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  • Updated 9 August 1998
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War of the Ring

The decisive conflict at the end of the Third Age

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The great conflict at the end of the Third Age, named for the One Ring and the importance this had in the final outcome. The war was fought between the Free (a loose alliance of peoples led by the Wise) and Sauron the Dark Lord, with Saruman as a third power based in Orthanc.

Sauron at all times held the military advantage in the War, due to his overwhelming forces; not only Orcs and Trolls, but Men of Harad and the East. His main immediate object was the overthrow of Gondor, his near neighbour and the strongest of his enemies. He had such forces at his command, though, that he was able to fight the war on many fronts, also attacking Dale, Erebor and the Wood-elves in the far north, and Lórien from his secondary stronghold at Dol Guldur. If the outcome of the War had depended on military strength, there can be no doubt that Sauron would ultimately have been victorious.

Saruman had claimed alliance with both the Wise and the Dark Lord, but was ultimately fighting for his own ends. In alliance with the Dunlendings, and having Orcs at his own command, his objective was the defeat of Rohan. Until late in the War, he held the advantage, defeating Rohan twice at the Battles of the Fords of Isen. He had not considered the Ents of Fangorn in his plans, however, and when they were roused to anger at his actions, they brought about his downfall.

The policy of the Wise was based around the Quest of Mount Doom; a company of nine under the leadership of Gandalf travelled from Rivendell with the One Ring, with the hope of reaching Orodruin in Mordor and there destroying it. Because the Ring held much of Sauron's native power, they realised that in unmaking it, they would also defeat its creator. Against all hope, the Quest was achieved: the One Ring was unmade, and Sauron defeated.

The War did not end with the defeat of Sauron, for Saruman fled northward after the capture of Orthanc, and established himself in the Shire, bending the Hobbits to his will by threat of violence and the persuasive power of his voice. The return of Frodo Baggins and his companions led to a rebellion by the Shire-hobbits, in which Saruman was killed by his servant, Gríma Wormtongue.

Although Sauron and Saruman were both defeated, the Wise did not achieve total victory. With the destruction of the One Ring, the Three Rings that had maintained the realms of the Elves in Middle-earth lost their power, and the last of the High Elves began to leave Middle-earth for the Undying Lands.

See also...

Adelard Took, Adrahil, Aglarond, Ainur, Aldburg, Alfrida of the Yale, Aman, Amon Lhaw, Anborn, Ancient West, Angbor, Angelimir, Angmar, Anor-stone, Aragorn Elessar, [See the full list...]

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