We know that Maiar are immortal - when their physical body dies, they return to their Valar who can resurrect them, as we can see in this threat from Luthien to Sauron:

Ere [Sauron's] spirit left its dark house, Luthien came to him and that he should be stripped of his raiment of flesh, and his ghost sent quaking back to Morgoth; and she said 'There everlastingly thy naked self shall endure the torment of his scorn, pierced by his eyes, unless thou yield to me the mastery of thy tower

or from Gandalf's memories:

"Naked I was sent back—for a brief time, until my task is done. And naked I lay upon the mountain-top. There I lay staring upward, while the stars wheeled over, and each day was as long as a life-age of the earth."

But Luthien's threat was made in the First Age, when Melkor was free and powerful, and now he is banished. Does this mean that his Maia followers (like Balrogs or Sauron) that didn't attach themselves to some objects like the One Ring are really, irrecoverably dead when they die? Do they cease to exist or maybe get imprisoned with their master?

Please note that Sauron is a special case: his spirit is bound to the One Ring, and he can't be destroyed while the Ring exists. He has been killed three times since the First Age: first during the fall of Númenor, after which his spirit fled to Mordor; second at the end of the Second Age, when he was separated from his ring; again he fled somewhere just to finally perish at the end of the Third Age with the destruction of the Ring. All those resurrections were done without Melkor's help.

marked as duplicate by Jason Baker, Ward, Möoz, Often Right, Wad Cheber Sep 23 '15 at 5:30

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  • 2
    the manner of Gandalf's return was not a normal case. It was a special act of Eru. – Oldcat Sep 22 '15 at 22:35
  • There's no special reason to believe that Morgoth's banishment affects the ability of his subordinate Maiar to re-embody themselves; Sauron "dies" (by which I mean "loses his physical body) on several occasions, and he's none the worse for wear (except for the last time, but that was because of the Ring). Gandalf and Saruman, being Istari, are special cases – Jason Baker Sep 22 '15 at 22:50
  • No, I'm not asking for Maiar in general but for evil Maiars bound to now banished Melkor. The linked question doesn't provide this answer. – Yasskier Sep 22 '15 at 22:51
  • @JasonBaker Sauron was killed 3 times, but twice his spirit was bound to the ring, hence he might be a special case. – Yasskier Sep 22 '15 at 22:55

All Maiar can make bodies at will. But nobody knows how long the process takes.

Do their spirits all go to a specific lace after their bodies are killed? Do their spirits stay where their bodies were killed until they decide to move to some other location?

Does it take seconds or hours or days or weeks or years or decades or centuries to make new bodies? In most cases it probably takes less than centuries.

There is some evidence that evil ainur and maiar lose their powers to make new bodies, which of course does not kill them since they were originally spirits without bodies.

In the First Age of the Sun Morgoth was trapped into his body and could not leave it or make another one or even modify it or heal the various wounds he suffered.

The bodies of various balrogs were killed in battle during the First Age, and one in the Third Age, and they did not instantly create new bodies within seconds to continue fighting their foes. This may be due to the normal time it takes a maiar to make a new body. But the fact that none of those balrogs is reported to have been active again in Middle-earth even years, decades, centuries, or millennia later indicates that something either prevented them from making new bodies or restricted them from using those new bodies in Middle-earth.

Sauron could make and unmake and change bodies at will for thousands of years, but when his body at the moment - which he had probably occupied for thousands of years as the ruler of Mordor and all of his followers - was killed during the downfall of Numenor he made a new body for himself within a few decades, if not much sooner, though the new body was black and ugly. After that body was killed it took him more than a thousand years to make a new body, and that body had a finger missing from one hand.

Thus we see a process of evil valar and maiar losing their powers to make new bodies at will. This may have been due to decrees of Eru and/or the natural results of their evil deeds.

But there is no direct statement about where in the universe the spirits of any or all of those maiar would now be, once they become almost totally incapable of affecting the material world of Arda in any way or doing anything more potent that suggesting evil thought and desires to people. After all, such maiar without any physical form would be almost totally incapable of doing anything which might be detected by men or even elves.

09/23/15 - As an example of how a maiar without a body would be almost undetectable in the physical world that included Middle-earth, suppose that the spirit of Sauron was at Aragorn's coronation and tried to get someone there to attack Aragorn, or Frodo, or Gandalf. I suppose that the spirit of Sauron could have put the idea of attacking someone into someone's head without their noticing it. But we all get odd impulses to do something evil from time to time and almost nobody ever acts on them, so unless Sauron picked someone there who already had a strong reason to attack Sauron's triumphant foes and was already almost at the point of doing so Sauron's suggestion would have just been shrugged off as a strange impulse by that person.

I don't think that Sauron would have been able to talk to any of the mortals there. Elves like Elrond and Legolas might have been better able to detect Sauron and talk to him if they wanted to - I don't imagine that it would have been a very polite conversation. And I think that Gandalf, a fellow maiar, though at the time incarnated in a merely Human body, would have been most likely to be able to detect Sauron and talk to him.

So if Sauron's spirit had been present for Aragorn's coronation it is possible that one of the hobbits might have noticed Elrond or Gandalf seeming to talk to himself, his lips moving as he telepathically told Sauron to go away, but would not have thought enough about it for it ever to have been mentioned in the Red Book.

So the question of where the spirits of evil maiar went after their physical bodies were destroyed and they could not make any new physical bodies would have been important to the other ainur whose natural state was pure spirits and who could interact with those evil bodyless maiar. But it would not matter much to elves and even less to men and dwarves and hobbits who lived in the physical world where spirits without bodies could do almost nothing that would ever get their attention, let alone have any influence on their lives.

  • I just added a few paragraphs to m y answer 09/23/15 – M. A. Golding Sep 23 '15 at 21:07

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