Both the Maia Mairon (who became Sauron) and Curumo (embodied as Saruman) served under the Valar Aulë. Both eventually became corrupted, and turned to evil.

Was there any particular thing about the nature and values of Aulë that could have caused this? I know Aulë likes order in things and, taken to the extreme, this could lead to someone wishing to conquer in order to create order in the world.

But I would argue that the same thing could be said about the values of the other Valar.

Take Nienna as an example; she stands for mercy and grief, but both taken to the extreme could lead to someone walking down to the same path as Mairon/Sauron and Curumo/Saruman.

Gandalf, in a way, hints as much when Frodo asks him to take the Ring; that if Gandalf accepted it he would try to use it for good but in the end would end up just like Sauron. This can be interpreted as even the most noble of values and intentions can be broken and turned to evil.

So what was it about Aulë and his teachings, nature or personality, that caused both Sauron and Saruman to in the end both walk down the same path? Especially when we take into consideration that it seemed that the other "known" Maiar who served under the other Valar were able to resist the temptation.

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    Original thought: Aulë is all about craft. Both Sauron and Saruman are driven by a desire to understand how things work, use that to make ever more subtle and powerful things, and fall to their own pride over the free will of others. See also Fëanor and Dwarves in general.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 10:24
  • 4
    He is about craft and pride in what you have created. If you treat people as things to be molded or machines to be perfected... Well, the problems will quickly arise. Both Sauron and Saruman want more, want perfection and both bring industry ("improved efficiency to do things") to Middle Earth.
    – jo1storm
    Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 12:02
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    @jo1storm But that was the difference between Aule and Sauron, Saruman (or Feanor, who suffered from the same problem without the connection). Aule loved making things but did not desire to keep them to himself, his 'pride' was limited to pride in the quality of the work and how much others enjoyed it. Its also a little tricky to compare Sauron and Saruman as Saruman was further impacted by the 'flaws' that came from becoming one of the Istari (more 'human' than Ainur generally were) and his fall was partially due to hopelessness of not seeing any other way to beat Sauron. Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 23:37

2 Answers 2


Tolkien says nothing directly about this, so any answer is going to be in part speculation. (Perhaps informed speculation, but still!)

In the comments to the original question, OrangeDog and jo1storm are on the right track: Basically, Tolkien understood the nature of the scientist, the techie, the engineer, the craftsman. They all tend to be people who have fallen in love with their science or craft and tend to forget that anything else matters. (And also tend to forget that people are more complicated than craft.)

Beyond that it is very easy for creative people of any sort to take pride in what they have created -- this is often one of the main motivativations for creation. But it is perilous as even just pride in one's own skill can turn to envy of others' skill and into greed which hoards what that skill has created. Tolkien speaks directly to this in the Ainulindale:

...but the delight and pride of Aule is in the deed of making, and in the thing made, and neither in possession nor in his own mastery; wherefore he gives and hoards not, and is free from care, passing ever on to some new work.

and later:

[Aule] is a smith and a master of all crafts, and he delights in works of skill, however small, as much as in the mighty building of old. His are the gems that lie deep in the Earth and the gold that is fair in the hand, no less than the walls of the mountains and the basins of the sea. The Noldor learned most of him, and he was ever their friend. Melkor was jealous of him, for Aule was most like himself in thought and in powers; and there was long strife between them, in which Melkor ever marred or undid the works of Aule, and Aule grew weary in repairing the tumults and disorders of Melkor. Both, also, desired to make things of their own that should be new and unthought of by others, and delighted in the praise of their skill.

After Aule has created the Dwarves and been called on it by Eru, he says:

Then Aule answered 'I did not desire such lordship. I desired things other than I am, to love and to teach them, so that they too might perceive the beauty of Eä, which thou hast caused to be.

I think that Tolkien perceived a flaw in all creative people (himself doubtless included) which is particularly easy for people who build/create/invent physical things fall into: Wanting to hoard and control and rule and be Lord.

Aule was the best of Ainur of this type, and he very nearly fell when he created the Dwarves. Melkor, Sauron and Saruman did fall.

Melkor wanted to create, but he wanted to create his own universe and then to rule it. His pride in his own accomplishments led him to be jealous of his nearest competitor's works. Aule creates a people, Morgoth creates slaves.

Sauron and Saruman, lesser beings, fail in lesser but similar ways.

Among Elves, we see Feanor, of course:

The heart of Feanor was fast bound to these things that he himself had made.


For Feanor began to love the Silmarils with a greedy love, and grudged the sight of them to all save to his father and his seven sons; he seldom remembered now that the light within them was not his own.

In the end, I think that this pattern reflects Tolkien's own fear of falling due to over-involvement in his own creative powers. Perhaps one of the reasons he was able to invent such good villains is that he can see himself perhaps falling this same way.

But there's an additional point. Tolkien was uneasy with machinery and modernization and of all the kinds creative people, probably distrusts people who create physical things the most.

Treebeard says of Saruman:

He has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for growing things, except as far as they serve him for the moment.

  • Also Celebrimbor, at least as he's portrayed in the Shadows of War games.
    – nick012000
    Commented Sep 10, 2021 at 13:59
  • We'll supply the ideas, you supply the quotes :)
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Sep 10, 2021 at 16:59
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    @nick012000 Lets not consider that as a source relevant to this question (or many other questions). Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 0:25

Aulë was in charge of craft and invention, and industrialization is an outgrowth of that domain. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien did not like industrialization.

If the legendarium was written by someone who could not abide mercy taken to an extreme - say, by allowing an unashamed killer to go free in the hope that they have changed - it would most likely be Nienna's servants going bad.

You can look for a Watsonian explanation, of course. But whatever you find - if you find anything - will in all probability be an outgrowth of the Doylist one.

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