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So, movie Sauron....Flabby you say??? Well, if you were practically immortal and commanded the will of thousands would you care if you over indulged on the cream puffs occasionally?
I just wonder at how Sauron can take physical shape if this is to be the case. I had always assumed that he wasn't powerful enough to regain physical shape without his ring. Am I wrong? Does this mean Sauron has only chosen to hide until he feels that he can come out safe? Does it mean that he can really take physical shape any time he wishes??
I responded to her question with some factual information regarding Sauron, but unfortunately, I also made the statements that from the end of the Second Age on, Sauron was never again able to take physical shape, and he certainly couldn’t take physical shape anytime he choose to do so, or if he thought it safe. Now let me say that when I made these statements, I should have been more thoughtful with my wording (because the Eye was Sauron in physical shape), and at the time, I was basing my statements on information I had read about Sauron, and on things that I knew (or at least thought I knew) to be true.
Like alot of other people, (including many before me in this thread) I thought I remembered something specifically in the books about Sauron not being able to assume the physical form of a man without the Ring. However, our beloved Squirrel responded to my post with this statement,
This does not entirely contradict the book. It is not stated anywhere in a definitive statement that Sauron has no physical form, and there is as much argument about this as there is about Balrog wings. The most definitive statement on the subject comes from Gollum when he states that there are but four fingers on the black hand now. Implying that there is a hand, and thus a physical form. Some think that the lidless eye IS Sauron, others (like myself) believe that the Eye is just a tool of Saurons, or possibly even a palantir (though the red glow seen in "Mount Doom" shows that it is probably not a palantir).
I then wholeheartedly admitted to the Squirrel that I indeed had quite forgotten about Gollum’s “Black Hand” statement, and immediately went on a personal quest to try and find the place, or places in the books where Tolkien had stated that Sauron could not assume the physical form of a man without the One Ring (the subject of Sauron having no physical form at all was never an issue to me because I knew for certain that the Eye was in fact Sauron manifested into a physical form).
Lo and behold, when I combed through the texts of Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, I could find nothing anywhere definitively stating that Sauron could not assume the physical form of a man (or any other physical form for that matter) without the Ring. In fact, I found countless examples conclusively proving that Sauron had indeed slowly taken a new physical shape, and did have a physical form (at least the Eye for sure) during the time of the War of the Ring, without having possession of the Ring.
So it seems that the eternal debate about Sauron’s ability to assume a physical form (other than the Eye) rages on. What I hope to accomplish in this post, is to offer conclusive proof that the Eye was in fact Sauron manifested into physical shape, and not just a palantir, or some kind of tool of Sauron’s, and also to at least prove conclusively that Sauron, (from the end of the Second Age on) could not take physical shape until around 2060 of the Third Age. I’ve narrowed it down to essentially a 959-year window between T.A. 2060 and the final fall of Sauron in T.A. 3019. So what we’re really talking about here is, did Sauron have the ability to assume any other shape besides the manifest form of the Eye during that 959-year period? I will examine Gollum’s “Black Hand” statement as well.
Before I go any further, it’s imperative for me to establish exactly how I derived this 959-year window. In all of my research regarding Sauron, (which has now become quite extensive) I try to rely on Tolkien alone for definitive information as much as possible, as the only real authority on Tolkien is the master himself. In everything I have studied in the texts, the most definitive jumping off point for this seems to come from The Tale Of Years, appendix B, page 406 of ROTK, where Tolkien states that in T. A. 2060,
The power of Dol Guldur grows. The Wise fear that it may be Sauron taking shape again.
It’s the word “taking”, and not “has taken” that Tolkien uses, I feel implies physical shape has still not yet been achieved. I think we can somewhat safely infer by the use of Tolkien’s wording, that at least until around 2060 (more or less), that Sauron did not have enough power without the Ring to take any kind of physical shape (please note that had Sauron possessed the Ring, he would have had the ability to take shape much faster. This is how he accomplished physical form so fast after The Downfall of Numenor).
