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Was there a Dark Lord after Sauron?

The Dark Lord Sauron is one of the most infamous villains in fantasy literature. As the primary antagonist in J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendary Middle-earth novels, Sauron sought to conquer all of Middle-earth and cover the lands in darkness. His power was absolute until his One Ring was cut from his hand, leading to his defeat at the end of the Third Age.

But what happened after Sauron’s downfall? Was there another Dark Lord that rose up to take his place and threaten Middle-earth? This is an intriguing question for Tolkien fans that delves into the complex lore of Middle-earth after the War of the Ring.

Brief History of Sauron and the Rings of Power

To understand the power vacuum left after Sauron’s defeat, it is important to know some key history about the Dark Lord:

  • Sauron was a Maia, an angelic being who served the Vala Morgoth during the First Age.
  • After Morgoth’s defeat, Sauron repented and initially seemed to turn to good. But he secretly desired power for himself.
  • In the Second Age, Sauron forged the One Ring in Mount Doom to control the other Rings of Power and establish dominion over Middle-earth.
  • He waged war against the Elves and the island kingdom of Númenor, leading to great destruction before Númenor sank under the sea.
  • Towards the end of the Second Age, the Last Alliance of Elves and Men defeated Sauron and Isildur cut the One Ring from his hand, diminishing his power.
  • But the One Ring was not destroyed. Sauron eventually regained strength and rose again in the Third Age, regaining possession of the One Ring.
  • His growing power led to open war, culminating in his final defeat when the One Ring was destroyed in Mount Doom at the end of the Third Age.

Sauron’s power originated from the Rings of Power and the mastery they granted him over the other ring-bearers. With the One Ring destroyed, Sauron was utterly defeated and his threat eliminated from Middle-earth.

The Nature of Dark Lords in Tolkien’s Writings

In Tolkien’s fictional world, Dark Lords like Morgoth and Sauron are unique. They are immensely powerful angelic beings from the earliest days of the world who turned evil and sought to conquer and corrupt all of Middle-earth according to their own sinister designs.

Other villains may arise, but none have the same cosmic origin, immortality, and peerless power of these two Dark Lords. They belong to an earlier, mythic age of Middle-earth’s history. Defeating them required epic effort, sacrifice, and the undoing of their mystical artifacts (the Silmarils for Morgoth, the One Ring for Sauron).


Melkor was the first Dark Lord of Tolkien’s world. The most powerful of the Valar spirits, he rebelled against his creator Eru Ilúvatar and sought to twist the shared labors of the Valar into his own dark visions. He was later named Morgoth, meaning “Dark Enemy.”

Morgoth contaminated the world of Arda with his evil. He created twisted, corrupted beings like Orcs, Dragons, and Balrogs to serve him. He also implanted his own dark, rebellious nature into the matter of Arda itself, so his evil could never be wholly removed from the world.


Sauron was originally a Maia spirit in service to Morgoth. After his master’s defeat, Sauron repented and went to the Elves of Eregion in a fair form, calling himself Annatar and gifting them knowledge. But in secret he forged the Rings of Power to control the other races. His One Ring gave him power over all the others.

While extremely powerful, Sauron was not as mighty as Morgoth had been during the First Age. But he followed a similar pattern of corruption, deception, and desire for control. His evil power was concentrated in the One Ring, which contained much of his innate power and allowed him to dominate others.

What Happened after Sauron’s Defeat?

With Sauron defeated and the One Ring destroyed, the Third Age ended and the Fourth Age began. This marked a massive change in Middle-earth.

The power of the Three Elven Rings faded with the One Ring’s destruction, and the last of the great Elf kingdoms departed Middle-earth. The High Elves sailed across the sea to the Undying Lands of Valinor. Without Sauron or the Rings, the Age of Elves was over.

Men became the new dominant people in Middle-earth. The Reunited Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor was restored under King Elessar (Aragorn). Peace was brought to the lands, and King Elessar ruled into the Fourth Age.

But Middle-earth was still tainted by Morgoth’s evil, which could not be wholly removed. Darkness still existed, even without Sauron. The Fourth Age was a time of watchfulness and renewal, but evil was not erased.

Was There Another Dark Lord?

No Dark Lord as powerful as Morgoth or Sauron ever rose again in Middle-earth. However, the Fourth Age was not without dangers or evil beings:

  • Sauron had many servants who survived him and still caused trouble, like the Easterlings, Haradrim, and remnants of Orcs. But they lacked Sauron’s power or cosmic evil origins.
  • The dragons were almost gone from the world, but they were not tied to Sauron’s power and remained threats.
  • The Balrogs had all perished by the end of the First Age, but some evil creatures like trolls still roamed Middle-earth.
  • Some of Sauron and Morgoth’s corruption lingered, leading wicked beings to do evil in the Fourth Age.

But there is no record in Tolkien’s writings of a singular Dark Lord arising in the mold of Morgoth or Sauron after the end of the Third Age. Those kinds of cosmic-level evils belonged to earlier ages of Middle-earth’s history.

Could Another Dark Lord Have Arisen?

While no new Dark Lord controlling the scale of Middle-earth arose after Sauron, Tolkien’s writings hint that evil could regain strength over long ages of time. A few key points:

  • Morgoth’s evil was not completely removed from Arda – it continued to exist at some level independent of Sauron.
  • The Fourth Age was intended as a watchful time, implying dangers could return.
  • In a letter, Tolkien said others could make Rings of Power again in the Fourth Age if knowledge was regained.
  • In The Hobbit, Gandalf states a shadow could grow again in the East without the vigilance of free peoples.

