The works of J. R. R. Tolkien set in the world of Arda/Middle-earth are the Trope Maker for the High Fantasy genre. It's only fitting then that his battle between good and evil contains some particularly vile foes.
Entries for each group are by approximate release/publication date.
- Melkor, later known as Morgoth Bauglir, began life as one of the Valar, but his spite and arrogance precipitated his steady downfall into evil. Beginning by destroying the great lamps of Valinor and creating the pits of Utumno, Morgoth takes as many races as he can and personally enacts hideous, unspeakable tortures upon them until all that remains are grotesque perversions that he can use as his servants. Following his first defeat, Morgoth repays mercy with treachery by destroying the world trees, killing the King of the Ñoldor Elves, and stealing their treasures—leading to the deaths of thousands of Elves when they pursue him—before setting up his base of operations in Middle-earth. He delights in corrupting Men into darkness, manufacturing and playing off corruption in their hearts to set them against each other and their allies. His "crowning achievement" is tricking and beguiling the first Men into swearing an oath of eternal fealty to him, meant to enslave the race forever in body and spirit; mortality is considered a gift for Men, as normally souls of Men leave Arda and Morgoth's grasp. Morgoth launches brutal campaigns of slavery and genocide, including the destruction of Gondolin, the most beautiful and proud Elven city, whose citizens are saved solely by the heroism of the city's warriors. He also tries to rape the Elven princess Lúthien out of nothing more than cruel lust. At one point, he condemns a man to horrible torture and then enacts a curse to see his children grow, suffer horribly, and be rejected by both life and death, solely because the man dared to defy him.
- Sauron, Morgoth's Dragon with an Agenda, is a demonstration of how those who were once noble can fall to great evil. Sauron was once a noble Maia who was swayed to Morgoth's side. Over time, Sauron's noble intentions for the world were replaced with vanity and lust for power. In the First Age, Sauron convinced a man to betray his comrades, showing him a vision of his beloved wife. Once the man did what Sauron asked, Sauron revealed she was already dead and had his hapless pawn tortured to death as he had promised to reunite them. Upon capturing the hero Beren and his companions, Sauron placed them in his dungeons where he allowed his werewolves to slowly pick the group off, one by one, to torment the survivors. After the defeat of his master, Sauron fled to Númenor, assuming the fair form of Annatar, the Bringer of Gifts, and seduced Númenor towards darkness and evil until it was a Morgoth-worshipping theocracy that practiced Human Sacrifice. This was an act so unholy that Eru Ilúvatar, the equivalent of God, stepped in to destroy Númenor. Even then, Sauron was not done, and tricked the other races with the Rings of Power, forging his One Ring to enslave all that lived. In the Third Age, he embarked on a genocidal war for conquest, seeking only to feed his lust for domination and megalomania.
- Glaurung, Father of Dragons, is one of Morgoth's prize commanders who slaughter and burn entire regions while battling the Ñoldor. After devastating the Ñoldor host, Glaurung leads the utter slaughter of the realm of Nargothrond, meeting Túrin Turambar for the first time and manipulating him so he may have the Elven princess Finduilas murdered to hurt the son of Húrin more. Later erasing the memories of Túrin's sister Niënor, Glaurung manipulates the situation so the two fall in love and marry, using his dying moments to spitefully taunt Niënor about carrying her own brother's child thanks to his cruel machinations.
- Ar-Pharazôn the Golden was the final King of Númenor. Forcibly marrying and raping his own cousin even before he fell under the sway of Sauron, Ar-Pharazôn became a monstrous tyrant in his alliance with the fallen Maia. Conducting Human Sacrifice in huge numbers to Morgoth, Ar-Pharazôn committed unspeakable atrocities on human kingdoms so terrible that even in the Third Age their descendants willingly sign with Sauron to revenge themselves upon Númenor's descendants, eventually attempting to invade Valinor to massacre the Elves there and declare himself the ultimate ruler above even Eru Ilúvatar.
- The Two Towers: Shelob is "an evil thing in spider-form" and the last child of Ungoliant. A self-serving glutton whose only concern is to feast on as much life as possible, Shelob has haunted Cirith Ungol for thousands of years, targeting Elves, Men, Orcs and anyone else who comes near her lair; her capacity for death lead her to become Sauron's unofficial executioner, regularly given Sauron's prisoners to "play with" then consume at her leisure. Shelob injects a paralyzing venom into her victims, then strings them up for sometimes days to stew in their fear before she drinks their blood and rends them with her claws. The progenitor of other giant spiders that terrorize Middle-Earth, like the ones in Mirkwood, Shelob makes a habit of breeding with her offspring, then killing and eating them just as she would any other prey. Shelob's only desire is the consumption of all living beings in Middle-Earth, and she is one of the most evil entities that Frodo and Sam confront on their quest.
