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It says in The Fellowship of the Ring that Sauron learned that the One Ring was still in existence, partially from Gollum. Gandalf says, during his explanation to Frodo, "He believed that the One had perished; that the Elves had destroyed it, …" 1.  However, how could he have thought this if he was reincarnated? I thought that after Isildur defeated Sauron he was reduced "back into shadow" and that the only reason he was able to reappear was because the Ring still existed. So wouldn't Sauron have known the Ring was still around, because otherwise he couldn't have came back?

1 Fellowship of the Ring, Book I Chapter 2: "The Shadow of the Past", two pages after Gandalf throws the ring into the fire.

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Harry asks about this in Prince chapter 23. Dumbledore's answer is that because the Dark Lord ‘is now so immersed in evil, and these crucial parts of himself have been detached for so long, he does not feel as we do.’ – b_jonas Jan 6 '13 at 21:49
@b_jonas Hah hah, I see what you did there. – Andres F. Jan 6 '13 at 21:59
The other answers, especially spicyokooko's are well done but it's worth noting that this is Gandalf's explanation. This does not make it true. Gandalf while very wise, does not know everything. This explanation is what he deduced based on what he learned. Also, Sauron was defeated and killed by Gil-Galad and Elendil, not Isildur. Isildur merely cut the Ring from the dead body of Sauron afterward. – italia06828334 Jan 16 '13 at 19:25
This is an AMAZING question- I never noticed the implication of Sauron thinking the Ring had been destroyed, let alone the fact that his continuing existence meant that the Ring COULDN'T have been destroyed. – Wad Cheber May 16 at 4:06
@WadCheber Bear in mind that there's a dramatic irony: We know that his continuing existence is only possible because the ring hasn't been destroyed, but we don't know that he knew this. – Darael May 23 at 20:55

2 Answers 2

The Ring, and the portion of Sauron's power within it, is indeed what tied him to Middle-Earth, but there is no reason he had to be aware of this. If Sauron had information from a source he believed reliable that the One Ring had been destroyed, he would be likely to believe that his continued existence was due to keeping a greater part of his power in himself than he had previously thought.

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I seem to recall, having had a little more time to think, that it was stated that he could only sense the Ring when someone was wearing it. Thus it is only after it came into the possession of Smeagol (later Gollum) that he might have known of its continued existence. To tie into thy point, as the Necromancer he may have had insufficient strength to sense it, or possibly he had to be consciously seeking it while it was worn. In this wise, it would only be after Gollum's report that he would have been able to find the Ring. – Darael Jan 6 '13 at 21:22
We know that, but there's no reason Sauron necessarily knew that it was the continued existence of the One Ring that kept him "alive". As far as he knew, he may simply have retained enough power himself. Since he couldn't sense the One Ring save when someone wore it, he naturally didn't know where it was, but more than that: he had no specific reason to believe it still existed. The knowledge that it was the Ring that bound him to Middle-Earth is available to the reader but not necessarily to him. – Darael Jan 7 '13 at 19:17
@Darael Sorry but that's just nonsense. We know that when the One Ring was destroyed - Sauron was destroyed with it. Given that Sauron still existed (in whatever form) also meant the One Ring still existed - regardless of whether Sauron knew about its whereabouts. All the wearing of the One Ring did, was tell Sauron it had been found. – spiceyokooko Jan 7 '13 at 20:34
@spiceyokooko Because my point is that there is no reason to believe Sauron knew that he still existed only because of the Ring. We, the readers, know that, but we are never told that Sauron does. Thou art conflating knowledge available to the reader with knowledge available to a specific character. – Darael Jan 7 '13 at 21:26
That is not what I said. What I said was that we have no reason to believe he's aware of the fact that the only reason he still exists is that the Ring does. He knew that he poured a great part of his strength into it, and that without it he was diminished, but he could reasonably conclude given what he knew that he retained enough native strength to survive without it, dost see? – Darael Jan 7 '13 at 22:01

It says in the fellowship of the ring that Sauron learned that the One Ring was still in existence, partially from Gollum.

No, this is not correct.

He learnt from Gollum that he once had a ring

After the creature Gollum, who had previously possessed the ring, was captured, Sauron had him tortured and learned that he once had a magic ring, and from him he heard the words Shire and Baggins. He deduced that Gollum's ring was the One Ring, and sent his servants the Nine to find Shire and search for Baggins, so that the One Ring might be found and brought back to him.


He deduced that Gollum's ring was the One Ring.

That's entirely different to learning that the One Ring was still in existence.

If the One Ring had been destroyed then Sauron would have been destroyed with it. The fact that Sauron wasn't destroyed means that the One Ring was still in existence (and Sauron knew it still existed) but didn't know where it was or who possessed it.

One Ring Timeline

Second Age 1500, Celebrimbor forges the 16 rings under the instruction of Annatar, who is Sauron in disguise.

Second Age 1600, Sauron forges the One Ring to rule all the others.

Second Age 1700, Gil-galad and Tar-Minastrir destroy Saurons army forcing him back to Mordor to regroup.

Second Age 3261, Ar-Pharazôn, the last of the Kings of Númenor, do battle with Sauron in contention of his self-proclaimed title of Overlord of Middle-Earth. Sauron is defeated and captured but through the use of the One Ring is able to turn the Númenóreans against Valar and towards worship of Melkor and human sacrifice.

Second Age 3429, Although Sauron's body is destroyed in the Fall of Númenor, his spirt was able to bear the One Ring back to middle earth and he wielded it in his renewed war against the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. The One Ring is cut from Saurons hand by Isilidur.

Third Age 2, Isildur loses the ring in the River Anduin just before he is killed by an orc ambush.

It's at this point that Gandalf suggests in The Fellowship of the Ring that Sauron thinks the One Ring is destroyed. Notice there's almost 2,400 years between the One Ring being lost and Déagol finding it in the River Gladden.

Third Age 2430, Déagol finds the ring in the River Gladden, a tributary of the Anduin and is killed by Sméagol for it.

Notice that Sméagol/Gollum possesses the One Ring for almost 500 years before Bilbo finds it. Sauron is fully aware of its existence during this time.

Third Age 2941, Bilbo finds the One Ring.

Notice how Bilbo only has the One Ring for about 60 years.

Third Age 3001, Bilbo hands the One Ring to Frodo.

Third Age 3018, Sméagol dies in Mount Doom and the One Ring is destroyed.

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From The Fellowship of the Ring: "He believed that the One had perished; that the Elves had destroyed it, as should have been done. But he knows now that it has not perished, that it has been found." Ergo, Sauron believed the ring to be destroyed, at least according to Gandalf. – Keen Jan 8 '13 at 2:12
So does the quote cited by Keen saying "He believed that the One had perished; that the Elves had destroyed it..." make you wrong in your argument up there with Darael? – Safado Jan 8 '13 at 19:53
You're basing that on a lot assumptions though. I'm just saying ... – Safado Jan 8 '13 at 20:27
@spiceyokooko So then, you can provide a citation for "given his power started to grow again he must have sensed it had not been destroyed and was in fact lost"? – Keen Jan 10 '13 at 3:58
@spiceyokooko I didn't cite any evidence, fluffy or otherwise. In fact, I said that we didn't have evidence for thy assumption that Sauron must have known that the Ring hadn't been destroyed. Thy claim that Sauron knows of the Ring's existence during the 500 years that Sméagol/Gollum is the key to thy answer, but it's not backed up, and that's why the answer I gave (which very clearly says "It's possible", not "This is how it was", by the way) is a reasonable one. – Darael Jan 17 '13 at 0:25

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