This is a tricky question that I am not sure I should even ask, but here it is:

A few years ago, I read something online about Tolkien's works, especially LotR and The Silmarillion. It related to either Sauron or Saruman (or possibly - though I doubt it - Melkor/Morgoth), and the gist was as follows.

Before he was pure evil, this character was basically a decent guy, although he was very egotistical. He saw suffering, death, war, hunger, hatred, chaos, cruelty, misery, sorrow, disease, etc, in the world, and it deeply troubled him. He thought that, if he was in charge, he could ease people's suffering, do away with all these terrible things, and make the world a better place in which to live. So began his quest for power over all of Arda, but for ostensibly good reasons (compared to the reasons most people try to obtain great power).

But as we all know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and this is no exception. He found, unsurprisingly, that everyone else wanted to be in charge too, which is why so much warfare existed. Everyone was fighting everyone else for control, and the only thing they could all agree upon was that they didn't want HIM in charge. They fought him tooth and nail, and weren't interested in his promises to make everything better for them.

His ego got the better of him, he saw their resistance as insolence and self-destructive willfulness, and he grew angry. He gradually stopped caring about improving the world, and soon sought to take control only so he could punish these pathetic wretches for their intransigence. And so the well-meaning narcissist became truly evil. His condescending benevolence turned into a lust for power for its own sake, and his self-impressed desire to help people gave way to an all-consuming quest for vengeance against those who had rejected and opposed him. In the end, rather than reducing or eliminating the amount of suffering, hatred, death, chaos, warfare, cruelty, and misery in the world, he greatly increased it.

I am SURE I read this (though not in these exact words) online, and the source seemed to be quite knowledgeable about such things. I can no longer remember WHO the story referred to (or where I found it), but I was certain it was either Sauron, Saruman, or Melkor (the latter seems all but impossible now, because I have learned that Melkor was trying to destroy the world before anyone even lived there, and in fact, before it existed; I lean towards thinking it was actually Sauron, but I have nothing to base that on, so it could very well be Saruman).

Does anyone know what I am babbling about - does any of this sound familiar? Who does this account refer to?

  • 2
    From what I can recall, Tolkien was extremely clear on this point. Sauron was initially a goodie, who became a baddie. – Valorum May 16 '15 at 21:30
  • 1
    buzzfeed.com/kmallikarjuna/… – Valorum May 16 '15 at 21:31
  • 1
    I think you need to split this into two questions; one about Sauron, one about Saruman. Their motivations were vastly different. – Valorum May 16 '15 at 22:09
  • 3
    @Richard - my question wasn't "What were the respective motives of Sauron and Saruman?", but "Who does the description I remember apply to - Sauron or Saruman?" The motives I mention are the only ones that matter, because they are the means by which people can determine who is being described. Since they seem to relate to Sauron, Saruman's motives are irrelevant for the purposes of this question. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica May 16 '15 at 22:14
  • 1
    I've edited the question title to reflect the main thrust of the question... – Valorum May 16 '15 at 22:16

Everyone but basically Morgoth started with good intentions.

For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so.

(Elrond, Council of Elrond)

For a brief time after the War of Wrath, Sauron was actually 'good' and wanted to re-order Middle-Earth and repair its injuries. But this did not last long.

Very slowly, beginning with fair motives: the reorganising and rehabilitation of the ruin of Middle-earth, 'neglected by the gods', he becomes a reincarnation of Evil, and a thing lusting for Complete Power – and so consumed ever more fiercely with hate (especially of gods and Elves). Sauron was of course not 'evil' in origin. He was a 'spirit' corrupted by the Prime Dark Lord (the Prime sub-creative Rebel) Morgoth. He was given an opportunity of repentance, when Morgoth was overcome, but could not face the humiliation of recantation, and suing for pardon; and so his temporary turn to good and 'benevolence' ended in a greater relapse, until he became the main representative of Evil of later ages.


Saruman of course started out good: he was sent by the Valar as their representative. As Elrond was pointing out in my first quote, the desire for the Ring corrupted Saruman. Saruman was actually very much like Sauron:

Sauron had never reached this stage of nihilistic madness. He did not object to the existence of the world, so long as he could do what he liked with it. He still had the relics of positive purposes, that descended from the good of the nature in which he began: it had been his virtue (and therefore also the cause of his fall, and of his relapse) that he loved order and coordination, and disliked all confusion and wasteful friction. (It was the apparent will and power of Melkor to effect his designs quickly and masterfully that had first attracted Sauron to him.) Sauron had, in fact, been very like Saruman, and so still understood him quickly and could guess what he would be likely to think and do, even without the aid of palantiri or of spies; whereas Gandalf eluded and puzzled him.

