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The Forces of Sauron

"One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,"
"One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them"
"In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie."

In time immemorial, the Maia Sauron was seduced by promises of power by Morgoth, the fallen Vala and architect of all that is corrupt in the world of Arda (such as Orcs and other cruel races). Sauron served his master faithfully for many eons, but after Morgoth's defeat in the War of Wrath, Sauron became the new Dark Lord, and at the head of his countless legions of Orcs he sought to bring order upon Middle Earth by ruling it with an iron fist, bringing it all under the banner of the lidless eye (his personal logo). Many are Sauron's tools to cause mischief, but central among them is the One Ring of power, by which Sauron hopes to bring an endless night upon Middle Earth.

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The eponymous Lord of the Rings. The lieutenant of Morgoth, the original Dark Lord, Sauron was responsible for much suffering of Elves and Men in the Elder Days. When Morgoth was banished, Sauron ultimately picked up in his place. His first gambit was to teach the Elves to craft magic rings (ultimately the three for the Elves, seven for the Dwarves, and nine for Men). These rings would give each of their bearers great power, but they were also secretly a trap. By creating his own One Ring as an extension of his being he would be able to control each of the other ring bearers, and through them dominate each race. However, the elves were on guard against this evil and the dwarves were too focused on material wealth to be dominated. Sauron made his first bid through force but was routed and his body destroyed. However, his ring anchored him to our realm and would allow him to return.

In the narrative, he is simply the Big Bad, an ominous evil presence that grows stronger as the heroes near his realm. If he reclaimed the One Ring, the doom of Middle-Earth would be swift and final. Even without it, he seems poised to win, leaving the destruction of his Ring as the only means of defeating him.

See the character sheet for The Silmarillion for tropes that apply to him in that work.

