In The Lord of the Rings films, Sauron has an army he is controlling to do his bidding.

But he is only a great big eyeball.

Sauron’s eyeball

So how can he tell them what to do?

  • 29
    One wink for yes, two winks for no, and a lot of questions in orcish. Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 16:52
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    How do you know he is "only" a great big eyeball? Does anything in the movie prove that he doesn't have a body as well?
    – wyvern
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 18:04
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    @sumelic Quite the opposite—take a look at 0:58 in the YouTube clip in Richard’s answer. Body and all. Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 20:57
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    Besides, in the books, the great flaming eye is purely metaphorical. Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 12:13
  • @SuperJedi224 sums up the Eye part of it best; and the rest of the answer is simple: he very definitely had a body. What use would the Ring be without a finger anyway? But Gollum confirms he has four fingers on the Black Hand in book 2 of The Two Towers; in the chapter they go through the Dead Marshes specifically.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 17:07

3 Answers 3


Sauron isn't really a giant eyeball, as compelling as that image might be. This answer raises the point that as the Necromancer of Dol Guldur, he had already taken shape decades before the War of the Ring, even though his shape wasn't as mighty as the one he assumed at the end of the Second Age. Still, even as a cloaked and hooded figure, he could give out orders.

Additionally, even if mostly noncorporeal, Sauron could and did work through lieutenants and intermediaries. The Witch-king of Angmar led the Nazgûl on Sauron's orders, whether they were communicated face-to-face or not. Similarly, heralds such as the Mouth of Sauron did his bidding. If he could manipulate and control Saruman and Denethor via the palantíri, there's no reason to assume he could not communicate with others as well.

  • 11
    Hey, if you zoom into a picture of my face, I would also seem to be a giant eyeball. It's all about perspective, man! Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 13:36
  • Hahaha.. That's a very good point. Great perspective indeed! But of course you're right: he did have a body and Gollum says as much too (and he had suffered at the hands of Sauron when he was captured at the border of Mordor). Better yet though is special equipment to take a picture of your eye utterly.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 17:03

As you can see from this scene in the extended edition, Sauron is perfectly capable of communicating in English, in this case via a palantír.

When Aragorn threatens him with the Sword of Elendil, Sauron shows him an image of Arwen's corpse and demands that he...

Think of it, and bow.

I think we can reasonably assume that he either uses telepathy (or possibly another palantír) to communicate his wishes to his various troops, his wraith-lords and his spokeperson, the 'Mouth of Sauron' or simply turned into an elemental being, as he did in the Hobbit trilogy.

  • @isanae - fixed. Cheers.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 19:08
  • I know very little about LOTR. Are they really speaking in English?! Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 20:03
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit - Good question. In fact, worth asking.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 20:28
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    Also worth noting that this scene shows that Sauron was not—even in the movies—just a big, fiery eye. At 0:58, we clearly see Sauron, in actual, humanoid form, appear inside his own pupil, just before Arwen, showing that he still had his physical shape while he watched over everything as a giant eye in the sky. Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 20:56
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit Actually, after refreshing my mind they speak 'Westron'/'common speech' which is different from English. But as Tolkien presents himself as the lucky find of the "Red Book" and as, iirc, a translator for those ancient stories, all westron (incl. names) got translated into English.
    – ljrk
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 21:38

Your question can be interpreted in two ways:

  1. How, in a literal sense, can Sauron communicate his commands and wishes to his subordinates?
  2. Why are his subordinates even listening to him?

How can he communicate?

  1. He communicates with Saruman by palantír (and possibly other means)
  2. The Nazgûl are attuned to his will
  3. He has that freaky-looking Mouth creature
  4. Some other way, not explicitly mentioned, but not explicitly denied — we have no definitive statement as to the limits on his communication

That seems sufficient, especially when you consider the ability of those beings to pass on orders and take initiative. The Witch-king seems quite capable of running an entire campaign with no supervision.

Now for the why:

  1. He has nine Nazgûl slaves, including the Witch-king of Angmar
  2. Powerful and influential beings believe that he will be the ultimate winner, and they support his cause (Saruman is a big name here)
  3. Great hordes and armies owe him allegiance or have sold him their allegiance

That should be reason enough to listen to his commands, assuming you're anywhere near his influence.

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