- The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two's "The Fall of Gondolin": Meglin, the original iteration of Maeglin, lacks his future counterpart's redeeming features to instead be a selfish, cowardly brute. A Gnome who pines after his own royal cousin Idril as much for lust as for the power she has, Meglin harbors vile thoughts of taking Idril as his own and murdering her lover Tuor. Meglin turns the tables on his captors when he is taken by the evil Melko's forces, becoming a spy for Melko and serving the entire city of Gondolin to his army on a platter to be utterly decimated and its population wiped out, all in exchange for Idril and a position in Melko's empire. To bring in his victory as Gondolin burns around him thanks to his machinations, Meglin tries to force Idril to watch as he burns her young son alive, planning to then force himself on her to consummate his lifelong desire to have Idril as his wife.
Animated Works & Associated Comics
- The Lord of the Rings
- Ralph Bakshi's film: Saruman/Aruman the White joins forces with Sauron in order to rule Middle-earth as "Saruman of Many Colors". Imprisoning Gandalf on Orthanc, Saruman later sends his forces after the Fellowship to kidnap Frodo, resulting in Boromir's death. With his servant Gríma Wormtongue caught and exiled from Rohan, Saruman sends his forces to Helm's Deep to destroy the entirety of Rohan, while proclaiming that the rest of Middle-earth is to follow.
- Comic book: Saruman forsakes his previous heroism for cowardly villainy when he believes Sauron cannot be defeated. Attempting to imprison Gandalf to ensure Man's defeat, Saruman sends Ringwraiths after the Fellowship to capture Frodo Baggins and deliver the Ring to Sauron, causing Boromir's death. After his spy Grima Wormtongue is outed, Saruman leads the Orcs across Middle-earth, killing and destroying everything in their way to Rohan. Saruman intends for the complete destruction of Rohan to begin a crusade of destruction across the planet, willing to destroy everything just to ensure his own survival.
- Rankin/Bass Productions:
- The Hobbit: Smaug is a mighty dragon defined by greed and savagery. Ages ago, after immolating the entire civilizations of Dale and Erebor to claim their treasures, Smaug laid in wait until someone dared to trespass on his hoarded gold. Smaug, enraged by Bilbo's presence, vows to destroy the nearby city of Laketown and all its inhabitants as an example of what happens to those who dare to oppose him.
- The Return of the King: The Lord of the Nazgûl, Sauron's right-hand, is a supernatural phantom leading Sauron's armies on the field to overrun Middle-earth. Overseeing the attempted slaughter of countless innocents, the Nazgûl Lord personally leads the charge to Minas Tirith and the collapse of the gates to have everyone within killed, before personally confronting Gandalf and causing the death of King Théoden.
Live-Action WorksPeter Jackson's trilogies
- Sauron himself is the dark "Lord of the Rings", an ancient, power-hungry being who seeks nothing less than the subjugation of all life on Middle-earth and the annihilation of everyone and everything that doesn't yield to his rule. Ages ago, Sauron created the "One Ring", using it to hollow out and corrupt the nine Kings of Men into his Nazgûl and wage war on the kingdoms of Elves and Men. Though his destructive march was halted and the One Ring was stolen, Sauron continues to plague Middle-earth as "the Necromancer", unleashing monstrous beasts onto the land, dictating Azog in his war on Erebor, and tormenting Gandalf the Grey by murdering Thráin before his eyes. Sauron later sways Saruman to his side and uses him to carry out slaughters of all kinds against Rohan, hoping to eventually annihilate Minas Tirith and countless innocent lives to bring in his reign of darkness. Throughout the Third Age, Sauron uses his influence over the One Ring to corrupt and turn the wielders against their friends in an attempt to restore the One Ring to himself, Sauron often reaching out and mentally tormenting any who make direct contact with him, his evil so strong as to agonize those who he turns his gaze upon.
- The Hobbit trilogy:
- Azog the Defiler, leader of the Orcs, is pledged to wipe out the line of Durin. To this end, he beheaded King Thrór, and then severed Thráin's finger. After Thorin Oakenshield cut off his arm, Azog vowed to gain revenge on the Dwarf by any means necessary, putting a bounty on his head. It's revealed that Azog slaughtered the Skinchangers by raiding their lands, then caging and torturing them for his own amusement, leaving Beorn as the Last of His Kind. Upon taking command of Sauron's armies, Azog decides to target innocent civilians in order to distract his enemies and gain an advantage, intending to exterminate the peoples of Lake-town, Mirkwood, Erebor and the Iron Hills all at once. When Thorin rides to Azog's command center to kill him, Azog has Thorin's nephew Fíli brought to him and then kills him in front of Thorin, taking sadistic glee at the moment.
