While as far as I know no clear details are given, in The Lord of the Rings Sauron seems to command huge numbers of humans as well as the Orcs — definitely the Haradrim and the Variags of Khand fight for him.

But how? Do those people know they are working for Sauron, and if so, why do they do it?

I suppose he could offer the local leaders power, but what could he actually offer them, and how would he keep control when they tried to run things for themselves? In the Second Age he presumably handled things through the kings wearing the Nine Rings, but at this point they're Nazgûl (creepy even when they don't actually have the supernatural fear "turned on") and thus not very good at ruling humans.

Sauron doesn't seem to travel around personally and demonstrate his supernatural powers.

The Orcs don't have any supernatural abilities to demonstrate 'divine sanction', are obviously unpleasant, and are individually weaker than humans.

So Sauron doesn't really seem to have an ability to 'show the flag' far from Mordor.

Does he just send the Nazgûl to scare leaders into doing what he wants? But there are only 9 of them and until well into LotR they have no special transportation — 9 guys really shouldn't be able to keep control of millions of square miles of land with pre-modern communications and transportation (and Sauron has only one palantír, so he can't use them as magical cell phones).

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    I guess it would be more like 'join or die', Sauron was pretty good in spreading fear and despair, even Saruman joined him and Denethor ignored him though Mordor was pretty much the doorstep of the White city.
    – Mixxiphoid
    Apr 22, 2017 at 11:29
  • The answer to this question is going to be very speculative, but one example could be the Mouth of Sauron going to see the dwarves.
    – Edlothiad
    Apr 22, 2017 at 11:38
  • @Mixxiphoid: but rule by fear/ultimatums only works if you can enforce it. How did Sauron project power into areas he couldn't practically march an Orc army into? Apr 22, 2017 at 12:14
  • Also 'share of power' was appearently a thing. Saruman thought he would rule be Saurons side. Promises of power are very aluring, hence the 9 wraiths.
    – Mixxiphoid
    Apr 22, 2017 at 12:37
  • The 'why' question answers pretty nicely on the 'how', in my opinion.
    – Tjafaas
    Apr 22, 2017 at 14:03

1 Answer 1


This is somewhat speculative, but as mentioned in the comments, I'm not sure there is anything more definitive to answer with:

Sauron spent 1,000 years in the east following his defeat by the Last Alliance. Also at least at least many of these same men (their ancestors, not them specifically) had previously served Morgoth. It is entirely possible they had demonstrations of power in the past. Combined with the fact there was essentially no opposition to him in these areas (outside of the Blue Wizards later on, though Tolkien had varying opinions over time on how effective they were).

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