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I have always pronounced Sauron like 'S-ow-ron', after reading Appendix E of the Lord of the Rings, but now I just listened to this recording of Tolkien reciting the Eagles' Song, and it sounds like he is saying "Saw-ron".

Did I mis-hear it, or did Tolkien do a mistake? Or am I supposed to pronounce it that way, and he wrote "Sauron" so that people would read it as "Sawron"? Highly unlikely, I think . . .

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I'm at the office, I can see that video, but did Tolkien pronounces the name just one time or more? If it's more than one, I don't think he mistakes it, and that's how it should be pronounce. If the creator of something say how to pronounce his creation, that pronunciation becomes the most correct one. –  Guillelon Jan 2 at 17:13
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Yes indeed. If you include a pronunciation guide that explicitly tells people how to pronounce a word, then mis-pronounce it, your fans have a right to assume it's just your accent at fault. –  Richard Jan 2 at 20:21
    
Note that in the new Hobbit movies they are very careful to pronounce "smaug" as "smawg" and not "smog". –  Eric Lippert Jan 2 at 23:55

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up vote 24 down vote accepted

The correct pronunciation of Sauron is /ˈsaʊrɒn/, as in "sour". This is specified in the pronunciation notes included in The Silmarillion, in the Note on Pronunciation section:

"the first syllable of Sauron is like English sour, not sore"

and in The Children of Hurin:

"AU" has the value of English ow in town; thus the first vowel of Sauron is like English sour not sore.

Tolkien pronunciation indeed seems correct to me, as a non-native english speaker (not surprising, considering he was a linguist ;))

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Thanks for the quote specifically about Sauron, that confirmed my belief that Tolkien either did a mistake in the video, or the pronunciation wasn't so fixed back when he did the video. –  MadTux Jan 2 at 20:26
    
@MadTux It does appear likely that the writing was still being worked on when this recording was made. Notice he says Tower instead of Minas. –  luser droog Jan 3 at 4:03
    
I think there's some across-the-pond effect going on here: I would never in a million years think of pronouncing "Sauron" like "sore". My confusion is rather about "saw" (the woodcutting implement) vs. "sow" (as in female pig, not the verb meaning to plant). To me, the -au- spelling implies it ought to pronounced like "saw" (e.g. author, pause), so the "Smowg" pronunciation just sounds Totally Wrong to me. –  Martha Jan 3 at 4:25
    
@Martha In British English "sore" and "saw" have identical pronunciations. –  OrangeDog Jan 3 at 10:05
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'To me, the -au- spelling implies it ought to pronounced like "saw"' - but Tolkien wanted Quenya to be reminiscent of Latin, and the Latin pronunciation scheme he would have been taught gives 'au' the MOUTH vowel. –  AakashM Jan 3 at 10:29

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