So while no new Dark Lord immediately seized power, Tolkien likely believed that over long ages, evil could regain enough strength to threaten Middle-earth again if it was not guarded against. The cosmology of his world contained an ongoing struggle between good and evil.

The Role of Men in the Fourth Age

Why did Men come to prominence after Sauron’s fall? A few key reasons:

  • The diminishing of the Elves. With the One Ring gone, the Three Rings faded and the Elves began departing Middle-earth.
  • Reward of Men’s sacrifices. Men bore the brunt of the war against Sauron and fulfilled their destiny by defeating him.
  • A new hope in Men. With Aragorn’s reign, Men were finally regaining their former greatness and proving their worth.
  • To confront evil. Tolkien saw Men as ultimately responsible for confronting evil in the world, taking up the struggle when Elves departed.

King Elessar and his descendants were intended to lead Middle-earth in rebuilding, healing, and defending against any re-emerging evils in the Fourth Age and beyond. Men had an important role guarding against the re-emergence of darkness.

The Reign of King Elessar

Aragorn became King Elessar and brought peace and renewal to Middle-earth. He:

  • Reunited the kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor, ruling over both from Minas Tirith.
  • Married Arwen Undómiel, daughter of Elrond, symbolizing union between Elves and Men.
  • Renewed old alliances, including with Éomer King of Rohan.
  • Brought prosperity through just rule, wisdom, and healing knowledge.
  • Restored Gondor’s former glory; Minas Tirith became exceptionally beautiful.
  • Ensured evil was unable to take root during his long reign.

King Elessar’s reign lasted 122 years, the longest of any Man. His line ruled Gondor far into the Fourth Age until its dominion faded away. Under his renewal and governance, no Dark Lord arose to threaten Middle-earth.

The Fate of Middle-earth’s Other Races

Middle-earth’s other main races saw shifting fates tied to Sauron’s defeat as well:


  • Most Elves dwelt in safe havens like the Grey Havens during the Fourth Age.
  • The last of the High Elves traveled to the Undying Lands across the sea.
  • Elven realms like Lothlórien faded and the remaining Elves eventually diminished.
  • The last Elf in Middle-earth was Legolas, who built a ship and sailed West after Elessar’s death.


  • Dwarves returned to Moria for a time and it became a prosperous kingdom again.
  • Erebor also prospered under King Dáin II Ironfoot for many years after the War of the Ring.
  • Over the Fourth Age, Dwarves gradually waned in numbers but never fully died out.


  • The Shire flourished as an idyllic, peaceful realm of Hobbits.
  • Samwise Gamgee was elected Mayor of the Shire for seven consecutive terms.
  • Hobbits remained somewhat isolated from the affairs of the rest of Middle-earth.
  • Eventually the Shire diminished in the Fourth Age but was not forgotten.

The different races all gradually waned from Middle-earth over the Fourth Age. But evil did not rise to replace them, thanks to the sacrifices made to defeat Sauron.

What Do Tolkien’s Writings Reveal?

Some key insights about the Fourth Age and thepossibility of new Dark Lords from Tolkien’s writings:

The Lord of the Rings

  • Ends with Sauron’s destruction, fall of Barad-dûr, and beginning of Fourth Age.
  • Hints at potential future trouble if vigilance is not maintained against residual evil.
  • Epilogue shows Aragorn’s reign and presence of evil beings like Orcs.

Appendices to The Lord of the Rings

  • Describe Aragorn ruling to advanced old age, restoring Gondor’s glory.
  • Note that others could make Rings of Power again, if knowledge reawoke.
  • State that after Aragorn’s death, dominion of Gondor faded away.


  • State evil could grow again if not guarded against.
  • Suggest only Gandalf could wield the One Ring, hinting no new Dark Lord could rival Sauron.
  • Indicate the Fourth Age would last about 100 generations of Men.

Tolkien clearly did not conceive of any Dark Lord equal to Morgoth or Sauron arising again. But he leaves open the possibility that new evils could grow in the future if the Free Peoples became complacent and neglected their vigilance.

Significance of Aragorn’s Reign

Why was Aragorn’s reign as King Elessar so significant?

  • Brought peace and stability to Middle-earth in the early Fourth Age.
  • Renewed old alliances between Elves, Men, and Dwarves.
  • Reclaimed and restored the lost glory of Gondor and Arnor.
  • Allowed different races time to fade in their own ways rather than through war.
  • Ensured no Dark Lord could rise during his long rule.
  • Gave Men the chance to prove their worth as leaders of Middle-earth.

Aragorn’s reign was a key transitional period after Sauron’s fall and allowed the Fourth Age to begin with hope rather than descending back into evil. His longevity secured many years of watchfulness and prevented the rise of any new great evil power.


In summary, while no Dark Lord equal to Morgoth or Sauron arose after the end of the Third Age, Tolkien does not rule out evil’s potential to grow strong once more in the distant future of Middle-earth.

The Fourth Age and reign of King Elessar were intended as a reprieve from evil. But darkness was not erased fully from the world. Tolkien’s writings suggest the possibility of evil rising again if Free Peoples became complacent and failed to protect what they had achieved.

However, this was a distant concern for the Fourth Age. No singular Dark Lord took shape after Sauron’s final defeat. The vigilance of Men prevented evil’s resurgence and secured a lengthy period of stability, recovery, and eventual fading of the remaining Elves and Dwarves. But in Tolkien’s cosmology, the struggle between darkness and light was perpetual, and the possibility of evil’s return loomed if guardianship ever faltered.