J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings quickly became fan-favorite novels. Behind each one is a painstakingly realized world with thousands of years of history. Tolkien, an Oxford don and philosopher, even constructed unique languages for his elvish characters to speak.
Like any great series, the books have a formidable bad guy: Sauron, a powerful and ancient being bent on conquering Middle-earth. Much of Sauron’s dastardly work was done when he existed in corporal form 2,000 years before the start of the books. Wielding the One Ring, his dark armies sought dominion over Middle-earth. Only when Isildur cut the ring from Sauron’s finger was the dark lord vanquished.
However, Sauron had not completely left the world. His spirit continued to exist and, over many years, he managed to build strength until he was once again able to resume his quest to rule over Middle-earth and reclaim the One Ring. By the time of The Lord of the Rings, his power had manifested in a flaming eye atop his fortress of Barad-dûr in Mordor, as he had been expelled from Dol Gulder when The Hobbit took place. Even weakened, he held the power to raise armies and still attempted to conquer the world once again. However, many fans aren't aware of what he was he doing between The Hobbit (which ended in the year 2942 of the Third Age) and The Lord of the Rings.
With that said, here are the 20 Wicked Things Sauron Did Between The Hobbit And The Lord Of The Rings.
Of all of the locations in The Hobbit and The Lord of the rings, Mount Doom is probably the most important. Also known as Orodruin, Mount Doom is a volcano located in Mordor. Sauron used its fires to forge the One Ring, and these same fires are where the ring met its ultimate demise.
Sauron chose to reside in Mordor because of Mount Doom since he had a special relationship with it, as he was seemingly able to control its fires.
The volcano would apparently go dormant when Sauron left Mordor and erupt after he returned. After Sauron fled Dol Guldur at the end of The Hobbit and returned to Mordor, one of the first signs of his return was the smoke coming from the mountain. This is noticed by others, as Boromir tells the Council of Elrond, “Smoke rises once more from Orodruin that we call Mount Doom.”
Of all of the characters who bore the One Ring, Gollum had it the longest after Sauron: he had the ring in his possession for nearly 500 years, and, like Sauron, he was twisted by the ring’s power. This slinking, sly, conflicted ring-bearer also held something that Sauron wanted almost as badly as the ring itself: a clue about its location.
Like Sauron, Gollum was hunting for the ring. The ring’s influence and Sauron’s power drew him to Mordor not the Shire. There, he met Shelob, the Great Spider, and remained with her for some time right under Sauron’s nose. The time-frame is never clearly stated, but it seems like about forty years passed before Sauron finally captured Gollum.
When Sauron was expelled from Dul Guldur by Gandalf and the White Council, he fled to Mordor, the land he had ruled for thousands of years previously and the place where he forged the One Ring. Sauron arrived back in Mordor in 2942 of the Third Age, which was when Bilbo set off on his adventures with the Dwarfs.
However, Sauron had secretly been planning his return for some time. His nine servants, the Nazgûl, had claimed Minas Morgul on the edge of Mordor many years previously. Through the Nazgûl, Sauron governed Mordor remotely from his stronghold Dul Guldur, ensuring that everything would be ready for his return. The Nazgûl were also busy weakening the forces of Gondor, which made Sauron’s trip home as smooth as possible.
Sauron isn’t the type to accept defeat, and though the White Council forced him from his stronghold Dul Guldur, about ten years later in 2951 of the Third Age, he sent three Nazgûl to reoccupy his former base.
Located on the edge of Mirkwood, just east of Lothlórien and the Misty Mountains, Dol Guldur would be a useful strategic outpost for Sauron.
Indicating its importance, Sauron chose to put his lieutenant, Khamûl, in command of the forest stronghold. Second only to the Witch-king of Angmar, chief of the Nazgûl, Khamûl was particularly sensitive to the presence of the One Ring. Khamûl remained at Dol Guldur, where he took instructions from Sauron, for about sixty years until he was ordered, along with three other Nazgûl, to ride to the Shire and find “Baggins” and the ring.
South of Mordor and Gondor is the sea haven of Umbar. During the Second Age of Middle-earth, this sea port became one of the most important and heavily fortified defensive locations in the fight against Sauron. It was also the landing site of Ar-Pharazôn the Golden, the last King of Númenor, who, 3000 years before the events of The Hobbit, marched upon Sauron with such splendor that the Dark Lord knelt before him and surrendered.
During the middle of the Third Age, Umbar had fallen out with neighbouring Gondor, and the Umbar Corsairs, cruel slavers, were involved in attacks against Gondor and Rohan. When Sauron openly returned in 2951, Umbar declared allegiance to the Dark Lord and destroyed the monument commemorating Ar-Pharazôn’s success.
During the sixty years between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Sauron was busy regaining his strength and building an army. He recruited men from the east -armies of Easterlings from Khand and beyond the Sea of Rhûn - and from the south - men from South Harad and Umbar Corsairs. He also bred orcs, trolls, and other beasts that he equipped and directed.
Sauron’s goal was to continue what he had started long ago: to destroy the remnants of the Númenóreans in Gondor and the Eldar (elves), and to conquer Middle-earth. Even before the War of the Rings that takes place in The Lord of the Rings, his growing power was beginning to be felt across all of Middle-earth. However, it was felt most by neighbouring Gondor. “The power of the Black Land grows,” Boromir told the Council of Elrond, “and we are hard beset.”
Before taking up residence in Barad-dûr (the Dark Tower) in Mordor, Sauron’s main stronghold was Dol Guldur, which was located on the edge of the Mirkwood forest.
About 2000 years before the events of The Hobbit, Sauron had returned to Dol Guldur, where he slowly regained his strength after being defeated by Elendil and the Elven High King Gil-galad.
Part-way through The Hobbit, when Gandalf abandoned Bilbo and the dwarfs on the edge of the Mirkwood, saying that he had “pressing business” to attend to, he rode to Dol Guldur. Gandalf’s pressing business involved helping the White Council expel Sauron (who had been pretending to be a mere necromancer) from Dol Guldur. After 2000 years, you might expect Sauron to put up quite a fight, but he gave in easy and fled to Mordor, where he had already been making plans.
Presumably from his questioning of Gollum, Sauron learnt of a Hobbit who was a thief and was known to the Dwarves. About a year before the Council of Elrond met at Rivendell, Sauron sent a messenger to Dáin Ironfoot, the Dwarfen king. The messenger asked the Dwarves to help find Bilbo in return for rings of power, promising to give them three of the seven rings originally possessed by the Dwarves.
Given Sauron’s crimes, it’s not surprising that he chose to lie, but it is hard to imagine why he thought the Dwarves would believe his description of the ring he sought as “a little ring, the least of rings!” The Dwarves did not help Sauron, and were punished a few years later in the Battle of Dale and Erebor, during which King Dáin was slain.
Sauron’s defeat at the end of the Second Age and the loss of the One Ring left him so weakened that it took a thousand years before he could begin to take a physical form again. He spent another thousand years recovering his strength, pretending to be nothing more than a necromancer and avoiding the suspicions of the wizards of the White Council. Sauron was still busy, though, as he traveled east to corrupt the Easterlings and recruit them.
After the White Council finally realized who he was and moved against him, Sauron fled to Mordor. There, about nine years after the events of The Hobbit, Sauron finally had everything he needed in place and openly declared himself. As Boromir put it, "The Nameless Enemy has arisen again."
Sauron had been intent on finding the One Ring ever since Isildur cut it from his body. However, Saruman almost found it first. Unlike Sauron, Saruman was privy to important information. Working closely with Gandalf and the White Council, Saruman began to note the Grey wizard’s interest in the Shire. As revealed in Unfinished Tales, “Saruman ... had begun to feel certain that in some way the Shire was connected with the Ring in Gandalf's mind.”
Saruman sent agents to Bree and the Shire, using Dunlendish men to spy and collect information about the hobbits.
This happened nearly two decades before Sauron captured Gollum and heard about “Baggins.”
Barad-dûr, also known as the Dark Tower, was Sauron’s main fortress in Mordor. Built on the Plateau of Gorgoroth about 30 miles east of Mount Doom, Sauron’s tower had “battlement upon battlement.” Its foundations were made with the power of the One Ring, and when the tower was levelled after Sauron’s defeat at the end of the Second Age, the foundations proved to be indestructible.
Sauron began rebuilding the tower in 2951 of the Third Age – about ten years after he was expelled from Dol Guldur during the events of The Hobbit. It took only two years to complete the reconstruction and the Dark Tower, which was completed in 2953. This was the base of all of his subsequent activities until his final defeat in 3019.
Tucked into the appendix of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King is a note about Mount Doom. When it erupted following Sauron’s return to Mordor, “the last of the folk of Ithilien fled far away.” Scaring them away was no mean feat, as Ithilien (named after Isildur) is located along the border of Mordor — a strip of land between Minus Tirith in Gondor and the mountains that house Minus Morgul — and the Gondorians had been engaged in battle against Sauron’s minions for many years.
However, despite being forced from Ithilien, Gondor wasn’t about to give in. The descendants of Ithilien’s last inhabitants formed the Rangers of Ithilien, a Gondorian special military force. At the time of the events in The Lord of the Rings, their captain was Faramir.
Despite being of great importance to the plot, it isn’t clearly stated how or when Sauron captured Gollum and forced him to reveal what he knew of the ring’s location and bearer. However, Gollum was definitely out of Mordor by 3017 (the year before Frodo set out for Rivendell), since he was captured by Aragorn in the Dead Marshes and brought to the elves in Mirkwood.
Sauron had obtained what he needed by then and the Nazgûl had begun their hunt.
It seems likely Sauron let Gollum go deliberately, as he knew Gollum’s hunger for the ring would help lead him to it — a plan that might have worked if it wasn’t for a certain pesky Ranger.
Aragorn was already busy thwarting Sauron’s plans well before we met him in The Lord of the Rings. The future High King was hiding his identity — instead, he was using the name Thorongil — and serving in the armies of both Rohan and Gondor, with a special role as advisor to Ecthelion II, Steward of Gondor.
One of Aragorn’s most notable successes as Thorongil involved severely crippling Sauron’s naval fleet. Sauron had allied with the Corsairs of Umbar (cruel slavers from the south), who were a serious threat to Gondor. However, in 2980 (about 40 years after The Hobbit), Thorongil led a surprise attack that drastically crippled Umbar, destroying many of their ships and eliminating the Corsair captain.
We know that Saruman was corrupted by Sauron through his palantír, but Sauron also sought to influence Denethor II (the Ruling Steward of Gondor and father of Boromir and Faramir) through another such stone: the Anor-stone, a palantír kept in Gondor’s White Tower. Denethor began to use the stone soon after becoming Ruling Steward — about forty years after The Hobbit. The stone, and what it revealed of Sauron and Mordor, took its toll, weakening Denethor physically and mentally.
Unlike Saruman (who already had evil tendencies), Denethor’s strength of will and natural integrity allowed him to fend off Sauron’s influence. However, the mental battle of wills drove him close to madness, weakening Gondor at its heart.
Balin the Dwarf was one of Bilbo’s companions in The Hobbit. Nearly fifty years after The Hobbit, Balin set off on another quest: to recolonize Moria, the ancient Dwarven city, which was previously known as Khazad-dûm. This would be no easy feat, however. Moria had long been abandoned to the Balrog, which was unleashed by earlier generations of Dwarves (a servant of Morgoth – Sauron’s old master).
Orcs soon took over the ancient mines, and Sauron began to send his own foul beasts there, filling Moria with Orcs and Trolls from Mordor.
However, Balin was initially met with success, as he was able to cleanse parts of Moria and discover great treasures. However, Sauron’s power was rising, and Balin and his companions were wiped out by Orcs five years later.
We meet Éomer and Éowyn in The Lord of the Rings, but their father, Éomund of Eastfold, had already fallen prey to Sauron’s minions 16 years before the Fellowship of the Ring was formed.Éomund was a Marshal of the Mark who was charged with defending the east marshes of Rohan from marauding Orcs and other enemies from neighbouring Mordor.
As Sauron’s power grew, Orc raids increased. Éomund often rode against them “in hot anger, unwarily and with few men” (The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A) and was unfortunately slain by an Orc ambush in Emyn Muil, Gondor. His demise was followed closely by the passing of his grief-stricken wife, which left Éomer and Éowyn to be raised by their maternal-uncle, King Théoden.
Soon after returning to Mordor, Sauron sought horses for his army.He looked for them in neighbouring Rohan, a land known for its horses and cavalry. “The Lord of the Black Land wished to purchase horses from us at great price,” Éomer says in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, “but we refused him, for he puts beasts to evil use.”
Denied, Sauron ordered his Orcs to raid Rohan and steal horses instead, while Saruman, who was already under Sauron’s influence, sent his own uraks. Perhaps du to instructions from their master, the Orcs apparently chose to steal only black horses. This is something that the Nazgûl, who are also known as Black Riders, surely appreciated.
Saruman, a member of the same ancient, powerful Mair race as Sauron, had plans to obtain the One Ring for himself even before the events of The Hobbit. He misled the White Council, spied on Gandalf and the Shire, and secretly gained possession of a palantír: the Stone of Orthanc.
Saruman began using the seeing stone nearly 20 years before Frodo left the Shire. It was through this stone that Sauron ensnared Saruman.
In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, we discover that, “Further and further abroad he gazed, until he cast his gaze upon Barad-dûr. Then he was caught!” Arrogant and proud, Saruman was soon completely corrupted by Sauron. However, it’s likely that he never sought to intentionally serve the Dark Lord. Instead, he sought to gain the Dark Lord’s power by possessing the One Ring.
One year before Frodo left the Shire and journeyed to Rivendell, Aragorn was tracking another Hobbit-like creature: Gollum. Recently released from Mordor, Gollum was searching, as always, for his precious ring — presumably with the consent of Sauron, who let him go after learning what he could of the ring’s whereabouts.
However, Sauron’s plans to use Gollum to help sniff out the ring failed when Aragorn captured Gollum in the Dead Marshes and took him to the Elves in Mirkwood. Gandalf managed to question Gollum, deducing the nature of the ring that Bilbo had won from him. Soon after, Sauron sent Orcs to attack Mirkwood in an effort to destroy or recapture Gollum. However, Gollum managed to escape.
Are there any other things that Sauron did between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings? Let us know in the comments!