During most of the time when Sauron was a global threat, the One Ring was believed to be lost. Therefore, the good people could not rely on killing Sauron by destroying it in the Orodruin.

What plan did the White Council (and other powerful people) have to pacify Sauron at the end of the Third Age? What were the chances that their plan would actually work?

Quote from the Return of the King's Third Age history to backup my first sentence.

2951: Sauron declares himself openly and gathers power in Mordor. He begins the rebuilding of Barad-dûr. [...] Sauron sends three of the Nazgûl to reoccupy Dol Guldur.

2953: Last meeting of the White Council. They debate the Rings. Saruman feigns that he has discovered that the One Ring has passed down Anduin to the Sea.

2954: Mount Doom bursts into flame again. The last inhabitants of Ithilien flee over Anduin.

3001: Bilbo’s farewell feast. Gandalf suspects his ring to be the One Ring.

The Return of the King, Appendix B: The Tale of Years

  • 4
    Run towards him until everyone's dead.
    – Valorum
    Apr 30, 2017 at 0:03

3 Answers 3


The plan was to stall (and survive) Sauron's attacks.

That was basically what everyone did in the Third Age: Holding off Sauron's attacks. Never once, since the Last Alliance, was Mordor attacked directly. (Until the end of the Third Age obviously). It would have been too foolhardy to do so.

Before Mordor was re-established, Sauron's stronghold was Dol Guldur. The plan was to defeat that stronghold. (Refer below)

First off, let me clarify your point on the White Council. Their purpose of being formed was mainly to defeat the power in Dol Guldur, not Mordor in general.

2460 The Watchful Peace ends. Sauron returns with increased strength to Dol Guldur.

2463 The White Council is formed. About this time Deagol ...

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Appendix B

As seen from the quote, the White Council was formed due to the return of Sauron to Dol Guldur. Its main purpose was to destroy the forces of Sauron in Dol Guldur.

Back to the plan; Sauron was really powerful by the end of the Third Age, having bred countless orcs and recruiting lots of Men. The plan, if the Ring was not found, would have been to stall as long as possible.

There were a few main (powerful) kingdoms which could stall Sauron:

  • Gondor (Minas Tirith+Dol Amroth+Lossarnach+...)
  • Rohan
  • Lorien
  • Rivendell
  • Thranduil's realm in Mirkwood
  • Erebor
  • Dale
  • Grey Havens

These kingdoms would have stalled Sauron as long as possible, especially Gondor. This is suggested during the Council of Elrond;

At once Boromir stood up, tall and proud, before them. 'Give me leave, Master Elrond,' said he, 'first to say more of Gondor; for verily from the land of Gondor I am come. And it would be well for all to know what passes there. For few, I deem, know of our deeds, and therefore guess little of their peril, if we should fail at last. 'Believe not that in the land of Gondor the blood of Númenor is spent, nor all its pride and dignity forgotten. By our valour the wild folk of the East are still restrained, and the terror of Morgul kept at bay; and thus alone are peace and freedom maintained in the lands behind us, bulwark of the West. But if the passages of the River should be won, what then?

Therefore, should the Ring have not been found, the main plan for the Peoples of Middle-Earth would've been to stall Sauron, even if they could not.

'I know little of Iarwain save the name,' said Galdor; 'but Glorfindel, I think, is right. Power to defy our Enemy is not in him, unless such power is in the earth itself. And yet we see that Sauron can torture and destroy the very hills. What power still remains lies with us, here in Imladris, or with Círdan at the Havens, or in Lórien. But have they the strength, have we here the strength to withstand the Enemy, the coming of Sauron at the last, when all else is overthrown?' 'I have not the strength,' said Elrond; 'neither have they.'

Fortunately, the One Ring was found, so the new plan was: to send the Ring into Mount Doom whilst the rest of the kingdoms tried to stall.

  • It's worth mentioning that this plan, to stall, was doomed to fail. This answer has an excellent explanation as to why. Aug 2, 2023 at 16:16

I don't think there was one, because very shortly after Sauron's re-establishment in Mordor there was no body that could produce an 'official plan' for all the good side.

Note that in the Tale of Years excerpt you quote in the question, the "last meeting of the White Council" is only 2 years after "Sauron openly declares himself", and it doesn't seem like they accomplished much.

At this point Saruman (the leader of the Istari) is working against them accomplishing much of anything (note "Saruman feigns that he has discovered that the One Ring has passed down Anduin to the Sea" - IE he lied to convince them the problem was less urgent than it actually was.)

Gandalf discusses this in the chapter "The Council of Elrond":

'But Saruman said nay, and repeated what he had said to us before: that the One would never be found again in Middle-earth.

"At the worst," said he, "our Enemy knows that we have it not, and that it still is lost. But what was lost may yet be found, he thinks. Fear not! His hope will cheat him. Have I not earnestly studied this matter? Into Anduin the Great it fell; and long ago, while Sauron slept, it was rolled down the River to the Sea. There let it lie until the End." '


'There I was at fault', he said. 'I was lulled by the words of Saruman the Wise; but I should have sought for the truth sooner, and our peril would now be less.'

Saruman had apparently been acting as a spanner in the works for quite a while: Gandalf says that, before the Council's attack on Dol Guldur,

Some, too, will remember also that Saruman dissuaded us from open deeds against him, and for long we watched him only.

Individual nations and 'safe havens' might have had their own plans - Gondor seemed to believe victory by military force was possible, for example - but between the last meeting of the White Council and the Council of Elrond a general "official plan" doesn't seem to have been present.


Nothing else was going to work. A military victory like in the War of the Last Alliance was no longer possible. The Elves of course had the option of retreating to Valinor (at least until the Grey Havens eventually fell). For everyone else there was no hope of victory or escape, only resisting Sauron as long as possible.

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