In T.A. 2941 Mairon/Sauron returned to Barad-Dûr in Gorgoroth, and ten years later revealed himself openly. What I wonder is why there were no obstacles whatsoever when returning to Gorgoroth which, logically, at that time was under Gondor control. How could Sauron simply return, claim himself ruler of all of Mordor again, and establish a power too strong for Gondor to do anything about it?

After Isildur defeated Sauron, Mount Doom stopped casting a shadow over Gorgoroth for 2900 years. Didn't the Gondirrim try to make the plains of Gorgoroth fertile? Didn't they settle the plains? Weren't there any permanent patrols of hundreds of soldiers? What about the people of Nûrn, weren't they under Gondor's rule for more than 2000 years?

  • 2
    Played "Shadow of Mordor" too much? ;)
    – Mithoron
    Jul 31 at 22:42
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    Why wouldn’t Sauron make gorgoroth fertile if it were possible? Why rely on tithes of food from the south? Aug 1 at 2:48
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    @ToddWilcox Because Sauron is evil and he and his minions don't like light. That's the main reason why there's a shadow over Gorgoroth in the first place. Especially (non-Uruk-hai) orcs need to stay away from sunlight. Therefore Sauron needed the shadow for his orc army anyway. The lands of Nûrn on the other way are actually fertile, populated by humans. Aug 1 at 4:58
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    Sauron is a Lich King, I'm pretty sure he knows Teleportation Circle
    – clockw0rk
    Aug 1 at 20:26
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    Nowhere does it say that any part of Mordor was ruled by Gondor, only that Gondor kept watch over the entrances (which are implied to be the western entrances and the northwest corner of Mordor, not the entire region surrounded by Ered Lithui and Ephel Duath.
    – chepner
    Aug 1 at 21:57

Most of the answers you need are contained in Appendices A and B to LotR. In short, Gondor was weakened by the civil war of the Kin Strife and the Great Plague. Mordor was left unguarded as of TA1640. Around two hundred years later, Gondor was repeatedly attacked by the wainriders (a powerful tribe of Easterlings, or possibly a confederacy of tribes). Possibly around that time, and certainly by TA1980, the ringwraiths re-entered Mordor to prepare for the return of Sauron. Even with Sauron still in Dol Guldur, the ringwraiths were powerful enough to seize Minas Ithil in TA2002. There was nothing to stop Sauron's return in TA2951.

I don't think the possibility of settling Gorgoroth or making it fertile is discussed anywhere. I would guess that this was not feasible, but am not aware of any canon material on the matter.

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    What about the people of Nûrn? Did their local leaders surrender to Gondor/Arnor following Sauron's defeat at the end of the 2nd age? How did they react to Sauron or the Nazgûl retaking (parts of) Mordor? Jul 31 at 16:54
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    Good answer! Gorgoroth was volcanic debris like, say, most of Iceland today. That sort of landscape can develop fertile patches if well-watered (like Iceland) and left undisturbed by further volcanism for a few hundred years -- faster if there's regular rain and nearby vegetation to more quickly colonize the area. But all of NW Mordor was in the rain shadow of its border mountain ranges, so even without eruptions it would have been very slow to recover. And Mt. Doom seems to have been active even without being goaded by the demise of the Ring.
    – Mark Olson
    Jul 31 at 16:58
  • Somewhere in LOTR it's remarked, in so many words, that Mordor will have to be washed by the ocean's waves before it can be fertile again. Jul 31 at 17:03
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    @AragornElessar --- Very little is known about Nurn. The people working there toward the end of the third age were slaves (Aragorn freed them). Whether the area was populated during Sauron's absence is unknown, as far as I am aware. Jul 31 at 17:03
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    @InvisibleTrihedron - I thought that was the Brown Lands.
    – FlaStorm32
    Aug 1 at 3:42

Remember that Sauron ruled most of Middle-earth beyond the borders of the Middle-earth maps, in Harad to the south and Rhûn to the east, and beyond those lands, for one or two thousand years during the Second Age, the Black Years of Middle-Earth.

Sauron was the direct ruler or the overlord of local monarchs, and he was worshipped as a god.

Only Númenórean settlements on the coast, and a few Elf or Dwarf realms, mostly in the northwest of Middle-Earth, escaped from Sauron's rule or control.

And after Sauron was defeated at the end of the Second Age, all those lands became independent, except for those which the Númenóreans took over. But If most of the people of Middle-earth were Sauron worshippers, they would not just automatically stop worshipping Sauron.

Many people in those lands would try to overthrow the Sauron religions, but the priests of those religions would resist those attempts. So in some countries the Sauron religion might be overthrown and prohibited, but secret cults of Sauron worshippers might remain, despite persecution, hoping for his return. And in other countries the Suaron religion would defeat those rebels and crush them, and persecute all who claimed that Sauron was a false god. The Sauron priests would claim that Sauron merely left as a test of how faithful his followers were, and was certain to return.

And maybe there were bloody religious wars between countries which still worshipped Sauron and those which no longer did.

