Sauron vs. Morgoth: Who is the most powerful villain in Lord of the Rings?

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Morgoth et Sauron - Le Seigneur des Anneaux © Warner Bros. © Amazon Prime Video

The Dark Lord Morgoth was once the master of Sauron, but who was the more powerful of the two? Although Sauron be the sworn enemy of Lord of the Ringsforcing the heroes of the Middle Earth to destroy the One Ring and to face his armies many times, Sauron was once bonded to a master before becoming the epic villain of the trilogy Tolkien. What if Sauron and Morgoth had similar ambitions, there are some important differences between the two, including who was more powerful during their reigns.

Morgoth, Shadow of Terror

Formerly known as Melkor, Morgoth is the main villain of Tolkien’s expansive legend of Middle-earth, featured in The Silmarillion and The History of Middle-earth. Seeking to control Arda (the world) and Valinor (the Immortal Lands, where the Elves and eventually the Ring-bearers could live in eternal peace), Morgoth wielded his influence as the first and strongest of the Valar to corrupt the world and bend it to his will. Inasmuch as Melkor, he was considered a resplendent politician, noble, gifted and irresistibly charming. Inasmuch as Morgoth, as his corruption spread across the world, his proportions changed, he had become a constant and menacing presence: impossibly tall and shrouded in a dark aura. In Tolkien’s workfew characters or creatures have been brave enough to challenge him.

Sauron, servant of Morgoth

Sauron - The Lord of the Rings © Warner Bros.

Sauron – The Lord of the Rings © Warner Bros.

On another side, Sauron grew up in the shadow of his master, his ambition rising to match that of Morgoth. Before being Sauron, he was known as Mairon, one of the most powerful Maiar who served the Valar. When the Valar finally ousted Morgoth during the War of Wrath at the end of the First Age, Sauron became the second Dark Lord to terrorize Middle-earth. Sauron intended to use both cunning and overwhelming power to put the Middle Earth on his knees, his main strategy being to control the rings of power through the One Ring. Morgoth and Sauron both managed to inflict massive damage on the world and their enemies before they fell, but Morgoth was undoubtedly the more powerful of the two, and there are three particular reasons why.

Valar and Maia: What’s the difference?

Gondor - Lord of the Rings © Warner Bros.

Gondor – Lord of the Rings © Warner Bros.

The Valar were known as the Powers of Arda. Designed by Iluvatar, the supreme being who created the world, the Valar had a mission to shape and rule the world. Melkor was the first and strongest of the Valar, but his vision of what Arda should be was too different from Ilúvatar’s, compelling the other Valar to fight his evil. The powers of the Valar are mysterious and differ for each Valar. Manwë could control the winds of Arda, and Ulmo controlled the waters. The abilities of Morgoth, before his fall, understood the power to curse those who opposed him, the ability to change shape and deceive enemies, great physical strength and pyrokinesis, among others. His mere presence was enough to corrupt everything around him.

The Maiar, on the other hand, were created by Ilúvatar to help the Valar shape the world. Each of the Maiar has been assigned to one or more Valar, depending on their characteristics, their powers mirror those of their masters. Their general abilities are quite similar to those of the Valar, like the power of transformation, immortality, and the power to improve the world around them as their masters do. Although they are very powerful beings, the Maiar are inferior to the Valar because they were created to serve them. Sauron is not the only known Maiar in Middle-earth. Before being known in Middle-earth as Gandalf, it was Olorin, as Saruman was once the Maia known as Curumo and Radagast was once known as Aiwendil.

Morgorth or Sauron: Who’s smarter?

Sauron © Warner Bros.

Sauron © Warner Bros.

Melkor constantly fought against his companions Valar, who struggled with his chaotic view of the world. He succeeded in destroying the two Great Lamps, which plunged the world into darkness and allowed his corruption to spread. The destruction of the lamps led the Valar to build Valinor, which allowed Melkor to rule almost freely over all of Middle-earth. He thus had time to let the continent sink into darkness, filling it with creatures and ensuring rot everywhere. Sauron, with his considerable power, was installed in the fortress of Angband at that time and ensured that Morgoth’s evil continued even after he was captured by the Valar and brought back to Valinor. Morgoth, cunning as he was, managed to convince the Valar of his innocence after years in captivity, resulting in the corruption of the Elves, the start of Morgoth’s plan to amass an army and mount the races of the Middle-earth against each other.

Lord of the Rings - The Nine © Warner Bros.

Lord of the Rings – The Nine © Warner Bros.

Sauron was obviously extremely cunning. He used his shapeshifting abilities to trick the Elves into forging the Rings of Power during the Second Age.. Sauron planned to use these rings of power to dominate the remaining Elves of Middle-earth, whom he considered his greatest enemy. That’s why he forged the One Ring in secret in the fires of Mount Doom, breathing a part of his soul into it to make it powerful enough to control the other rings. However, unbeknownst to him, the Elves became aware of his presence as soon as he put on the One Ring. Furious, he waged war on the Elves, demanding that the rings of power be returned to him. Although the Elves managed to hide the three largest and pass one to the Dwarves, Sauron managed to find the other fifteen and pass them on to those he thought he could control. Nine were given to Menwho easily fell under his sway and became the Ringwraiths, he gave six to the Dwarven Lords, who became unimaginably wealthy but never truly fell to the Dark Lord’s desires. His original plan had been thwarted, by imbuing the One Ring with a substantial portion of his soul, he gave the heroes of Middle-earth a means to defeat him once and for all.

Morgoth was more cunning, his reign and his terror lasted an unfathomable time, and his corruption spread farther than Sauron ever could. One could argue, however, that emotionally and perhaps politically, Sauron was once superior to Morgoth. Morgoth became a slave to his evil thirst and sought only to crush his enemies and destroy all that was good in the world. Sauron, at first, was not interested in total devastation. He wanted to dominate Middle-earth by manipulating its inhabitants. Although Morgoth’s powers and cunning brought him greater success over time, Sauron’s strength lay in his overall ambition to dominate.

Who of Morgoth or Sauron had the greatest army?

Lord of the Rings © Warner Bros.

Lord of the Rings © Warner Bros.

Once more, Morgoth wins in this regard. Though Sauron’s armies were beyond belief, their ranks filled with Orcs, Uruk-hai, Trolls and Nazgûl mounted on winged steeds, Sauron did not have other creatures powerful enough to easily turn the tide of events during the War of the Ring. Morgoth, the creator of all evil in Middle-earthnot only corrupted the Elves to turn them into Orcs, he also created the dragons, powerful and intelligent beasts, almost invulnerable, endowed with an inordinate greed. The most famous of the dragons of Tolkien is Smaug, that we see devastating entire cities in The Hobbit. Morgoth also created the Balrogsappearing in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The Balrogs were Maiar, seduced and corrupted by Morgoth. They are powerful creatures, and it only took one to drive the Dwarves from their home in Khazad-dûm, the largest and most fortified of the Dwarf strongholds. The Balrogs and the Dragons were not part of the army Sauron, they had almost all been driven out of the Middle Earth or destroyed when he regained power in the Third Age, and his army was therefore at a distinct disadvantage to that of Morgoth.

Although Sauron be without a doubt a great and terrible villain in The Lord of the Ringsin the grand scheme ofArda and of Middle earthit is far from equaling the power of Morgoth. The reign and the terror imposed by Morgoth on Middle-earth brought Sauron to power and to continue what had already been put in place. there are only a tiny handful of beings more powerful than Morgoth throughout the history of Middle earth. Sauron, even at his peak, is no match for Morgoth.

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