Thesis on Morgoth and Sauron and their roles as Dark Lords (Part 1/4)
For my Tolkien project, I decided I was going to explore the dynamics of Morgoth and Sauron and see if I could make an estimate as to whether or not one was more effective as dark lord than the other. I did this in regard as I would not be able to debate whether or not one was more powerful (seeing as the Valar are higher beings then the Maiar, and seeing that Melkor was the eldest, he of course is indisputably stronger than Sauron).
However, just because you’re more powerful doesn’t always mean you’re more effective. We see this all throughout history in examples where generals themselves might not be very capable in battle but are able to gain mastery by being clever strategist. Therefore that inspired me to research if one could argue whether or not Morgoth or Sauron came closer to accomplishing their goal—dominion over Middle Earth (or Beleriand).
I did this by looking at a few key characteristics—longevity of rule (but more importantly, what was achieved), servants (those who served under them and attributed to their victories), their primary enemies (or the state of those they fought against), as well as their defeat (and what caused the finale fall). Then I concluded with their legacy and the impact they have throughout the legendarium.
- I am not at all an expert, just a very passionate individual in Tolkien’s lore. Therefore some of what is stated throughout this essay may be based upon faulted research and weighed heavily by personal interpretation and opinion. So please do keep such in mind. Most of the information here was found within The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Unfinished Tales, as well as Tolkien Gateway and Wikipedia.
Longevity of rule
- Important note to make here. Just because you are in power for a long majority of time doesn’t necessarily mean you used that time wisely. I’m sure most of us are very familiar with procrastination. Therefore I did not look simply at length of ‘reign’, but more so the accomplishments (and losses) experienced throughout the span of their rule.
Approximately 590 years (Years of the Sun)
- Melkor is incredibly hard to estimate the exact length of time he was in power. This is because the majority of the Valian Years are left without date. The first primary experience of time is with the Years of the Trees, but even then how time is recorded will be drastically different when the Valar raise the sun and the moon
- Therefore it is often argued as to whether or not the First Age is the longest or shortest of ages. If you try to make an assumption over the span of the Valian Years and couple it with the First Age, you are left with it being nearly 50,000 years in length. However, if you are to attribute the First Age with the rising of the sun to the defeat of Morgoth, it is around 590 years.
- I took liberties here and for the sake of sanity, decided to account the beginning of Morgoth’s dominion in Beleriand being with the awakening of man and therefore the rising of the sun, equaling more so to the 590 years it would take until he is defeated. However, anyone can argue that his reign could be anywhere between 50,000 to 590 years, give or take a few.
Approximately 6,462 years (Second to Third Age)
- Sauron is easier to calculate in terms of authority than Melkor, seeing as recorded dates were more of a thing when he was around. However, it is still slightly difficult, as Sauron’s reign tended to act like that of a heartbeat; having its occasional rises and falls. Therefore to give one total of years in power is a little vaguer, seeing as he came and went throughout the second and third ages.
- However, he was still present in Middle Earth for around 6,462 years (from the start of the second age to his eventual fall in the third age). Therefore that is the timeline I am going to associate with his rule. You could deduct 500 years, seeing as it wasn’t until S.A. 500 he began to rise in might in Middle Earth following the end of the First Age. You could also deduct years from the duration of his defeat in the Battle of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men as well as the time spent as being the Necromancer in The Hobbit.
- But as I did so with Morgoth, I decided to take some liberties and simply to go with the start of the Second Age to his fall in the Third, seeing as he was still a threat for 6,462 years. However, this to can be reasonably debated and argued.
Accomplishments and Losses
- Like stated, longevity doesn’t accredit to a successful reign. Therefore it is important to understand what each individual did in the time that they were given. However, it is also important to note: Just because you accomplished a lot, didn’t mean these accomplishments had long lasting effects or were of any significance in the long run. Losses themselves may even outweigh what was accomplished in terms of being effective or attributing to the finale victory.
- Destruction of Arda (V.Y. Unknown): Known also as the First War. Melkor assaults his brethren and disrupts the ordered symmetry they seek to build within Arda, causing cataclysmic events and shaping much of the geography
- Destruction of the Two Lamps (Y.L. 3450): Melkor destroys the two lamps, ending the Spring of Arda
- Destruction of the Two Trees (Y.T. 4995): Known also as the ‘Darkening of Valinor’ Manwe hosts a festival in Valimar to heal the feud of the Noldor. Melkor and Ungoliant destroy the Two Trees.
- Capturing of the Silmarils (Y.T. 4995): Morgoth assaults and kills High King Finwe and steals the Silmarils. Feanor becomes High King and his sons swear an oath against Melkor and he is renamed Morgoth. The Noldor depart from Valinor, and the First Kinslaying occurs with the slaughtering of the Teleri and the sieging of their ships
- Doom of Mandos (Y.T. 4996): Noldor are banished from Valinor and face great doom
- Fall of Man (F.A. 60-c. 200): Morgoth is absent from Angband, after discovering Men. Persuaded by Melkor, Men stop worshiping Eru and turn to evil but some revolt. According to legend, Men now lose the gift to die at will as the result of divine punishment, and are doomed to lead short-life spans at the end of which death takes them by force.
