The Downfall of Sauron

Gollum falls into the Fire clutching the Ring to his heart and in the confusion that follows Sam is able to carry Frodo to the threshold of the Sammath Naur, the Cracks of Doom, and there he gazes upon the fall of Sauron in wonder and terror.

“A brief vision he had of swirling cloud, and in the midst of it towers and battlements, tall as hills, founded upon a mighty mountain-throne above immeasurable pits; great courts and dungeons, eyeless prisons sheer as cliffs, and gaping gates of steel and adamant: and then all passed.”

And then all passed.

All the might of the Dark Lord, painstakingly constructed throughout the ages, ever since he first pledged his loyalty to Morgoth, all passes in a moment. Unlike his enemies of the West whose decline has been long but slow Sauron’s passing happens almost in the blink of an eye. At one moment all his attention is given to the battle before the Black Gate and he eagerly, if anxiously, awaits the capture of the Ring and his final triumph over all his foes. Then comes the moment of realisation, fury and terror, as he perceives the Ring in the one place in which it can be destroyed. And then… all passed.

“There rose a huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, filling all the sky. Enormous it reared above the world, and stretched out towards them a vast threatening hand, terrible but impotent; for even as it leaned over them, a great wind took it, and it was all blown away, and passed; and then a hush fell.”

All the might that has held sway over ally, slave or foe for so long is simply blown away.

For the “shape of shadow” that the wind catches is all that Sauron has been and certainly all that he has been since the forging of the Rings of Power. For Sauron chose to create a thing that would be a complete expression of his power, “fraught with all his malice”, and by which he would be able to overcome and control all other peoples. Nine Rings he gave to Lords of Men, tempting them with dreams of power, and so they became the Nazgûl, the Ringwraiths. Seven Rings he gave to lords of the Dwarves, tempting them with dreams of wealth, and although they were able to resist his control nevertheless they were diminished in power. The Three Rings of the Elves were not made by him nor did he ever see or touch them and so they did much good in the world and yet they were still bound to the Ruling Ring either to be exposed to his gaze once he held the Ring once more or to pass away in  its destroying.

The Ring gave Sauron great might and yet it also made him vulnerable. He thought that his vulnerability lay in a mighty one siezing the Ring and using it against him. In actual fact it was the impossible deed, the destruction of the Ring, that was the greatest danger that he faced.

What Sauron shows us is the spiritual diminishment of someone who becomes entirely identified with the things that he makes. Fëanor becomes entirely identified with the Silmarils and binds his sons to them as well and in so doing causes untold harm. In a lesser manner Saruman the White falls from greatness both in his desire for the Ring and also in his obsession with the machinery that he creates.

But what of Ilúvatar, the Maker of all? Is not he the one most identified with all that he has made? Here we see the difference between the true and the false maker. The false maker creates in order to own and control. The true maker creates in order to make free, in order that all that the maker creates can be its true self and belong fully to itself, giving or withholding itself freely as it chooses. Sauron never permits this freedom and yet in enslaving others to himself he enslaves himself to the thing that he has made. In making himself great in his own pride through his creation Sauron diminishes himself to such a degree that when the thing that he has made is destroyed what he is most truly is revealed to be mere shadow that passes away.

16 thoughts on “The Downfall of Sauron

  1. Intruiged & encouraged by this thought – ” The false maker creates in order to own and control. The true maker creates in order to make free, in order that all that the maker creates can be its true self and belong fully to itself”.
    One of my fave posts so far. Thanks

  2. Sam’s vision here is in counterpoise with his earlier vision of the star, in which he saw that ‘in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing.’

    • And it is the sense of that “small and passing thing” that you get in reading the description of the description of Barad-dûr. And I could not resist the instant passage from “The Field of Cormallen” and the wind blowing Sauron away!

  3. It hadn’t hit me before how quickly Sauron’s vast, overpowering presence and power just goes poof! Of course, you see it and read it, but this post really makes you realize how fast it happened, one moment on top of the world, the next nothing but a shadow blown away. Gotta love it. That should show any megalomaniac how quickly downfalls are.

    Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie 🙂

    • I love your final sentence! Did you read Tom Hillman’s comment in which he reminded us of Sam’s moment of insight as he gazes upon the star in Mordor and realises that the Shadow is “only a small and passing thing”. What the dark lords do not know is that this is their true nature.
      God bless you 😊

    • Thank you so much for leaving your first comment on my blog. I am so glad that it meant so much to you. I find Tolkien’s work, and especially The Lord of the Rings, a deep source of spiritual nourishment and that has grown since I started writing the blog. I hope that you drop by another time.

  4. And another facet of this is that, when we place our hopes in and on earthly things, when they crumble, so do we unless we put our hope in the eternal. I keep trying to explain this to a young friend of mine. Every time I talk about how uncertain and ephemeral worldly things are, she thinks I am being morbid and grim. I insist that I am only being honest and realistic, and that hope has to be attached to eternal things, because mortal things, as wonderful as they can be, fail. Sauron, being utterly corrupt, not only pins his hope on a mortal thing, he pours so much of his power into it, that in its destruction, he falls.

    What do you make of “wind” blowing Sauron away? Wind that is symbolic of the great rival of Sauron’s master: Manwe… Manwe who is also the lord of the Eagles, who are present, here, at the end of Sauron?

    • I do not blame young people for finding eternity a difficult concept to grasp. But I know you are right. I remember my younger daughter’s response to my quoting Blake to her, “He who binds to himself a joy, does the winged life destroy; but he who kisses the joy as it flies lives in eternity’s sunrise.” It was a snarl more than a smile! But it’s true! One day she will get it!

      • Yes! Indeed! I don’t blame my friend, I merely worry for her. She’s already experienced, while still quite young, what it’s like to lose the most important people in her life. She had her two closest friends abandon her, and it threw her into a severe depression. She’s now hung her hopes on new people, and I am trying to gently prepare her for the fact that that, too, can and will fail, and that she needs to have the resources to deal with that loss as well. Of course she will understand one day. I just hope she isn’t deeply hurt again before learning to kiss the joy as it flies.

    • And lots of my readers have been commenting on Manwe! That has been a new insight for me. Surely it all starts at that beautiful moment when Ghan-buri-Ghan sniffs the air and a kind of smile crosses his face. In other words, I think you are right!

  5. Pingback: What the One Ring Does – Idiosophy

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