Tolkien masterfully created one of the most amazing fictional universes we've ever experienced, and a big part of his success relied on the various characters that inhabited this fantastical world. There were heroes, monsters, and wizards... But some of the most interesting characters were the evil antagonists. And when it comes to these dark enemies, Sauron is definitely the biggest and the baddest. In fact, Sauron might just be one of the best antagonists ever created in any fictional text. He struck fear into the hearts of all the people of Middle Earth, and he almost completely conquered it on numerous occasions.
But even though Sauron is an integral character to this story, we don't really know too much about him. In The Lord Of The Rings, he always seemed to be lurking in the shadows, just out of sight. In order to really understand this character, you have to read some of the additional texts written by Tolkien, like the Silmarillion. In this book, Sauron's earlier days are explained, and we get a sense of who he was. But more importantly, we start to understand his physical form, what he looked like, and tons of other secrets about Sauron's body.
Believe it or not, Sauron technically belongs to the same "class" of being as Saruman and Gandalf. This class is known as the Maiar, and they are directly below the Valar, who are essentially the gods of Middle Earth. Sauron wasn't always evil, and in the beginning he was known as "admirable," with strong perfectionist qualities.
However, it's worth pointing out that even though they are all Maiar, Gandalf and Saruman are nowhere near the power that Sauron holds. They may be part of the same general group, but Sauron came long before the rest of the Maiar, and he is one of the most powerful members of that class.
Throughout time, Sauron became known as one of the most powerful shapeshifters Middle Earth had ever seen. In the early days, he could change his form at will - either becoming a massive, monstrous beast or a beautiful man. Naturally, this led to some confusion about his true form.
Sauron used his shapeshifting abilities for many different motives. He would often change his appearance to deceive and manipulate lesser beings. On the other hand, shapeshifting into powerful, hulking creatures gave him a definite advantage on the field of battle. Either way, his shapeshifting tendencies fed his reputation as being untrustworthy and deceitful.
From the earliest days, Sauron always seemed to have a very strong control over heat and fire. This makes sense, given the fact that he was once essentially a god of forging. He could create pretty much anything he wanted, and that later led to the creation of the rings of power. His control of heat and fire would have been useful as he forged various magical artifacts.
We can see this power in action during the Lord Of The Rings films. During the Battle Of Dagorlad, we see that the ring's inscription is burning brightly while Sauron wears it. This is because his body is emitting an intense heat in its natural form.
Before the ring of power was ever forged, Sauron came to the elves in a beautiful, elf-like form and won their trust. He called himself "Annatar," and the elves accepted him into their ranks as a lord and wise being. No one could see past his disguise, and soon enough Sauron was making the elves help him forge the various rings of power.
After he had forged rings for men, elves, and dwarfs, Sauron created the last and most important ring - the ring of power. However, as soon as Sauron wore the ring, the elves saw him for what he really was. The elves took off their own rings of power, and Sauron was never able to control them.
At a certain point, it was obvious that something had to be done about Sauron. He was growing incredibly powerful in Middle Earth, and he threatened its entire existence. The mighty empire of men in Numenor decided to dispatch a strong military force to oppose Sauron, and they eventually defeated him.
But Sauron once again transformed into a beautiful form, and convinced the men of Numenor to take him as a captive. Eventually, he was allowed to serve as an adviser to their kings. This proved to be the downfall of Numenor (which was based on Atlantis), and the gods punished the island with a giant flood, as punishment for their evil ways. Of course, it was Sauron who encouraged these evil actions.
Somehow, Sauron survived the flood. But the cataclysm took a massive toll on his body, and he would never again be able to take that beautiful form. He had used it to twist and manipulate the empires of elves and men, and so the gods made sure that he would never again have that ability.
He rose from the flood as little more than a shadow of his former self, which Tolkien describes as a "hideous form." Even though his physical body was completely lost, he still managed to carry the ring of power with him, which was the true source of his power. Even though this event changed Sauron forever, he was far from defeated.
One of the most hilarious tidbits of information surrounding Sauron is that he was originally intended to be "The Prince Of Cats." This was Tolkien's very first vision for the dark lord, and it seems hilarious looking back. Not only was he supposed to be the prince of cats, but he was also intended to take the form of a cat.
This goes back to Tolkien's earlier visions of Middle Earth, when many of his stories shared the theme of "dogs vs cats." It's interesting to note that this cat prince would've still been a servant of Morgoth, the first dark lord. Even though cats are cute, this one was definitely pure evil!
Sauron went through many transformations during his time on Middle Earth. As we previously noted, Sauron is a shapeshifter - but he doesn't always take on beautiful forms. One of his most famous forms was that of a Werewolf. This goes back to the days when Sauron had created an entire island filled with werewolves, and was intent on eliminating Huan, a godlike hound created by the Valar.
Sauron turned himself into a werewolf, because the prophecy stated that Huan could only be defeated by the greatest wolf that ever lived. However, Huan defeated Sauron and the dark lord was forced to flee. Interestingly, Sauron only ever took to the field of battle twice in his life - the other being his defeat at the hands of Isildur.
It's worth pointing out that Tolkien never actually described Sauron's appearance in detail. Many assume that the author intentionally left those details vague. He did once paint a watercolor picture of Sauron, but that was equally vague. In the painting, Sauron appears as a greyish figure with one dark hand.
Gollum describes Sauron in some detail after being tortured by the dark lord, but he only ever describes his hands. He mentions that they're black in color, and possibly suggests that he has only one hand left. Other than that, we really don't know what Sauron looks like.
