An elf named Glorfindel killed a Balrog in the First Age. Balrogs are Maiar that were corrupted by Morgoth. We know they can be killed by powerful beings, like the wizards, in single combat because Gandalf killed one.

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Sauron was also one of the Maiar. Or more precisely, he was one of the lesser Ainur who entered the world, and the lesser Ainur were called Maiar.

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Only a very powerful elf could even hold a fight against a Maia. When the Fellowship encountered a balrog in the mines of Moria, Gandalf said "this foe is beyond any of you". He didn't say, "well, except maybe Legolas". So clearly he didn't think Legolas was powerful enough to kill a balrog, but maybe Elrond or Galadriel could.

A human defeated Sauron during the siege against the Mount Doom in the Last Alliance, but I see that as stupidity and luck. Sauron made a stupid move of trying to grab Isildur with his ring-hand and Isildur getting lucky when he used the hilt-shard of the sword to slice that hand. I doubt Isildur or any human could defeat Sauron in open combat.

I'm not asking if an elf could have cut the ring from Sauron's finger as Isildur did, or if an elf could have tossed the ring into Mount Doom. I am asking about open combat the way Gandalf fought the balrog in open combat.

So if an Elf slew a Balrog in single combat, which is a Maia, could an elf also slay Sauron in single combat?

Please provide quotes and links from canon sources for your answers.

  • 18
    Sauron lost a fight to a dog; he isn't much of a warrior. Getting it to stick is a different matter but Sauron would have the same problem with the elf. Oct 8, 2017 at 3:06
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    Well, that "dog" was Huan, he was a Maia too, was one of the hunting hounds of Orome and was the size of a horse; not your average puppy.
    – Sekhemty
    Oct 8, 2017 at 7:59
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    sigh Your real question is more or less "how exactly fight with Sauron looked like",
    – Mithoron
    Oct 8, 2017 at 17:21
  • 4
    He was sent with sole purpose of helping others fight Sauron. The Istari were forbidden from fighting him directly. Oct 8, 2017 at 23:01
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    Tolkien makes a very clear distinction between overall power and fighting prowess - Tulkas is said to be the least powerful Valar, but the best single-combat fighter, and is the one who beats Morgoth, the most powerful Valar. So I think it is fair to say that Sauron being called powerful does by no means imply that he is a good fighter. Balrogs are Maiar whose sole purpose is looking scary and being dangerous, so there might be a good chance that any of them is harder to beat head on than Sauron.
    – Arne
    Nov 8, 2017 at 14:09

7 Answers 7


Sauron was already defeated once (with help) by an Elf, Gil-galad. Gil-galad and Elendil fought Sauron at the end of the War of the Last Alliance, both dying in the process but allowing Isildur to take the Ring. Which leads to the main problem, 'killing' Sauron at best a temporary victory if you do not also destroy the Ring.

The other problem is no elf would have a chance of getting close to him. Unlike how the movie showed it, the only reason Sauron even fought Gil-galad and Elendil was that the Last Alliance defeated his armies and laid siege to Barad-dur for seven years. Sauron's enemies no longer had the strength to defeat him in war, so he was never going to get into such a fight again.

  • Correct, he wouldn't have been foolish enough to try that again esp considering this time he didn't have the Ring whereas before he did (much like when he seduced the Númenóreans when they assailed him and his army fled). He was however foolish to not destroy Sammath Naur...
    – Pryftan
    Dec 26, 2017 at 22:43

Sauron has been defeated

  1. By Huan, the wolfhound of Oromë. Sauron was in the form of a werewolf. Sauron was weakened by Lúthien's magic leaving him fatigued and blind. Despite this the fight between Huan and Sauron was fierce, and Sauron managed to flee at the end of the battle

  2. At the downfall of Númenor. Sauron was on the island when it sunk into the ocean. At the time he had a fair appearance, the better to deceive men and elves. His fair body was destroyed, and he could henceforth no longer appear in this form

  3. By Gil-gilad, Elendil and his sons. Sauron had been greatly weakened by the destruction of his body in Númenor. The Last Alliance beseiged and defeated his armies. Isidur cut the ring from his finger.

  4. By the destruction of the ring in the fires of Mount Doom.

A powerful enough elf could defeat Sauron, especially if he were weakened in some way, but could not destroy his spirit. At full strength, Sauron would be a powerful adversary, a magician and a shapeshifter.

It appears that the physical destruction of the body of a Maiar can leave it weakened and unable to manifest itself for a period of time. For a lesser Maiar, such as the Balrogs, killing the body may leave the spirit too weak to again trouble the world. Sauron is a greater force than this, and killing him may only leave him weakened for a while.

