- Sauron’s ability to shapeshift and conceal his true form has allowed him to evade defeat and gain the trust of his enemies.
- Sauron has taken on various forms throughout Middle-earth, including a werewolf, serpent, vampire, and the disguise of Annatar.
- Sauron’s physical form most often resembled pure evil and darkness, and he appeared as a great lidless eye in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies.
Called Sauron the Deceiver by many, it’s not surprising that the Dark Lord took many forms in The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy featured a version of Sauron that many fans have come to associate with the towering antagonist in J.R.R. Tolkien’s high fantasy saga, but Sauron’s Lord of the Rings movie appearance is very different from Tolkien’s description (or lack thereof) in the books. His shapeshifting abilities are one of the reasons Sauron has lasted for several ages in Middle-earth moving in the shadows of almost every important conflict between the races of Men, Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits.
Sauron has operated as a high-ranking lieutenant of Morgoth, a successor to his empire, and a destroyer of indefatigable cities like Gondor with his hordes. One of the reasons that Sauron’s been so successful at evading defeat throughout the ages has been his ability to conceal his true form and earn the trust of his enemies. As The Rings of Power has also shown, even when he’s not yet at full strength, his most devastating form is the one hiding in plain sight.
Before Sauron was ever a Dark Lord and embodiment of wickedness his original form was a Maia associated with Aule the Smith. Prior to his betrayal, he was fair and beautiful, with a preference for order and symmetry, and his disdain for chaos and anything out of place would shape his future and subsequent service to Morgoth whom he felt shared the same perspective. Sauron would later take similar forms to Mairon during his wanderings in Middle-earth, particularly to gain the confidence and trust of Elves.
After becoming Morgoth’s servant, Sauron could no longer appear as Mairon or any truly pure form and instead resembled Tolkien’s description as larger than a man “but not gigantic.” Sauron and Morgoth were both powerful but at this time, Sauron’s ability to shapeshift was constricted, and while his eyes burned and his presence radiated malice, there was no misconstruing his evil intent to subject Middle-earth to Morgoth’s sense of order. At this point, Tolkien doesn’t provide an extensive description of Sauron as an individual, but more as a manifestation of malevolence.
8 The Wolf
While he might not have been able to make himself fair again, Sauron could transform himself into a terrifying werewolf. Only the High Elves and the Dwarves had the courage to face him when he appeared in this form, and the fortitude to try to best him in combat. As a last line of defense, the Valar used their own wolf to best Sauron – Huan, the wolfhound of Oromë the Hunter.
7 The Serpent
During the many conflicts between Morgoth and the united armies of Men, Elves, and even the Valar, Sauron began to change his appearance to win battles. Prior to Morgoth’s defeat during the First Age, one of the many forms Sauron took, aside from a giant werewolf, was a giant serpent.
6 The Vampire
In Tolkien’s Middle-earth, vampires are large bat-like creatures in service to Morgoth and Sauron, with one in particular, Thuringwethil, being referenced in the annals of Arda. During the travels of Beren and Lúthien recorded in The Silmarillion, it’s said that Sauron himself took the form of a vampire on at least one important occasion. This wasn’t to strike fear but to flee Huan.
In order to gain the trust of Celebrimbor in the City of the Elven Smiths and trick him into forging the Rings of Power, Sauron needed a disguise that would not only fool others but be pleasing to the eye, so he became Annatar “Lord of Gifts” (also known to some as Halbrand). The timeline is a little compressed, but Sauron takes the Annatar form in Rings of Power to pose as a displaced King of the Southlands and deceive Galadriel and the Numenoreans in Season 1. By giving the Elves the “gift” of how to bind mithril with other ore, he convinces them to aid their own impending doom.
4 Sauron’s Physical Form
Tolkien doesn’t go into great depth about what Sauron looked like underneath his armor after he destroyed Numenor. Visually, Jackson wanted Sauron to look impressive and intimidating, and his fearsome appearance seen on the battlefield in front of Mount Doom has made him an iconic cinematic villain. At this point, Sauron’s physical form resembled pure evil and darkness beneath what he wore into battle when he was defeated in the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, when Isildur was able to cut the One Ring from his finger.
3 The Necromancer
After laying dormant for years, Sauron began his restoration in the Third Age, taking a form simply known as The Necromancer. Gandalf began to suspect that the Dark Lord had taken up residency in Dol Guldur, known to many as the Hill of Dark Sorcery but the White Council didn’t listen to him about Sauron’s return and the sudden concentration of dark energy. This stronghold was not only Sauron’s base of operations but Gandalf’s eventual prison, and not even Galadriel, Elrond, and Saruman could weaken The Necromancer enough to prevent him from becoming more powerful.
2 Sauron’s Restored Form
When Sauron is partially restored in the Third Age, he doesn’t appear in the sharp, jagged armor from the beginning of Jackson’s films, and sends emissaries like the Mouth of Sauron to speak for him, He is only described briefly by those who have interacted with him, such as when he personally tortured Gollum in 3017, who stated that “he has only four [fingers] on the Black Hand, but they are enough.” It’s implied in The Return of the King novel that Sauron would have appeared to claim victory after the War of the Ring had he triumphed, implying that at some point, the Great Eye could have taken a more corporeal form.
1 The Eye Of Sauron (Peter Jackson’s Movies)
For most of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, Sauron appeared as a great lidless eye. Known as the Eye of Sauron, it sat above Barad-dûr, the stronghold of Mordor, tracking the movements of anyone who crossed the shadowlands. Samwise and Frodo had to be particularly careful moving through Mordor on their way to Mt. Doom because the closer they got to the Eye of Sauron, the more it could sense their presence, and if Frodo ever used the ring that close to the Dark Lord, he would send his ringwraiths after them and in their weakened state they would not have survived.
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