The ending point for my window (and obviously most conclusively agreeable to all) is the final fall of Sauron in T.A. 3019, thus establishing my 959-year window. In this 959-year window, some of the most definitive statements that Sauron indeed had taken a new physical shape come from Tolkien in the texts for Fellowship Of The Ring, and in The Silmarillion. Tolkien states on page 55 of FOTR, The Shadow Of The Past, (which Grondy had previously posted in this thread),
Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.
Here is another quote from the same chapter on page 57,
Then Sauron was vanquished and his spirit fled and was hidden for long years, until his shadow took shape again in Mirkwood.
Another quote supporting this matter appears on page 353, in the chapter Of The Rings Of Power and The Third Age, in The Silmarillion,
Then Sauron was for that time vanquished, and he forsook his body, and his spirit fled far away and hid in waste places; and he took no visible shape again for many long years.
Here’s another quote from page 359 of that same chapter,
For coming out of the wastes of the East he took up his abode in the south of the forest, and slowly he grew and took shape there again;
Perhaps the “granddaddy” of them all comes from this passage from page 361 of The Silmarillion,
Therefore on a time Mithrandir at great peril went again to Dol Guldur and the pits of the Sorcerer, and he discovered the truth of his fears, and escaped. And returning to Elrond he said: ‘True, alas, is our guess. This is not one of the Ulairi, as many have long supposed. It is Sauron himself who has taken shape again and now grows apace;
Please note that there is a slight variation on this in The Council Of Elrond chapter of FOTR where Gandalf tells a similar version of this story to The Council on page 281, and uses the wording “at length taking shape and power again.” However again, through the use of Tolkien’s wording, I think we can all conclusively agree from these statements that at least there was some sort of physical shape.
In regards to the Eye being Sauron’s manifested physical shape, and not just some tool, or a palantir as some have suggested, I think there is conclusive proof of this in many parts of the texts in Lord Of The Rings, The Silmarillion, and in other credible, documented published sources. One of the most definite examples comes from page 351, of The Silmarillion,
There now he brooded in the dark, until he had wrought for himself a new shape; and it was terrible, for his fair semblance had departed for ever when he was cast into the abyss at the drowning of Numenor. He took up again the great Ring and clothed himself in power; and the malice of the Eye of Sauron few even of the great among Elves and Men could endure.
Now obviously this passage occurred before Isildur cut the Ring from Sauron’s hand, but I wanted to touch on this passage for two reasons, one because I feel that it implies that the Eye was in fact a physical form, and most importantly because it conclusively proves that the Eye was not a palantir, as these events took place before Sauron had a palantir in his possession (which did not occur until T.A. 2002 when his forces captured the Ithil stone). Also, a small side note, Sauron did not have possession of the Osgiliath “master” stone of the seven stones that were brought to M.E., Tolkien lists this stone as being lost in the Anduin in T.A. 1437 in Unfinished Tales). Grondy made a similar observation in his post on 1/26/02,
Not only that, but in the next sentence it says quote: There he took up again his great Ring in Barad-Dur, and dwelt there, dark and silent, until he wrought himself a new quise, an image of malice and hatred made visible; and the Eye of Sauron the Terrible few could endure. So I guess Ungoliant can have another Pseudo-Silmaril because even though the above quote took place before Isildur took the Ring, it is the same Eye seen by Galadriel, Frodo, and Pippin.
