Keeping an Eye on Sauron – Keeping the Dark Lord in the shadows and out of sight.

by Sep 14, 2000Critical Viewpoints

An idea I’ve been wanting to get off of my chest ever since filming began on this adaptation and one which got stronger a short while ago. I’d like to make it clear that, while I have been an Eng Lit student, I am not a pedant and have an optimistic respect for all creative alterations which do not compromise the main strengths of a literary work.

Recently I heard reports concerning a suit of armour which was to appear in the films, supposedly to be worn by Sauron himself. It was described as bearing a poison ivy motif, with a helm resembling a horses skull.

I sincerely hope that this report is incorrect and that the armoured character mentioned is merely the Mouth of Sauron, representing the dark Lord himself under arms like a common soldier totally compromises his status as a foe. As Denethor says ‘he uses others as his weapons, as do all great lords, or why should I sit here in my tower and wait, and think, spending even my sons?’

Tolkien provides three vivid and complex linked symbols in which the power of Sauron is made evident:

The Eye of Sauron
The Eye: Almost omniscient symbol of mental strength and intuition far beyond the mortal. All seeing, all penetrating, like a dark sun,’ the wheel of fire’. An instrument of torture ‘the lidless eye’. Unavoidable, pitiless, Dreadful.

The Dark Tower according to Ain’t it Cool News
The Eye is housed in:

The Dark Tower: Evidence of Saurons domination of the physical world, literally an extension of Sauron himself, the nearest thing he has to a physical body, vast and menacing with the eye looking out at its head ‘iron crowned’. Like an organism, it devours people, those who pass the gates/ mouth of Barad Dur do not return. A monument to enslavement and darkness, boundless arrogance and bottomless cruelty. A Leviathan.

The One Ring
The foundation of the Tower is :

The Ring: A material work in which all the spiritual energy of Saurons soul is wrought as a product of craft. The keystone of Saurons existence and the existence of his empire on earth. A means to the spiritual and physical domination of everyone in Middle-earth, the Ring is a synthesis of the spiritual, intellectual and physical aspects of the dark power. ‘Sometimes I’ve felt it was like an eye, looking at me..’

There’s no way that these intensely visual images are not enough to fashion an enemy of incredible stature and figurative power. Sauron is a shadow. If you want to demonstrate his evil power, let it be seen in Frodos disintegration, Gollums’ Auschwitz appearance and debasement, Mordors desolation and the cruelty of his servants.

I’m sorry if this is all a bit lecturey, but nobody with any respect for the books and for effective storytelling on the page or on the screen should relish the reduction of the ‘spirit of darkness, wasteful and pitiless’ to a footsoldier in his own army.

And that’s my two cents.

(All quotes are from memory, sorry if they’re slightly inaccurate, but I haven’t got a copy on hand at the moment)


Submit a Comment

Found in Home 5 Reading Room 5 Critical Viewpoints 5 Keeping an Eye on Sauron – Keeping the Dark Lord in the shadows and out of sight.

You may also like…

Symbolic Femininity in Lord of the Rings

On the surface, Tolkien’s trilogy appears very phallocentric. Further study, however, reveals a pattern of symbolic femininity functioning as a reminder that Middle Earth needs a balance of femininity and masculinity to combat evil.

read more