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In the RoTK movie Gandalf even says "Sauron will suspect a trap".Even if the thought of someone trying to destroy the ring doesn't ever cross Sauron's mind, there was no need to immediately respond to the challenge.Especially since this happened immediately after his defeat at Pelennor fields.There was no way the much smaller army of men could have defeated Mordor in open war.

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    Are you speaking specifically about the movie, or about the book? It's not clear. In the book, Aragorn's challenge happened well before the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. – Matt Gutting Mar 13 '15 at 21:07
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    In the movie this is even worse: it happens soon after Sauron's forces capture a hobbit in Mordor and then lose him; the Ringwraiths already knew that a Hobbit had The Ring at some point, presumably the presence of one in Mordor should have set off major alarm bells. – KutuluMike Mar 13 '15 at 21:14
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    (I know that the idea was to make Sauron think that Aragon had the ring, but still, a random Hobbit just happens to pop up in Mordor at the exact wrong time?) – KutuluMike Mar 13 '15 at 21:16
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    @MichaelEdenfield If a Hobbit lost in Mordor was suspicious (not a given as there were probably all sorts of lost and abandoned wretches wandering that wasteland), and even if Sauron suspected this Hobbit had the Ring (again not a given since he knew there were multiple Hobbits in play), he likely would have thought it was a would-be usurper who had the Ring and was getting uppity, trying to challenge him. I mean, why else would a Ring-bearer come to Mordor? It's not like anyone would have the strength of will to destroy the damned thing! – Nerrolken Mar 13 '15 at 22:22
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    Nerrolken is right: Sauron simply could not comprehend anyone wanting to destroy the Ring. It wasn't even a ridiculous thought, it simply wasn't something that could occur to Sauron until the moment when he saw Frodo and the Ring next to the lava. (Even then, he might've only been freaked out because he had been wrong about the usurper. He may yet have not comprehended the original plan, and at that point Frodo was not following the plan: he had succumbed to the Ring and become a usurper. – Wayne Mar 14 '15 at 12:23
20

In the movie as released in the theaters, if I'm remembering correctly, this is a huge unexplained element of the ending.

In the extended edition, we get a bit more explanation, in the form of an extra scene with Aragorn prior to the final battle. In this scene, while they are recovering from Pelennor Fields, Aragorn uses Minas Tirith's Palantir to challange Sauron, and shows him Anduril (the reformed Narsil)

The idea behind this scene is to do several things:

  1. Taunt Sauron with his recent defeat and threaten to continue beating Mordor's armies
  2. Remind Sauron of the last time he was defeated, at the hands of a Dunadan wielding Narsil, and that the descendant of that Dunadan wielding basically that same sword was coming after him again
  3. Convince Sauron that Aragorn had The One Ring.

The idea here is that, the last time Sauron definitively knew where the Ring was, Frodo had just used it at Amon Hen, while he was still in the company of the Fellowship. We can also assume that Saruman was keeping him appraised of the goings-on there, and that Aragorn was one of those people with Frodo. Given that the Ring was never used again, and that the few times the Orcs did capture a Hobbit they were ring-free, Sauron had no way of knowing if a "Baggins" still had it.

Of all of the people on Middle Earth at that time, only a handful of them would have been considered even remotely a threat to Sauron; of those, Sauron probably recognized that elves like Galadriel, or Maiar like Gandalf, would refuse to put on The Ring for fear of it's corruption. That left one person: Aragorn, descendant of Isildur, who might actually chance it.

To someone like Sauron, given that the Ring was a powerful weapon, he would assume they would give it to the most powerful person around, and that person would want to use it. So, it makes sense that he would buy that Aragorn had it. Indeed, to Sauron, the simple fact that Aragorn dared threaten him, knowing how powerful Sauron and his armies were, was likely more proof that he must have the Ring. So, Sauron sent his armies out on the premise that they would do one of two things:

  1. Capture Aragorn and get the Ring back, or
  2. Drive Aragorn to enough desperation to put the Ring on, whereby Sauron could try to influence him.

