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I have always pronounced Sauron like 'S-ow-ron', after reading Appendix E of the Lord of the Rings, but now I just listened to this recording of Tolkien reciting the Eagles' Song, and it sounds like he is saying "Saw-ron".

Did I mis-hear it, or did Tolkien do a mistake? Or am I supposed to pronounce it that way, and he wrote "Sauron" so that people would read it as "Sawron"? Highly unlikely, I think . . .

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  • I'm at the office, I can see that video, but did Tolkien pronounces the name just one time or more? If it's more than one, I don't think he mistakes it, and that's how it should be pronounce. If the creator of something say how to pronounce his creation, that pronunciation becomes the most correct one.
    – Guillelon
    Jan 2, 2014 at 17:13
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    Yes indeed. If you include a pronunciation guide that explicitly tells people how to pronounce a word, then mis-pronounce it, your fans have a right to assume it's just your accent at fault.
    – Valorum
    Jan 2, 2014 at 20:21
  • Note that in the new Hobbit movies they are very careful to pronounce "smaug" as "smawg" and not "smog". Jan 2, 2014 at 23:55
  • This is not a duplicate of Is "Smaug" pronounced "Smog", since the Hobbit quite probably has less strict pronunciation than the Lord of the Rings.
    – MadTux
    Dec 16, 2015 at 12:14
  • @MadTux Plus the answer over there is based on LOTR Wikia and Yahoo Answers (shock, horror). I've reopened this question with a proper canon source.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Nov 14, 2021 at 7:27

2 Answers 2

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The correct pronunciation of Sauron is /ˈsaʊrɒn/, as in "sour". This is specified in the pronunciation notes included in The Silmarillion, in the Note on Pronunciation section:

"the first syllable of Sauron is like English sour, not sore"

and in The Children of Hurin:

"AU" has the value of English ow in town; thus the first vowel of Sauron is like English sour not sore.

Tolkien pronunciation indeed seems correct to me, as a non-native english speaker (not surprising, considering he was a linguist ;))

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  • Thanks for the quote specifically about Sauron, that confirmed my belief that Tolkien either did a mistake in the video, or the pronunciation wasn't so fixed back when he did the video.
    – MadTux
    Jan 2, 2014 at 20:26
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    @MadTux It does appear likely that the writing was still being worked on when this recording was made. Notice he says Tower instead of Minas. Jan 3, 2014 at 4:03
  • I think there's some across-the-pond effect going on here: I would never in a million years think of pronouncing "Sauron" like "sore". My confusion is rather about "saw" (the woodcutting implement) vs. "sow" (as in female pig, not the verb meaning to plant). To me, the -au- spelling implies it ought to pronounced like "saw" (e.g. author, pause), so the "Smowg" pronunciation just sounds Totally Wrong to me.
    – Martha
    Jan 3, 2014 at 4:25
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    @Martha In British English "sore" and "saw" have identical pronunciations.
    – OrangeDog
    Jan 3, 2014 at 10:05
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    'To me, the -au- spelling implies it ought to pronounced like "saw"' - but Tolkien wanted Quenya to be reminiscent of Latin, and the Latin pronunciation scheme he would have been taught gives 'au' the MOUTH vowel.
    – AakashM
    Jan 3, 2014 at 10:29
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Looking at Tolkien's Appendix E in The Lord of the Rings, we see the following about "au".

In Quenya ui, oi, ai and iu, eu, au are diphthongs (that is, pronounced in one syllable). ... All these diphthongs were ‘falling’ diphthongs, that is stressed on the first element, and composed of the simple vowels run together. Thus ... au (aw) as in loud, how and not as in laud, haw.
The Lord of the Rings - Appendix E - "Writing and Spelling"

Others, including Christopher Tolkien, have provided more detailed pronunciation guides.

AU has the value of English ow in town; thus the first syllable of Aulë is like English owl, and the first syllable of Sauron is like English sour, not sore.
The Silmarillion - "Note on Pronunciation"

I have found six distinct recordings of Tolkien saying "Sauron" spread out over a sixteen year period, and it seems to me that the way Tolkien pronounces it is more or less consistent and in line with the description he gave.

[6:58 - 7:04] He was come to the heart of the realm of Sauron and the forges of his ancient might
August 1952 Recording

[0:14-0:16] for the realm of Sauron is ended forever
August 1952 Recording

[0:07-0:10] And I do not see a Sauron
March 1958 Recording

[5:48 - 5:54] Morgoth, the Prime Mover of evil, of whom Sauron was only a petty lieutenant
January 1965 Recording

[11:25-11:32] whose work had led to the downfall of Sauron, also, she passed the great temptation when the Ring was actually offered to her by Sauron
February 1968 Recording

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