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Did the Dark Lord feel that even Gandalf the Grey was too much for him to deal with at the time or was he simply fleeing to cover up his identity?

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    According to the Tolkien Gateway site; "The Council of the Wise long feared the Necromancer might indeed be Sauron, and in 2063 Gandalf went to Dol Guldur, and Sauron, not yet powerful, fled to the East." – Valorum Dec 10 '14 at 11:06
  • From the Hobbit "It was in this way that he learned where Gandalf had been to; for he overheard the words of the wizard to Elrond. It appeared that Gandalf had been to a great council of the white wizards, masters of lore and good magic; and that they had at last driven the Necromancer from his dark hold in the south of Mirkwood." – Valorum Dec 10 '14 at 11:08
  • @Richard - I'm reading "when Gandalf first entered" as being his visit in TA 2063, ~900 years before the White Council attack during the events of the Hobbit. – user8719 Dec 10 '14 at 13:52
  • @darthsatan - Hence why I posted it as a comment. It's relevant that Sauron is scared of the White Council. – Valorum Dec 10 '14 at 13:57
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The Tale of Years entry for TA 2063 describes Sauron's retreat from Dol Guldur as follows:

Gandalf goes to Dol Guldur. Sauron retreats and hides in the East. The Watchful Peace begins.

Earlier in Appendix A the Watchful Peace is described:

At first they had quiet, for those were the days of the Watchful Peace, during which Sauron withdrew before the power of the White Council and the Ringwraiths remained hidden in Morgul Vale.

It's obvious therefore that at this time Sauron wasn't powerful enough to resist the White Council.

  • All quotes from Lord of the Rings. – user8719 Dec 10 '14 at 11:28
  • Dangit. You keep taking my answers. You must be in the wrong time zone. Never mind, I'll make it up this afternoon. Hahahahaha! – Matt Gutting Dec 10 '14 at 14:17
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To fully answer this you need to consult The Silmarillion, which is Tolkien's world history of Middle Earth. As @Darth Satan said, the White Council drove Sauron away, but the council was deadlocked on the issue (Saruman insisting on containment/observation) until Gandalf conclusively proved the Necromancer was Sauron in disguise.

At that time, the White Council fought Sauron, but he merely pretended to flee, and instead traveled to Mordor, where the Nazgûl had been prepping everything for Sauron.

Sauron, even though he was originally just a servant of The Great Enemy, was still more powerful than the Wizards, who themselves were servants of the Valar, The Creator's Designated Caretakers of Middle Earth. The inference is that the Istari were "3rd-tier" spirits, with the Valar and Melkor (The Great Enemy) being 1st-tier, and Sauron being 2nd-tier. So, the Wizards couldn't go one-on-one with Sauron, but they could greatly assist the elves, humans and dwarves in resisting. The High Elves, naturally, recognized the wizards for what they were, which is why Cirdan the Shipwright gave the Elven ring of Fire to Gandalf.

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    Melkor/Morgoth was also a Vala: "Melkor The Quenya name for the great rebellious Vala, the beginning of evil, in his origin the mightiest of the Ainur;"—Tolkeins Sr. and Jr. in "The Index of Names" from The Silmarillion. Emphasis added. – Lexible Dec 10 '14 at 18:39
  • @Lexible: Yes, you are correct. Sorry about that, and thank you for the clarification. – Thorin Schmidt Dec 10 '14 at 19:54
  • If he left Dol Guldur, then Sauron fled. If he pretended to flee, he would have still been there. He may have been able to win if he had not fled, but he did not try. – Oldcat Dec 10 '14 at 22:18
  • Sauron and the Istari were both Maia, and thus "second tier" spirits. There is no real third tier, or this third tier are Men and Elves. – Oldcat Dec 10 '14 at 22:20
  • No, Sauron did fight. In the third movie you will see the White Council mount an offensive. It wasn't until his imprisonment in LOTR that Gandalf finally put it all together. – Thorin Schmidt Dec 10 '14 at 22:51
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The White Council originally suspected 'The Necromancer' was in reality a ringwraith - a worrying enough fact if it had proven to be true. Gandalf had quite a hard time in the dungeons of Dol Guldur as it was, but Sauron nevertheless fled because he did not want his true identity to be revealed to The Wise at that point.

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