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In the opening battle of The Fellowship of the Ring(I can't recall the name of it), Sauron is putting in work killing many men with the swing of his weapon. Eventually Isildur comes out with a hay maker and cuts off his finger resulting in the loss of the ring, which results in Sauron losing his power.

My question is if Isildur didn't do that, would Sauron have destroyed the entire army that was on the field that day at the first scene in Fellowship of the Ring? I am under the assumption that he is basically invincible when he has control of the One ring, or does he have an Achilles heel like the Witch King did?

So, Besides destroying the One Ring, how can Sauron be defeated?

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In the books he was fighting a couple elf lords and the king gondor i believe, while cutting the ring off of his fingure sped things up i believe that he could have been overwhelmed. or actually have been killed phsyically(while his soul would still be bound to the ring). We see that Gandalf and Sauruman were both able to be killed physically and while sauron seems to be more powerful then they (while all 3 being of the same species) he should have also been phsyically vulnerable to say, a sword going into his heart. –  Himarm Aug 22 at 18:17
FWIW Isidur cuts the ring off of Sauron's finger only after he was already defeated. –  TGnat Aug 22 at 18:32
@Himarm I think it's important to note that while yes, Sauron and the Wizards are all Maiar, the Wizards were given specifically mortal forms by the Valar, and only one "lifetime" in which to do their work; once they died, that was all they had (Note that the Valar weren't able to bring Gandalf back. Only Eru could do that). Sauron had no such limitations –  Jason Baker Aug 22 at 18:59
This question appears to be off-topic because it is about "What if ______ happened?” - scifi.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask –  Darth Satan Aug 22 at 21:04
This question can be salvaged to "Besides destroying the One Ring, how can Sauron be defeated?". Remove the bits about "what would happen if__", and clarify the question. It may then be re-opened. –  Mooz yesterday

2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Sauron is a Maia, sort of the Middle Earth equivalent of an angel (or fallen angel, in this case)1. So the real question is "can an angel be killed?" The closest we have to a comparison are the balrogs.

Balrogs are usually considered to be Maiar, fallen angels corrupted by Sauron's old boss Morgoth long before the events of Fellowship. And balrogs can be killed, but it's not easy. I can think of three instances where the death of a balrog is explicitly stated:

  1. In The Silmarillion Ecthelion, an Elf-lord of Gondolin, kills Gothmog, captain of the Balrogs
  2. Also in The Silmarillion, Glorfindel of Gondolin kills another balrog
  3. In Fellowship, Gandalf kills the balrog in Moria

These events have two things in common: all of the beings who killed a balrog had once been in Valinor, Middle Earth's heaven, and they all died in the attempt. So it seems as though killing a balrog is possible, but exceptionally difficult; it takes a special kind of person.

By the time of the Last Alliance, I think the only remaining elf who had dwelt in Valinor was Galadriel2 (The Wizards hadn't yet been sent to Middle Earth at the time), and she wasn't going to be fighting in the battle.

So no individual at the battle was capable of killing a lesser Maia, much less Sauron, a very powerful Maia, short of some astonishingly good luck. So could he have been overwhelmed by the entire army?

We have an example of Sauron's army being defeated in battle: shortly after creating the One Ring, Sauron absolutely decimated the elves but was defeated by the military might of the Numenoreans, men who had been blessed by the Valar (the gods of Middle Earth) and distant ancestors of Aragorn. Presumably he fought in this battle as he fought the Last Alliance, so he can at least be subdued if not destroyed.

However, centuries after this event the Numenoreans fell, and lost the blessing of the Valar. By the time of the Last Alliance, Elendil and Isildur are the closest things to true Numenoreans still alive, and you can clearly see that they're outmatched by Sauron. So this force could probably not hope to defeat him.

However, it is possible for Sauron to lose his form (about as close to death as a full Maia can get). This happened at least once, during the Second Age. Sauron was on the island of Numenor, and convinced the Numenoreans to invade Valinor. They failed, obviously, and the Valar sunk Numenor in punishment. Sauron was stuck on the island at the time, and although he wasn't utterly destroyed he lost the ability to assume a pleasant-looking form.