  • Achilles' Heel: The One Ring.
  • Ambition Is Evil: He represents ambition, and his ambition lead to his corruption.
  • And I Must Scream: His ultimate fate. The destruction of the ring crippled him completely, leaving him nothing but a 'spirit of malice', unable to ever assume physical form or influence anyone or anything ever again.
  • Arm Chair Military: Most of the times, he is a schemer and a strategist.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: A downplayed example since Sauron's greatest strengths were his strategic mind and his magical abilities. His physical strength, while immensely superior to most Men and Elves, was fairly average for a Maia; he could hold his own against Elendil and Gil-Galad at the Siege of Barad-dûr, but was wounded in the process. It's a common theme throughout all his appearances in Tolkien's works: Sauron will only engage in physical combat when all other options have been exhausted... and he will almost always lose.
    • Even then, he is still the most powerful evil being on the story.
  • Ax-Crazy: Much of Sauron's perceived motiveless malice can be explained by him being batshit crazy. While Tolkien considered Morgoth the madder of the two due to being an Omnicidal Maniac, Sauron is no shining example of sanity either and has long abandoned any constructive goals he might once have held. His plan to conquer Middle-Earth and run it into the ground stems from overwhelming, impotent rage at how life has turned out for him, and while he is often capable of taking A Form You Are Comfortable With when it suits his purposes, behind these fair forms is an entity consumed with self-loathing and hatred for all things well beyond the point of reason. The slightest rejection or criticism can provoke him to torture and kill you even if it serves no purpose to do so (or is even counter-productive to his larger plans) and well before the end he loses the ability to feel any genuine emotion beyond anger, hatred and fear.
  • Big Bad: The moving force behind nearly all evil in The Lord of the Rings.
  • Black Speech: Sauron at one time made an artificial language as a way to communicate across his empire and his allies earlier in the backstory. Thousands of years after being killed in the final battle of the Last Alliance and getting a new form, the Nazgûl, Olog-hai, and many Orcs still use it.
  • The Chessmaster: Used disguises and clever tactical planning to make the Elves create the Rings, and to later undermine Númenor until its downfall.
  • Classic Villain: Sauron represents Pride, Ambition, Wrath and Greed.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Inflicted on several unfortunates who have information he wants. Unlike Morgoth, it isn't made clear whether he also tortures people for fun in his spare time, but don't put it past him.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: He gets his angelic body handed to him by Eru for meddling with the lives of mortal men. He does not look divine when he eventually recovers and reforms.
  • Cyclops: The Orcs portray him as one, though they're probably just guessing (or might be another of his forms).
  • Dark Is Evil: Darkness is his big visual motif (with the eye of course), as with Morgoth before him. Black are his flags, darkness is what he spreads from Mordor to shield his sun-phobic armies, and of course he's the Dark Lord.
  • Dark Lord on Life Support: He has spent so much of his power on evil pursuits and attempts to subjugate Middle-Earth that by the time he infuses his essence into the One Ring he becomes incapable of sustaining himself without it. As long as the Ring survives, so does he - but as soon as it is destroyed, he is instantly and irrecoverably undone.
  • Dirty Coward: Downplayed. He hates fighting unless he either really has to or he thinks he can beat his foe. Although it is justified given that he is much more of a magician and a schemer than a fighter. Also, he has a really bad track of losing whem things get physical (and losing badly): In his backstory, he lost a battle to Huan (The greatest Hound ever walked on earth) and Luthien, losing his tower and position as lieutenant of Morgoth. Later, in the second age, he lost his army against The elves and the Numenoreans, and barely survived, having to retreat to Mordor and rebuilt his forces. Then, in Numenor's downfall, he lost his ability to adopt a fair physical form, being locked in his evil dark lord form, and also his dominion over the Numenorean empire. And then, at the end of Barad-Dûr, he fell in battle against Elendin and Gil Galad (although killing them), and lost his ring to Isildur, being forced to retreat ans unable to adopt a form until a millenium.
  • The Dreaded: It's quite literally his name... well, one of his names (Gorthaur, in sindarin, which means "Dreadful Abomination"), anyway. Fear is one of his greatest weapons, and his most powerful servants and creations have the power to inflict fear upon those around them.
  • Emperor Scientist: As Morgoth's servant he was engaged in many 1"scientific experiments", most notably, he had a heavy hand in the creation of the orcs. And of course after Morgoth's downfall he created the Rings with the help of the elves.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good:
    • One of the reasons the whole gambit to destroy the Ring works. Sauron believes that anyone who possesses the ring would use it for themselves, leaving them susceptible to its corruption. Only when it's too late does he realize that his enemies wish to destroy it. But...he turns out correct in the end, as nobody actually has the resolve to destroy it willingly. Instead, it gets undone as an unforeseen consequence of Bilbo and Frodo's act of pity, something else his evil could not comprehend.
    • More generally, Sauron in his fall utterly lost the ability to comprehend or empathise with anyone who wasn't as evil and selfish as him, and couldn't imagine any non-selfish motivation. He convinced Denethor that Gandalf wanted to take over Middle-Earth for himself because that's what Sauron genuinely believed.
  • Evil Genius: He's one of the smartest beings in Middle-Earth (if not the smartest) from the very beginning.
    Gandalf: Let folly be our cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy! For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice.
  • Evil Is Burning Hot: Literally, as his physical form emanates enough heat to kill anyone just by touching (Like Erenion). In general, he is associated with fire as well.
  • Evil Mentor: To Celebrimbor in Eregion, tricking him into forging the Rings of Power.
  • Evil Sorcerer: As the Necromancer, people mistakenly thought he was one of these.
  • The Evils of Free Will: He used the rings to try to take total control over all the beings on Middle-earth. His original reason for his fall was his desire of order in the world, and after his corruption, his unrelenting desire for power and control drive him. He is called after 'The enemy of the Free People'.
  • Evil Overlord: The Trope Codifier for modern fantasy.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Originally, Sauron was an angelic being and servant of Aulë, the godlike patron of craftsmen and maker of the physical aspect of the Earth; this is how he became such a master at creating items of power. However, he was corrupted by the first Dark Lord, Morgoth, with promises of power.
  • Fallen Angel: He once was a good Maia, though that long ago.
  • Faceless Eye: He appears as a great eye of fire in the minds of those who perceive him. Unlike in the Jackson movies, in the books this is not his actual physical form — which is hideous but humanoid, complete with a missing ring finger.
  • Fantastic Racism: Sauron has made destroying the Númenóreans one of his major goals.
  • Fatal Flaw: Pride. See Evil Cannot Comprehend Good. His pride kept him from even considering that anyone would want to destroy his pet Artifact of Doom.
    • It also is in his backstory, combined with arrogance and (possibly) cruelty. His pride drove him to Morgoth. And because of his pride he decided to escape from the Valar. And his pride and arrogance did not allow him to consider that myabe he was stepping too far in thd corruption of Numenor.
    • But ironically, like with many Dark Lords like him, his final downfall came because of his only "good" deed. Instead of killing Gollum, he left him go, when perhaps the merciful course of actiom would have been ending his life (or lock him away, which would have end up in death, giving he did not have the ring). Be for cruelty, carelessness (combined with arrogance, dismissing Gollum as a harmless creature), selfishness, or even mercy, this small action ensures his downfall.
  • Fate Worse than Death: He ends as a bodiless spirit too weak to influence anyone ever again (At least until the Dagor Dagorath)
  • The Ghost: Tolkien never gave a clear description of what Sauron actually looked like in the original books. Gandalf and possibly Gollum are the only characters to have actually been in Sauron's presence, and neither are willing to talk about it. Pippin sees him through the Palantir, but he also doesn't want to describe him. Aragorn challenges him directly through the Stone of Orthanc and feels Sauron's fear and doubts, but he doesn't actually reveal much more of Sauron and this wordless struggle.
  • God-Emperor: He sets himself as a god-king in Mordor.
  • Foil: To Gandalf, who was sent to Middle-Earth specifically to be his adversary. Also to Galadriel.
  • The Heavy: Though not present for much of the story, his actions drive the plot.
  • Heel–Face Turn: He did this at the end of the First Age, when he mostly reformed and wanted to help rebuild Middle-Earth...
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: ...but the threat and fear of punishment was too great, and he didn't resist the temptation to use "reconstruction" as an excuse to to conquer the world.
  • I Have Many Names: Sauron's other names are these: Annatar, Gorthaur the Cruel, Thû, The Nameless Enemy, Dark Lord of Mordor, Lord of the Rings, Base Master of Treachery, the Dark Power, Lord of Barad-dûr, The Eye, Ring-maker, and The Necromancer. Also the Lord of Werewolves back in his shapeshifting days and Tevildo, Lord of Cats (!) in another version.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: How he caused Númenor to fall. See the The Silmarillion characters page for more.
  • Irony: As chancellor to Ar-Pharazôn, he was known as Tar-Mairon. In other words, the entity that was responsible for taking the corruption of Númenor to its logical conclusion rendered his name in Quenya, the language of the Faithful.
    • Sauron "The Great" was undone not by men, elve or dwarf, but by the little and diminute Hobbits.
  • Keystone Army: Raised — and lost — several.
  • Light Is Not Good: In his guise as Annatar, Lord of Gifts, he appeared as an angelic being of incredible beauty. This was how he deceived the Elves and corrupted the Númenóreans.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: His malign will was functioning as his Evil Tower of Ominousness' foundation, not to mention the primary motivating and dominating force of his slave armies.
  • The Magnificent: Referred to as Sauron the Great by his followers. Also, before he turned evil, he was called Mairon ("Admirable").
  • Magnificent Bastard: Despite everything, his return to power in the 3rd Age is brillantly schemed, ended up being the most powerful lord even without the ring. And that is not mentioning thr 2nd and 1st age.
  • Manipulative Bastard: A master of manipulating people. Him ironically, being "manipulated" by Gandalf and Aragorn.
  • Mind Rape: His specialty. "Thy flesh shall be devoured and thy shriveled mind left naked to the Lidless Eye." Brrrrr.
  • Monstrous Humanoid: After he lost his beautiful Annatar form in the fall of Númenor, he was stuck in a humanoid but horrendously monstrous form for the rest of his existence.
  • Motive Decay: Justified in-universe: his original motivation was to give order and peace to the world. As his evil grew, he lost sight of this goal — a desire for order became a desire to dominate everything, and a desire for peace became a lust for revenge against those who resisted him — the Eldar, the Númenóreans, and lastly the men of Gondor. His goal remains "order" but his motivations change.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "Sauron" is Quenya for "abomination." His less-often-seen Sindarin name, Gorthaur, means "terrible dread."
  • The Necromancer: It's one of his titles and the alias he used while recuperating at Dol Guldur, and his specialty as a Maia was in manipulating the connection between minds and physical bodies/objects. However, he does not seem to have the 'stereotypical' Necromancer's entourage of rotting animated corpses.
  • Not Quite Dead: Gandalf notes that, even with the destruction of the Ring, Sauron isn't actually dead as he is a Maia whose essence cannot truly perish. Instead, he's just reduced to an impotent "spirit of malice" that can never again grow or take form.
  • Obviously Evil: After the Downfall of Númenor, he can only take shape as something hideous that wears all his hate and corruption on the outside, where everybody can see it plainly.
  • Oh, Crap!: Understandably, he freaks the hell out when he realizes that his ring is in the very place it can be destroyed.
  • Orcus on His Throne: He never engages anyone in physical battle after his previous defeat by the Last Alliance. Though this isn't to say that he's inactive. His Eye is always on the move, as are his servants, propelled by his malevolent will. Justified in that, while he is immensely powerful, physical strength is not his forte. If Sauron is personally coming out to fight, like he did at the end of the Second Age, it generally means he's on the brink of defeat and getting rather desperate.
  • Order Versus Chaos: When Sauron was originally created as a good being, the greatest virtue that was instilled in him was a love of order and perfection, leading him to dislike anything he considered wasteful. Over time though, this virtue became twisted and corrupted as Sauron began to seek to impose order upon everyone and everything and came to view unrelenting tyranny as the easiest way to do so, leading him to fall from the side of good and join Morgoth as his lieutenant.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Sauron, like the Wizards, is an angel in humanoid form. Unlike them, however, he possesses his full power and knowledge.
  • Out-Gambitted: He Out Gambits everyone, and then is in turn Out Gambitted by Gandalf. See Unwitting Pawn below.
  • The Paranoiac: Both he and his master Morgoth fit this disorder, particularly as they got progressively weaker over the Ages and increasingly spiteful, envious, controlling, petty and grandiose as a direct result of that. Sauron especially, as by the end he simply wants to control absolutely everything and is completely enraged by any challenge to this. It also causes Sauron to have a cautious streak, both personally and as a strategist. Like his master, he generally does not attack unless assured of success, and heavily hedges his bets; his assault on Minas Tirith, for instance, only involves a fraction of his forces, with the bulk remaining in Mordor. His defeat there causes Sauron to fall back and regroup, when a second assault would likely have conquered the city easily.
  • Pet the Dog: Sparing Gollum.
  • Playing with Fire: His Dark Lord form is described as looking very dark, like it is blackened from the immense heat of his body, and anybody who gets too close is burned by him.
  • Present Absence: Sauron is never present in a scene, and very few of the characters have actually been in his presence. His only lines are spoken to Pippin when he looks into the palantír, and we only know them because the incident actually happens off-page, with Pippin telling the rest of the characters about it after the fact.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning. Does appear yellow at one point, however.
  • Red Right Hand: He cannot grow back the ring finger he lost at the end of the Second Age. "There are only four fingers on the Black Hand, but they are enough."
  • Sadist.
  • Shadow Archetype: Sauron is a Shadow to both Gandalf and Galadriel.
  • Shapeshifter Mode Lock: After the destruction of Númenor, he can never again assume a form that isn't hideous, hateful, and Obviously Evil.
  • Sinister Surveillance: Of Mordor and the surrounding lands, with his thought ("Eye") alone and with the Palantír from Minas Ithil.
  • Super OCD: This was the beginning of his downward spiral. Even when he was once good, Sauron hated what he perceived to be disorder and complexity. All things having their own free-wills and destiny, frustrated him. He wanted all creation to pull in one direction, one way. His way.
  • Take Over the World: His goal, literally. And if he gets his Ring back, he can, thanks to his enemies being far weaker than they were in the Second Age, and him still being the most powerful being on Middle-eartg.
  • Treacherous Advisor: Sauron was this to Ar-Pharazôn and Celebrimbor, as well as an Evil Chancellor.
  • Ultimate Blacksmith: Sauron is one of the most skilled craftsmen in all of existence, which is one reason the Ring is so incredibly hard to destroy. While there are smiths of similar or greater skill, most of them live in Valinor, outside the reach of Middle-Earth.
  • Ultimate Evil: In the book itself, he's a quintessential go-to example of Ultimate Evil. The fact that there's a greater villain in the Back Story is therefore Up to Eleven. Then again, Tolkien states that Sauron at the height of his power was more powerful than Morgoth during the War of the Jewels when compared to their respective opposition. Interestingly enough, he's not motiveless Evil Incarnate: his Start of Darkness was motivated by a desire for order and control. This helps explain the reactions of Gandalf and Galadriel when Frodo offers them the ring.
  • The Unfought: Due to Present Absence. Sauron always sends his minions to do the fighting for him. This may be justified as he usually gets the worst of any fight he actually takes part in.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Marching most of his army up to the Black Gate was a trap and he walked right into it.
  • Villains Never Lie: While normally a huge liar, this is how he corrupts both Saruman and Denethor. Sauron uses his own palantir seeing-stone against his enemies by controlling what they see through their own; while the palantir cannot show false images, Sauron can subtly guide the other side into seeing what he wants them to see. Sauron used this to show off his immense armies and power, to both drive his foes to despair and tempt them to join his side.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Before his physical body was destroyed in the fall of Númenor. Even afterwards he's implied to still possess the ability, though he never really gets a chance to use it — he just can't conceal his evil nature any more, meaning it's no longer useful as a disguise.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Mostly in his backstory. His goal at the beginning was to establish a lasting order in Middle-Earth. By the time of the novel, he's long since lost any good intentions and now just wants absolute power for the sake of it.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: According to Gollum, even after regaining his physical form he's still missing the finger that Isildur lopped off.

