The Sauron Strategies: Footsteps into Failure – Michael Martinez’ J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle-earth

by Oct 22, 2001Other News

“The whole business with redistributing the stolen Rings of Power smacks of a poorly thought-out “Plan B”. Sauron did not quite know what to do. He needed more powerful servants through whom to conquer Middle-earth, but those servants did not present him with advantages over the Elves. In fact, although Sauron continued to attack the Elves throughout the next 1300 years or so, he never again mounted the kind of massive campaign against the Eldar that he had attempted in the war. Why?”
In the Second Age, Sauron proved to be flexible and resilient, but he consistently underestimated his enemies’ abilities and resources.

Here is an excerpt of Michael’s October 13th Suite101 article, which is the first of two examining Sauron’s strategies and objectives.

Sun Tzu points out the wisdom of the “divide and conquer” strategy, but he also advocated the use of massive, overwhelming, superior force whenever it was available. The art of war is indeed an art, for both sides in any given war have the potential to learn and adapt. One of the notable qualities of Middle-earth history is Sauron’s mutability. He alters his strategies.

In the First Age, Sauron was just one of several captains serving Morgoth. Sauron’s generalship is never really explored. We learn more about his cunning ability to ferret out enemies, and his willingness to engage in personal combat at considerable risk to himself. Morgoth, on the other hand, relies upon stealth and massive, overwhelming, superior numbers. It seems to be Morgoth’s perpetual weakness that he confuses numbers with force.

Of course, Morgoth pulled off a few major victories. In fact, he crushed the Eldarin civilization in Beleriand and reduced the Dwarves of Nogrod and Belegost to sideline players. But Morgoth missed the big picture. While he dithered around in the north with the Noldor, most of Middle-earth escaped his attention. The Valar took advantage of Morgoth’s intense interest in Beleriand and the Noldor to isolate him there and inflict the final defeat upon him.

The outcome of the War of Wrath was that Morgoth was captured and his forces reduced to probably no more than a few vagabond groups of Orcs, Trolls, and Men. At most, only a handful of the corrupted Maiar probably escaped, and at least a couple of the winged dragons as well (since a breeding population of dragons survived into the Third Age and beyond). Of the Maiar, we can be sure that two were Sauron and the Balrog of Khazad-dum. The Balrog withdrew from all political entanglements for over five thousand years.

Sauron, on the other hand, was apparently apprehended. “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age” (published in The Silmarillion) tells us that Sauron “put on his fair hue again and did obeisance to Eonwe, the herald of Manwe, and abjured all of his evil deeds.” But Eonwe could not pardon Sauron, and instead commanded him to return to Valinor and await the judgement of Manwe. To that Sauron would not consent, and he remained in Middle-earth when Eonwe returned into the West.

For the next five or six hundred years, Sauron vanished from history. It is unlikely that Sauron “slept” in the sense that the Balrog seems to have curled up under a conveniently huge mountain and dreamed of past debaucheries for the next several thousand years. More likely, Sauron retreated into far eastern Middle-earth and there he could have done anything, such as plant a garden or found a monastery to teach ancient Elves, Dwarves, and Men the Way of Peace. Whatever he did, after a few hundred years Sauron realized he wasn’t going to accomplish much — or else that he could probably get away with doing whatever he wanted, so he launched a new initiative.

Sauron’s gradual emergence into the affairs of Middle-earth did not go unnoticed, and it may be that the catalyst for his return was the eastward migration of Sindar. Tolkien observed that, “seeing the desolation of the world, Sauron said in his heart that the Valar, having overthrown Morgoth, had again forgotten Middle-earth; and his pride grew apace.”

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