(Myths Transformed)

  • Awesome answer! I expected everyone to tell me that I was stupid and vote to close the question. It sounds like the guy I was thinking of was indeed Sauron. +1 and many thanks! – Wad Cheber stands with Monica May 16 '15 at 21:36
  • The quote you added just now is almost exactly what I remember reading - he wanted to make the world orderly and peaceful, and originally despised violence and bloodshed. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica May 16 '15 at 21:38
  • 1
    @WadCheber: I think there is an even better one, but I can't find the damn thing. – Shamshiel May 16 '15 at 21:47
  • 2
    Even Morgoth was good in the beginning, and most akin to Manwë before entering Arda. – Lexible May 16 '15 at 23:57
  • 3
    @Lexible: Well, as an "aspect" and creation of Eru he was good, but pretty much everything he did from day 1 was bad. So it's kind of muddled imho. – Shamshiel May 17 '15 at 17:55

According to Tolkien, Sauron was originally a servant of Aulë (basically the Middle Earth equivalent of Hephaestus) and, hence, he was one of the good guys:

Among those of his servants that have names the greatest was that spirit whom the Eldar called Sauron, or Gorthaur the Cruel. In his beginning he was of the Maiar of Aulë, and he remained mighty in the lore of that people. In all the deeds of Melkor the Morgoth upon Arda, in his vast works and in the deceits of his cunning, Sauron had a part, and was only less evil than his master in that for long he served another and not himself. But in after years he rose like a shadow of Morgoth and a ghost of his malice, and walked behind him on the same ruinous path down into the Void. - The Silmarillion

Later he, and various others were rather taken with Melkor's "fair countenance" and became corrupted by his "lies and treacherous gifts"

And darkness he [Melkor of Morgoth] used most in his evil works upon Arda, and filled it with fear for all living things. Yet so great was the power of his uprising that in ages forgotten he contended with Manwë and all the Valar, and through long years in Arda held dominion over most of the lands of the Earth. But he was not alone. For of the Maiar many were drawn to his splendour in the days of his greatness, and remained in that allegiance down into his darkness; and others he corrupted afterwards to his service with lies and treacherous gifts. The Silmarillion

There's some additional info in History Of Middle Earth 10 about his position in Aule's household:

Now Melkor knew of all that was done; for even then he had secret friends and spies among the Maiar whom he had converted to his cause, and of these the chief, as after became known, was Sauron, a great craftsman of the household of Aule.

and the reasons for his downfall...

Sauron had never reached this stage of nihilistic madness. He did not object to the existence of the world, so long as he could do what he liked with it. He still had the relics of positive purposes, that descended from the good of the nature in which he began: it had been his virtue (and therefore also the cause of his fall, and of his relapse) that he loved order and coordination, and disliked all confusion and wasteful friction ... all this ordering and planning and organization was the good of all inhabitants of Arda (even admitting Sauron's right to be their supreme lord), his 'plans', the idea coming from his own isolated mind, became the sole object of his will, and an end, the End, in itself.

So yes, he did indeed start out virtuous and useful, albeit rather naïve. It was only after he came under the sway of Melkor that he turned into Middle Earth's resident bad-boy.

  • +1 - thanks as always for another great answer. I can't believe how quickly answers are coming in - I seriously expected people to ignore the question, criticize me for asking it, and close it immediately. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica May 16 '15 at 21:42
  • 2
    @WadCheber - Didn't come fast enough those 2 answers are excellent. I could only add that even Melkor wasn't evil in the beginning. Before the Music, he was impatient with the void and wanted Eru to do something about it, and mostly would have loved to create things of his own, but he didn't have the Imperishable fire, so he had to wait. Then when Ëa was created and the Ainur went into it, there was a long time before the Ainur went in the microcosm of Arda, and he long worked with the others to shape Ëa. He only became definitely evil when Arda was ready and the Ainur went to dwell in it. – Joel May 16 '15 at 21:50
  • 1
    @WadCheber - That's when he wanted the dominion of Arda, because he deemed he was the mightiest of the Ainur and that made him the most fit to rule it. So Melkor's main failings are pride and jealousy. Most of his evil deeds come out of jealousy. – Joel May 16 '15 at 21:54
  • 2
    @WadCheber - No, not from the moment he joined the Music "But now Illuvatar sat and hearkened, and for a great while it seemed good to him, for in the music there were no flaws. But as the theme progressed, it came into the heart of Melkor to interweave matters of his own imagining that were not in accord with the theme of Illuvatar" So in the beginning Melkor sang in accord with the others, and he was a mighty singer, because being the most talented Ainu, he could add to everyone's parts. And that was for a great while. – Joel May 16 '15 at 22:06
  • 2
    @WadCheber - You're right, but not from the beginning. But before the end of the first theme, Melkor became the troublemaker. There were then 2 other themes, which started alike, but mainly because Melkor shut up at first in each of these two themes... ;-) I'm off now, going out tonight, good evening ! – Joel May 16 '15 at 22:13

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.