    The One Ring 

Yes, the One Ring is a character: the one around whom everyone in the series bases their actions. Sauron made it, lost it, and wants it back. Gollum is addicted to its presence. The White Council want to destroy the Ring, Frodo volunteers, and the Fellowship of the Ring protect him on his quest. The thing is animated from afar by Sauron's will and malice, and seeks constantly to tempt its bearer to do evil and/or get itself back to Barad-dûr.

  • All Your Powers Combined: To the other Rings, though it doles out power based on its wielder's native abilities and strength of will.
  • Affectionate Nickname: It likes being called "precious", as evidenced by both Gollum and Bilbo calling it that. Even Isildur, who had only held the Ring for a short time compared to Bilbo and especially Gollum, and may have never worn it besides his attempt to escape the massacre at Gladden Fields, chose to use that particular word to describe it.
    Isildur: But for my part I will risk no hurt to this thing: of all the works of Sauron the only fair. It is precious to me, though I buy it with great pain.
  • Amplifier Artifact: It will increase the native power of whoever wields it, in proportion to what they had before. A mere Hobbit like Gollum or Frodo gets invisibility, a certain sharpness of hearing, and not much else, but somebody like Galadriel or Gandalf would be terrifyingly dangerous wielding it.
  • Artifact of Attraction: Even looking at it can bring weaker-willed people under its power.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Ring is treated as a WMD.
  • Battle Aura: Bestows one to Sam and later Frodo, terrifying an orc Mook and Gollum.
  • Black Speech: The hidden inscription on it.
  • Brown Note: Possessing the ring for extended periods of time will corrupt the bearer.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: It will betray anyone who wields it and take another bearer at the worst possible moment, always seeking to get back to its true master, Sauron.
  • Compelling Voice: It's indicated a few times that it can talk to people (it does in the films), and its voice is always used to corrupt and tempt whoever has it.
  • The Corruption: It can and will corrupt anyone and everyone that takes it.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: It wants to be found. It wants you to keep it, so trying to part with it or get rid of it is a doomed effort. Note, however, that this only lasts until it decides it no longer needs you or that you're getting in the way of it's goals, at which point it will abandon you. Usually very suddenly and at exactly the worst time possible.
  • Happy Fun Ball: It looks like a golden ring, but is the Soul Jar of what is essentially a Fallen Angel.
  • Invisibility Cloak: Wearing the Ring makes you invisible in the normal world, but you become visible in the Wraith-World, where you can be seen by Sauron and his Ringwraiths. Like the Nine Rings, this also has the effect of corroding non-immortal wielders until they fade from the world and become wraiths themselves - a process that Hobbits (and Dwarves, according to the Appendices) are partially resistant to.
  • Loyal Phlebotinum: To Sauron, and Sauron only. It allows its current bearer to access some powers, but only Sauron can make it work to its full strength. And if it is ever separated from its master, it does everything in its power to return. Nevertheless, according to Elrond at the Council of Elrond if one of the Wise, someone with great native power, were to wield the ring and use it to successfully overthrow Sauron, they would then set themselves on Sauron's throne and a new Dark Lord or Queen would appear; the implication here is that the Ring's loyalty would also change to the new Dark Lord or Queen, but they would be thoroughly corrupted and end up just as bad as Sauron, or even worse, because unlike Sauron previously they would have the Ring in their possession and could wield it at will. Because of this, it's dangerous even to the Wise as Elrond said.
  • Lust Object: Once you've had it, you will lust after it forever.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: It can only be destroyed in the same furnace where it was made — the volcanic depths of Orodruin.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The full capabilities of the Ring are never really explained or understood, to the characters or the reader. This is because it, like its creator Sauron, is not truly of Middle Earth: its nature is beyond mortal comprehension. This becomes all the more scary as the Ring's power and sentience grows as it nears its source, and its malignant influence begins to find footholds in Frodo's mind.
  • Phlebotinum Breakdown: In order to gain complete physical mastery of the world, Sauron an angelic being, had to intertwine his very spirit, malice, and will to dominate, with Arda. He poured it all into The One Ring, thus ensuring his hold and power remains, his spirit endures, even if he is defeated. He will return. This evil plan though would have profound implications and consequences. If the One Ring is destroyed, he loses the lion's share of his god-given strength. He will end up reduced to a mere shadow that gnaws itself in darkness, unable to create or reform again.
  • Ring of Power: The Ring of Power.
  • Soul Jar: The better part of Sauron's power is sealed in it.
  • This Is Your Brain on Evil: A very good person who has possession of the Ring will gradually succumb to restless paranoia. An evil person will grow much worse.
  • Unholy Holy Sword: In The Hobbit, it's a seemingly innocuous magic ring Bilbo finds that makes him invisible and proves to be useful on his journey. Imagine the surprise when it's revealed later that it's the Dark Lord's Soul Jar.


The leader of the Wizards and the White Council, Saruman the White possessed great knowledge and skill at crafting, but was proud and haughty. He dwelt in the tower of Orthanc at Isengard. Saruman was originally a steadfast enemy of Sauron, but in time came to envy Sauron and began searching for the One Ring. At first he steered the White Council away from opposing Sauron, hoping that the Dark Lord's rise would bring the Ring back into the open, but Sauron ensnared him through his use of the Seeing-stone of Orthanc and Saruman became his servant. Saruman raised an army of Orcs and subverted the land of Rohan through his minion Wormtongue, but still searched for the Ring in hopes of betraying Sauron and claiming his power.