The tl;dr of all this is that it's not inconceivable that Sauron could be forced out of his current form by a sufficiently large and powerful force. However, it's unlikely that any such force remained in Middle Earth by the time of the Last Alliance.

However, even if they succeeded Sauron would not be dead; it's important to note that even after the destruction of the Ring Sauron didn't die: in Return of the King, Gandalf says that:

he will be maimed for ever, becoming a mere spirit of malice that gnaws itself in the shadows, but can never again grow or take shape

1 If we're drawing parallels to Judeo-Christian cosmology, it would be better to think of Maiar as a lesser order of angels; strictly speaking the Valar, often considered the "gods" of Middle-Earth, are more accurately classed as angels (With Eru Illuvatar as The One True God), and Valar and Maiar are technically the same kind of creature, just with a different level of power.
2 As Mike Scott reminds me in comments, there's some debate over whether there are two Glorfindels or just one. See my comment here for the background knowledge. So it's possible that there was another elf walking around with the ability to at least kill a lesser Maia. Whether or not he could defeat one or Sauron's strength is purely speculative, because we no longer have any canon support.

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It is stated in the simarillion that Sauron hid the ring and surrendered to the numenorians when he had no chance of winning the war. When Numenor fell he lost his physical body and returned to Middle-earth as a spirit and claimed the ring again. So no, he did not fight in that battle personally. If he had taken the ring to Numenor it would have been lost to the sea alongside his body. –  Hoffmann Aug 22 at 21:15
Actually, according to the text, Elendil and Gil-Galad overthrew Sauron, then Isildur dealt him his death-blow and cut the Ring off. So not only could the Last Alliance have defeated him, it did. The idea that cutting the Ring off defeated and killed Sauron is movie-only. –  Shamshiel Aug 22 at 23:52
@Hoffmann You are coreect; I'll update my answer shortly –  Jason Baker Aug 23 at 4:16
@Shamshiel Do you have a reference for that? All I can find is Elrond's speech in Fellowship, where he says "Gil-Galad died, and Elendil fell, and Narsil broke beneath him; but Sauron himself was overthrown, and Isildur cut the Ring from his hand with the hilt-shard of his father's sword"; I can't find any reference to the exact sequence –  Jason Baker Aug 23 at 4:34
Galadriel was not the only elf in Middle Earth at the end of the Second Age who had lived in Valinor. And the other one was Glorfindel, who had already killed a balrog once, died in the process, and been reincarnated by the Valar. So he could presumably have done it again. –  Mike Scott yesterday

I am primarily answering the second question:

I am under the assumption that he is basically invincible when he has control of the One ring, or does he have an achilles heel like the Witch King did?

While extremely powerful, Sauron is not invincible. Several times throughout the writings of Tolkien we see Ainur not only being injured but also killed.

  • Saruman is killed by Wormtongue
  • Gandalf is killed by Durin's Bane (and vice versa)
  • Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs, is killed by Ecthelion
  • An unnamed Balrog is killed by Glorfindel
  • Sauron's physical form is, along with all of Númenor, destroyed by Eru Ilúvatar
  • Morgoth is physically injured in combat seven times by Fingolfin

Thus it is apparent that the Ainur in Middle-Earth are vulnerable to physical threats. Tolkien himself directly commented on this:

It was because of this pre-occupation with the Children of God that the spirits so often took the form and likeness of the Children, especially after their appearance. It was thus that Sauron appeared in this shape. It is mythologically supposed that when this shape was 'real', that is a physical actuality in the physical world and not a vision transferred from mind to mind, it took some time to build up. It was then destructible like other physical organisms. But that of course did not destroy the spirit, nor dismiss it from the world to which it was bound until the end.

-Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien - #200

Therefor it is entirely plausable that Sauron could have been defeated, at least temporarily until he once again regenerated, during the War of the Last Alliance.

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incidentally Sauron was also defeated by Beren and Luthien and Huan in the Silmarillion –  Steven Wood Oct 1 at 21:58

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