and claim it for himself.
But here, Sauron’s cunning overreached itself, for Eru then directly intervened – Númenor was drowned under the sea, and the great navy of Númenor was destroyed and the army that reached Aman was buried under mountains of falling rock and imprisoned in the Caves of the Forgotten. The world was bent, so that thereafter, only Elven-Ships could sail into the Utter West. Sauron’s body was destroyed, but his spirit was not diminished, and he fled back to Mordor bearing the Ring, where he slowly rebuilt a new body and his strength during the time known as the Dark Years. From this point on, he lost the ability to assume a fair shape, and ruled now through terror and force. A few faithful Númenóreans led by Elendil were saved from the flood, and they founded Gondor and Arnor in Middle-earth.
After losing his body in the destruction of Númenor and a brief period of renewed war, Elendil and his people allied with the Elven-king, Gil-Galad to create the Last Alliance, and together fought Sauron. They finally defeated his armies at the Battle of Dagorlad, and laid siege to Barad-dûr for seven years. Finally, Sauron himself came forth and dueled both Elendil and Gil-galad, slaying them both singlehandedly. Then Isildur, son of Elendil, took up his father’s broken sword, Narsil and cut the One Ring from Sauron’s finger. Sauron’s physical body was destroyed. With nearly all of his power stored in the ring, the dark lord was vanquished when it was cut from his finger. Without their leader’s dark will driving them on, Sauron’s armies were routed and fled, and thus, his campaign to defeat the free peoples was seemingly ended, and his greatest weapon taken from him.
But while Isildur had taken the ring, he could not bring himself to destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom where it was forged, instead he became corrupted by the One Ring and kept it for himself. He was eventually betrayed by it a few years later, and slain by orcs at Gladden Fields. The Ring fell into the river Anduin, and was lost for centuries before being found by Smeagol’s friend Deagol.
Until next week I’m Iogro Merrybelly signing off for the night.