Saruman was the foremost of the Wizards, but his greatest power was not magic, but his sheer charisma and compelling voice. With these he subverted the White Council and brought Rohan to its knees.
  • Above Good and Evil: Tries to invoke this by boasting he's not just white, but many colours. His terrible actions upon Middle Earth by assisting Sauron, demonstrate to cast and audience alike otherwise.
  • All Your Colors Combined: He tries to claim the name 'Saruman of the Many Colours.' Subverted when Gandalf points out that this is in fact inferior to being 'Saruman the White,' since multiple colors are what come of white light being broken.
  • The Archmage: Chief of the Istari and head of the Council of the Wise.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Leader of the wizards, and the most powerful.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: He wants to replace Sauron as the Dark Lord of Middle-Earth. This ultimately goes very poorly for him, as Gandalf points out Saruman has absolutely no chance of defeating Sauron without the Ring, and Saruman never even comes close to getting ahold of it. This just makes Saruman a pawn with delusions of grandeur, and the text hints that Sauron holds Saruman in utter contempt.
  • Big Good: He was the most powerful and respected of the Istari and was considered their leader until he had a Face–Heel Turn sometime before the story starts and Gandalf had to take over this role.
  • Break the Haughty: The ruin of Isengard by the Ents, people he had completely written off. And then getting a big Shut Up, Hannibal! from Théoden King, and then having Gandalf command him and break his staff. And, finally, to be killed by Wormtongue. He brings all of it on himself.
  • Compelling Voice: Even when you bring an army to his ruined doorstep after his thorough defeat, he can make you doubt your self-worth and believe that your best or even only course of action is to side with him, even if that means being his subordinate.
  • Consummate Liar: Coupled with his literally magical charisma, he's also a highly effective liar.
  • Dirty Coward: After his army's defeated, he is driven mad with fear of repercussions. He shuts himself inside the Orthanc and refuses to leave, even with Gandalf's pardon; not out of fear of Rohan or the Fellowship, but of Sauron.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: He intended to betray Sauron and claim the One Ring for himself.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: After Frodo spares him following his overthrow at the Shire, Saruman assumes that Frodo did it to force him to live knowing that he's only alive because of his enemy's mercy. This is despite Frodo stating, while standing right next to Saruman, that he (Frodo) would rather not have a Maia killed, even a fallen one.
  • Evil Counterpart: To Gandalf. He even says that he is what Saruman should have been.
  • Evil Is Petty: When he takes over the Shire, he orders trees cut down and rivers despoiled solely to spite Frodo and company.
  • Evil Old Folks: Like the other Istari, he has the appearance of an elderly man.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Being a corrupted wizard.
  • Face–Heel Turn: He was once on the side of good, before his lust for power got the better of him.
  • Fallen Hero: Was once a Maia, an angel, who came to Middle-earth to help the people fight against Sauron. Then he was corrupted by Sauron, and wound up helping him.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Polite, charming, composed — when he wants to be, anyway. When the mask slips due to pride or rage, on the other hand, he proves himself to truly be arrogant and contemptuous.
  • Freudian Trio: With Gandalf and Radagast; is the Superego in the group.
  • Gadgeteer Genius
    • In his speech to the Council of Elrond, Gandalf reveals that Saruman provided the weapons and/or strategy that evicted Sauron from Dol Guldur (an incident that is briefly alluded to in The Hobbit). In fact, Gandalf initially went to Isengard hoping that Saruman had discovered an anti-Nazgûl contingency.
    • He intends to bring about a one-man industrial revolution to Middle-earth, and he fills the caverns under his tower with gears, pulleys, cogs, and flamethrowers. Treebeard notes that “he has a mind of metal and wheels,” and the narration strongly disapproves of these “improvements.”
  • Green-Eyed Monster: He's jealous of Gandalf, and has been secretly having agents follow him, and imitating him — smoking pipe-weed, for instance. Unfinished Tales reveals that he's been jealous of Gandalf at least since they set sail from Valinor for Middle-Earth, probably even before that.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Saruman became too obsessed with using the powers of the Ring against Sauron, got jealous of the enemy and chose to replace him.
  • Ignored Epiphany: When Gandalf offers him a Last-Second Chance, it's clear that he truly wants to leave Orthanc, but his pride, jealousy, and hatred overcome him.
    • In Unfinished Tales, he realizes he's in over his head with Sauron and considers asking Gandalf to let him rejoin the good guys. Unfortunately, this comes right after Gandalf escapes Isengard and Saruman's fury at being beaten like that drives the thought of apologising from his mind.
  • Insufferable Genius: His biggest flaw even before he joined the forces of darkness, and in fact the red flag that he would join them, was his conviction that he was the most intelligent one among the Free People and that most of the simple folk -like Hobbits- were simply not worthy of his time. Now while he was an ingenious entity, with even his name meaning man of skill, he was so blinded by his own perceived superiority that he refused to consider the possibility that all these inferior creatures may be wise in ways he is not and capable of greater good that he could imagine.
  • I Want Them Alive: And as captured, with no spoiling, to make sure that they still have the item of great value that he wants.
  • Karmic Death: He was killed by Gríma, who he had constantly berated and abused.
  • Last-Second Chance: He's offered one, and turns it down.
  • Light Is Not Good: His "white" robes and title of "the White" are belied by his evil nature. Zigzagged because he's always been "The White" and while secretly rapacious he wasn't actively malevolent back then. His move to the "Dark" Side involves him claiming to be "Saruman of the Many Colors", which Gandalf points out, is the result of light being broken.
  • Mage Tower: Orthanc, a black tower in the middle of Isengard.
  • Man in White: Clothed in white robes, he is Saruman the White after all.
  • Manipulative Bastard: He screws over the White Council and tries to be The Starscream to Sauron, all the while slowly subverting Rohan and invading the Shire behind everyone's backs.
  • Non-Elemental: Saruman's specialty.
  • Not So Different: Upon Gandalf’s return as Gandalf the White, he informs Gimli and co. that he is Saruman — or, rather, Saruman as he should have been. Unfinished Tales reveals that, even while publicly denouncing Gandalf’s idiosyncrasies (most notably pipe-weed smoking), Saruman secretly picked up several of them in imitation of him — thus, in this case, he wasn’t so different from Gandalf.
    • Likewise, Frodo notes that Saruman's setup after taking over the Shire is a pale imitation of what Sauron had done in Mordor.
  • Oh, Crap!: He panics when he realizes Sauron knows he planned to betray him.
  • One-Man Industrial Revolution: A Green Aesop.
  • Our Angels Are Different: The Wizards are really angels disguised as Men.
  • The Paragon Always Rebels: But fails to convince Gandalf into joining him.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Saruman originally had black hair, which got whiter as he got older (and more evil).
  • The Resenter: He pretty much hates Gandalf due in no small part to how much everyone else (notably Varda and Galadriel) aren’t shy about saying Gandalf is the better of the two. The fact that Círdan chose to give Gandalf his elven ring of power Narya instead of him, is something he really resented.
  • The Rival: To Gandalf, due to the aforementioned resentment of him. Gandalf never tries to be a rival to him, though.
  • Shadow Archetype: After his Face–Heel Turn, he's this to Gandalf.
  • The Starscream: Intended to betray Sauron from their supposed partnership and become the new Dark Lord.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Saruman's actions have a major effect on the plot and his corruption is one of the major themes of the book. However, he only actually appears in four chapters (out of a total of 62): "The Council of Elrond" in The Fellowship of the Ring (in a flashback recounted by Gandalf), "The Voice of Saruman" in The Two Towers, and "Many Partings" and "The Scouring of the Shire" in Return of the King.
  • Smug Snake: He thinks he is a Magnificent Bastard but he really can't manage it.
  • Smug Straight Edge: In Unfinished Tales, it's noted that Saruman disparaged Gandalf's use of pipe-weed. However, in imitation of Gandalf, Saruman starts smoking it himself in secret, hence why Merry and Pippin find some barrels of Longbottom Leaf in Isengard (which also serves as foreshadowing of the Scouring of the Shire).
  • Treacherous Advisor: To Théoden, usually via Wormtongue but also directly. His goal is to weaken Rohan so he can conquer it.
  • The Unfettered: Once he decided that he was the only one worthy to take over and industrialise Middle Earth he came to the conclusion that he simply couldn't bother himself with the lesser pawns well-being. Everything in both nature and society existed so that he could take advantage of it to make it reach its full potential, suffering and death be damned. Not unlike Sauron himself.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Treebeard bitterly notes that he let Saruman walk in Fangburn and told him many things that he couldn't have found out otherwise. But Saruman never told him anything, and massacred the Ents later.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Sauron knew all along that Saruman wanted the One Ring for himself and would betray him.
  • Villain Decay: While he's still a threat to the characters by the Scouring, this is mainly because they are a lot weaker than his former enemies. Overall, he goes from a wizarding lord of an ancient fortress with an army strong enough to almost conquer one of Middle Earth's more warlike kingdoms to bullying around a group of hobbits — and, even then, his hold on the Shire falls apart rather quickly.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Théoden and Gandalf goad him into one, thereby revealing his true nature and breaking the power of his hypnotic voice.
  • Visionary Villain: He intended to bring about a one-man industrial revolution to Middle-earth.
  • You Can't Make an Omelette...: This is his entire Batman Gambit. Gandalf warns against it before even knowing exactly what it is.

    The Lord of the Nazgûl 

The nine Nazgûl were kings of Men to whom Sauron gave nine Rings of Power in the Second Age. Seduced by power, they fell into evil, and eventually passed into a state of undeath. The Nazgûl, or Ringwraiths, are extensions of Sauron's will who exist only to do his bidding. They are his most terrible servants, and the greatest among them — known variously as the Black Captain, the Lord of the Nazgûl, and many other names — rules Minas Morgul as the Dark Lord's right hand.

