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As depicted in the trilogy:

  • Sauron did not lead his army to Minas Tirith
  • He did not defend the gates of Mordor from Aragon's army

In fact, he was never physically involved in (any) battle ever since his duel with Isildur. In spite of noticing Frodo and Sam near the mountain of doom, he never really comes out (physically) to block them from destroying the ring.

Was he limited by his physical condition or he was not willing to battle without the ring? What was the reason?

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"In spite of noticing Frodo and Sam near the mountain of doom" ??? As I recall, Sauron was unaware of the Hobbits presence in Mordor right until Frodo donned the ring at the Crack of Mount Doom. – The Evil Greebo Oct 3 '11 at 16:12
Bonus trivia: When RotK was filmed, Aragorn was supposed to fight an embodied Sauron at the Black Gate. The troll was edited into the scene later. That would have been a pretty large inconsistency. – Travis Christian Oct 3 '11 at 16:35
Not like inconsistencies stopped them ... Faramir tempted by the ring, Arwen on the white horse, loser-elves at Helm's deep, etc. Indeed Sauron realized about the ring just minutes before it was destroyed, and as mighty as he was he could not just teleport there ;) – Morg. Oct 6 '11 at 11:48
@Morg Teleport? Well he could have and may be he will in George Lucas' version! :p – check123 Oct 6 '11 at 13:30
I'm pretty sure he needs a bit of Harry Potter's blood to complete the ritual and get his body back. – Kalamane Oct 7 '11 at 2:43
up vote 45 down vote accepted

He had indeed already taken a physical form, at least to some degree, for he was the Necromancer mentioned in the Hobbit, whose realm bordered upon Mirkwood. But at that point he had not regained a large portion of his power and worked mostly in secret.

He also greatly feared two things. First, the return of Numenor's heir, Aragorn, and the sword reforged. Unlike in the movies, in the books Aragorn left Rivendell with the sword reforged from Narsil and did not hide who he was, though he didn't travel openly as such.

The second thing he feared was that his agents had not found the One Ring. While there still remained the chance his enemies had it or might find it before he did, he could not risk exposing himself directly while he was in his much weakened state. Had he gotten the Ring, he would very likely have not hid in Barad-dur while the Nazgul lead his armies against Middle Earth.

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Book 5, Chapter 4:

'Is Faramir come?' [Denethor] asked.
'No,' said Gandalf. 'But he still lived when I left him. Yet he is resolved to stay with the rearguard, lest the retreat over the Pelennor become a rout. He may, perhaps, hold his men together long enough, but I doubt it. He is pitted against a foe to great. For one has come that I feared.'
'Not – the Dark Lord?' cried Pippin, forgetting his place in his terror.
Denethor laughed bitterly. 'Nay, not yet, Master Peregrin! He will not come save to triumph over me when all is won. He uses others as his weapons. So do all great lords, if they are wise, Master Halfling. Or why should I sit here in my tower and think, and watch, and wait, spending even my sons? For I can still wield a brand.'

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This could be a possibility. Note that the view is of Denethor (based on broader generalizations about behavior of kings) and not necessarily based on possible facts. – check123 Oct 4 '11 at 4:40
@check123: but I think Denethor is right here. He has a very pessimistic view of the things, in part due to Saurons manipulations through the Palantír. Would Sauron have shown it to him had he planned to lead his army to Minas Tirith himself? I think yes, as it would have left even less hope of standing the upcoming siege, and thereby further increased the likelyhood of Denethor giving up. – leftaroundabout Oct 4 '11 at 10:42
This quote is completely irrelevant. Denethor is nowhere close to being knowledgeable about Sauron (compared to the elves or the mayar, which know much much more) and the only thing he is expressing there is "omgnoez we're toast". No, Sauron would NOT have shown himself leading the armies to Minas Tirith, since that is complete utter nonsense ... Showing Denethor an army capable of destroying/taking MT without the need for Sauron or even all his military power is far more discouraging than the dark lord's physical presence (he is present in mind at the siege of MT, as the cloud / atmosphere. – Morg. Oct 6 '11 at 5:44
@Morg - I disagree with you on this one. The movie didn't pay Denethor the respect he deserves. He had the blood of a nearly pure Westernesse and had a stronger will than Sauruman, strong enough to use the plantir. He could bend his will far and wide, looking into the hearts of men and surveying his enemy. It was his knowledge of Sauron that caused him to despair. – Christopher Dec 29 '11 at 6:17
@Christopher I agree with you. The movie completely destroyed Denethor's character. He is still flawed but more ambiguous in the books; not a completely unlikeable character. And I think he was partly right about lords leading armies from their castles. But it was also true that Sauron was weakened and too fearful to come out and fight. – Andres F. Feb 29 '12 at 19:57