Sauron was reduced to a mere spirit after being killed on Mount Doom, and nobody knows exactly how long it took him to make a new body for himself. It might have taken him a thousand years, for example, to take a physical form again, as suggested by the Tale of Years.

And what did Sauron do as a spirit during all the years, decades, centuries, or millennia it took him to make a new physical body for himself? Maybe he concentrated only on making himself a new body. Maybe he roamed the world invisibly, telepathically encouraging Sauron worshippers and discouraging anti Sauron groups.

Obviously Sauron gained a degree of influence and/or control over many groups of Orcs, trolls, evil creatures, and mortal men in the last two millennia of the Third Age. It is assumed by readers that the various groups of "barbarians" who came from the east to attack Gondor, for example, were influenced by Sauron in one way or another to migrate west and attack Gondor.

Tolkien sometimes wrote that the other two wizards, the Blue Wizards, traveled to the east of Middle-earth to fight against Sauron's attempts to regain his influence, overlordship, and direct control of various lands in the east. Tolkien didn't make up his mind about much they succeeded or failed, but clearly by the time Sauron returned to Mordor he could have brought a large army of Sauron worshippers from the East as an invasion force if he wanted or needed to.

Sauron might not have needed an army to enter Mordor openly. Mordor had not been guarded by Gondor for centuries by then, and had even been controlled by the Nazgul for centuries, who presumably had formed armies of orcs and communities of human slaves in Núrn to feed the orcs.

See my answer to this question: Was Mordor inhabited between Sauron's defeat at the battle of the last alliance and his return?

Sauron was allready the monarch of Mordor, governing it from afar, when he entered it and openly proclaimed himself to be Sauron returned.

  • Thank you. Your linked posts are interesting too. Add to this the fact that some of the Nazgûl (who once were mannish kings) probably still are kings of the southern and eastern countries. E.g. Khamûl, the 2nd-highest ringwraith after the Witch-king, is obviously the King of Khand, and if other Nazgûl are rulers of Near Harad, Far Harad and Rhûn it would explain why these countries remained evil. Aug 1 at 17:56
  • @AragornElessar --- Is there a quote that states (or suggests) that Khamul is the king of Khand? I am not aware of any, but could have missed something. Aug 2 at 7:57
  • @IanThompson No, there is none but his name implies he's the ruler of some eastern country allied with Mordor. Khând would fit. Aug 2 at 7:58
  • @AragornElessar --- Perhaps, but Variags seem to be separate from Easterlings: "Easterlings with axes and Variags of Khand" --- The Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Khamul seems to have been an Easterling, so I don't think Khand is the best fit. Aug 2 at 8:05
  • @IanThompson But I think some Nazgûl rules Khand, and other Nazgûl other countries allied with Sauron, because the nine rings were mostly given to rulers, and the southern and eastern countries remained loyal to Mordor throughout the third age despite Sauron's temporary defeat. Aug 2 at 8:08

Sauron can teleport

But it is often mentioned in the legends that certain of the Valar, and occasionally of the Maiar, 'passed over the Sea', and appeared in Middle-earth. (Notably Orome, Ulmo, and Yavanna. ) The Valar and Maiar were essentially ' spirits' , according to Elvish tradition given being before the making of Ea. They could go where they willed, that is could be present at once at any point in Ea where they desired to be.

† Subject only to special limitations voluntarily taken upon themselves or decreed by Eru. Thus after the final establishment of Arda, when the Valar, the spirits destined to be most concerned with this chosen stage for combat with Melkor, took up their abode on Middle-earth, they no longer passed beyond its confines. That is, according to Elvish tradition they remained, usually clad in their fanar, in physical residence on earth as its guardians.
Parma Eldlamberon #17, page 177, "On √PHAN; fana and related matters."

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    Nice point. However, the note seems to imply they can only "teleport" when/while they don't have a fanar. He could teleport back to Middle Earth when he lost his body and abandoned the sinking isle of Numenor, but I half-remember someting about him being more and more tied to his new body afterwards (of course, I could be misremembering).
    – lfurini
    Aug 1 at 11:22
  • I think Sauron rather "flew" from Dol Guldur to Gorgoroth, but my question deals with why there were no obstacles in taking back power over Mordor and forming a powerful army so that a few decades later noone thought Sauron could be defeated except when destroying the ring. Aug 1 at 11:45
  • @Ifurini - I think Tolkien's footnote is just about why they can't return to the timeless halls. I don't think the fanar impedes them from teleportation within Arda.
    – ibid
    Aug 1 at 18:23
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    I think the fact that Elendil and Gil-galad were able to physically vanquish Sauron is a huge argument against his ability to teleport at will.
    – chepner
    Aug 2 at 13:40
  • All the Ainur originally could do this, but those who became bound to physical form either by being Istari or by evil seem to have lost the ability. Sauron is probably in the latter situation after the Downfall of Numenor; while he can rebuild his body it is stuck in 'evil' form, and Gollum says Sauron's cut-off finger is still missing... Sep 10 at 4:32

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