Roughly two-thousand years before the War of the Ring, when Sauron was in hiding, the Lord of the Nazgûl was sent into the north to found the kingdom of Angmar under the identity of the Witch-king. There, he undermined and ultimately destroyed the North-kingdom of Arnor in a series of wars. At that time, it was foretold that no man could slay him. When Sauron declared himself openly, the Witch-king returned to Mordor, conquered Minas Ithil, and slew the last king of Gondor. When the War of the Ring began, he led the hunt for Frodo and the Ring, going so far as to corner him on Weathertop and stab him near-fatally with a Morgul-blade.
  • Badass Boast: Delivers one to Gandalf during their standoff at the ruined gate of Minas Tirith, and backs it up with a Flaming Sword as well. However, the Rohirrim arrive before he can follow through on it.
    "Old fool! This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!"
  • Black Cloak: Like the other Nazgûl, he wears one while passing himself off as a "rider in black." Apparently this is their idea of looking more normal: Gandalf claims that they use the garments to "give shape to their shapelessness".
  • Carry a Big Stick: Wields a mace against Éowyn in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. The movie changes it to a truly epic flail.
  • Dark Is Evil: Shrouds himself in a black cloak.
  • Determinator: Unfinished Tales mentions that the Nazgûl are weakened and distracted by sunlight and dislike crossing running water, to the point that Sauron launched an attack on Osgiliath to get them across the Anduin. The Witch King, however, is largely unfazed by both of these and can even keep his fellows from succumbing to them.
  • Dragon Ascendant: After Sauron fell, the Witch-king basically became the interim Dark Lord and launched a brutal (and centuries-long) campaign against the northern kingdom of Arnor, which had played such a large part in Sauron's downfall. Afterwards, he gathered the other Nazgûl, captured the city of Minas Ithil (along with its palantír), ended the line of Gondor’s kings, and participated in the rebuilding of Mordor in preparation for Sauron’s return.
  • The Dreaded:
    • The Nazgûl all have the ability to inspire terror in others, particularly with their voices, and the Witch-king was particularly good at it. Even Saruman was terrified of him, as revealed in one of Tolkien's drafts.
    • Aragorn tells of an encounter with them, and it's one of the few times we see him shaken by anything.
    • Eärnur's entire elite cavalry troop were terrified of him. When the Witch-king rode out to rend Eärnur with his bare hands, his trusty steed was so scared it fled before him, along with many other cavalrymen. Eärnur himself wasn't particularly afraid of the Witch-king, (being arguably something of a Fearless Fool) but was still slain by him.
  • The Emperor: As the Witch-king of Angmar.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": We just know him by his title. He doesn't have a name proper.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: Like the other Nazgûl, his breath and touch feel deathly cold.
  • Evil Sorcerer: He's not called the Witch-king for nothing.
  • The Faceless: Due to being a wraith, and wearing a black cloak. When Frodo put the Ring on his presence, he saw his true face, and didn't like what he saw. When he takes off his hood, there is nothing there except for a pair of red points of light where his eyes should be.
  • Flaming Sword: While it's typically a normal sword, he makes flames run down it when he faces off against Gandalf in Minas Tirith.
  • Geas: It has been noted that while it is not referred to as such, the prophecy that he shall not fall by the hand of Man is functionally a geas.
  • Giant Flyer: His later mount, the Fell Beast.
  • Glowing Eyelights of Undeath: The only part of him that can be seen without his cloak are his glowing eyes.
  • Grand Theft Me: They were once kings of men. They are now mere puppets to Sauron's will. Only when Sauron is defeated their souls are finally free from the shackles the dark lord placed to keep them tethered to the world. Their wraith bodies then implode.
  • Hero Killer: A formidable, dreadful foe. He kills Théoden, and killed Eärnur, the last king of Gondor before Aragorn. On that note, he also destroyed the kingdom of Arnor and conquered Minas Ithil, both of which made the War of the Ring much more difficult.
  • I Have Many Names: Well, many titles at least.
    • The Witch-king of Angmar.
    • The Black Captain.
    • The Lord of the Nazgûl.
    • Lord of Minas Morgul.
  • Implacable Man: He and the other Nazgûl can't be truly killed while the One Ring exists.
  • Mysterious Past: His past was never fully revealed. We only get hints of who he used to be. Which is a lot more than we get of his lieutenant, Khamûl the Black Easterling, and the rest of the Nazgûl.
  • Name Amnesia / No Name Given: He doesn't have an actual name though he presumably did, since he's not truly a person anymore, just an undead finger-puppet of Sauron's mind. Instead he's called Witch-king of Angmar (his alias, used only in the Appendix but remembered by everyone because of how cool it sounds), Lord of the Nazgûl, High Nazgûl, Black Captain, Captain of Despair, Morgul-lord, etc.
  • The Necrocracy: Founded two, the country of Angmar and the city of Minas Morgul.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: His anticipated showdown with Gandalf at the gates of Minas Tirith is cut very short by the arrival of Rohan.
  • No Man of Woman Born: In fact, it's rumored that his death was a Take That! against William Shakespeare's Macbeth, whose Prophecy Twist Tolkien thought was a cop-out.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Éowyn reveals she's a woman, he's actually struck silent in sudden doubt for a few moments.
  • Poisoned Weapons: Stabs Frodo with a Morgul blade, which would have turned him into a lesser wraith if it killed him.
  • Prophecy Twist: When you're prophesied to be killed by "no man," it's generally a good idea to notice that the world is full of people who aren't men. However, it's worth noting that at the Battle of Fornost, the Witch-King skedaddled when the Elf-lord Glorfindel rode up.
  • The Undead: Wraiths are the remains of Men who have been forced to remain in Middle-earth long, long past their time, past Age Without Youth, to the point that their bodies don't really exist anymore. They're kept "alive" (and indeed, impossible to permanently destroy) by the One Ring, via their Nine Rings. And their existences are apparently perpetual agony.
  • Undying Loyalty: Rarely is the trope as literal, or as horrible, as this. When Sauron was 'destroyed' at the Battle of Dagor-lad, the Witch-King spent thousands of years preparing for his master's return, acting as the 'chief villain' for most of that time without even dreaming of supplanting him as Sauron supplanted Morgoth. (Sauron started his slide into evil in an effort to end the 'evils' of free will, and it looks like he succeeded in nine cases.)
  • Weakened by the Light: Gandalf drives him away (and even keeps him away again later) by shooting a bright white light into his face.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: As with the other Ringwraiths, sunlight reduces his 'vision' and the scope of his powers; fire can frighten and injure (but not destroy) him.
  • Was Once a Man: He used to be Man, before his ring twisted him into an undead wraith and wiped out his free will.


The only other Nazgûl individually known apart from the Witch-King of Angmar and the only one whose name is known. In life, Khâmul was one of the nine Kings of men seduced by the power of the One Ring. In his case, he was a King of the Easterlings, but now a loyal servant to Sauron and second only to the Witch-King in authority among the Nazgûl. Just as the Witch-King ruled over Minas Morgul, Khamúl ruled over Dol Guldur, in the North.

  • Actually Pretty Funny: When he asks about Baggins to Farmer Maggot, the farmer essentially tells him to buzz off. According to Maggot, Khamúl then made sound that sounded somewhat like a laugh before riding off. Presumably he was amused at the sheer gall of the Hobbit to think he could threaten a Nazgûl.
  • All There in the Manual: His name and role is only present in the Appendices and in the Unfinished Tales.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: A shadowy rider, strongly implied to be a Nazgûl, with a similar description to Khamúl rides up to Erebor and offers Dáin Ironfoot an alliance with Sauron if he'd deliver them Baggins (Dáin refuses), but it's unclear if this is Khamúl himself, another Nazgûl or even another dark emissary of Sauron like the Mouth of Sauron.
  • Dark Is Evil: Between him and the Witch-King, he's far more associated with the night and darkness (thus one of his names being "the Shadow of the East").
  • Dragon Ascendant: He's the Witch-King's dragon (who's subsequently Sauron's Dragon). After the Witch-King falls in Pelennor Fields, he becomes the leader of the remaining 8 Nazgûl, leading them against Aragorn's forces in the Black Gate.
  • The Dreaded: The Hobbits soon become absolutely terrified of him.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Maggot's dogs (who are normally very ferocious) are cowering in terror when Khamúl rides up.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: It is mentioned the temperature seems to drop severely whenever Khamúl arrives.
  • The Faceless: Khamúl doesn't even have red eyes like the Witch-King.
  • Hellish Horse: His black steed that Frodo and company gaze upon.
  • Knight of Cerebus: The story is fairly light-hearted in the preceding chapters in the Shire. Khamúl is the first servant of Sauron to make a appearance in the story, and with him he brings a foreboding dread that will acompany the entire narrative.
  • The Nose Knows: Khamúl is often described as sniffing the air not unlike a hound to pick up the Ring's scent.
  • Opt Out: When he's confronted by legendary badass Glorfindel, he wisely retreats. Same thing happens when he senses a host of Elves nearby.
  • Red Baron: Known as "the Black Rider", "The Black Easterling" and "The Shadow of the East".
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Khamúl is the Ringwraith who tracks down the Ring to the Shire during Fellowship of the Ring and who hunts Frodo during the early chapters. Frodo makes note he keeps finding them no matter how many detours they take.
  • They Have the Scent!: His primarily role in Fellowship is sniffing the Ring and he's the one who actually discovers Frodo has it.
  • Underestimating Badassery: None of the inhabitants of the Shire seem to quite realize they are talking with one of the most powerful servants of darkness.
  • Villain of Another Story: As the Lord of Dol Guldur, Khamúl was tasked with commanding Sauron's northern forces, which attacked King Thranduil's woodland realms, Mirkwood, Lórien (which resulted in the Battle Under the Trees, which resulted in a great deal of the forest going down in flames) and may even have a hand in the Battle of the Dale, in which the Sauron-allied Easterlings stormed Dale and the gates of Erebor. But since the focus of Lord of the Rings is in the West, we only get rare offhand mentions to this.
  • Weakened by the Light: He had a severe weakness to sunlight which diminished his powers during the day.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Gaffer Gamgi says he spoke with "some kind of foreign tone" and Maggot says he sounded "queer", which either refers to the odd, unnatural manner Nazgûl speak or possibly to Khamúl's Easterling origin (i.e he may still speak with a Rhún accent).