  • 6
    It isn't that Balrogs are necessarily weaker but also that the evil Ainur tend use their power in ways that the body and spirit become more connected than they normally are for the Ainur, this even happened to Morgoth by the end of the First Age. It may have been primarily due the Ring that Sauron avoided this as long as he did. Oct 8, 2017 at 13:06
  • Yes, Isildur defeated Sauron in the Last Alliance, but I see that as Sauron making a stupid move of trying to grab Isildur with his ring-hand and Isildur getting lucky when he used the hilt-shard of the sword to slice that hand. But I doubt Isildur could defeat Sauron in open combat.
    – RichS
    Oct 8, 2017 at 15:58
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    @RichS That's how it was portrayed in the movie. In the books, it is more likely that Sauron was already "dead" (or at least, what passes for death for a Maia), and Isildur essentially just plundered a corpse.
    – chepner
    Oct 8, 2017 at 20:51
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    This doesn't address the question. He asked about fighting Sauron one-to-one. He didn't ask if an elf could throw a ring in a lava pit or if an elf could slice off Sauron's hand or if Sauron drowned when an island sank.
    – user89104
    Oct 9, 2017 at 5:52
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    @LincolnMan: Elendil and Gil-Galad killed Sauron in combat. Isildur took the ring off his helpless body/corpse in the book. Addtionally, Sauron could pretty evidently have been killed by the Numenoreans when they took him prisoner. Also, Finrod did pretty well against him in a 1v1 magic battle.
    – Shamshiel
    Oct 9, 2017 at 15:26

Note that, at the time the answer was written, the question was simply "Could and Elf kill Sauron". The question was subsequently changed to add "in single combat".

There is always some ambiguity when talking about "killing" an immortal being. It is even more complicated when talking about Sauron, who has transferred most of his power into the Ring.

In the final battle of the Last Alliance, when Sauron had kills Gil-galad and Elendil, only Isildur and Elrond were close enough to take on Sauron. Isildur cuts the Ring from Sauron's hand and as a result, Sauron was unable to take shape for over two thousand years. I see no reason why an Elrond or another valiant Elf (if there had been one nearby) could not have done that.

We also know that after the creation of the Ring, the only way to remove Sauron from Middle-earth for ever (which I suppose is the equivalent of killing him) is to destroy the Ring. Again, I suppose anyone could do that, but in the end it was only a few of Hobbits (Sam, Frodo and Gollum) who actually did it. Even then it took a little something extra to "push" them over the finish line.

  • 1
    How does this answer the question of single combat against Sauron?
    – user89104
    Oct 9, 2017 at 5:52
  • @LincolnMan The question asks about killing Sauron, and I tried to point out the problems with doing so.
    – Blackwood
    Oct 9, 2017 at 12:07
  • It's heavily implied that Isildur only cut the Ring off his finger; that Elendil and Gil-galad are the ones who took him down the first time.
    – Pryftan
    Dec 26, 2017 at 22:52

The only being who could outright kill an Ainur of any rank would be Eru Illuvatar.

Any other being would at best, only be able to expel Sauron from his physical form, and severely weaken him for quite some time.

Additionally, whilst there are instances of Sauron and other Maia being defeated by the Eldar and secondborn, it was nowhere actually stated that any of them were actually killed.

That being said: In those same accounts of elves and men defeating Maia, it is sometimes stated that their spirits were dispersed and weakened so they could never trouble the world again. To me at least, that is a pretty functional definition of death.

So, to answer your question, as to whether an elf could kill Sauron:

Literally, no, but it is possible to render him effectively dead, from the mortal world' point of view. A sufficiently powerful, and well armed elf, could, given the right conditions, have destroyed Sauron's physical form so that he would not have been able to rise again.

Or, a sufficiently pure elf(I'm looking at you, Glorfindel) could have dumped the ring into the cracks of doom instead of Frodo, which would have achieved the same result.

  • No an Elf couldn't, it was Frodo's destiny as outlined in the Music of the Ainur. The only person that could "kill" Sauron was Frodo.
    – Edlothiad
    Oct 24, 2017 at 14:01
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    Yes, Frodo's destiny has been established. What I am illustrating though, is that if an Elf had done it, then it would have effectively killed Sauron, thus making it possible for an Elf to kill him, indirectly. It's a hypothetical situation, much like the question.
    – Ian Young
    Oct 24, 2017 at 14:03

Probably not , an Elf like Fingolfin who was one of the most powerful indeed injure Melkor when he was at his weakest , but since according to Tolkien Sauron at his best>Melkor at his weakest Sauron should be able to defeat someone like Fingolfin without much trouble , maybe 2-3 not so serious cut , I don't think there was any Elf who was better in combat than Fingolfin

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Please note that the question isn't asking for speculation, it specifically asks for canonically sourced answers: "Please provide quotes and links from canon sources for your answers." Can you back up your assertions with quotes?
    – DavidW
    Feb 1, 2022 at 22:52

Feanor and Fingolfin could definitely kill him. Feanor might even be able to destroy the One Ring as his skill in craft was much greater than Sauron or any other Elf that created the rings. Thingol would probably kill him too. Luthien could as well, probably.


NO maia may be killed, but when expelled they transit to the halls of mandos. Morkoth the Valar was expelled to the outer darkness but NOT killed.

Only men and animals die, the rest are perpetual and return from mandos afresh. This includes dwarves and... Orcs!

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