I hope Grondmaster doesn’t mind me using this post as a reference, but his post really already touched on my point here, and I liked the contrast in wording between the two variations (I’m assuming Grondy and I have different editions of The Sil.). Chiefly, however, it was the statement about the Eye being the same one seen by Galadriel, Frodo, Pippin, Aragorn, Denethor (adding a few of my own here), etc… because I feel that the chapters in which some of these events take place, offer some of the most conclusive proof that the Eye was in fact Sauron in a manifested physical shape, and that it was not just a palantir. The best example probably comes from FOTR, on pgs. 408-409, in The Mirror Of Galadriel chapter,
In the black abyss there appeared a single Eye that slowly grew, until it filled nearly all the Mirror. So terrible was it that Frodo stood rooted, unable to cry out or to withdraw his gaze. The Eye was rimmed with fire, but was itself glazed, yellow as a cat’s, watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing.
A little further down on the same page is this classic quote,
and one who has seen the Eye.
It’s interesting to note that Tolkien always used capitalization when referring to the Eye. To me, the constant use of capitalization throughout the texts by the Author in this case, somewhat implies a physical form, although I realize this point is debatable. I definitely feel the fact that Frodo saw the Eye (even though he was the Ring-bearer) in the Mirror of Galadriel proves that the Eye wasn’t just a palantir though, because as the lost lore of the palantiri seems to suggest in Unfininshed Tales, you would not see the eye of a surveyor looking into a palantir, unless you yourself were gazing into one.
Another thing that kind of makes the palantir theory, or just that the Eye was one of Sauron’s actual eyeballs (I believe the analogy I saw used in this thread was something like the equivalent of what it would look like to a specimen being examined under a microscope looking up at the giant eye of a human looking into the microscope) theory highly unlikely is the fact (again in the palantiri chapter in UT) that when gazing into a palantir, in order to maximize the beholders ability to perceive the visions in the stone, the beholder who placed himself at some distance from the palantir (about 3 feet), could see the visions much larger. So it would seem unlikely that Sauron would be sitting there in Barad-dur with his eyeball pressed against the Ithil stone. Most likely when Sauron was gazing into the Ithil stone, he was probably in the physical shape of the one Eye, placed about 3 feet from the stone where he could control the visions in the stone to the greatest degree.
Here’s what some other sources who have all published works on Tolkien have to say in regards to Sauron’s shape, this first one comes from Robert Foster’s Complete Guide To Middle Earth,
After the ruin of his body in the destruction of Numenor, Sauron had the form of a man, his skin was black and burning hot. In the Third Age he most frequently appeared as a fearsome ever searching Eye.
It’s worth noting that Foster doesn’t mention that Sauron had to forsake the new body he had wrought for himself at the end of the Second Age, but his definition does support the fact that the Eye was a physical form. Here is another bit from The Magical Worlds Of The Lord Of The Rings by David Colbert,
Although there are a few references in LOTR to Sauron having a body (less the finger that was cut off when the Ring was taken from him), he generally appeared in the frightening form of one all seeing Eye.
Here is another one from The Tolkien Companion by Tyler,
but instead became The Dark Lord, terrible of aspect, black and burning hot, with a single lidless eye rimmed with fire, glazed yellow as a cat’s, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing.
Here’s another example from David Day’s Tolkien The Illustrated Encylopedia,
Yet his spirit fled to Mordor, and with the One Ring made himself into the Dark Lord- a fearsome warrior with black armour on burnt black skin, and terrible raging eyes. However, even this form was destroyed at the end of the Second Age…In the year 1000 of the Third Age, he manifest himself in the form of one great, lidless Eye.
Again, all of these definitions listed here support that the Eye was Sauron in physical form. Before I move on, I wanted to note that when Pippen, and Aragorn gaze into the palantir, neither one of them describes the physical appearance of Sauron they saw. However, I find it very curious that Pippin (pgs. 219-220, The Palantir chapter in TT) uses these words,
Then he came. He did not speak so that I could hear words. He just looked, and I understood.
I’m not going to quote the rest of that passage, but obviously Pippin saw some kind of physical form. Whether it was the Eye, or the form of a man (with black and burning skin), I’m afraid remains in question, but my guess is that he saw the Eye. Aragorn uses this statement in ROTK, The Passing Of The Grey Company, page 43,
for I showed the blade re-forged to him.
Again implying that there was some kind of physical form. Which brings me to the last point I would like to touch on, Gollum’s “Black Hand “ statement.
On page 278, in the chapter The Black Gate Is Closed, in The Two Towers, Gollum makes the statement,
Yes, He has only four on the Black Hand, but they are enough.
The argument has been made that this is a direct reference to the fact that Sauron does have the physical form of a man during the time of the War of the Ring, and that Gollum has seen him personally when he was captured and taken prisoner, and tortured in Barad-dur. As I mentioned, I had quite forgotten about this particular statement when the initial conversation regarding Sauron having a physical body in P.J.’s ROTK began, until Plastic brought it back to my attention. I then recalled the statement (and my feelings on the matter from previous readings of TTT), and mentioned to Plastic over in the ROTK spoilers thread that I thought Tolkien had written this statement in a euphemistic manner (now I’m not so sure).
I believed this to be the case initially because throughout the entire text of Lord Of The Rings, Tolkien constantly uses “Hand of Sauron” statements euphemistically to refer to Sauron’s power. I also believed this to be the case because I felt that it would be easy for Gollum (without actually having seen Sauron) to make the “four on the Black Hand” statement to refer to Sauron’s power, because I deduced that Gollum (being certainly old enough) would have heard the tale at some point, and since I remembered Tolkien saying something about Smeagol’s Grandmother being the chief lore-master of the Stoors, that he most likely heard the tale from her when he was young.
My theory on this is supported in The Black Gate Is Closed, on page 277, of The Two Towers, where Gollum admits that he used to hear tales from the South when he was young, and then on page 278, Frodo somewhat recounts the tale of Isildur cutting the Ring off Sauron’s finger in front of Gollum right before Gollum makes the “four on the Black Hand” statement. It was my contention then, that this was just Tolkien’s way of having Gollum (in the context of his conversation with Frodo) say that Sauron was not yet at full power. Another thing that led me to think that the statement was most likely euphemistic in manner, was the fact that outside of the “four on the Black Hand” statement, I could recall nowhere specifically in all of the accounts of Gollum’s capture (and there are a few) where it said, or implied that Gollum was physically brought before Sauron at Barad-dur.
One thing I have definitely observed in the course of my research on this matter is that when Sauron makes an actual physical appearance in a man’s form anywhere in Tolkien’s texts, Tolkien always uses the word “himself” associated with the event. Again, I could recall nowhere in all of my readings where it said specifically that Gollum was ever brought before Sauron himself. However, as I said, now I’m not so sure. In the course of meticulously picking over all the details from the combined texts, I think I’ve managed to convince myself that Sauron could also assume the shape of a man (terrible with black, burning skin) during the time of The War of the Ring.
In addition to the “four on the Black Hand” statement, there are two other statements Gollum makes that I find highly curious. On page 274 of The Two Towers, Gollum says,
But master is going to take it to Him, straight to the Black Hand, if master will go this way.
Then there is this from page 280,
I have searched and searched, of course I have. But not for the Black One.
It’s all three of what I will refer to as the “Black” statements taken together that I find most interesting. To my knowledge Gollum is the only character to use the “Black” terminology in specific regards to Sauron’s form. Tolkien’s use of these “Black” statements, now stand out to me as being inherently different than the many euphemistic “Hand of Sauron” references. I’m currently reading The Letters Of J.R.R. Tolkien, and in one of his letters, Tolkien talks about leaving tiny hints for the reader. I’m starting to believe that this is one of those cases, as the “Black” statements seem exclusive. The “Black” statements certainly seem to agree with the descriptions by Foster, Tyler, Colbert, and Day, and there is also the undeniable fact that Gollum had been to Barad-dur. It’s just a matter of exactly what he saw, and again, I couldn’t find anything definitive to prove that Gollum had physically seen Sauron in man form, but I find this passage from page 352 from the chapter The Hunt For The Ring, in Unfinished Tales, to be somewhat convincing,
When he had learned what he could from him, Sauron released him and sent him forth again. He did not trust Gollum for he divined something indomitable in him, which could not be overcome, even by the Shadow of Fear, except by destroying him. But Sauron perceived the depth of Gollum’s malice towards those that had “robbed” him…
I think it’s very likely that in order for Sauron to divine, and perceive these things, and the depth in which they were ingrained in Gollum’s character, that Sauron probably did interrogate Gollum personally at some point during his imprisonment in Barad-dur. There are a few other statements that seem to hint at a physical form other than the Eye as well. On page 279 of The Two Towers, Gollum says,
He will come out of the Black Gate one day, one day soon.
