Sauron was the greatest enemy of the free peoples of Middle-earth in the Second and Third Ages. He was once a servant of Morgoth, but after Morgoth’s defeat, Sauron became a Dark Lord himself and sought to conquer all of Middle-earth. He forged the Lord of the Rings to exert his will over others, but in the end, it was the instrument of his downfall.
Ancient Times & The First Age:
Sauron was one of the Maiar – spirits who helped and served the Powers known as the Valar. He came into existence before the creation of the world. Sauron was not evil in the beginning. At first, he was a Maia of Aule, the Vala whose domain was the substances of which the earth was made. Aule was a Smith and a master of crafts and works of skill, and Sauron learned much from him about making, forging, and creating.
But Sauron was drawn to the strength and might of Melkor – a Power who desired dominion over the entire world. Sauron craved order and wanted to arrange things according to his will, and he believed that following Melkor was the best way to achieve this end. Melkor became known as Morgoth – the Dark Enemy – and Sauron became his most powerful minion and performed many evil deeds in his service.
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Morgoth dwelled in the stronghold of Utumno in the far north of Middle-earth. Sauron was given command of another stronghold called Angband that had been built near the coast to defend against attack by the Valar from the Undying Lands across the Sea. When the Valar learned of the awakening of the Elves in Middle-earth, they decided to wage war against Morgoth. In the Battle of the Powers, Morgoth was taken a prisoner, but Sauron hid deep in the caverns beneath Angband and escaped captivity.
The Second Age:
Around the year 500 of the Second Age, Sauron began to increase his power. He believed that the Valar had forsaken Middle-earth after the War of Wrath and he had plans to conquer it for himself. Unlike Morgoth, Sauron sought not to destroy the peoples of Middle-earth but to rule and control them, and in this way, Sauron was wiser than his master had been.
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In the lands of the far east and south, Sauron corrupted many Men and they turned to evil. Sauron found Men easy to ensnare, but he feared the Men of Numenor who were descended from the Men who had joined forces with the Elves against Morgoth in the First Age. The Numenoreans had begun exploring the coasts of Middle-earth and Sauron did not yet dare to move against them.
Sauron chose Mordor to be his realm around the year 1000. The land was enclosed on three sides by high mountain ranges. Within stood a volcanic mountain that became known as Mount Doom and Sauron intended to use its great heat as a powerful force. In Mordor, Sauron built the stronghold of Barad-dur – the Dark Tower.
To further his plan to rule Middle-earth, Sauron wanted to persuade the Elves into his service because their power was great. Around 1200, he went to Eriador in a fair disguise pretending to be an emissary of the Valar and calling himself Annatar, Lord of Gifts. The High King Gil-galad did not recognize him, but he did not trust him and refused him admittance to Lindon.
The War of the Ring:
On June 20, 3018, Sauron sent the Nazgul forth from Mordor. They led an attack on Osgiliath, where Gondor had an outpost to defend against the crossing of the Anduin. Sauron’s purpose was two-fold: He wanted to test Gondor’s defenses and he wanted to provide cover for the Nazgul’s real mission, which was to seek the Shire and the Ring.
The Nazgul found the Shire in September of 3018 and discovered that the Ring-bearer was Frodo Baggins. But Frodo eluded them and escaped to Rivendell and the Nazgul were swept away in a flood in the River Bruinen created by Elrond. At Rivendell, the Council of Elrond was held on October 25. It was decided that the only way to defeat Sauron was to destroy the One Ring. Speaking of this decision, Gandalf later said: