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In The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Shadow of the Past", Gandalf tells Frodo:

Isildur Elendil’s son cut the Ring from Sauron’s hand and took it for his own. Then Sauron was vanquished and his spirit fled and was hidden for long years, until his shadow took shape again in Mirkwood.

So we know Sauron didn't have a body until he took shape again. But we also know, from The Two Towers, "The Black Gate is Closed", Gollum says:

Yes, He has only four on the Black Hand, but they are enough.

If I were an immortal being who could eventually form a new body when the old one is destroyed (which, to be sure, I'm not) I would create a body without such a flaw as a missing finger, especially one missing as a reminder of how I last lost. Maybe make something completely different, like a prehensile tentacle or something.

I have read The Silmarillion in addition to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and recognize there may be insufficient detail on how the Ainur can take physical form, but wondered if there was anything perhaps in other writings, like letters, that may shed light on this.

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    I think that either it reflected some metaphysical wound caused by the loss of the Ring, or he kept the finger missing as a reminder.
    – Mithoron
    Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 18:29
  • @Lesserson: that answer is completely wrong and answering a totally different question. if this question was consequently marked as a duplicate it would be very confusing and discouraging for most posters.
    – Shamshiel
    Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 21:42
  • If I were an immortal being who could eventually form a new body when the old one is destroyed (which, to be sure, I'm not) That's what an immortal being would say :p
    – Möoz
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 1:36

1 Answer 1

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He was not able to do so. In the "Akallabêth," it is clear that Sauron (at least after the destruction of the fair body that he wore as Annatar and in Númenor) does not have the power to alter his form freely.

But Sauron was not of mortal flesh, and though he was robbed now of that shape in which he had wrought so great an evil, so that he could never again appear fair to the eyes of Men, yet his spirit arose out of the deep and passed as a shadow and a black wind over the sea, and came back to Middle-earth and to Mordor that was his home.

This mirrors what happened to his master, Morgoth. After the Darkening of Valinor, he took the form of a dark lord, tall and terrible—which he was seemingly never able to leave. After Morgoth's duel with Fingolfin, his foot was permanently maimed. As the dark lords extended their power over Arda, their innate abilities as Ainur were dissipated and diminished.

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    Your statement about Morgoth makes me wonder if there is a light side equivalent reduction in power. In the context of Tom Bombadil + Goldberry = Aulë and Yavanna theory. Likewise Olorin is presumably more powerful than the Gandalf form. Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 16:45
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    Yes, he lost the Annatar body with the downfall of Númenor, and then he wrought a new one, which he wore for the Last Alliance. So he then made the same one he was using for that war? Exactly as it was, missing finger and all? He was defeated with a presumably mortal wound before his finger was cut off. Would this newly-created body also have that mortal wound? Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 17:56
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    @MichaelFoster I think that's likely, yes. But overall it is my opinion Sauron's missing finger is a metaphor for his loss of power, and shouldn't be taken literally (much like the Eye is a metaphor for his mind and will, unless one is Peter Jackson).
    – Andres F.
    Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 18:50
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    Worth noting that Sauron’s wounds in his battle with Huan also survive transformations, although he is evidently able to eventually heal. There should be some good references at least in Morgoths Ring about embodiment and also in Nature of Middle Earth.
    – Shamshiel
    Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 20:26
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    Great questions to bat about, but don't be too surprised if there's no textual support for various guesses.
    – Lee Mosher
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 15:05

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