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Who came before Sauron?

Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth legendarium, was a pivotal figure in the events of The Lord of the Rings. However, Sauron did not simply appear out of nowhere – he had a long history dating back to the First Age of Middle-earth.


Before there was Sauron, there was Morgoth, also known as Melkor. Morgoth was the first Dark Lord, who rebelled against the deity Eru Ilúvatar and sought to corrupt Arda (the world) in the earliest days of its existence. Originally the most powerful of the Ainur spirits created by Ilúvatar, Morgoth turned to evil and tried to dominate all of Arda for himself.

Morgoth poured his power into the world in his efforts to reshape it and seed it with malice and destruction. During the First Age, he ruled as the evil god-king of Angband in the far north of Middle-earth. From Angband, he commanded armies of Orcs and other fell creatures, making war on the Elves and Men.

Sauron’s Beginnings

Sauron began his existence as a Maia spirit named Mairon. The Maia were lesser divine beings that descended into Arda to help shape the world. Mairon was associated with the smith and craftsman Vala (god) named Aulë. As a Maia spirit, Mairon would have helped Aulë in his tasks and responsibilities.

However, Mairon was ultimately corrupted by Morgoth and became his chief lieutenant and most trusted servant. Drawn by Morgoth’s power, Mairon joined him in Angband during the First Age. He proved himself highly skilled in deception and domination. For this reason, Morgoth rewarded him with command of the fortress of Angband when Morgoth was away or engaged in other parts of the war for Middle-earth.

It was during this time in the First Age that Mairon took on the new name of Sauron, the Abhorred Dread in the Elvish language. Under Morgoth, Sauron became a great sorcerer and helped orchestrate the demise and destruction of much that was good in Middle-earth.

Key Events

Some key events involving Sauron under the service of Morgoth in the First Age include:

  • He conquered the Elven island stronghold of Tol Sirion and renamed it Tol-in-Gaurhoth, the Isle of Werewolves.
  • He assumed the title the Lord of Werewolves there, breeding werewolves and vampires.
  • He captured the Elf lord Finrod Felagund and killed him in a duel of songs/magic.
  • He may have helped breed the first Orcs by corrupting captured Elves.
  • He killed the Elf king Fingon during the Nirnaeth Arnoediad battle.
  • He helped guide and direct attacks that led to the destruction of the kingdoms of Dorthonion, Nargothrond, and Gondolin.

Sauron’s evil cunning and sorcery made him Morgoth’s most dangerous servant. He was utterly loyal and devoted to Morgoth’s cause. Morgoth in turn rewarded him with great power and autonomy.

After Morgoth’s Defeat

At the end of the First Age, the exiled Noldorin Elves and the Men of the Edain banded together to defeat Morgoth in the War of Wrath. Morgoth was utterly defeated after a terrible battle and cast into the Void outside of the world.

With Morgoth gone, Sauron was left bereft of his master. However, unlike other Maiar spirits like the Balrogs, Sauron did not perish with his fallen lord. He had become powerful in his own right after long years of service under Morgoth.

Now Sauron repented of his evil briefly and went into hiding. But he could not remain good for long. His desire for control and order was still strong, and he longed for dominion over Middle-earth. He soon emerged again as a Dark Lord in his own right.

The Second Age

During the Second Age of Middle-earth, Sauron established his power base in the land of Mordor. He built the Dark Tower of Barad-dûr near Mount Doom and assembled armies of Orcs, Trolls, and evil Men.

In this age, Sauron tricked the Elves into helping him forge the Rings of Power. Though he intended the One Ring to control the others, the Elves detected his plan and refused to wear them. However, he succeeded in distributing the other Rings and ruling over the Men who accepted them.

Sauron attempted to conquer all of Middle-earth and Bring other races under his dominion. There were major wars between Sauron and the Elves over control of the rings. His enemy in this age was the Númenórean king named Ar-Pharazôn. Sauron’s armies were so strong that Ar-Pharazôn was forced to humble himself and offer Sauron passage to Númenor as a prisoner.

But Sauron soon became a trusted advisor to Ar-Pharazôn and corrupted Númenor from within. He convinced the king to worship Morgoth and persecute those still faithful to the Valar. As a result, Númenor was destroyed by Eru Ilúvatar.

Sauron’s physical form was destroyed in this cataclysm, but his spirit endured and returned to Mordor. There he slowly rebuilt his strength for the coming War of the Ring against the Free Peoples of Middle-earth.

The Third Age

The Third Age saw Sauron halted in his rise to domination by the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. Their forces defeated Sauron after a long siege, and Isildur cut the One Ring from Sauron’s hand, destroying his physical form.

Though diminished, Sauron’s spirit endured within the Ring and began to rebuild power in Mordor. Over many centuries, he stretched out his will to corrupt the creatures of Middle-earth and reunite the Ring under his control.

The wizard Gandalf grew concerned about Sauron’s return. Around the year TA 2460, Sauron established himself in the fortress of Dol Guldur in Mirkwood under the guise of the Necromancer. Gandalf confirmed the Necromancer was Sauron returned by TA 2850. The White Council consisting of Saruman, Galadriel, Elrond, and Gandalf drove Sauron from Dol Guldur in TA 2941.

Sauron ultimately returned to Mordor and initiated the War of the Ring in TA 3018. After long years of plotting, he sought the One Ring carried by the hobbit Frodo Baggins. Sauron was permanently defeated when the Ring was unmade in the fires of Mount Doom.


Sauron had a long history stretching across three ages of Middle-earth. He began as a divine Maia spirit, but was corrupted by Morgoth to become his chief lieutenant in the First Age. After Morgoth was defeated, Sauron eventually revealed his own ambitions for power. As a cunning Dark Lord and Ring-maker, he caused tremendous suffering, war, and environmental destruction in his efforts to conquer Middle-earth.

Though Sauron was feared as the Shadow and Great Enemy, he was not an ultimate source of evil in Middle-earth. He himself had been deceived and corrupted long ago by the rebellious Vala Morgoth. Both dark lords sowed chaos and malice through the world Arda, marring it from its original divine design. But in the Third Age, the Free Peoples of Middle-earth were able to unite against Sauron and permanently remove his evil influence from the world.