From the "Tale of the Years," Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings,

3441 Sauron overthrown by Elendil and Gil-galad, who perished...

I recall there being more information about the end of the Siege of Barad-dûr, but I can't find anything, and I might be confusing the facts in my mind with the movies (darn movies). I don't own the Book of Lost Tales to do any deeper diving.

From any of the books, is there a more detailed account of what happened at the end of the Siege of Barad-dûr? Where Elendil and Gil-galad slain before Sauron died (which is what my mind thinks)? Who actually struck the blow that vanquished Sauron's physical form?

  • 1
    What? Sauron didn't die, what makes you think he did? He was obviously still around during the Third Age. May 2, 2017 at 11:36
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    Isildur, by cutting off the Ring?
    – Petersaber
    May 2, 2017 at 11:39
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    @Daniel Roseman His body was killed. The difference is that a Maia, and with the help of the Ring, that death wasn't permanent. May 2, 2017 at 12:06
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    @DanielRoseman Yes, that was badly worded. I edited to be clear that I am asking about who destroyed his physical form.
    – kingledion
    May 2, 2017 at 13:47

2 Answers 2


Isildur, possibly

NB: As stated in the edited form of the question. Sauron didn't "die" in the traditional sense, however his body died and his spirit carried on. This is covered here.

Lets go in order from The Lord of the Rings books, through to the Appendices, onto The Silmarillion and finally into the Letters. (Emphasis mine)

To begin with the Council of Elrond

I beheld the last combat on the slopes of Orodruin, where Gil-galad died, and Elendil fell, and Narsil broke beneath him; but Sauron himself was overthrown, and Isildur cut the Ring from his hand with the hilt-shard of his father's sword, and took it for his own.
FotR: The Council of Elrond

Elrond doesn't tell us much beyond "Sauron was overthrown". This doesn't tell us if he died before or after, but tells us that before Isildur cut the Ring off, Sauron had at least been defeated (this becomes more important later on).

In Appendix B: Tale of Years, Tolkien says that Sauron passes away after the Ring is taken from him.

Sauron overthrown by Elendil and Gil-galad, who perish. Isildur takes the One Ring. Sauron passes away ...
FotR: Appendix B, "Tale of Years"

This seems to suggest that after being overthrown, Sauron remained alive, however after Isildur takes the Ring, he then perishes.

This is again supported in The Silmarillion where Sauron is described as being vanquished after the Ring was taken from him.

Sauron himself came forth; and he wrestled with Gil-galad and Elendil, and they both were slain, and the sword of Elendil broke under him as he fell. But Sauron also was thrown down, and with the hilt-shard of Narsil Isildur cut the Ruling Ring from the hand of Sauron and took it for his own. Then Sauron was for that time vanquished, and he forsook his body, and his spirit fled far away and hid in waste places
The Silmarillion - "Of the Rings of Power"

However, in a letter to Milton Waldon, Tolkien contradicts what he'd said above and suggest that Gilgalad and Elendil had indeed slain Sauron and Isildur cutting the Ring from his hand freed his spirit from his body.

“It ends with the overthrow of Sauron and destruction of the second visible incarnation of evil. But at a cost, and with one disastrous mistake. Gilgalad and Elendil are slain in the act of slaying Sauron. Isildur, Elendil's son, cuts die ring from Sauron's hand, and his power departs, and his spirit flees into the shadows. [sic]
Letter 131 - Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

Saying in the act of slaying Sauron does not necessarily mean they had slain Sauron, but merely suggest that they were in the act of doing so. I don't see, however, why he'd change his opinion in his Letters before publishing the finished Lord of the Rings 3 years later.

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    Isildur cutting the ring from a corpses' hand does not sound quite so heroic. May 2, 2017 at 13:45
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    It isn't clear to me that Tolkien uses the phrase "pass away" to mean "die" or "perish" in the usual sense. I think I recall other instances where it means more like "goes to another place". May 2, 2017 at 14:36
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    @NateEldredge Sauron doesn't necessarily die, as he is a Maiar. His body (hroä) does die, his spirit however "goes to another place"
    – Edlothiad
    May 2, 2017 at 14:47
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    It always puzzled me why no one wants to talk about what happened there. Everyone just throws vague words around, such as "Sauron was overthrown", etc.
    – void_ptr
    May 2, 2017 at 15:20
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    @Wiles Ah I see, but a Man's body spirit doesn't "live on" as in it's fate is not tied to Arda, Sauron's (as a Maiar) is
    – Edlothiad
    May 2, 2017 at 16:59

He never died, only his physical form was destroyed during that Battle.

So your question would be: Who defeated Sauron in the War of the Last Alliance? The right answer would be Isildur.

As taken from https://atolkienistperspective.wordpress.com/2016/02/21/the-tale-of-the-last-alliance/ which is wholly accurate and summarises the Battle really well:

Then Gil-galad and Elendil passed into Mordor and encompassed the stronghold of Sauron; and they laid siege to it for seven years, and suffered grievous loss by fire and by the darts and bolts of the Enemy, and Sauron sent many sorties against them. There in the valley of Gorgoroth Anárion son of Elendil was slain, and many others. The helm of Anárion was crushed by the stone-cast from Barad-dûr that slew him.

But at the last the siege was so strait that Sauron himself came forth; and he wrestled with Gil-galad and Elendil. Elrond beheld the last combat on the slopes of Orodruin […]. Isildur alone stood by his father in that last mortal contest; and by Gil-galad only Círdan stood, and Elrond. With the heat of Sauron’s hand, which was black and yet burned like fire, Gil-galad was destroyed. But Sauron also was thrown down, and with the hilt-shard of Narsil Isildur cut the Ruling Ring from the hand of Sauron and took it for his own. Then Sauron was for that time vanquished, and he forsook his body, and his spirit fled far away and hid in waste places; and he took no visible shape again for many long years.

Most of the tales of the War of the Last Alliance is scattered throughout the Lord of the Rings' books (quotes found in Edlothiad's answer) and History of Middle-earth: The Return of the Shadow.

This would answer your second (a detailed account) as well.

For your third (site of Elendil and Gil-galad death) question: At that time they were participating in the Siege of Barad-dûr; so it is likely that they perished before the Barad-dûr whilst in combat with Sauron.

  • 2
    Regarding the first sentence, by that definition nobody ever dies in the Legendarium.
    – OrangeDog
    May 26 at 8:57

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