Sauron had a terrible track record in personal combat. He was defeated by Huan, Isildur and even fled before the White Council from Dol Guldur. I think he was much more a 'behind the scenes / manipulator' than a combat juggernaut.

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+1 for noting Sauron's 0-3 record in personal combat. He also met the Numenoreans in person and surrendered immediately. He was physically demolished when Numenor was attacked. Another point is that in spite of Peter Jackson's rewrite, in the book it was Elendil & Gil-gilad that wrestled with and brought Sauron down (even while he was wearing The Ring!) Isildur cut the ring from his finger after the fact as Sauron lay defeated on the ground. His forces did much better when he was absent. – vivaldi7 Oct 20 '13 at 1:19
I first read your answer as "Sauron had a terrible back...", which would explain it. He didn't want to through it out again, just as he was starting to feel better. – iamnotmaynard Jun 4 '15 at 15:21

At least in the movie, he had not yet attained a physical body. He needed his Ring, and the power he had poured into it, to complete his rebirth.

In the book, it was different - he had some physical form, but his powers were greatly reduced. He was still vulnerable, and could potentially have been killed. Why would he risk himself, when he knew (not thought, KNEW) that his armies were sufficient to the tasks at hand?

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@TGnat: In the movie, at least, he did not have a physical form. – Jeff Oct 3 '11 at 18:37
the movie has so many errors in it related to the lore, it can't be used as a reference into the lore. – jwenting Oct 4 '11 at 6:42
@jwenting: Maybe, but the movie is sadly what most people are familiar with - the books are dense, florid, and imposing if your only other 'literary' experience is Twilight and Harry Potter. – Jeff Oct 4 '11 at 13:14
The point of the feint with the (small) army is to convince Sauron that Aragorn has the ring. Only someone with a super-weapon would make such a brazenly suicidal move. If Sauron thought Aragorn had the ring, he wouldn't think his army was up to the task. – Sean McMillan Oct 6 '11 at 14:23
@Sean McMillan : no not exactly ... the point of the small army was just a very last diversion to give the hobbits every chance to succeed. Sauron would have known if Aragorn had the ring the instant the eye set on the army, so your assumption does not hold ;) - basically it was a suicidal move from an opponent who was done for anyway - it's not like camping MT would've given them much more advantage, if you take troops morale into account (much better to push your opponent right after a major win, even if you're going to lose). – Morg. Oct 7 '11 at 9:35

Alright, lots of wrong answers here :

a) Sauron cannot be killed without destroying the ring

b) Sauron wasn't "that" weak at the time, he was confident that his armies would succeed (which they would have if the ring had not been destroyed, with ease, the armies of both the Minas Tirith assault and the Barad Dur siege being "not much" to him)

c) Sauron's power was more than decent when the siege of Barad Dur occurred and it does not seem (after the books) that even Aragorn + Gandalf could have defeated him (again, power here is far beyond just raw power, it's about his control over the other rings, including the power of the Nazgul themselves, the shadow, the eye, the fear, etc.)

d) Sauron disliked the presence of Aragorn as he saw in him the risk of a second Elendil / great alliance. This is much more related to his ability to bring light and protect Sauron's enemies from the paralyzing fear than to his relative combat potential (all of Aragorn's major wins against Sauron are leadership wins, convincing the Rohirrim, convincing the ghost army, etc.)

e) Sauron did not care about that fight, the foolish alliance army was going to be crushed in front of his gates so why even bother.

  • Also I don't know where or what, but someone said Gandalf and Sauron were both Maiar and should be more or less on the same level ..

Well that's just wrong . Sauron was probably the greatest of the Maiar, just as his master Melkor (Morgoth Bauglir) was the greatest of the Valar. For much weaker Maiar, just take a look at Radagast (lotr) or the Silmarillion/Unfinished Tales (much about weaker Valar in there too).