The captain of a company of Uruk-hai whom Saruman sent to search the area of Amon Hen. He and his orcs kill Boromir and abduct Merry and Pippin. Against the wishes of a group of orcs from Mordor, who want to turn Merry and Pippin over to the authorities of Mordor, Ugluk takes the hobbits towards Isengard. Along the way the orcs are spotted by a cavalry unit from Rohan, forcing them into a desperate race to try to escape the Riders.
  • Bad Boss: Ugluk openly threatens the lesser orcs under his command with execution (and tends to cut a few up whenever things go wrong.)
  • Badass Boast: His Uruk-hai clearly think of themselves as a superior cadre.
    Ugluk: We are the fighting Uruk-hai! We serve the White Hand - the Hand that gives us man's flesh to eat!
  • Enemy Civil War: He's got a mixed group of Uruk-hai, orcs from Mordor, and Moria-goblins in his command. The factions come to blows a couple of times.
  • Hidden Depths: Saruman obviously didn't choose Ugluk on an idle whim. Like all Uruk-hai, he regards himself as an elite Blood Knight: but he's also a capable tactician, skilled in the orcish art of healing, and knows an awful lot about the politics behind all this hobbit-snatching.
  • Implacable Man: He sets a pace of travel that's right at the limit of orcish endurance, and say what you want about orcs, but they can endure quite a lot.
  • Large and in Charge: The Uruk-hai are considerably larger than other orcs, and Ugluk is described as one of the largest.
  • Might Makes Right: The reason he can overrule the Mordor orcs and the goblins from Moria about where to take the hobbits and what to do with them is because the Uruk-hai are perfectly capable of defeating and killing either of the other groups.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The narration indicates that after Merry and Pippin managed to escape, Eomer confronted Ugluk in a duel to the death.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: He mends the head wound that Merry received at Amon Hen not out of kindness, but so that Merry can be forced to run rather than being carried.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: He and Grishnakh, an orc of similar rank from Mordor, are rivals who loathe each other and are foils in a way that matches this trope. Ugluk is straightforward, aggressive, and relies on his size and physical threats, while Grishnakh is sly, sneaky, and relies on knowing more than others.
  • Villainous Valor: While some other orcs in his company attempt to flee, he fights to the last.


An orc captain from Mordor, he is in charge of the Mordor orcs who take Merry and Pippin captive alongside Ugluk's Uruk-hai. Grishnakh wanted to take the hobbits to a waiting Ringwraith who would fly the two to Mordor, but Ugluk's refusal to go along with this plan and willingness to fight over the captives necessitated a change in plans.

  • Deadpan Snarker: Uses sarcasm cuttingly on several occasions.
  • Enigmatic Minion: Until Pippin's Eureka Moment when he realizes that Grishnakh knows about the Ring, it's hard to understand what Grishnakh's game is, and why, for example, he risked his life by joining the orcs running towards Isengard instead of retreating to safety out of Rohan. And even there is a some question about whether he is truly loyal to Sauron and looking for the Ring so he can turn it over to his master, or if he truly does want it for himself as Pippin supposes.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: A Rider of Rohan impales him on a spear when his attempt to sneak Merry and Pippin by the Riders fails.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: Grishnakh would have faced this if he had managed to sneak Merry and Pippin past the Riders of Rohan. Even if he had succeeded in smuggling Merry and Pippin past the patrols of the Rohirrim, he would have been taking them directly into Fangorn Forest, where a lone orc can probably count on having a very limited life span. And even if that wasn't an issue, he would have still needed to get them back to Mordor or, if he was in fact trying to claim the Ring for himself, he would have found out that neither Merry or Pippin had it. Basically as soon as Ugluk forced the other orcs to take Merry and Pippin to Isengard, things were never going to turn out well for Grishnakh.
  • Mook Lieutenant: An orc who commands a detachment of other orcs as part of Sauron's army.
  • The Political Officer: His threats to report comments by Ugluk and other orcs on several occasions is reminiscent of this trope.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Blue to Ugluk's Red. Where Ugluk is direct, brutal, and physically violent, Grishnakh is sly, sneaky, and relies on greater knowledge.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Grishnakh's physical description doesn't exactly sound like a stereotypical smart guy, but he is far better informed than pretty much any other foot soldier or even captain who isn't part of the Fellowship, and furthermore he makes several shrewd guesses based on what he knows, such as that Saruman is attempting to betray Sauron and seize the Ring.
  • The Sneaky Guy: Has a habit of somehow mysteriously disappearing into the shadows whenever the different orc factions come to blows, only to later reappear perfectly fine while other orcs have died fighting. When Eomer's forces cut the orcs off from reaching Fangorn, Grishnakh attempts to sneak the hobbits past the guard instead of trying to fight off the Rohirrim, as Ugluk and company do.
  • Softspoken Sadist: The first time Pippin hears Grishnakh's voice, he thinks the voice sounds "softer but eviler" than the voices of the other orcs Grishnakh is arguing with.
  • Taking You with Me: He quickly realizes he probably won't survive when he stumbles into a Rider while trying to sneak Merry and Pippin past the Rider patrols, so he draws his sword in an apparent attempt to kill Merry and Pippin as he is killed. He is just barely thwarted.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: He feels this way, as he has a low opinion of Ugluk and Ugluk's intelligence/competence, and the goblins from Moria are even worse in his opinion.
  • Torture Technician: Implied. He speaks as though he's familiar with carrying out torture on others, and his familiarity with the Ring and Gollum hints that he may have been one of the torturers who worked over Gollum when Gollum was caught by the forces of Mordor. It would account for Grishnakh's surprising knowledge about the Ring.
    Grishnakh: My dear tender little fools, everything you have and everything you know will be got out of you in due time: everything! You'll wish there was more that you could tell to satisfy the Questioner, indeed you will, quite soon. ... Untie your legs? I'll untie every string in your bodies. Do you think I can't search you to the bones? Search you! I'll cut you both to quivering shreds!