- Extended editions: Smaug the Golden is an ancient, powerful dragon and the Last of His Kind in Middle-earth. A brutal monster who exterminated the entire kingdoms of Erebor and Dale, with countless humans and Dwarves dead, Smaug is secretly in alliance with the Dark Lord Sauron with full intent to ravage Middle-earth with his flames from one corner to the next. Upon his awakening and battle with the Dwarves, Smaug opts to assault the peaceful Laketown out of sheer spite, even telling its defender Bard the Bowman that he will burn Bard's son alive in front of him before killing every last thing in the town.
- The Lord of the Rings trilogy:
- Saruman the White is a former Istari who, upon believing Sauron cannot be stopped, joins the forces of evil and embraces darkness entirely. When the Dark Lord invades the rest of Middle-earth, Saruman acts as his right hand, securing an alliance with barbarian tribes and sending them with his Orcs to sack the kingdom of Rohan. Attacking the Westfold, Saruman orders the extermination of every village and the deaths of everyone therein as his servant Gríma Wormtongue keeps King Théoden too enfeebled to come to their defense. Upon Théoden being freed, Saruman tries to have the refugees massacred during a flight to the fortress of Helm's Deep, dispatching his army there to slaughter every soldier and civilian within the walls. In one of his darkest crimes, Saruman orders the forest of Fangorn burned, knowing the trees are sapient, living things with their own wills, all to feed the industrial flames of his war machine.
- The Return of the King: Gothmog is the hulking, deformed Dragon to the Witch-king of Angmar, and one of the cruelest members of his entire Always Chaotic Evil species. Gothmog captures Osgiliath, kills everyone who can fight back, then decides to execute the prisoners he's taken from Faramir's brigade and rain their severed heads down onto Minas Tirith as a form of horrific psychological torture. In the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, Gothmog attempts to slay every living soul within Minas Tirith, and throws away the lives of hundreds of his own Orcs by refusing to let them break formation during the retaliatory attacks.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Waldreg is introduced as a lowly barkeep, but is in truth a treacherous fanatic of Sauron. Believing Adar to be the coming of Sauron, Waldreg convinces half of the population of Ostirith to betray their fellow men and ally with the Orcs. Waldreg later proves his loyalty to Adar by murdering the young Rowan. Having hidden the sword of Morgoth for years so as to one day use it in Sauron's service, Waldreg swears allegiance to Adar purely for his own ambitions and uses the sword to activate Mount Doom on Adar's command, decimating the Southlands' population and terraforming the land into Mordor.
- Sauron is a Maia who became the servant of the Dark Lord Morgoth. In the First Age, Sauron and Morgoth attempted to wipe out the dwarves by supporting a rebellious faction that fought against Durin I, and then turned against their allies when victory was imminent, resulting in the deaths of many. After Morgoth was defeated, Sauron became the new Dark Lord and waged a brutal war to conquer all of Middle-earth. Seemingly killed at the end of the war, Sauron went into hiding and slowly regained his strength over the course of several centuries. On his order, the Great Plague was created and devastated the continent, severely weakening the human nations of the East and allowing Sauron's armies to conquer and subjugate them. Eventually, Sauron would emerge from the shadows again to begin another war against the Free People of Middle-earth.
- The wizard Saruman was one of five Maiar initially sent to Middle-earth to aid the Free People against Sauron, but eventually came to the conclusion that the Dark Lord couldn't be defeated and joined him instead. Using false promises, lies, and their hatred of the neighboring Rohirrim, Saruman convinced several of Dunland's Clan to join him. When the Boar Clan and the Stag Clan refused his offer, Saruman had his forces attack them, resulting in both clans getting almost completely whipped out. After he had gathered a large enough army, Saruman attacked the nation of Rohan, causing the death of many people and the destruction of several settlements. Viewing even his own troops as nothing but useful tools, Saruman conducted cruel experiments on orcs, trolls, and Dunlendings, turning them into horribly disfigured abominations. Even his alliance with Sauron was one of convenience, and Saruman planed to betray him and rule over Middle-earth himself.
