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I was pondering about Saruman's role as an opportunist ally of Sauron, when I realized that I had absolutely no idea how strong his army was compared to Sauron. We know Saruman fielded an impressive war economy in the relatively compact area of Isengard, and Sauron had behind him the might of the entire realm of Mordor, also implied to be heavily geared towards military production. Both have an obvious numerical superiority in the battles they fight.

However, I have no idea at all how large their armies were, overall. It is implied that Saruman's army was mostly gone after Helm's Deep, so I guess Sauron, who manages to keep fighting despite the crushing casualties at Pelennor fields, has by far more soldiers under his command. I'd like to see numbers, though. Is there anything in canon about the total amount of troops Saruman and Sauron could muster?

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    Where does Sauron keep his armies? Up his sleevies. – Valorum Mar 30 '16 at 12:12
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    I recall Peter Jackson saying (in one of the commentaries) that he envisioned something like 200K but that there weren't any real estimates in the books or extra materials. Just that it's a big army and bigger than the army that could be fielded by the good guys. – Valorum Mar 30 '16 at 12:14
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    I don't have enough information to justify writing an answer, but I'll provide a comment to hopefully give people a place to look. If you're asking about the book, then I'm not sure. For the movie, I have a much better answer. Aragorn said in The Two Towers that Saruman's army was 10,000 strong at least (which was mostly eliminated during the Battle of Helm's Deep). For the army at Minas Tirith, there are some behind-the-scenes videos pertaining to this where one of the people working on it said that it was roughly 200,000 strong, if I remember correctly. – Spar10 Leonidas Mar 30 '16 at 17:15
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    @Spar10Leonidas And in the book it's Merry when he's telling Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas about it (after the battle of course): 'Well, of all sorts together, there must have been ten thousand at the very least,' said Merry. That's probably where the figure comes from for the film. – Pryftan Dec 20 '17 at 19:25
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As noted by Richard in the comments, there isn't any definitive figure for Sauron's army, but we could guess anywhere upwards of 50,000 due to this bit of text, taken from Richard's link here:

Mordor's troops consisted of some 18,000 Easterlings and Haradrim,[2] several Haradrim war Oliphaunts, and tens of thousands of Orcs.

Again Saruman's army in the Battle of Hornburg is not specified, rather just an army "of great size". However the films mention 10,000 Uruk Hai. Not much is said about what is left of the army after that battle, and Saruman himself flees to Hobbiton with a group of men nearby and set up a thug gang calling himself "Sharkey".

Expanded analysis:

The important thing to note here, which you touched base with in the question, is that Tolkien implies technology, progress and military regime as bad and evil. The more natural Elves and Hobbits are depicted ultimately as good and innocent, and Man falls somewhere inbetween, which I personally feel is very fitting for the post-1900 world.

The idea of a huge "machine" of military is very much the depiction of evil Tolkien witnessed as a soldier in WWI, and his witnessing the industrialization of the world, the falling of trees and forests for "progress," is a direct influence on his writings.

Even though it's fairly obvious that big + aggressive = bad in Tolkien's world, and small + brave and courageous = good, it's still interesting to take it apart and theorize it's roots.

  • That's only the troops at that one battle. Sauron had plenty more elsewhere. – OrangeDog Mar 31 '16 at 8:56
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    Correct, but it's not said exactly how many, so we can only guess that it's "more than 50,000" due to the facts we can gather. – John Bell Mar 31 '16 at 9:00
  • It gets even more difficult to estimate since there were attacks in Dale, and battles in Lorien and Mirkwood also going on while the fight in Gondor and Rohan was going on. This is alluded to in the end of the LoTR and in the Appendices that show the timeline of when Galadriel lays bare the pits of Dol Guldur, and the fight in Dale is summarized. – KorvinStarmast Mar 31 '16 at 13:04
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    @JohnBell Ten thousand is suggested in the book but by Merry and after the battle took place: ''Well, of all sorts together, there must have been ten thousand at the very least,' said Merry. – Pryftan Dec 20 '17 at 19:23
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There aren't any canon figures on the relative strengths of Saruman's vs. Sauron's armies. But as this quote indicates, Saruman was deluding himself if he thought he was anything but Sauron's tool.

TLOTR, book III, Ch. 8:

A strong place and wonderful was Isengard, and long it had been beautiful; and there great lords had dwelt, the wardens of Gondor upon the West, and wise men that watched the stars. But Saruman had slowly shaped it to his shifting purposes, and made it better, as he thought, being deceived – for all those arts and subtle devices, for which he forsook his former wisdom, and which fondly he imagined were his own, came but from Mordor; so that what he made was naught, only a little copy, a child’s model or a slave’s flattery, of that vast fortress, armoury, prison, furnace of great power, Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower, which suffered no rival, and laughed at flattery, biding its time, secure in its pride and its immeasurable strength.

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According to TolkienGateway.net, Mordor's troops consisted of some 18,000 Easterlings and Haradrim, several Haradrim war Oliphaunts, and tens of thousands of Orcs just for the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Estimates for the number of orcs are over 50,000, with the full army size at 75,000.

Sauron had over 60,000 orcs, trolls, beasts, and Easterlings in reserve back in Mordor. These forces were unleashed through the Black Gate at the Battle of the Morannon.

This adds up a full army count of at least 135,000.

But wait! There's more!

During the Battle of Pelennor Fields, Sauron also sent many Easterlings to fight in the Battle of Dale.

Sauron also lost several thousand orcs in the Fall of Dol Goldur, a few hundred in the Siege of Gondor, and a few hundred in the Attack on Osgiliath.

Adding those up, Sauron likely had at least 140,000 soldiers under his command.

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This is only a guess.

Saruman had the lesser army at isengard. We know he had orcs and Uruk hai . We also know that 10,000 attacked helms deep . When the Ents fought back destroying Isengard we can see onscreen around 5,000 - 10,000 throughout the scene . Assuming there were more in the pit we can assume the army had 25,000

Sauron as we know had a much larger force in and out of Mordor . We can say that when Sam , Frodo and Gollum arrive at the city of the dead we see around 50,000 . This is orcs and the nazgul. But when Minas Tirrith is attacked in the behind the scenes the VFX team say they created 200,000. At the battle of Pellenor fields we see orcs , Uruk hai , the haradrim and easterlings with mumakils . Judging by the amount of characters on screen we can see at least another 100,000 - 150,000 Finally in Mordor . In the blu Ray extended edition we see an encampment of around another 200,000 and that's across the Entire 40 mins of frodo and Sam in mordor . At the battle of the black gate we see another 200,000 - 300,000 .

This leaves the entire army of Sauron at 825,000 but it could possibly more if I include his allies of the north and the goblins .

These are the estimates Orcs - 525,000 Uruk hai - 200,000 Haradrim - 18,000 Easterlings 50,000 Wild men , mumakil and cave trolls - 7000

In the hobbit we know of saurons army at dol guldur which was At the size of 100,000-375,000 After all we can estimate his army from the 2nd agetotheend of the 3rd age consisted of 1.2 million+

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