45

Why do some of the Dark Lord's servants refer to him as "Sauron", such as his emissar, The Mouth of Sauron, and some of his agents sent to the dwarves:

"'As a small token only of your friendship Sauron asks this,' he said: 'that you should find this thief,' such was his word, 'and get from him, willing or no, a little ring, the least of rings, that once he stole. It is but a trifle that Sauron fancies, and an earnest of your good will [...]"

And I also seem to remember there is a chapter where some envoy calls him "Sauron the Great".

My problem with this is twofold: first, we know from The Silmarillion that Sauron's name wasn't chosen by him, but is instead a demeaning name given to him by his enemies:

The name Sauron (from an earlier form Thauron) originates from the adjective saura "foul, putrid" in Tolkien's invented language of Quenya, and can be translated as "the Abhorred" or "the Abomination". In Sindarin (another Elf-language created by Tolkien) he is called Gorthaur, "the Abhorred Dread" or "the Dread Abomination".

Instead, his original name is Mairon, "The Admirable". When he chose other names for himself, he chose pleasing ones such as Annatar, "Lord of Gifts".

Secondly, in The Two Towers Aragorn claims:

[Sauron does not] "use his right name, nor permit it to be spelt or spoken"

We see some confirmation of this when his Orcs refer to him obliquely, saying "the Eye" or "Lugbúrz" instead. Here there is some ambiguity about what his "right name" is, but in the context of Aragorn's assertion it seems to be "Sauron" (since they are discussing an "S" rune painted on some Orcs, and they decide it must refer to Saruman instead).

So why would he give permission to some of his subjects to use his name, contradicting Aragorn, and -- when faking friendship -- why would he choose a name his enemies would understand to be insulting?

  • 1
    The only reference to this I'm aware of is in Hammond & Scull's LotR Reader's Companion, where it's noted "presumably that means without his special approval." – user8719 Dec 19 '13 at 18:31
  • @JimmyShelter Thanks! It makes some sense. But why wouldn't his Orc armies have the approval? And when his servants do use his name, why would they use Sauron, which means "foul"? – Andres F. Dec 19 '13 at 19:06
  • 7
    its possible that these envoys have special permission to use Sauron's name because it's the only one the men of the Third Age are likely to recognize... – KutuluMike Dec 20 '13 at 13:45
  • 2
    @MichaelEdenfield Heh, I thought that, but then: "Hello Dwarves! My master, the gentle PUTRID ABOMINATION wants, as a token of good will, that you help him find a trifle that he fancies". Somehow it doesn't work for me! :P – Andres F. Dec 20 '13 at 13:50
  • 3
    Does Aragorn known the complete inner workings of Saurons government et al at all times? If not, then you can probably take what he says as a pinch of salt, as its more his understanding than a set of rules laid down in stone, unchangeable and unchanged for ever more. – Moo Dec 15 '14 at 11:33
25

Possibly there is a mistranslation here. Possibly the writers of the Red Book (that means you Frodo!) always used the personal name of Sauron for Sauron instead of using whatever other personal name Sauron's own followers were ordered by Sauron to use. Perhaps Frodo thought that readers would be confused if Sauron was referred to by the name he preferred to use, or that it would be wrong o to refer to Sauron by any name which was not an insult.

Or perhaps Sauron considered being an abomination in the eyes of his elven enemies to be some kind of compliment. "Abhorred by nasty elves, therefore great and good".

Or maybe Sauron told his cultists in the south and the east to call their god Sauron, in order to show the elves and Numenoreans that their insult had been turned into the strongest kind of adoration. Perhaps many elves (and men true to Eru) in the east and the south had been forced to worship Sauron, to adore as divine that which they had abhorred as abomination, or were sacrificed on the alters of Sauron, their torment and death being made more painful by being part of a ritual in adoration of the name they cursed so much?

  • Your first option, the mistranslation, actually makes a lot of sense! (At least for the books, not for the movies where there is no narrator). I hadn't thought of this. You have my +1, even though strictly speaking this answer is pure speculation :) – Andres F. Dec 15 '14 at 5:01
6

It is all about psychology and not inconsistent when viewed this way.

In the past Sauron was trying to gain power and influence subtly, among the valar, elves, and men of Numenor; so he chose flattering names to try and improve his perception among those he was trying to persuade and influence. In this he did have limited success, but was given the not so flattering name, as you pointed out, of Sauron.

Names have power, and Sauron knowing this took the name given in mockery and owned it. As if to say, "I may be Sauron, but not foul, putrid, or abhorred, I am Sauron the Great!" classic spin.

As for Sauron's servants use of his name, this could easily be a class distinction. Lowly orcs shouldn't sully his name, by speaking it, but when meeting with an envoy of enemies, the "mouth of Sauron" could of course use this name or any other means of deception to demoralize and influence those enemies.

  • Thanks for taking the time to consider my objections to the name of, uh, Sauron! Your answer makes sense. It's highly speculative, but here's a +1 for a good effort :) – Andres F. Jun 10 '17 at 21:55
5

Lugburz is a translation of the name into Orcish, Sauron a translation of the name into the elven tongue. Neither no doubt is the true name in whatever language Sauron uses as his own.
Aragorn's reference is a clear reference to the Jewish practice of never writing or speaking the True Name of God (Yahweh is merely a placeholder, in Jewish philosophy the True Name is not and can not be known).
So Sauron's servants each make up a name for their Master in their own languages, much easier to communicate about him that way, similarly to people on earth making up names for their deities.

  • 4
    I agree this is probably inspired by the real-world practice of not speaking the name of God, but why would some of his servants use "Sauron" then? The Mouth of Sauron is not an Elf, why would he use the Sindarin name? Same for the envoy sent to the Dwarves who wasn't an Elf or an Orc, but probably a man. Also, Lugbúrz doesn't mean "Sauron", it's Black Speech for Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower. In this case it's used as a metonym for the Dark Lord, kind of like when you say "Washington" to mean "the US government". – Andres F. Dec 20 '13 at 12:24
  • 1
    And even if somehow one of his servants decided to speak Sindarin, why would he say "Sauron", which is a name with huge negative connotations? "Sauron the Great" is the same as "Abomination the Great"! – Andres F. Dec 20 '13 at 12:27
  • 1
    I'm not sure Sindarin was a common tongue of Middle Earth. Of the Elves and men of Gondor, maybe. The Hobbits spoke Westron but certainly not Sindarin, for example. But even if Sindarin was common, why would the servants of Sauron use a name with such negative connotations: "The Abhorred", especially when pretending his master was friendly? Surely anyone fluent in Sindarin would know it's an insult. – Andres F. Dec 23 '13 at 12:53
  • 1
    Surely, anyone fluent in Sindarin was sufficiently educated to understand Sauron was not friendly. @AndresF. – 11684 Jan 23 '14 at 20:21
  • 1
    @11684 Agreed, but note the argument I'm making: it only makes sense for the enemies of Sauron to call him by the name. Other people can and were deceived by him, so when the Dark Lord's emissars talk of the great Lord Sauron to these people, why would they call him that? "The great Lord Abomination"? Makes no sense. Sauron is not the "common" name of the Dark Lord; it's an insulting name given to him by his enemies. Why would he or his higher-ranked emissars use it? Maybe out of spite? – Andres F. Jan 23 '14 at 20:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.