- Shelob is an Ancient Evil born in the First Age, who cares only about satisfying her immense hunger. Establishing a lair inside the mountains of Mordor, the orcs of the nearby Cirith Ungol started to offer her some of their own in exchange for safe passage. While it worked sometimes, other times Shelob would just devour a whole company of unsuspecting orcs. After Sauron's death, Shelob broke the fragile peace and had her brood attack Cirith Ungol, killing most of the orcs inside. When the attack was repelled by Legolas and the Player Character, Shelob devoured one of her daughters after she tried to flee. Later, it was revealed that Shelob had also sent out a telepathic call that made her offspring from all over Middle-earth—as well as a cult of humans who could shapeshift into spiders—travel to her lair, so that she could feast on them. The destruction Shelob could cause if she ever would manage to leave her lair was so horrible that Legolas was even willing to aid the forces of Mordor in their battle against her.
- Vol. 3: Lheu Brenin is the treacherous chieftain of the Falcon Clan of Dunland, and the greatest threat faced by the Grey Company in their journey to find Aragorn. Starting out as a reasonable man, the Brenin quickly shows his true colors when he sells out the Rangers to Saruman as trophies and slaves. When the player character and the Rangers escape, Lheu, seeking to flee their wrath, sends his loyal clansmen, including his only daughter, on a suicide mission to distract the Rangers. During exile, Lheu has anyone that questions his decisions and any he deems weak thrown into pits to be devoured by monsters in the mountains. Finally confronting the player character, the Brenin reveals his true plans of sneaking into the Glittering Caves and murdering the defenseless women and children of Rohan as a tribute to Saruman.
- Vol. 4: Burudagath the Bloodletter is the ruler of Faltor-shík, the Fane of Screaming. Under his oversight, countless prisoners of war and slaves were tortured and then sacrificed on an altar in the middle of the camp. When the player character attacked Faltor-shík and slayed most of his orcs, Burudagath personally killed his remaining men for failing to stop him. Defeating the player character and strapping him onto his altar, Burudagath gleefully claims that Sauron is going to defeat Aragorn's army at the Black Gate and that he will slowly end the lives of any survivors "one by one".
- The Black Book Of Mordor:
- Thraknûl is the orc in charge of Naerband—Direhold, literally "Dreadful Prison"—serving both as the warden and chief torturer. Under Sauron's order, Thraknûl had countless prisoners tortured, proudly proclaiming to have "devised pains and torments uncalled in any of the Ages of the world". Obsessed with perfecting his skills in torture, Thraknûl continued with his work even after his master had perished, having his orcs imprison not only escaped human slaves but his fellow orcs as well. All inmates are then regularly tormented by Thraknûl and his minions, with no hope of ever escaping from Naerband.
- Rûkhor the Pale Herald is a human servant of Sauron who became one of his Gúrzyul. After Sauron's death, Rûkhor planned to lure Shelob out of her lair and let her rampage through Mordor to kill all his potential rivals, not caring in the slightest about all the death and destruction this would cause. When his strongest minion was defeated by a group of heroes opposing him, Rûkhor magically drained all his blood to strengthen himself, despite the victim's pleas for mercy. Finally slain, Rûkhor used his last words to proclaim his victory by revealing that Shelob would soon wake up for her slumber and the whole world would feel her wrath.
- The Two Towers & The Return of the King:
- The Dark Lord Sauron forged the One Ring in an attempt to conquer Middle-earth, powering it with his own maliciousness. Though slain, Sauron spent many years commanding his Orc armies to slay all in their path in his search for the Ring. With many cities fallen and many lives taken in his quest for power, Sauron's cruelty belies a paranoid warlord who seeks domination over everything.
- Saruman, having aligned with Sauron in his vain pursuit of power, commands Sauron's forces, the Uruk-hai, to acquire the Ring from the Fellowship. When the Uruk-hai attacks lead to the death of Boromir, Saruman has his men attack Rohan and Helm's Deep, even giving them the order to "Leave none alive!"
- The Battle for Middle-earth II's Evil Campaign: The Mouth of Sauron is one of the chief commanders of Sauron's army, who aggressively expands the Dark Lord's influence across Middle-earth. Starting off by gathering an army of goblins and Mountain Giants, the Mouth commands them to destroy the Elven city of Lórien, murdering nearly all the Elves there. Later conquering Mirkwood, annihilating the Elven Kingdom in the process and slaughtering countless Elves and their ruler, the Mouth leads Sauron's army in convincing Drogoth the Dragon Lord to join his cause, murdering hundreds of Dwarves to appease him. Afterward, destroying the city of Dale and laying waste to the Dwarven Kingdom, killing thousands of Men and Dwarves, including Dwarven King Dain, the Mouth assists the other generals of Sauron's army in slaughtering the remaining opposition at Rivendell, killing off the Fellowship of heroes and helping to spread Sauron's tyrannical rule across the world.
- Conquest ("Rise of Sauron" campaign only): The Dark Lord Sauron sends the Nazgûl to Mount Doom to kill Frodo and deal with Orc rebels wanting to take the One Ring for themselves. Upon killing the Orc rebels, Sauron uses their blood to resurrect the Witch-king of Angmar, who kills Frodo and retrieves the One Ring for Sauron. Upon regaining the One Ring, Sauron overruns Gondor, destroying Minas Tirith and forcing Aragorn to flee to Weathertop; the population of Gondor being cannibalized by his Orc armies. He then resurrects Durin's Bane in Moria and sics it on Gimli. After conquering Moria, Sauron attacks Weathertop and Rivendell, killing Aragorn, Elrond, and Legolas and taking Elrond's ring for himself. With all of Middle-earth under his control, Sauron attacks the Shire, with his forces and Durin's Bane killing a large number of Hobbits to lure out Gandalf and Treebeard so he can kill them, the corpse of the latter being set on fire and used to burn any Hobbit that dares resist Sauron's rule.
- War in the North: Agandaûr is a powerful Black Númenórean sorcerer and self-proclaimed right hand of Sauron. Building an army for his master to assist him in his conquest of Middle-earth in exchange for the lands of the North, Agandaûr intends to make Sauron's forces more deadly and destructive by trying to make a Stone Giant and the dragon Úrgost join him so that they could slaughter and subjugate the Free Men of Middle-earth. Ordering a Spider Queen to devour the heroic wizard Radagast, Agandaûr moves his forces to attack the Dwarven Kingdom of Nordinbad, slaughtering most of the Dwarves there. Reducing his prisoners—who were driven mad by the study of the dark sorcery, which Agandaûr actively spreads through the world—to barely-sapient husks, Agandaûr intends on wiping out all of the Elves and enslaving all the survivors of the ensuing war.
- Shadow of Mordor & Shadow of War: The Dark Lord Sauron leads campaigns of terror and brutality that kill countless innocent beings, beginning in the Second Age when he personally murdered Celebrimbor after murdering the Elf Lord's wife and daughter. Ingratiating himself to great Kings of Men, Sauron also presented them with Rings of Power that slowly corrupted and destroyed them, making them his undead slaves, the Nazgûl. In the present, Sauron, in the guise of the Black Hand, murders the ranger Talion and his family to enslave the soul of Celebrimbor, which backfires when the wraith fuses with Talion. Sauron sends his forces to slaughter the population of Gondor, conquering the city of Minas Ithil before intending to move on to all of Middle-earth until everything that lives is destroyed or kneels before him as his slave.
- Sauron is the Dark Lord of Mordor, who rules over the land with an exceptionally cruel system of slavery. Thousands of captured prisoners are subject to humiliating, backbreaking, and lethal labor on a daily basis, forced to wrangle ravenous beasts and go on suicide missions to set off explosives. Additionally, batches of dozens of prisoners are vaporized every hour, their bloody remains used to keep the "dark water" rivers of Mordor constantly flowing. Sauron's forces overthrew Lestor's kingdom and killed his people many years ago, and Sauron turned Lestor into one of his chief torturers, "the Candle Man", while poisoning his daughter against him. With a long history of waging war on all life of Middle-earth, Sauron tortures the broken creature Gollum at the start of the game, and later gives the Mouth free reign to order the decimation of Mirkwood and other kingdoms, all in his quest to reclaim his One Ring.
- The Mouth of Sauron, having willingly joined the Dark Lord's cause as his lieutenant of the Dark Tower, facilitates the Barad-dûr slave pits under the control of the Candle Man. Allowing thousands of prisoners to be enslaved and put under harsh conditions and punishments to increase Sauron's army for an eventual war, upon Gollum's escape, the Mouth orders the Candle Man to attack numerous Elven kingdoms to retrieve Gollum, which leads to the decimation of Mirkwood with few survivors.
- John Boorman's The Lord of the Rings script: Sauron is the Dark Lord of Mordor who created the One Ring to wield control over the Rings of Power and take over Middle-earth. Turning those loyal to him into his nine Black Riders, Sauron would transplant his soul into the Ring after his demise, corrupting those who possess it. Looking to conquer Middle-earth again, Sauron seduced the sorcerer Saruman of Many Colors to his side, having him act as his Mouth who gruesomely tortures those who stand in his way. Forcing the Orcs to fight for him as he allows them to lay waste to all of Middle-earth in their pursuit of the Ring, while allowing the Nazgul to slaughter whole towns to find it, Sauron's cruelty leaves many dead in his malicious quest for power.