In the First Age, when the Elves first awoke and were terrorized by Morgoth, the Valar came to help as soon as they learned of it, defeated and captured Morgoth.

When the Noldor went against the will of the Valar and followed Morgoth to Middle-earth, and were eventually defeated by him, the Valar listened to Eärendil's pleas and began the War of Wrath, defeated and captured Morgoth.

So if Gandalf and Frodo had failed, would Sauron really have had complete dominance forever? Or would the Valar have intervened again? If not, why? Is it because in Arda Marred, the Valar are not able and/or willing to directly intervene anymore, and sending the Istari was all they could do?

Are there any statements in Tolkien's writings about this?

  • They couldn't have failed, the histories of Middle-earth play out according to the music of the Ainur.
    – Edlothiad
    Aug 24 '18 at 6:21

Most likely not.

The Valar didn't really directly intervene since bringing the Elves to Valinor and the first capture of Melkor; they were essentially powerless during the events leading to the capture of the Silmarils and the Flight of the Noldor, they sent a lesser representative (Eonwe) to lead the War of Wrath (the relevant chapter of the Silmarillion is quite careful to always mention "the host of the Valar" rather than "the Valar", and has Eonwe cast in a quite definite decision making/judgemental role), and even the downfall of Numenor was not an intervention by them - it was a case of "for that time the Valar laid down their government of Arda".

There was also the small matter of the Music of the Ainur - in particular the fact that the initial vision was taken away before the end: "and some have said that the vision ceased ere the fulfilment of the Dominion of Men and the fading of the Firstborn; wherefore, though the Music is over all, the Valar have not seen as with sight the Later Ages or the ending of the World". In other words, it's quite clearly inferred that by the time we get to the end of the Third Age and the War of the Ring, the Valar very probably just do not know what Eru's intention actually is - intervention on their part would have been a huge risk; they may be going against the intended destiny of the world, and for all they knew a victory for Sauron may have even been the event that precipitated the Dagor Dagorath. Big mistake to try prevent that!

(All references the published Silmarillion.)


No. The Valars' response to Sauron was sending the Istari. What is very significant though is the probability that Sauron could NOT have won. Sauron (according to Tolkien himself) believed that Eru had abandoned Arda after the downfall of Numenor. His positioning of himself as ruler of Middle Earth (and possibly all of Arda in his reckoning) was predicated on this. If he knew that Eru Himself had sent Gandalf back after he died, he might have been more than a little worried. There is also the implication throughout the tale that the time for supernatural heroes and villains is fast drawing to a close and it is time for men to assume control of their own destiny within the world.

  • 17
    Also the very suspicious serendipity of Bilbo "being meant to find the ring, and NOT by its maker" is a significant indication that the Istari were not the only intervention against Sauron. The Valar and Eru were operating on a number of fronts
    – WOPR
    Dec 15 '12 at 22:00
  • @WOPR where is that quote from? I had the impression that the ring chooses its interim owners, all with the ultimate goal of finding its way back to its true owner, the being whose essence now infuses the ring. Is it not that the ring has a will of its own, which is why it abandoned Gollum when Bilbo came along, so that it can return to the surface world where the odds of success is more likely? Nov 2 '15 at 11:19
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    Fellowship of the Ring Chapter 2. "So now, when its master was awake once more and sending out his dark thought from Mirkwood, it abandoned Gollum. Only to be picked up by the most unlikely person imaginable: Bilbo from the Shire! Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ringmaker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought."
    – WOPR
    Nov 3 '15 at 0:02

It may not have been necessary.

A victorious Sauron's pride eventually would have grown to the point that he would have challenged the Valar. That would not have ended well for him.

One the other hand, it may be that as he sought to control an ever-growing proportion of the lives of Men, he would have dissipated his power by driving will into his thralls, weakening himself to the point over the centuries that a Balrog or an exceptionally gifted Man could have overthrown him. It is stated in the Silmarillion that Morgoth had grown weaker from the power he had expended, and it makes perfect sense for Sauron to suffer the same effect.

  • It's not clear Sauron had any more ability to leave Middle Earth to challenge the Valar than Men did by this point in history. Elvish ships could take the Straight Path to Aman by explicit permission of the Valar.
    – chepner
    Mar 15 '19 at 14:56

I don't think so. The Valar mostly abandoned the people of Middle Earth to their fate. Yes they sent a few of their least powerful members there as the Istari, but when one of them (Saruman) betrayed them, and the Blue Wizards and (probably) Radagast abandoned what they'd been sent there to do (leaving only Gandalf), they still did next to nothing. Even when Gandalf himself is killed, all they did was send him back more powerful (apparently equivalent to Saruman before it all started). Other than that, they hardly lifted a finger to defeat Sauron, and the free peoples of Middle Earth prevailed only by the skin of their teeth.

Essentially the Valar failed the people of Middle Earth; I doubt they would have intervened if Sauron had won the War of the Ring.

  • 2
    Hi and welcome. Some quotes from the books or so make the answer substantial...
    – Stark07
    Jan 16 '15 at 6:40
  • Two quibbles, which are elucidated in letters from Tolkien. First, it was Eru Himself who sent Gandalf back. It was also Eru who caused Gollum to slip and fall at the Crack of Doom. It was all in Eru's hands from the word 'go'; in the Silmarillion it is made quite clear that even the most rebellious of the Ainur are still playing into Eru's hands at every turn.
    – EvilSnack
    Mar 16 '19 at 0:54
  • You're right, EvilSnack, at least about who sent Gandalf back. Since I wrote my answer I learned that it was Eru who sent Gandalf back, so I was wrong about the Valar being behind it. I didn't know that about Eru making Gollum slip off; that would be in character for Eru, and yes, it's also quite in character for Tolkien's conception of Eru that he would be manipulating everyone according to His Plan.
    – peyre
    Mar 17 '19 at 17:11

The extent of the intervention would be to send ambassadors across the sea to try and sway the men that had been corrupted by Sauron, they probably would not attack Sauron directly, if they were going to, why wouldn't they before he destroyed Numenor, or forged the rings? Now, if Sauron launched an assault on the Blessed Realm the Valar would attack, with all their glory and Sauron would be destroyed, his orcs would stand no chance against the Elves who have seen the light.

  • It's not clear how Sauron would launch an attack on the Blessed Realm, given that it was no longer reachable from Middle Earth without express permission of the Valar.
    – chepner
    Mar 15 '19 at 14:57

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