He didn't want to give the humans time to reconsider their plan, or come up with a better one, or risk letting them figure out a way to use the Ring against him. Plus, he's just greedy, and he wanted the Ring back. It was worth more to him then his entire army of Orcs and Uruks combined.


My main issue with the way this played out in the movies is that Sauron knew there was at least one Hobbit in Morder, and he knew that Hobbit had escaped. In the Extended Edition, the Mouth of Sauron taunts Aragorn with the mithril shirt Frodo was wearing. Sauron also presumably knew that, at least at some point, that a Hobbit was carrying the Ring around.

Thus, as much as Sauron might want to assume that Aragorn had it, and as much sense as that would make, I find it stretches credibility that he found a Hobbit loose deep inside Mordor, and it didn't set off immediate alarm bells to watch Mount Doom more closely.

However, credibility issues aside, that is the intended explanation for why Sauron was so willing to met Aragorn's challenge so quickly.

  • I'm not sure if I remember it correctly but I thought that the orcs brought the mithril shirt to Sauron before Sam managed to free Frodo.Given that no ring was found AND that orcs are cowards I would say that sauron saw no threat -ring free hobbit captured by orcs on the one side,Elendils heir with narsil and possibly The Ring on the other side.May all be wrong if he knew that the hobbits managed to escape.Have to watch again. – teair Mar 13 '15 at 22:04
  • AFAIK the shirt was still in the tower when Sam and Frodo left; the Orcs/Uruk were fighting over it. Even so, if there was enough time to get the shirt to Sauron, there should have been enough time to get word that it's wearer was gone; and a mithril-wearing halfling, in Mordor, that managed to escape a tower full of Orcs, I would think, would make Sauron a bit nervous. (You're idea that the Orcs might have been to scared to tell him, though, does have a lot of merit.) – KutuluMike Mar 13 '15 at 22:09
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    Re: "Given that the Ring was never used again" - Sam used the Ring in Mordor on 13th/14th March (oddly enough), a day or two before the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, but that's immaterial because Sauron doesn't detect you if you wear the Ring. Just an observation. – user8719 Mar 13 '15 at 22:11
  • @DarthSatan are you sure Sam used the ring in the movie? The question is specifically asking about the RotK movie. In the book the entire end bit plays out entirely different. And, in the movie, when Frodo wears the ring, Sauron specifically says to him "I see you." – KutuluMike Mar 13 '15 at 22:14
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    Given that it's explicitly about the movie my comment doesn't count (it was just an observation, after all). On the other hand there is the episode of Frodo's capture by Faramir, where he shows the Ring to a Nazgul in Osgiliath - which supports your answer as it suggests that the Ring may have been brought to Minas Tirith. – user8719 Mar 13 '15 at 22:16
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Based on the Peter Jackson movie commentary, Sauron's primary motivation for opening the Black Gates in the movie adaptation was that he received a personal challenge from Aragorn. In the extended cut, we see Aragorn using the Palantir to taunt Sauron, showing him Andúril reforged and demanding that he face him. It's worth noting that in the original cut, Sauron did indeed ride out to face Aragorn himself (in a one-on-one encounter) rather than just sending his troops.

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Peter Jackson : "...this is how we originally conceived the sequence, which was to be challenging Sauron which is obviously... it's irrelevant...but more relevant to some degree to the fact that when we shot this we had already filmed Aragorn and Sauron actually fighting outside the Black Gates so this was the personal challenge that was going to bring Sauron to the Gate.

... it still works [in the theatrical cut] because he's basically challenging Sauron's armies to come out to meet them, which is fine.

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    Wow, having Sauron riding out personally to face Aragorn would have been super weird. I thought that since his defeat by Isildur, Sauron didn't even have a body. – Nate Eldredge Mar 14 '15 at 16:27

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