- Curse of the House of Hador (F.A. 472-500): Morgoth chained Húrin to a chair on the slopes of Thangorodrim for not revealing the location of Gondolin, and from there– through Morgoth’s sorcery– he could watch the tragedies that would befall his family and the curse destroy his children, Nienor and Túrin.
- Fall of Gondolin (F.A. 510): Gondolin, the Great Hidden City of Turgon and the Noldor, was betrayed by Maeglin and sacked by Morgoth’s forces. Resulted in the deaths of Turgon and the Lords Glorfindel and Echelion, but the defeat of Gothmog as well. Tuor and Idril escape.
- Many of Morgoth’s accomplishments were ineffective in the longevity of Middle Earth. While Morgoth became close to victory after the Fall of Gondolin, much of what he achieved was often worked around.
- When Melkor raised Arda, the Valar rebuilt it, when the lamps were destroyed, the Valar built the Trees, when the trees were destroyed, the Valar raised the sun and the moon. When the silmarils were stolen, only Feanor and his sons rallied an oath against him and such resulted in their own doom.
- Morgoth’s curse and the fall of Hador had little impact in Morgoth’s overall goal of conquest. It was very much an issue of personal spite and achieved only the demise of one household.
- However, the Fall of Man and Gondolin could very well be considered long lasting achievements. Men wouldn’t be restored until Numenor, and even then only a selected were given the longevity of lives. Gondolin allowed for Morgoth to draw close to a finale victory and was, in all terms; a success.
- Therefore, only two of his eight achievements supported his overall goal.
- Intimidation of Tulkas (Y.L. 1500): Tulkas arrives, the last of the Valar to descend into Arda. Melkor flees from him and hides in the halls of Ea
- Siege of Utumno (Y.T. 4590): The Valar march to war against Melkor on behalf of the Elves and lay siege to Utumno in 4592. Known as the War of the Powers
- Chaining of Angainor (Y.T. 4599-900): Melkor is captured, and bound in the great chain Angainor, Utumno is destroyed. Melkor is taken to Valinor in chains and sentenced to serve a term in the Halls of Mandos for three ages and then later freed from his sentence by Manwe.
- Betrayal of Ungoliant (Y.T. 4995?): Melkor withheld the Silmarils in his right hand, having desired them too greatly to allow the Great Spider to devour them. In response, an enraged Ungoliant wrapped Melkor in her webs, and poised to devour him as punishment for his perceived betrayal. Having grown far larger and stronger than before by absorbing the light of the Two Trees, the Gloomweaver would have killed Melkor had not his cry of desperation been heard by his Balrogs, who took flight and saved their master
- Siege of Angband (F.A. 60-455): Battle of Dagor Aglareb, the Noldor defeat Morgoth’s forces and start the Siege of Angband. Known also as the “Long Peace” it lasted hundreds of years in the early expanse of the First Age when the Noldor sieged the fortress of Morgoth. It was a time of plentitude, peace and happiness for Elves and Men and was when the Noldor reached the peak of their power. However the siege was not complete and Morgoth was able to send out forces through secret passages from the towers of Thangorodrim.
- Battle of Fingolfin (F.A. 456): Fingolfin challenges Morgoth to single combat and is slain but cripples Morgoth in response for the remainder of the First Age.
- Quest of the Silmarils (F.A. 466): Beren and Luthien come to Angband and achieve the Quest of the Silmaril by gaining a silmaril from Morgoth’s iron crown. They return to Doriath but Carcharoth ravages the land.
- Slaying of Glaurung (F.A. 499): The first worm of Morgoth is slain by Túrin though later results in the death of he and his sister Nienor.
- War of Wrath (545-587): will be discussed in The Finale Defeat (stay tuned for section 4)
- Lieutenant of Angband (Y.T. 4599): Destruction of Utumno. Sauron escapes capture and remains in Angband, breeding orcs and trolls for Melkor
- Corruption of Tol-in-Gaurhoth (F.A. 455-465): Finrod’s fortress of Minas Tirith is taken by the forces of Sauron; Tol Sirion is renamed Tol-in-Gaurhoth, “Isle of Werewolves”. Beren sets out for the Quest of the Silmaril. Receives the aid of Finrod Felagund. Here they are imprisoned in Tol-In-Gaurhoth following the duel or duelet of Finrod and Sauron. Finrod is slain by a werewolf but Beren is rescued by Luthien.
- Creating the Rings of Power (S.A. 1200-1600): Sauron seduces and deceives the Noldor in Eregion in the guise of Annatar but Gil-Galad and Galadriel mistrust him. The Noldor under Celebrimbor are instructed by Sauron, and begin forging the Rings of Power. Sauron forges the One-Ring in secret and completes the building of his fortress Barad-dur. Celebrimbor begins fighting Sauron
- Fall of Eregion (S.A. 1697): Eregion destroyed ending one of the last great elven strongholds in Middle Earth and Celebrimbor is slain, thus ending the line of Feanor. The doors of Moria are shut and Elrond establishes Rivendell in secret.