Among the Istari, it would seem that Saruman was once the most powerful, got replaced by Gandalf during his fall - and that there were other weaker Istari.

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+1 That is a good set of arguments. – check123 Oct 4 '11 at 12:31
"Sauron cannot be killed without destroying the ring" I believe it's said his soul cannot be destroyed without destroying the ring. In that case his physical body could be killed. – Cody C Oct 4 '11 at 14:16
He may not be able to be killed, but having his physical body destroyed sure did inconvenience him the last time. – Jeff Oct 4 '11 at 21:01
Didn't Sauron believe that Aragon possessed the ring, which was why he spent his attention fully upon Gondor? – jonnyflash Dec 26 '11 at 20:01
Sauron the greatest Maïar ? Not sure Sauron would fare very well against Orömë... He certainly couldn't take on Melian, else he would have destroyed her girdle... That, even Morgoth couldn't do, Doriath was destroyed by treachery from within, not by brute force. And even if he was probably indeed more powerful than Gandalf the grey originally, diminished as he was at the end of the 3rd age, he would probably have met his match against the white rider returned from the dead by the will of Illuvatar. – Joel Jan 2 '15 at 21:00

Sauron came to personally fight in battles on several occasions:

  • the First Age: assault on Minas Tirith on isle of Tol Sirion staffed by entire garrison of elven warriors of Noldor kindred with elf-lord Orodreth in the lead-successful for Sauron, fortress turned into watch-tower for Morgoth

  • the First Age: duel of magical nature (''songs of power") with great elf-lord Finrod Felagund-successful

  • the First Age: fight with combined power of mystical creature Huan (fate and prophecy involved) and Luthien powerful half-Maia, half-elf being-at first Huan almost withdrew until Luthien incapacitated Sauron with her magic and Huan took advantage (in the end fate subverted Sauron's doings because he wasn't the one destined to kill Huan)-ends with strategic withdrawal :) :) after Luthien let him go

  • the Second Age: duel with Celebrimbor during War of Elves and Sauron, personally leading his armies to Eriador ("Celebrimbor, desperate, himself withstood Sauron on the steps of the great door of the Mirdain; but he was grappled and taken captive, and the House was ransacked...")-successful for Sauron, destruction of Eregion, though in the end entire war campaign ended with defeat because his armies were decimated and remained he alone with only his bodyguard

  • The Second Age: War of the Last Alliance (in war against Numenoreans Sauron did not took part personally, he ''made no offer for battle'' as part of his voluntary cunning plan), the last stages, even though a bit weakened (he needed time for bodily rehabilitation and gaining control over his former subjects), but with the One Ring still so more powerful with it than without-at first successful he personally with a sortie broke the 7-year long siege of Barad-dur and drove armies of Elves and Numenoreans miles away from fortress to the slopes of Orodruin where the final combat with Elendil, Gil-Galad and Isildur happened (Cirdan Shipwright and Elrond Half-elven also present) which ended with death of both Elendil and Gil-Galad and Isildur possibly dealing 'death-blow' to temporarily incapacitated Sauron and taking his Ring from his body.

So, no I don't think it's a 'terrible track record in personal combat' rather quite good one, all things considered.

But in the end Sauron is a commander, strategist, highest leader and as one he rarely gets things done by himself unless he has no choice, being lord implies I think having subordinates other than yourself to fulfil your will :) and this is main sphere of interest for Sauron to command others, the 'kingship' itself. He might have great power, mightier than any mortal but he still needed subjects and armies, because in the end with all his might he is still ONE being.

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Watching your army grapple and capture a man isn't personal combat. – Oldcat Jun 3 '15 at 23:11

(1) The hosts of Men and Elves had no hope of winning.

Unfortunately, the movie fails to capture this important point: the enemy they had defeated in the plains of Pelennor was but a small fraction of Sauron's full might.

‘My lords,’ said Gandalf, ‘listen to the words of the Steward of Gondor before he died: You may triumph on the fields of the Pelennor for a day, but against the Power that has now arisen there is no victory...Hardly has our strength sufficed to beat off the first great assault. The next will be greater. This war then is without final hope, as Denethor perceived. Victory cannot be achieved by arms, whether you sit here to endure siege after siege, or march out to be overwhelmed beyond the River.