On page 171 of ROTK, the host of Aragorn challenges Sauron,
Come forth! Let the Lord of the Black Land come forth!
Here’s something from a letter Tolkien wrote to Mrs. Eileen Elgar in Sept. 1963 (letter #246, The Letters Of J.R.R. Tolkien, page 332) where he is explaining what would have happened if the Nazgul would have succeeded in their errand to remove Frodo from the Crack of Doom, depriving him of his opportunity to destroy the Ring,
But if he still preserved some sanity and partly understood the significance of it, so that he refused now to go with them to Barad-dur, they would simply have waited. Until Sauron himself came. In any case a confrontation of Frodo and Sauron would soon have taken place, if the Ring was intact.
That statement contains the key “himself” word that I referred to earlier. A few sentences down on the same page Tolkien says,
Sauron should be thought of as very terrible. The form that he took was that of a man of more than human stature, but not gigantic. In his earlier incarnation he was able to veil his power (as Gandalf did) and could appear as a commanding figure of great strength of body and supremely royal demeanour and countenence.
Coming from Tolkien, I think that’s probably about as definitive of a statement as we’re going to get! So it seems that there is certainly plenty of compelling information to suggest that Sauron could assume the physical shape of a man during the time of The War of the Ring. The only problem I have remaining with Gollum’s “four on the Black Hand” statement is that it just seems illogical to me that after taking a new shape, Sauron would come back missing the finger that Isildur cut from his hand. His body was destroyed after the Ring was cut, and he had to forsake his body. The same thing happened to his body in the Downfall of Numenor (minus the finger being cut before his body was destroyed), and he came back with a new complete shape, so it would just seem like when he was able to take shape again, that he would come back with another new whole physical shape. I may have answered my own question in a way here, but I would love to hear some other theories on this.
In conclusion of my research, here is what I now personally believe to be true (more or less), After Sauron’s body was destroyed at the end of the Second Age, he did not have enough power to take a new physical shape until sometime around T.A. 2060. The Eye was Sauron manifested into physical shape, and not just a palantir, or some kind of tool of Sauron’s. When Sauron was gazing into the Ithil stone, he was most likely in the form of the Eye, located about three feet from the stone, thereby disproving the notion that the Eye was Sauron’s actual eyeball. I also now believe it to be highly likely that in addition to Sauron being able to assume the manifest form of the Eye, that he also had the ability to assume the shape of a man (terrible, with black, burning skin), and that Gollum probably saw him personally during his captivity in Barad-dur. I also believe that generally, Sauron appeared in the form of the Eye, but if one was brought before his physical presence (as Gollum most likely was), that he appeared in the man form.
It is my great hope that I have managed to provide the most comprehensive study on Sauron’s physical form to date on PT, and that this post can serve as a valuable reference to all those who find this topic interesting. I apologize for the length, but I found it absolutely necessary in order to not only cover what I found, but also to examine some of the other arguments, and theories that have been previously posted in this thread.
[Edited on 23/5/2003 by Elfstone]
The only problem I have remaining with Gollum’s “four on the Black Hand” statement is that it just seems illogical to me that after taking a new shape, Sauron would come back missing the finger that Isildur cut from his hand.