- Fall of Númenor (S.A. 3255-3319): Ar-Pharazorn the Golden weds his first cousin Miriel, and seizes the throne of Numenor. Ar-Pharazorn sails to Middle Earth and takes Sauron captive. Sauron is taken prisoner to Numenor but begins corrupting the Numenoreans and becomes court advisor to Ar-Pharazorn. Sauron establishes himself as High Priest of Melkor, the Faithful are openly persecuted and sacrificed to Morgoth. Ar-Pharazorn sets foot on Aman.
- Atheism in Númenor (S.A. 3300): Sauron convinces the Numenoreans that Eru was a lie created by the Valar to keep the children of Arda complicit. Melkor was then the giver of freedom, for he wished to empower man and not chain them as the Valar desire. Atheism = a disbelief in Eru as the Valar were not true ‘gods’
- Recovery of the One-Ring (S.A. 3320): Gondor founded, Sauron returns to Mordor.
- Sauron’s accomplishments were dramatically more long lasting within the longevity of Middle Earth then that of Morgoth.
- The creating of the Rings of Power would continue to cause numerous incidents of greed, war and temptation, lasting well into the Third Age until his finale defeat. Those that wore the rings were bound to them and twisted into creatures called Ringwraiths, whose fates would forever be depended upon them. Those that possessed the One-Ring would find themselves becoming mad on its power and some even had to take leave to Valinor in a hopes to recover from its taint
- Eregion was considered one of the last great elven kingdoms in Middle Earth, alike to the glory of those in the First Age. Upon its fall, nothing of similar power would be created by the elves in Middle Earth beyond those of pocket realms held by lords and ladies.
- Much of the same, Numenor was considered to be the greatest kingdom of man and nothing in its likeness would be found in Middle Earth again. Upon its fall, Valinor was removed from the earth and Arda itself became round and foreign.
- Lastly the recovery of the One-Ring allowed for Sauron to grow in malice and might once more, and he would return twice again to lay siege to Middle Earth.
- Therefore five of his seven accomplishments attributed to his succession towards domination and the former two allowed for Sauron to gain much needed experience before allowing his aggression to stretch outward.
- Humiliation of Huan (F.A. 465): Sauron takes the guise of a great wolf and attempts to overpower the hound Huan. However, he is gravely wounded and his forms stripped of him and he flees in the disguise of a bat and is not seen for the remainder of the First Age. This allows for Beren and Luthien to succeed in the Quest of the Silmarils (see Melkor’s Losses)
- Rejection of Eönwë (F.A. 590?): After the War of Wrath, Sauron adopted a fair form and repented of his evil deeds in fear of the Valar. Eonwe then ordered Sauron to return to Valinor to receive judgement by Manwe. Sauron was not willing to suffer such humiliation and fled and hid himself in Middle Earth.
- Forging of the Three Rings (S.A. 1590- T.A. 3021): Celebrimbor forges the Three Rings in secret. Would later be possessed by Elrond, Cirdan/Gandalf, and Galadriel. Known also as Narya (Ring of Fire), Nenya (Ring ofWater) and Vilya (Ring of Air)– preserved the beauty of Elven lands and would ward off Sauron’s power and influence throughout his return in the Third Age.
- Minastir’s Navy (S.A.1700): Tar-Minastir (11th King of Numenor) sends a great navy to Lindon. Sauron is defeated and his forces retreat from the coasts of Middle Earth.
- Fruit of Nimloth (S.A. 3280): The White Tree of Gondor is said to be tied into the fates of men and should it be burned or destroyed, their empires shall fall. Isildur steals a fruit from Nimloth, the white tree is burn in Sauron’s temple thereafter. Later given to Aragorn and replanted in the Third Age following Sauron’s defeat.
- Drowning of Númenor (S.A. 3319): Ar-Pharazorn sets foot on Aman; the World is Changed. Aman and Tol Eressea are removed from Arda. Numenor is drowned and the world is made round. Elendil and his sons arrive on the shores of middle earth. Sauron is removed of his fair form.
- the Last Alliance of Elves and Men (S.A. 3441): Elendil and Gil-Galad face Sauron in hand to hand combat. But they perish, though Isildur takes the shards of his father’s sword Narsil and cuts the One-Ring from Sauron’s finger. Sauron’s physical form is destroyed and Barad-dur is razed to the ground. Many elves depart to Valinor thereafter.
- The Fellowship of the Ring (T.A. 3018-19): will be discussed in The Finale Defeat (stay tuned for section 4)
- This is not at all a professional essay and therefore it may be founded upon faulted information and heavily weighed by personal opinion. However, in concerns of longevity of rule but more importantly, of accomplishments; Sauron succeeded more towards his goal of dominating Middle Earth and the free people found within. His achievements possessed greater impacts in the longevity of Middle Earth. For more on Sauron in the Third Age, please wait for section 4 which will discuss The Finale Defeat.