We previously mentioned the fact that Sauron was originally envisioned as the prince of cats. Obviously, Tolkien decided to go in a completely different direction, and the Sauron we see today is more of a dark sorcerer. However, there is one key remnant of Sauron's catlike earlier days, and we can see it in the eye of Sauron itself.
Look closely, and you'll see that Sauron's famous eye resembles the yellow iris and pupil of a cat. This was an intentional touch, and Tolkien actually describes the all-seeing eye as such. This is a detail that is clearly visible in the movies.
Speaking of the films, Peter Jackson never actually showed us what Sauron looked like, apart from that famous first scene where Isildur defeats the dark lord. This was an intentional move by the director, as he wanted to keep the presence of Sauron intentionally vague and open to interpretation.
As we all know, the presence of Sauron was symbolized by his large, disturbing eye atop a large tower in the heart of Mordor. This fact led many people to believe that the eye was Sauron, and that his entire being was contained within that eye. The books state otherwise, and this is actually a common misconception people have after seeing the films.
Immediately after being defeated by Huan, Sauron shapeshifted again. This time, he took the form of a vampire, and fled once again while dripping blood from his neck. It's interesting to note that in this event, Sauron is described as "flying"over the forests towards safety. This would suggest that in his vampire form, Sauron was more of a bat rather than a humanoid creature.
Sauron wasn't the first vampire in Middle Earth, either. Although these creatures are somewhat rare, they do exist, and they're typically seen as the servants of Morgoth. Some say that vampires are actually corrupted Maiar, similar to Balrogs.
Although forging the great ring of power led to Sauron's dominance over Middle Earth, it was actually quite a risky endeavor when he first created this magical artifact. In order to create a ring with so much power, Sauron had to pour a large amount of his own will force into the ring, leaving him considerably weakened as a result.
Of course, as long as Sauron was actually wearing the ring, none of that would matter. Still, getting separated from his ring resulted in a massive drop in power, and that explains why Sauron was so frantic in his search for the ring after losing it for so long.
Even a creature as powerful as Sauron can't heal from certain wounds. The battle of Dagorlad was a massive disaster for Sauron on so many levels. Not only did he lose the battle, but he lost the ring. As we now know, Sauron is considerably weakened without the ring in his possession. To add insult to injury, Sauron was never able to regrow that finger, and it served as a reminder of his loss for many years.
At this point, he had lost his ability to shapeshift, so he couldn't just create a new finger for himself. We know that his finger is missing because Gollum mentions that he saw Sauron's hands while being tortured, and he states that he only has four fingers on one hand.
Mount Doom isn't just a volcano. At least, it stopped being a normal volcano after Sauron arrived in Mordor. Since Sauron used this volcano to forge the great ring, the mountain has been imbued with dark, magical power that will probably never fade away. Even more than that, Mount Doom is inexorably linked to Sauron's physical form.
This makes sense, since Mount Doom is linked to the ring of power, and the ring of power is linked to Sauron. We see evidence of this throughout the books and films. When Sauron arrives back in Mordor, Mount Doom violently erupts. On many occasions, Mount Doom seems to react to Sauron's strongest emotions. And when the ring is finally destroyed, Mount Doom erupts once again.
We previously stated that Peter Jackson didn't want to depict the true physical form of Sauron in any of his movies. But the truth is that the director wanted Sauron to appear right at the end of his epic trilogy. In the original script of The Return Of The King, Sauron was actually supposed to come out of the black gate and fight Aragorn in an epic duel.
The scene was even shot in CGI, and there are deleted scenes that show Sauron fighting the king of men. At the last second, Sauron was changed into an Armored Troll, and the CGI image of Sauron was completely scrubbed and replaced. Obviously, Peter Jackson wanted to continue with the previous theme of keeping Sauron's image intentionally vague.
One of the few bits of information we get about Sauron's appearance is that he's incredibly tall. Tolkien describes his stature as being much larger than the average man, and we can see this in The Battle Of Dagorlad as depicted in The Fellowship Of The Ring. He isn't quite a giant, but he's still tall enough that he's clearly not human.
At the time of this battle, Sauron was in his base form. His size reminds us that he's not only a Maiar, but one of the strongest Maiar around - much taller and more powerful than Saruman or Gandalf.
We all know that the eye of Sauron is something that we all associate with this dark lord. The eye is intense, and it has power over people. When Frodo stares into the eye, he sometimes becomes transfixed and even paralyzed by its power and dark will. But even before the eye of Sauron came into existence, the dark lord was known for having extremely powerful eyes.
Tolkien writes that some people were visibly disturbed after looking into his eyes, while others were completely transfixed. It seems that depending on the personality of the person, they either saw Suaron's true darkness in his eyes, or whatever this sorcerer wanted them to see.
Although Sauron was one of the best-known shapeshifters in Middle Earth, this wouldn't last forever. Sauron's life has been marred by loss after loss at the hands of the divine and good being in Middle Earth, and it seems like each time he's defeated, he loses a little more of himself.
Such was the case after the fall of Numenor, when Suaron caused the destruction of this great island. When the gods caused a massive flood to destroy the lands, Sauron barely survived. And when he rose from the ruins of Numenor, he had lost the ability to shapeshift. Of course, this didn't stop his evil acts.
One of the most common misconceptions about Sauron is that he was defeated when the ring of power was destroyed. Maiar are fundamentally immortal, which means that Sauron will always be around - at least in some form. This means that even after everything that happened in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Sauron is probably still lurking around in the form of an incredibly weak spirit.
That being said, he might as well have been destroyed. As Gandalf notes, Sauron is too weak to ever come back in a meaningful way... and should never threaten Middle Earth again. Or so we think...