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Sauron posed in fair form to the Elves as "Annatar" (Lord of Gifts). Considering many of the elves Annatar appeared to have probably been alive for hundreds or even thousands of years, who did they think he was? Posing as such a fair and powerful elf, you would think that they would've heard of him a long time ago or there would be a lot of background information on him from the past. Such a fair, knowledgable and powerful elf coming out of nowhere would've seemed very unlikely that the elves hadn't heard of him before or know where he was from.

Is there any reference on how long Sauron posed as Annatar prior to gaining the trust of Celebrimbor and the elves of Eregion? Does it mention where Annatar claims to be from and why the Elves trusted him so easily?

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    There were definitely other non-evil Maiar wondering around with the Elves. There was no reason he couldn't have been, there were innumerable and elves didn't know all of them. – Shisa Sep 30 '14 at 12:05
  • Was he not posing as an elf? – Toproller777 Sep 30 '14 at 12:14
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    @Toproller777 what makes you think that? Do you have a cite? Like Shisa, I assumed they thought he was just a Maia that they didn't know. – Daniel Roseman Sep 30 '14 at 12:30
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    I see now from Wikipedia: As part of a plan to seduce the Elves into his service, Sauron assumed a beautiful appearance as Annatar, "Lord of Gifts",[28] befriended the Elven-smiths of Eregion, led by Celebrimbor, and counselled them in arts and magic. Sauron hinted that he was an emissary of the Valar, specifically of Aulë, whom the Noldor in Exile held in high regard. Some of the Elves distrusted him, especially Galadriel and Gil-galad, the High King of the Noldor. The Elves in Eregion, however, did not heed their warnings. – Toproller777 Sep 30 '14 at 12:44
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    Sauron dressing up pretty and gift-giving? I don't know who this Jerry Tokin guy is, but his fan fiction is ruining a perfectly good movie franchise. ;) – Digital Chris Sep 30 '14 at 16:04
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Footnote 7 to the History of Galadriel & Celeborn (in Unfinished Tales) has some interesting comments to make on this. This footnote discusses what CT calls "an isolated and undateable note" and first of all mentions the fact that the Elves were not even aware that Sauron was still active until about SA 1600 and the time of the forging of the One Ring.

It then goes on to discuss Annatar:

When he came among the Noldor he adopted a specious fair form (a kind of simulated anticipation of the later Istari) and a fair name: Artano "high-smith," or Aulendil, meaning one who is devoted to the service of the Vala Aulë. The note goes on to say that Galadriel was not deceived, saying that this Aulendil was not in the train of Aulë in Valinor, "but this is not decisive, since Aulë existed before the 'Building of Arda,' and the probability is that Sauron was in fact one of the Aulëan Maiar, corrupted 'before Arda began' by Melkor."

This is, of course, typical Tolkien, providing a variant version of things (in this case the name used by Sauron, although there's no reason why he had to restrict himself to a single name), but the key point here is that in this note at least Tolkien acknowledged that Sauron would have openly declared himself as a servant of Aulë.

Earlier in the same text, we read about Sauron's arrival among the Elves:

When he felt himself to be secure he sent emissaries to Eriador, and finally, in about the year 1200 of the Second Age, came himself, wearing the fairest form that he could contrive.

And also:

In Eregion Sauron posed as an emissary of the Valar, sent by them to Middle-earth ("thus anticipating the Istari") or ordered by them to remain there to give aid to the Elves.

Based on this the Elves, of course, would have thought he was a servant of Aulë, although Galadriel's (inconclusive) suspicion is noteworthy.

While it would be interesting to speculate about the emissaries he sent, I'm not aware of any other mention of them in the texts.

Further on the text mentions that at some time between SA 1350 and SA 1400 Sauron had persuaded the Elves of Eregion to rebel against Galadriel and Celeborn, and that he had departed from Eregion by SA 1500, shortly after work had begun on making the Rings of Power.

His time there was approx. 300 years, but by about hafway through that time he had already won the trust of the Elves sufficiently enough to provoke them to a rebellion.

