Part 1: Origin of Sauron, The Dark Lord
Reading Tolkien’s novels in order to decipher the origins of his characters is like trying to trying to juggle while learning astrophysics. Unlike most novels, his books require a lot more attention, research and all round dedication.
In order to aid those of you, who unlike me, have actual stuff to do other than spending your Saturday nights cracking open the Silmarillion, I will be providing you with a series of blogs dedicated to the origin stories of some of your favourite LOTR characters.
Okay, so, put on your big boy pants, grab a notebook and let’s get on with it!
Sauron is the main adversary of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and is also identified as the necromancer, in The Hobbit, Tolkien's earlier novel. In Tolkien's The Silmarillion, Sauron is also described as the Chief Lieutenant of the first Dark Lord, Morgoth.
Okay, so who was Morgoth?
The Ainulindalë, or The Cosmological Myth, which is the first part of The Silmarillion, explains how the Supreme Being of the Universe, Eru began the process of creation by bringing into ‘being’ or ‘life’ countless ‘spirits’, also referred to as "the offspring of his thought", who were with him before anything else was made.
In the terminology of Tolkien's invented language of Quenya, these angelic spirits were called Ainur. Fifteen of the Ainur (including Melkor) who later entered the physical world Arda were called Valar, which referenced the most powerful ones. Arda is the name given to the land masses or continents which make up Middle Earth, and Aman is the name given to the oceans and seas. Together both Arda and Aman are a part of the greater Universe which is called Eä.
Lesser beings who thereafter entered Eä, of whom Sauron was one, were called Maiar (Gandalf was a Maiar as well, however on a much lower level, b-t-dubs)
Rebellion against the order of Eru initially began with the Valar named Melkor (who would later be called Morgoth after turning to darkness).
The beginning of the physical world…
Eru let his spirit-children perform Music, with Eru himself developing a theme. For a while the cosmic choir of Ainur (angelic spirits in case you forgot) made wondrous music, however Melkor eventually tried to increase his own glory by weaving into his song thoughts and ideas that were not in accordance with original theme of Eru.
The disharmony Melkor created had dire consequences later on, as this singing was to act as a template for creation of the physical world. Tolkien had said that the evils of the world were not in the original theme of Eru but was brought into the world through Melkor’s disruption.
The comic music which served as a template for the world, now represented the conflict between good and evil. Eventually, Eru brought the Song of Creation to an end and, to show the spirits, faithful or otherwise (hint, hint, Melkor), what they had done, Eru gave life to the flawed Music. This resulted in the manifestation of the physical world or Universe, known as Eä, where the performance of good and evil would play out and eventually be resolved.
Building the world…
Entering Eä (the world) at the beginning of time, the Valar (most powerful spirits) accompanied by the Maiar (lesser spirits) tried to build and organize the world according to the will of Eru. Each Maiar was associated with one of the powerful Valar whom they served, and in this case, Sauron served under Aulë the Smith, the great craftsman of the Valar. Due to this apprenticeship, Sauron came to possess great knowledge of the physical aspects of the world, and developed skills in forging, and other manners of craftsmanship (these skills would ultimately aid in his creation of The One Ring)
Melkor (Morgoth) often opposed the other Valar, who were still faithful to Eru and carried out the Creator's designs.
Within the larger universe, the Valar eventually focused on developing the world of Arda (Middle Earth). Around this time, Sauron, who up until this point has been faithful to Eru, started to be corrupted by Melkor.
The reason for this corruption of Sauron…
Tolkien has stated that Sauron was ensnarled by Melkor because "it had been his virtue (and therefore also the cause of his fall) that he loved order and coordination, and disliked all confusion and wasteful friction". Therefore "it was the apparent will and power of Melkor to effect his designs quickly and masterfully that had first attracted Sauron to him" and would eventually lead to Sauron becoming Melkor’s follower.
Sauron thereafter joined his new master in Middle-earth, where he proved to be a devoted and capable servant. At this point in time, Sauron did not seek supremacy for himself, like he does later on, but for Melkor.
A depiction of Sauron and his master Melkor.
In the beginning of his corruption, Sauron kept up the appearance of being faithful to the Valar, which allowed him to feed Melkor information about the Valar’s doings. Therefore, when the Valar made Almaren, their first physical home in the world, Eä, "Melkor knew of all that was done; “for even then he had secret friends and spies among the Maiar whom he had converted to his cause, and of these the chief, as after became known, was Sauron.”
Melkor therefore subsequently destroyed Almaren, and the Valar had to establish a new dwelling, which would become known as the Blessed Realm of Valinor. The Valar were still unaware that Sauron had changed loyalties, so he was also considered "a being of Valinor”
Eventually, Sauron left the Blessed Realm and went to Middle-earth, to one of the central continents of Arda, where Melkor had established his stronghold.
The rise of Sauron as Morgoth’s Lieutenant…
In chapter three of The Silmarillion, Tolkien writes that by the time the Elves came into existence in the world, Sauron had become Morgoth's (previously referred to as Melkor) lieutenant and was given command over the Melkor’s newly built stronghold of Angband. To protect the Elves from the vicious Melkor, the Valar went to war with Melkor and eventually apprehended him, but they failed at finding Sauron who had escaped to Middle-earth, where he began the breeding of Orcs in preparation for the return of his master.
After some time, in the Blessed Realm, Melkor pretended to reform to the Valar, and eventually escaped back to Middle-earth, having stolen the Silmarils of Fëanor, which were three brilliant jewels considered "the most renowned of all the works of the Elves"
After Morgoth’s escape, the Noldorin Elves discovered his thievery, and left the Blessed Realm of Valinor against the counsel of the Valar, to wage war on Morgoth.
In that war, Sauron served as Morgoth's chief lieutenant, surpassing all others in rank, such as Gothmog, the Lord of Balrogs. Referred to as Gorthaur the Cruel, Sauron was at that time a master of illusions and shapeshifting and werewolves and vampires were his loyal servants, chief among them Draugluin, Father of Werewolves.
During the war, Morgoth left Angband to corrupt the newly discovered Men, which left Sauron to direct the war against the Elves. He conquered the Elvish island of Tol Sirion and its watchtower Minas Tirith, so that it became known as Tol-in-Gaurhoth or “the Isle of Werewolves”
Following the voyage of Eärendil the Mariner (who is said in the Silmarillion, to carry the morning star across the sky), to the Blessed Realm, the Valar finally moved against Morgoth. In the resulting War of Wrath, the Dark Lord Morgoth was defeated and cast into the Outer Void beyond the world. But "Sauron fled from the Great Battle and escaped".
This thus laid the groundwork for Sauron, who would later imitate Morgoth and become a Dark Lord himself, in the Second and Third Age.