In Return of the King, we learn that Sauron keeps the road from Barad-dur to the Cracks of Doom in very good condition. Since Oroduin errupts every so often, lava and rocks have to be cleared off and the road has to be repaired.

Why does he keep maintaining this road?

As far as we know, he did not do any craftman's work in the fires of Mount Doom after he forged the One Ring. There is no indication that he used it for creating weapons or armor. As it turned out, the well-kept road was a big advantage for the exhausted Frodo and Sam. Indeed, without it, they probably would not have managed, since they didn't have an idea where the entrance was.

Now Gandalf tells us that the thought that someone would try to destroy the Ring had not yet entered Sauron's darkest thoughts. This explains why Sauron did not actively destroy or guard the road, but it does not explain why he maintained it so well.

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    OCD can have devastating consequences on its sufferers. Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 16:39
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    Well, the beginning of the road is guarded by a rather formidable fortress, and the interior of Mordor had been emptied of Orcs, which were massed to meet the Captains of the West. Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 21:43
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    Once upon a time Stalin noticed some thrash around a cathedral in Moscow. "Take care of it", he ordered his minions. Unsure what he meant and too afraid to ask for clarification, they removed the thrash and demolished the cathedral. Maybe this is the same scenario? Saurie gave some vague order and his minions covered all bases? Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 8:07

4 Answers 4


Brief overview:

He 'used the fire that welled there from the heart of the earth in his sorceries and his forging.' The most famous result of his forging, and in fact the only one we know of for sure, was the One Ring.

Mount Doom was much more than just any volcano - Sauron seems to have extended his own power into it, just as his former master Melkor had extended his own power into the flesh of Arda as his means of corrupting the Valar's shaping of the world. In his case, it was probably due to his use of it as a foundry for the forging of the Ring, and was able to control its fires. It seems to have lain dormant when Sauron was away from Mordor, and sprung into life when his power grew.

It's an important place for Sauron as it represents the instrument for his ruling of the world. The more his power grows, the more roaring and fizzing the fires become.

When Sauron chose the land of Mordor as his dwelling-place in the Second Age, Mount Doom was the reason for his choice.

We can offer two conclusions. First one, that Sauron's own powers are tied into Mount Doom along with his sorceries. Second one, that he needed Mount Doom for the construction of other items, preservation of his power, form or he was attempting other things with it.

When the One Ring was destroyed, Nazgûl fell along with it, being struck by the volcanic eruption.

Several of the falling lava balls went flying at the Nazgûl as they tried to escape on their Fell Beasts, destroying the riders and their mounts.

We can offer a conclusion that every spawn or forgery of Mount Doom was destroyed or perished with its final eruption...

The world was bent, so that thereafter, only Elven-Ships could sail into the Utter West. Sauron's body was destroyed, but his spirit was not diminished, and he fled back to Mordor bearing the Ring, where he slowly rebuilt a new body and his strength during the time known as the Dark Years. From this point on, he lost the ability to assume a fair shape, and ruled now through terror and force.

...even Sauron's ability to assume any kind of shape or form again.

But while Sauron had much of his former strength, he was still much weakened without the One Ring and remained hidden in the shadows, directing his armies from afar.

Furthermore, we can conclude that he needed it running in order to forge something else, when he grew more stronger, and tie his strength and power into it once more.

He didn't even consider that someone planned to destroy the One Ring. The Eye wasn't carefully watching those passages or guarding them at that time, which hints at him thinking he has control over that area of Mordor at that time. It is also placed deep inside Mordor and thus needn't much protection. He was seeking The Ring with the Eye and flying Nazgûl over it as he was rebuilding and wanted to maintain it for himself, only his purposes, whatever they may be.

The Road approached the east side of the base at a causeway and then wound up like a snake; at that point the Road seemed damaged by the lava and re-repaired several times.

There is a truth to that comment posted by DVK: "OCD can have devastating consequences on its sufferers" for:

During this time (before Dark Lord Morgoth's corruption), Mairon (Sauron's true name) was as Eru had created him: good and uncorrupt. His greatest virtue was his love of order and perfection, disliking anything wasteful. However, this would also prove to be the source of his fall

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    BTW: "Forgery" is usually meant as a falsified document. The product of a forge is most often called a "forging". (They actually both mean both things, but with opposite "typical meanings.")
    – KutuluMike
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 3:48

It's actually quite incorrect to think that the making of the Ring was the only time that Sauron had ever used Orodruin; in Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age we read:

there was a fiery mountain in that land that the Elves named Orodruin. Indeed for that reason Sauron had set there his dwelling long before, for he used the fire that welled there from the heart of the earth in his sorceries and in his forging; and in the midst of the Land of Mordor he had fashioned the Ruling Ring.

From the Tale of Years we know that Sauron had first entered Mordor in SA1000, but yet that the One Ring wasn't made until SA1600. It's therefore quite clear that Sauron had carried out other sorcery and forging in Orodruin before making the Ring (because he explicitly chose Mordor before that time on account of Orodruin's utility to him), and there's no reason to suspect that he had ever stopped doing so.

In fact there's every reason to suspect that Sauron was using it at the time of the Siege of Gondor; reading about the battering ram Grond we learn that:

Long had it been forging in the dark smithies of Mordor, and its hideous head, founded of black steel, was shaped in the likeness of a ravening wolf; on it spells of ruin lay.

Although Tolkien doesn't state so explicitly, the evidence I give above makes it at least very likely that Grond was both forged and enchanted by Sauron at Orodruin.

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    I'm adding this as a comment because it's pure conjecture. Every time Sauron returns to Mordor, Orodruin erupts. It erupted when he returned from the Fall of Numenor. It erupted when he returned in the Third Age. Could it be that these eruptions happen when he uses the Mountain for his sorceries and forging?
    – user8719
    Commented Jan 18, 2014 at 18:46

You know the heroes will try to destroy the Ring in Orodruin, and I know it; but now, all these years later, I will add that we have an advantage Sauron lacks: he has not read LotR from beginning to end.1 It's an error to suppose characters know everything the readers know.

  • This is a good point. We have to be careful not to let our judgment of the wisdom of a character's plans by biased by knowledge of how well they worked later on.
    – Mark Olson
    Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 2:22

I think that he did not care for it. As we know, he had a huge army guarding the only passage (that he knew about), the gates were guarded by hundreds of orcs and other minions. Also we should not forget the all-seeing eye. The only reason he did not see the Hobbits was because the last armies of Man attacked the gate. Maybe this is the main reason. If you had the all-seeing eye would you be concerned?

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    That may be a reason for not guarding the road, but it's not an explanation for why he kept it well maintained.
    – mort
    Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 14:32
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    The All Seeing Eye does not see that much ...
    – Xaltar
    Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 16:16
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    He did care for the road- the books specifically say so.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 3:35

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