(2) Sauron didn't know about the Ringbearer at Mount Doom until it was too late


That we should wish to cast him down and have no one in his place is not a thought that occurs to his mind. That we should try to destroy the Ring itself has not yet entered into his darkest dream.

Sauron becomes aware of this plan only moments before it is completed.

And far away, as Frodo put on the Ring and claimed it for his own, even in Sammath Naur the very heart of his realm, the Power in Barad-dûr was shaken, and the Tower trembled from its foundations to its proud and bitter crown. The Dark Lord was suddenly aware of him, and his Eye piercing all shadows looked across the plain to the door that he had made; and the magnitude of his own folly was revealed to him in a blinding flash, and all the devices of his enemies were at last laid bare. Then his wrath blazed in consuming flame, but his fear rose like a vast black smoke to choke him. For he knew his deadly peril and the thread upon which his doom now hung.

From all his policies and webs of fear and treachery, from all his stratagems and wars his mind shook free; and throughout his realm a tremor ran, his slaves quailed, and his armies halted, and his captains suddenly steerless, bereft of will, wavered and despaired. For they were forgotten. The whole mind and purpose of the Power that wielded them was now bent with overwhelming force upon the Mountain. At his summons, wheeling with a rending cry, in a last desperate race there flew, faster than the winds, the Nazgûl the Ringwraiths, and with a storm of wings they hurtled southwards to Mount Doom.

(3) It's not his style


He will not come save only to triumph over me when all is won. He uses others as his weapons. So do all great lords, if they are wise, Master Halfling.

In the Silmarillion, Sauron is Morgoth's chief lieutenant, yet he principally relies on deception and illusion, rather than participating personally in battles (unlike, say, Gothmog).

Recall that Sauron was once personally defeated, even while he wielded the One Ring. After that downfall, and now without his Ring of Power, there's even less motivation to take such a personal risk, particularly for a battle whose outcome is certain regardless.

We don't know how much strength Sauron had regained by this time. Probably quite a lot. In any case, there wasn't a reason for him to participate personally in these events.

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As for the question of why he didn't come out to confront Sam and Frodo at the Crack of Doom, he was 50 miles away when he noticed them. He wouldn't have had time to get there.

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Also, there was no reason for Sauron to think that the Battle at the Black Gate would be the final one, win or lose. If he won, he would eventually conquer, and if he lost, nothing much would happen as he was safe in Mordor with his armies. – Oldcat Jun 3 '15 at 22:54

Yes Sauron did have dealings with the Necromancer, that is undeniable. However, look at the crown the ghost is wearing, that is not Sauron's crown. Sauron was not the necromancer, the necromancer was the Witch-king of Angmar, who was later killed by a woman and halfling (Hobbit)

And he was limited because all of his power that anchored him to the physical world was in the one ring that Bilbo and Frodo carried. Which is why Sauron desperately wanted the ring. You should do some research.

Sauron was never the necromancer, but he did lead the armies of evil and darkness.

Sources: Hobbit WIKI

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Its my opinion and its what I think is right. My answer was how I see fit, and just because I typed something wrong doesn't mean the base behind it is wrong. Thanks anyway for the fix. – nacho cheese Jan 1 '15 at 19:53
And this is why I recommend you take the tour and visit the help center i did not meant that your thinking was wrong.. just the way it was said – Rocket Jan 1 '15 at 19:55
The Hobbit Wiki (it would have been nice if you'd linked the article you were using as a source) is wrong here (following in the great tradition of the LotR Wikia, doubtlessly). It's all over both the books and the movies that Sauron was the Necromancer, and it can be proven that he was always intended to be. – user8719 Jan 1 '15 at 20:13
No, Sauron WAS the Necromancer. – Wad Cheber Jun 3 '15 at 22:50
Yep Gandalf first discovered that the Necromancer was indeed Sauron,when he explored Dol Goldur,i think he recovered a dwarf ring during that time,& with this knowledge the white council decided to drive Sauron out,in the movie its the scene where Galadriel turns into a zombie looking elf with power stronger than Sauron's(the entire scene is pretty much all Peter Jacksons imaginations or lack of lol, – turinsbane Mar 4 at 17:01

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