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    Great answer Darth. – Toproller777 Sep 30 '14 at 18:58
  • @Darth Satan - "This is, of course, typical Tolkien, providing a semi-contradictory version of things...". Tolkien's histories were always from a certain POV. That makes the discrepancies natural. Not that he never made an error but only that most of the iffy stuff falls under the "It's an alternate history because it's coming from an alternate historian". Good answer though! – user23715 Oct 1 '14 at 21:36
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    I didn't see the name as contradictory; it seems like essentially the same two name-elements transposed, suggesting he knew what the name meant, and the words for both parts the whole time but hadn't yet settled on the order in which to render it. – Glen_b Oct 2 '14 at 0:10
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    @DArthSatan There is indeed a reason to invoke an in-universe explanation--that's what Tolkien did all the time when asked questions. Because he accidentally used the same Elf name twice, he made the Elf reincarnate, rather than treat it as a mistake. Plus one of the conceits of looking at Tolkien is treating everything that happened as real. Tolkien's mistakes can only be in translation. Finally, in any broad canon, the assumption is that the author did not make mistakes. The characters make mistakes, sure, or the author deliberately retcons something. But mistakes are always fanwanked. – trlkly Dec 19 '14 at 10:30
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    I'm not necessarily disagreeing with any of the above. How the concept of canon is to be treated in different works by different creators is an interesting topic for discussion, and the "different POVs" explanation is equally valid. :) – user8719 Mar 14 '15 at 15:38
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There's no reason to assume that the elves, even Celebrimbor and the wisest of Eregion, would assume that any knowledgeable stranger would be suspicious, or even that he would necessarily be a Maia. The main characters in the books Tolkien wrote are Valar and Maiar, Elves, Men and Dwarves, but they're not the only ones in the world. It's unclear what Ungoliant was, for instance, and her existence seemed to surprise even the people of Valinor. There were Ents that even the Elves had forgotten about, wild Druedain in the wose-woods with their own brand of magic, and many other beings of power, up to and including the engimatic Tom Bombadil.

As to why the elves would trust him? Because of the classic Noldorin hunger for knowledge. He came to them offering secrets of ringmaking, and they couldn't resist the shiny. That's the original Noldorin sin, becoming enamored with your handiwork and what you can make.

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    "He was such a kindly and helpful neighbor... I never would have expected that he could do such evil!" – Paul Hanbury Oct 1 '14 at 17:58
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From Wikipedia, I believe this answers my question.

As part of a plan to seduce the Elves into his service, Sauron assumed a beautiful appearance as Annatar, "Lord of Gifts",[28] befriended the Elven-smiths of Eregion, led by Celebrimbor, and counselled them in arts and magic. Sauron hinted that he was an emissary of the Valar, specifically of Aulë, whom the Noldor in Exile held in high regard. Some of the Elves distrusted him, especially Galadriel and Gil-galad, the High King of the Noldor. The Elves in Eregion, however, did not heed their warnings.

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    This appears to be from Sauron's entry on Wikipedia, but is unsourced there. – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Sep 30 '14 at 13:20
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Sauron was able to look and feel fair (save to those of preternatural perception like Galadriel) and the poor Noldor were stuck out in boring Eregion probably desperate by halfway through the Second Age for new faces, new learning. It wasn't implausible the Valar might relent by sending an emissary to inject some 'light' into the learning of Noldor craftsmen (they sent the Istari some millennia later, similar idea albeit less pretty looking). By this point, too, even the coming of the Numenoreans was a big event with as much knowledge passing Men to Elves as visa versa. This pre-Akallabeth Sauron was able to hoodwink and bring about the very invasion of Valinor and the destruction of Numenor itself by schmoozing greedy mortal Ar-Pharazon in far less time than had to be devoted to wooing Celebrimbor and co.

Indeed wasn't it also a theme for the immortal elves - their sorrow that unlike in Aman - in Middle Earth everything passes away; and Annatar/Sauron was helpful in developing ringcraft whose very essence was defying death/perservation of things external and of the self. Celebrimbor may have made the Three untouched by the hand of Sauron but he gained knowledge it's made clear. And while the Nine stretched mortal men so thin they became Nazgul, and the One kept Sauron in tact despite falling with Numenor and his destruction at the end of the Second Age; the Three made Gandalf's enflaming influence, Elrond's oasis at Rivendell and Galadriel's golden sanctuary Lothlorien.

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some great commentary here...especially anver...pardon my not knowing chapter and verse, but ithink it is somewhere said that sauron was at first a servent of aule... (and yes, a literarily foggy area for tolkien, considering the started out conceived as a cat). it has always been my take on it that sauron was cleverer (and more of a weasel) than morgoth (he managed to evade the valar in the war of wrath).

in more direct response to the original topic, i think the world of middle earth was still wide and new to the elves of the 2nd age...they knew other powers/spirits/maiar existed, but they didn't know all of them (including the enigmatic tom bombadil...to them, annatar could have been a male version of luthien tenuvial). the notion that his acceptance is due to the noldos' hunger for craft-knowledge is speculation, but it makes sense (celebrimbor was a descendant of feanor)...and the making of the Three preserved them, but in a positive way (i guess)...another piece of the irony.

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