An orc captain stationed in Minas Morgul, he takes out a patrol to search for intruders along the path to Cirith Ungol, where he encountered a patrol from Cirith Ungol led by Shagrat and they find Frodo, unconscious from Shelob's sting. Things were going well enough until the orcs discovered Frodo's mithril armor, and came to blows over it...
  • Ax-Crazy: Shagrat is an old friend of his, or at least as friendly as orcs go, but Shagrat has to protest multiple times against Gorbag's desire to torture Frodo, even after stating that orders straight from Sauron himself say that they would all be killed if a prisoner isn't held intact. Shagrat also says that Gorbag can't be trusted when Gorbag is "mad for fun", and given the orcish definition of fun...
  • Backstab Backfire: Done almost as literally as possible. Gorbag is seriously wounded and survives the battle by pretending to be dead, which fools everyone. At the end of the fight he has a chance to make his getaway, but instead he tries to sneak up behind Shagrat and backstab him. However, at the last second Gorbag makes a noise that gives himself away, Shagrat dodges the attempted backstabbing, and then Shagrat finishes Gorbag off. Messily and very thoroughly.
  • Character Death: Killed by Shagrat after the orcs of Minas Morgul and Cirith Ungol fight it out over Frodo's mithril armor.
  • Enemy Civil War: He starts a clash between his large patrol and the orcs from Cirith Ungol by trying to steal Frodo's mithril shirt, despite explicit orders to turn everything found over to Barad-dur. This results in both groups being wiped out except for a just a few survivors, which in turn allows Sam to successfully save Frodo.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: He makes note of the fact that Frodo was cut free of Shelob's web and wasn't carried away to be food as evidence that Frodo wasn't alone, which is absolutely correct. He then guesses that for someone to have been able to get through Shelob's web and wound/fight off Shelob herself, the person with Frodo must be an Elf warrior/spy wielding a legendary sword, and maybe an axe too to cut through the web. Sam, who is nearby but invisible due to wearing the Ring, is understandably amused by this description.
  • Greed: He starts the fight between the different orc groups in an attempt to steal Frodo's mithril armor. Understandable, since Gandalf had previously guessed that the mail was worth more than a small country, and Gorbag had voiced discontent with the Nazgul and Sauron, and a desire to escape them.
  • Horrifying the Horror: Being an orc captain basically means he's a big, brutal orc who terrorizes lower ranked orcs into following his orders, and makes sure they're too scared of him to dare disobey. The Nazgul, however, freak him right out, to the point where he openly voices a desire to run away from Mordor and strike out on his own.
  • Last Breath Bullet: Despite having been seriously wounded and near death, he makes one last attempt to kill Shagrat, only to fail at the last second.
  • Mook Lieutenant: An orc who commands a detachment of other orcs as part of Sauron's army.
  • Moral Myopia: He denounces Sam leaving Frodo after Frodo was stung by Shelob as a "regular Elvish trick" in a tone that expresses disgust. A few minutes later, he gets a good laugh out of Shagrat telling a story about refusing to save an orc that had been stung by Shelob because it wouldn't be worth the effort to try to save him. He fails to see the disconnect there at all.
  • Sadist: He is far too enthusiastic about the thought of tormenting/torturing people.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: His attempt to steal Frodo's mithril mail starts an Enemy Civil War between the orcs from Minas Morgul and those from Cirith Ungol, resulting in both groups practically wiping each other out. Had that fight not happened, Sam's attempt to rescue Frodo would have been doomed to failure, which would have resulted in Sam being killed or captured, the two of them sent to Barad-dur, and Sauron recovering the Ring.
  • Smarter Than You Look: He's not just a big orc that can beat smaller orcs into submission, he makes several astute observations and guesses about what happened when Frodo is found.
  • Sour Supporter: For the forces of Mordor. He voices a lot of cynicism about the cause and his superiors.
  • Those Two Guys: He seems to be this with Shagrat, as the too speak like they're old friends and have a long history together. However, the orc concept of friendship is pretty tenuous, and they don't hesitate to fight or kill each other with little cause.
  • Trapped in Villainy: To a certain extent he and Shagrat see themselves as this, since they loathe their superiors, but believe that humans or elves would kill them on sight, so they see themselves as having no choice but to stick with Sauron until he wins the war. (Granted, Gorbag's idea of what he'd do if he was free from Sauron would be to become a bandit, looting the countryside and killing or torturing locals, so the idea that he'd be any less villainous if he were free from Sauron is a pretty big stretch, to say the least.)

An orc captain stationed in the tower of Cirith Ungol, he takes out a patrol to search for intruders near the tower after receiving a message about possible intruders. On the path he encountered a patrol from Minas Morgul led by Gorbag and they found Frodo, unconscious from Shelob's sting. Things were going well enough until the orcs discovered Frodo's mithril armor, and came to blows over it...
  • Bad Boss: When a low ranking orc that was under his command tries to defy his orders after the battle, Shagrat, despite being badly injured, is so furious he attempts to kill the other orc on the spot, and despite his injuries, he chases his subordinate halfway around the tower before giving up the attempt.
  • Enemy Civil War: One starts between his and Gorbag's forces once Gorbag finds Frodo's priceless mithril armor and attempts to steal it, despite the warning of the dire consequences that would befall them for looting prisoners instead of passing anything found over to Sauron.
  • Mook Lieutenant: An orc who commands a detachment of other orcs in Sauron's armies.
  • Not Quite Dead: The first character to know that this is the case for Frodo after Shelob's sting.
  • Only Sane Man: He tries to keep things going according to orders so that Sauron's wrath doesn't fall on them all. It doesn't go well.
  • Properly Paranoid: He repeatedly warns Gorbag about Gorbag's Loose Lips and talking openly about trying to leave Sauron's service. Judging from what we see of life in Mordor, being paranoid about people watching and recording your words and movements everyday is exactly the right way to act. He also has a much more realistic idea than Gorbag of how vengeful Sauron and company would be if he betrayed them or deserted from the armies of Mordor.
  • Pummeling the Corpse: Does this to Gorbag's body after he actually kills Gorbag.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Gorbag wants to steal Frodo's priceless mithril armor and run away from Mordor. Shagrat passes on the thought of taking the armor worth more than a country and wants to turn it over Sauron as per his orders. Although this may be less about principles and more about a desire to avoid Sauron's wrath.
  • Sole Survivor: The only orc known for certain to have survived the battle at Cirith Ungol and escaped the tower afterward.
  • Those Two Guys: He and Gorbag seemed to have this dynamic, as the two are obviously familiar and have known each other for quite some time. However, the bonds of orcish friendship don't run very deep.
  • Uncertain Doom: It's not known what became of him after escaping Cirith Ungol. Since Frodo's armor shows up at the parley between the Mouth of Sauron and the forces of the West, Shagrat must have either made it to Barad-dur or at least to forces that would bring the items he took from Frodo to Barad-dur, but whether he died of his injuries afterward, was rewarded for his loyalty, punished for his failure, died when the Ring was destroyed or survived the chaos that engulfed Sauron's armies afterward is all unknown. note 

    The Mouth of Sauron 

The Lieutenant of Barad-dûr, an evil Man of the same high race as Aragorn who serves as Sauron's herald. The Mouth meets the forces of Rohan and Gondor before the final battle of the War of the Ring and tries to convince the remaining Fellowship that Frodo is a captive and at Sauron's mercy.

  • Ambition Is Evil: During his meeting with Aragorn and Gandalf, when he lays out Sauron's insultingly lopsided terms, it's clear to basically everybody that he's hoping to be put in charge of the West by Sauron.
  • "Ass" in Ambassador: He spends the entire "negotiation" insulting Aragorn and Gandalf, implying the torture of Frodo, and demanding that all of the West immediately surrender to Sauron.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: From his dialogue, one gets the impression that he's the one in charge of actually doing this to people who have offended Sauron in some manner.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: Appeals to this while taunting the good guys:
    "Where such laws hold it is the custom for heralds to use less insolence."
  • Dirty Coward: Freaks out when threatened, and ultimately turns and runs when given a Death Glare.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": 'His name is remembered in no tale for he himself had forgotten it, and he said "I am the Mouth of Sauron."'
  • Evil Sorcerer: He's learned Black Arts from Sauron, himself.
  • Giggling Villain: Not "giggling" per se, but he laughs incessantly at Aragorn and Gandalf's terms.
  • Hellish Horse: Rides one, in contrast to the Black Riders who ride ordinary black horses stolen from Rohan.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Pretty much his whole "negotiation" with Gandalf.
  • Mouth of Sauron: Trope Namer and very telling that he forgot his own name and only identifies himself as an extension of his master's being.
  • Name Amnesia: Narration discloses that Sauron's spokesman had long forgotten his own name; he introduces himself to the emissaries of the West by his function, the Mouth of Sauron.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Gandalf rejects his terms, he starts raving, but when the other representatives of the Free Folk give him a Death Glare, he turns tail and rides breakneck back to the Morannon.
  • Sadist: When a human being somehow manages to be more cruel than any orc could be without any of their conditioning, then its safe to say that they have been dehumanised to the point of feeling of belonging more to the Umaiar's world rather than their mortal followers.
  • Smug Snake: He's quite arrogant.
  • Torture Technician: It is clear that he is well-versed in a lot of his lord's craft with emphasis on the craft of twisting and mutilating mortal bodies in any possible way, which he had plenty of chance to practice since Sauron exemplified in these sort of techniques.
  • Wizards Live Longer: He's really old, old enough to have completely forgotten his original name. Whether his own Black Arts or Sauron's are responsible, he's way past his time.

Independent Monsters


A monstrous demonic thing in spider shape, the mother of the Spiders of Mirkwood featured in The Hobbit, and the last surviving offspring of Ungoliant from The Silmarillion, who spins her deadly webs in a dark cave in the mountains of Mordor. Shelob is Sauron's "cat" — he doesn't control her, but lets her prey on would-be intruders (and many unlucky Orcs). Gollum leads Frodo and Sam into her lair.