In Sauron's case the wound to his finger was the wound that deprived him of his ring and thus his power. Being unable to reform that finger seems almost symbolic of this, a reminder to him that part of his soul as well as his body is still missing.
I also believe that generally, Sauron appeared in the form of the Eye,
I think I read somewhere that the Ainur often cloaked themselves in shapes that matched their moods or their purpose. It would seem logical then, that if Sauron was so preoccupied, his form would beome that of an eye.
Grondy made a similar observation in his post on 1/26/02,
Not only that, but in the next sentence it says
There he took up again his great Ring in Barad-Dur, and dwelt there, dark and silent, until he wrought himself a new guise, an image of malice and hatred made visible; and the Eye of Sauron the Terrible few could endure.
This is a different wording than that found on page 351 of the paperback Silmarillion which has on the cover, the weird picture of Feanor (I assume) holding the three Silmarils, about eleven pages into 'Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age'.
I finally found the above words starting on the last line on page 336 of the same volume, a couple pages from the end of the 'Akallbeth'.
Boy, what a relief, as I thought my credibility might have been compromised.
Well...the eye of Sauron has managed to create much debate and confusion because of the fact that the book says that Sauron is unable to take on physical form, so how is he able to appear as literally an eye? (Well...at least in the movies.) But I would like you guys to consider that sure, we have seen the eye but have we felt it? WHat I mean is that Sauron may not neccesarily have taken a physical form to be seen as and eye or anything for that matter. A fine example would be your reflection in the mirror. Sure, you can see it and all but is it truly a manifestation of your physical form? Logic would say no, it is just a reflection! A more controversial example would be would you be able to explain seeing ghosts when technically, they are not actually in physical form but is a spectral instead? What I am saying is that Sauron need not be in physical form to be seen, he onlt needs it to be felt.
PS: I am not very sure about this...please comment.
My feeling is that Sauron was only able to give himself an insubstantial shape, so he chose the most frightening one he could think of. An all-seeing eye.
Sauron did take the same form in the book, but I don't know if he was visible at the top of Barad-dur.
However, I do greatly appreciate others taking the time to read it, as I spent alot of time researching the matter, and greatly hoped that my post could be of value to someone other than myself.
In Sauron's case the wound to his finger was the wound that deprived him of his ring and thus his power. Being unable to reform that finger seems almost symbolic of this, a reminder to him that part of his soul as well as his body is still missing.
I knew I could count on you Val! Your explanation makes perfect sense to me, and from what I have been able to gather so far on the inner workings of Tolkien's mind, your explanation seems to be in direct accord with the way he would have perceived that question. The answer started coming to me somewhat as I was writing that final question, but I think you’ve managed to hit the bull’s-eye dead center (as usual) with your explanation!
Well...the eye of Sauron has managed to create much debate and confusion because of the fact that the book says that Sauron is unable to take on physical form, so how is he able to appear as literally an eye?
Not sure what you mean here Mad, as the books do not say Sauron was unable to take physical form. In fact (as stated in my post) the books say Sauron did take physical shape again, and prove conclusively that during the time of the War of the Ring, that he did have physical form. I agree with your point that Sauron doesn’t necessarily have to be in physical form to be seen, but only felt (at least I know what your saying). I agree with Allyssa too, that the Eye wasn’t located on the top of Barad-dur. I’m afraid that P.J. just decided that would be a cool visual effect in the films. There is a reference in Tolkien’s ROTK to the red light of the Eye shining out of the window in the tower of Barad-dur though.
Also I want to personally thank anyone who has taken the time to read my post/essay on Sauron. I realize that due to the length, it is difficult for some to make it through the whole thing, but again, I found it necessary in order to offer the most comprehensive, and accurate information possible. However, I do greatly appreciate others taking the time to read it, as I spent alot of time researching the matter, and greatly hoped that my post could be of value to someone other than myself.