  • Achilles' Heel: Subverted. Her underside is just as tough as the rest of her body. The book emphasizes that unlike dragons, Shelob has no weak spots save for her eyes. Sam is only able to pierce her skin and tissue because she unwittingly slams on his blade with her own, massive strength.
  • Angry Guard Dog: The main reason Sauron let her set up shop right on Mordor's back door step. She captures and kills everything that wanders into her nest, making her a more effective watch than a full gate regiment. Even the orcs don't mess with her.
  • Animalistic Abomination: Like Ungoliant, she is an ancient demonic entity that vaguely resembles a spider.
  • Casting a Shadow: Like her mother, she weaves webs of darkness that, while not as powerful as her mother's Unlight, are perceptible to the Hobbits, as well as the other creatures that intrude upon her lair.
  • Dark Action Girl: A female spirit in the form of a spider who gives Sam a challenge in combat.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Sauron treats her as his pet. Shelob doesn't care. He actually compares her to a pet cat, as she was a pet that rejected his authority. Much like the relationship between a man and a cat Sauron understands that he can't control her directly, but likes having Shelob around to keep away "vermin" who wander too close.
  • Eye Scream: Sam stabs her in one eye with Sting during their fight, and then blinded her other eyes with the Phial of Galadriel.
  • Giant Spider: Really just a spider-like monster, described to have pincers in her feet and great insect-like eyes, among other taxonomical oddities.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Of the "pure evil" variety. She was stated to be immune to the Ring's temptations because power holds no interest for something that just wants to eat everything. Also, similarly to what happened between Sauron's boss and Shelob's mom, the spider's spirit is so purely evil that Sauron has no control over her whatsoever. Doesn't stop him from amusingly considering Shelob as some sort of pet, though.
  • Meaningful Name: "Lob" is an archaic English word for "spider." She's female. "She-Lob".
  • Monster Progenitor: Is revealed in the narration of the story to be the mother of the Spiders of Mirkwood.
  • Nigh Invulnerable: Nothing could pierce her hide, not even the swords of Númenor, until she accidentally put her own weight into the blow.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Like her mother Ungoliant, her ultimate goal seems to be to eat the whole planet. Mercifully, she's nowhere near accomplishing that.
  • Physical God: Thanks to being the daughter of both an "ordinary" Giant Spider and Ungoliant, who was more or less an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Primal Fear: Before she reveals herself, Frodo and Sam can feel her presence as a lurking, stalking menace in pitch-dark tunnels.
  • Spiders Are Scary: Especially when they're enormous demonic ones.
  • Time Abyss: Although not to the same extent as her mother, Ungoliant, Shelob is still very ancient. She was born (spawned?) in the First Age, and came to Mordor before even Sauron did. Thus, she would be nearly seven thousand years old at the time of the War of the Ring.
  • Uncertain Doom: The story doesn't say whether the wounds Sam inflicts on her were fatal or not, and all we're told is she drags herself back into the darkness, blinded and in great pain. The text does say it is possible she survived, healed, and eventually resurfaced to feed on whatever unlucky people she found, but notes that this is not confirmed.
  • The Voiceless: The fact that she was able to work out a deal with Gollum implies she can speak, but she never does during her appearance in the text. Or just that she understands speech, and relented her attack when Gollum begged for his life and promised to bring her tasty things to eat. Her mother Ungoliant in The Silmarillion could talk, as could her descendants in The Hobbit. All told, Shelob herself being able to talk seems pretty likely — she probably just didn't have anything to say to 'food'.
  • Weakened by the Light: The light from the Phial of Galadriel drove her back.

    Durin's Bane/The Balrog 

An ancient and terrible demon who fled deep underground after the Wars of Beleriand in the First Age, the unnamed Balrog was awakened from its torpor in the Third Age when the dwarves of Moria Dug Too Deep for mithril. The monster killed the dwarves' king and drove them out of their halls into exile. Centuries later, the Balrog, now known as Durin's Bane, was encountered by the Fellowship as they traveled through Moria. Gandalf held off the Balrog on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm.

  • Casting a Shadow: Though it is a fire-demon at its core, it's surrounded by a vast and terrifying shadow that it can stretch out around it "like wings." When its flames are temporarily extinguished, it becomes a creature of pure darkness.
  • Dark Is Evil: As part of the darkness motif of most demons.
  • The Dreaded: Overawes the fellowship with its mere appearance. Even Legolas, who casually regards an army of ghosts as harmless, runs away yelling in terror. Gandalf can't bring himself to say the word Balrog after their encounter.
  • Dual Wielding: Sword and whip.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": This particular Balrog is known by his title, Durin's Bane. Presumably he has an actual name, but he's not on a first-name basis with anybody in the story. He's known merely by his (sub)species or by the nickname the Dwarves gave him.
  • Fallen Angel: The Silmarillion and assorted other backstory reveal that the Balrog is just one of a race of formerly-angelic creatures that made the Ringwraiths look like pansies. The Balrogath are Maiar, of the same lesser angelic order as Sauron, the five Wizards, and Dragons.
  • Hero Killer: He's not called Durin's note  Bane for nothing. Since Gandalf the Grey dies killing him, he's also responsible for his death as well.
  • Knight of Cerebus: The story was already serious, but he upped the ante and paved the way for the Fellowship's breaking by bringing down Gandalf. (Of course, Gandalf got better.) It also introduced the epic one-on-one fights that would occur later in the story.
  • Large and in Charge: Possibly. The descriptions are vague and can be interpreted differently. On one hand, its wings are described as spreading "wall to wall" in a great chamber. On the other hand, he's also described as "like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater." He is certainly much more imposing than the orcs and trolls in Moria, and they seem to be almost as afraid of him as the Fellowship is.note 
  • Last of His Kind: Possibly. He's the only known Balrog to have survived the First Age, but it is possible that more of them did.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "Durin's Bane." Also, "Balrog" is the Sindarin form of the Quenya term Valarauko, "Demon of Might."
  • Out Of Context Villain: This horror has nothing to do with Sauron and it was bringing ruin to Middle Earth long before he entered the picture. It served under Morgoth, destroyed the Dwarven kingdom of Moria, and ended the line of Durin kings. As a Maiar, the Balrog could have easily been a Big Bad in its own right, but the Fellowship run into it purely out of bad luck.
  • Playing with Fire: The flames are hidden, but he (it?) is still a fire-demon who wields a flaming weapon.
  • Rasputinian Death: Falls down a deep pit along with Gandalf, as they try to stab one another as they plummet down to the bottom. Once they land, they are immediately submerged, carried down the stream presumably, race through natural caverns, and climb the Endless Stair to the peak of Celebdil, where they fought until Gandalf manages to pierce its heart, causing it to fall down to its death.
  • Red Baron: Durin's Bane.
  • The Remnant: He, like the other Balrogs, was a servant of Melkor, the first Dark Lord, until the latter was captured by the Valar at the end of the First Age. This Balrog was one of the few that survived the War of Wrath, and he becomes the de facto ruler and deity of Moria's population of Orcs and Trolls, which are also (at least partially) derived from Melkor's defunct armies.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: Though he is unquestionably a terrible threat, the Balrog has nothing to do with Sauron (aside from the two of them serving the same master thousands of years previously). The Fellowship could have avoided him entirely if not for being forced to enter Moria... with Peregrin Took.
  • Whip It Good: He uses a flaming whip in conjunction with a Flaming Sword.
  • Winged Humanoid: He can cast a shadow around him appearing "like wings". Whether they are actual, functional wings or just an illusion is left ambiguous.

    The Watcher in the Water 

A tentacled monster that guards the western gates of Moria at least since 30 years ago. It is encountered by the Fellowship upon their arrival to the walls of the dwarven realm, and it briefly battles them before closing the doors behind them, leaving the Fellowship trapped in Moria.

  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: A literal example. Only its appendages are seen.
  • Combat Tentacles: Pale green, foul-smelling 'tentacles' with fingered tips are all that the Fellowship sees. The text states they are twenty one or so, but this could just be literary license for 'tentacles everywhere!'
  • Eldritch Horror: Vague but terrifying tentacled creature lurking underwater near ancient ruins? This thing has a decidedly Lovecraftian aspect.
  • Enigmatic Minion: It is not revealed whether the monster serves Sauron or has its own agenda.
  • Guardian Entity: It appears to guard the western gates of Moria from its pool, and it's implied to have done so for a long time before the events of the story.
  • Hero Killer: When it attacks the Fellowship, it goes straight to the Ring-bearer, and some of the better combatants of Middle-Earth can do little more than fending its tentacles off for a while before running for their lives. It's mentioned in the book Gandalf finds as having grabbed Óin (one of the company from The Hobbit) and drowned him.
  • No Name Given: The book of Mazarbul speaks of a "Watcher in the Water" before the gates, so the reader can assume it is speaking of the monster.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The Watcher's main body (or bodies - it may be a colony) is never seen, and this has led people writing about the series to speculate about kraken, water-dragons or any number of unwholesome possibilities.
  • Outside-Context Problem: It does not appear to have any ties to Sauron, or Saruman, or even the Balrog. It may just be one of those nasty things that lurk in the darker corners of Middle-Earth - another Smeagol or Shelob.
  • Tentacled Terror: He seems to be an ominous giant squid-like... thing - tentacles usually come attached to cephalopods after all, but we just don't know for sure. In fact, Sam initially mistakes them for snakes, and later Gandalf can't even say if they were all part of a single creature.

Example of: