The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 5 April 2021
  • Updates planned: 1

Lord of the Black Land

Sauron, master of Mordor

"Let the Lord of the Black Land come forth! Justice shall be done upon him."
The heralds of the Captains of the West
The Return of the King V 10
The Black Gate Opens

A title given to Sauron as Lord of Mordor, the Black Land that he occupied for millennia. After the fall of his own master Morgoth at the close of the First Age, Sauron at first hid himself in Middle-earth. Over the next thousand years, he observed the growing power of the Men of Númenor, and in response chose himself a secure land. The place he selected was walled by mountains to the north and west. In about the year II 1000 he took this land for himself and began the building of a Dark Tower behind its mountain fences. If the land had a name before this time it is unknown, but from the time of Sauron's occupation there it became known as Mordor, the Black Land.

The Second Age

Sauron did not remain within his Black Land for long after first settling it, but later events would show that he had gathered great armies of Orcs there. After just two centuries - a brief period in the life of a being such as Sauron - he disguised himself and left the Black Land to enact a plan to subjugate the Elves remaining in Middle-earth. In the guise of Annatar the Lord of Gifts, he found the Elves of Eregion ready to accept the secrets he offered. For the next three hundred years, Sauron remained among the Elves,1 granting them the knowledge to make Rings of Power, Rings with which he planned to entrap them.

Sauron returned to Mordor to forge a uniquely powerful Ruling Ring, through which he would overpower the wills of his enemies and become lord of all those who dwelt westward of his Black Land. In the time he had been away from Eregion, however, its craftsmen had made Three Rings for themselves that were free of his influence, and thus they became aware of Sauron's trap. Enraged, the Dark Lord gathered his forces and marched out of Mordor to take by force the lands that he could not control through subterfuge.

Sauron succeeded in destroying Eregion and claiming the Rings of Power there (apart from the Three Rings, which were concealed from him). He went on to overrun Eriador, and a for a time it appeared that the Lord of the Black Land might become lord of all of Middle-earth. That was not to be: the Númenóreans came to the aid of the Elves, and pushed Sauron back southward and eastward until he was contained once again within Mordor.

With the westward lands now closed to him, Sauron began to solidify his power in the regions eastward and southward of Mordor. In this time he truly became a Dark Lord, bringing countless peoples across Middle-earth under the Shadow. He still had possession of the Rings of Power he had taken from Eregion, and he used these to enslave others to his will. Seven of these he gave to the Dwarves, who proved resistant to their effects, but with Men he had more success. Choosing nine lords and sorcerers from both Middle-earth and Númenor, he tempted them with Nine Rings. Through the Nine Rings he brought these Men under his will, creating the Nine Servants known as the Nazgûl or Ringwraiths.

This period of Sauron's lordship came to an end in II 3262. The previous year, an immense Númenórean fleet had landed at Umbar and, led by King Ar-Pharazôn, the Númenóreans marched on the Black Land. The King demanded that Sauron submit to his authority and, seeing the irresistible might of Númenor, Sauron surrendered himself. The Dark Lord saw an opportunity in this to subvert the Númenóreans and wreak his revenge for earlier defeats, and so he readily agreed to be carried back across the Great Sea, willingly abandoning Mordor for a time.

The Black Land was without its Lord for nearly sixty years, until the time when a great wave rushed out of the Western Sea, marking the utter Downfall of Númenor. While in Númenor, Sauron had dominated King Ar-Pharazôn and engineered the destruction of the island realm. The Dark Lord was almost overwhelmed himself, and indeed the body he had used at the time was destroyed, but his dark spirit returned to Mordor and once again he took up his rule in the Barad-dûr.

After building his strength in Mordor, Sauron began to expand his power once again. A group of Númenóreans had escaped the Downfall and built realms in Middle-earth, with one of their new cities hard against the mountains of Ephel Dúath that guarded the western borders of the Black Land. This was Minas Ithil, the stronghold of Isildur, and in II 3429 Sauron sent his forces against it. He succeeded in capturing the tower, but Isildur himself escaped to his father Elendil in the North-kingdom, far from the Dark Lord's grasp. The armies of the Black Land proceeded to attack Osgiliath and Minas Anor, the remaining eastern cities of Gondor, but were held at bay by Isildur's brother Anárion.

Sauron's strike against Gondor proved to be a disastrous miscalculation. In far northern Arnor, Isildur and Elendil rallied the Northern Dúnedain and allied themselves with Gil-galad, King of the Elves in Middle-earth. This alliance - which would be known to history as the Last Alliance of Elves of Men - marched southward to assault Mordor and besiege Sauron in his Dark Tower. After the seven-year Siege of Barad-dûr, Sauron was defeated in single combat, and his body was destroyed and his Ruling Ring was taken. His malevolent spirit continued to exist, but after his fall the Black Land came under the control of the Gondorians and was guarded against the Dark Lord's return.

The Third Age

After the War of the Last Alliance, Sauron was reduced to impotence, and the Black Land was held strongly against him by his enemies, who ringed Mordor with castles and fortifications. There was, however, no immediate danger of Sauron's return after the War, and it would be more than a thousand years before the Dark Lord would truly begin to regain his strength. Even when he had recovered a part of his power, Sauron made no immediate attempt to re-establish himself in Mordor. Instead, in the persona of the 'Necromancer', he occupied Dol Guldur in southern Mirkwood, far from the borders of the Black Land.

Sauron established himself at Dol Guldur in about the year III 1050, and he remained there for nearly two thousand years. For much of this time the Black Land was desolate and guarded against his return, but over the years that guard began to fail. After approximately a millennium, the Nazgûl gathered in Mordor, and in III 2002 they captured Minas Ithil, Gondor's strongest outpost east of the Great River. Nonetheless, Sauron wished his presence to remain a secret from his enemies, and he would not return to his Black Land until another several centuries had passed.

Throughout this period, Sauron was seeking news of his lost Ring, without which he was greatly weakened. His actions were opposed by the White Council of Wizards and High Elves, who chose eventually to act directly against the Necromancer of Dol Guldur. In III 2941, they launched an attack against that dark fortress, and Sauron fled. This was later discovered to have been nothing but a feint; he had already had his Nazgûl prepare for his return to Mordor. Soon he openly declared himself once again as the Lord of the Black Land, and began the rebuilding of his Dark Tower.

The old allies of Mordor in the East and South proved ready to accept Sauron as their Dark Lord once again, and his power also extended westward and northward along Anduin. Over the decades that followed, the Lord of the Black Land amassed armies of Orcs and Men that dwarfed any force his enemies could hope to raise against him. Even without his Ruling Ring, then, the Lord of the Black Land made himself unassailably powerful.

In the War of the Ring, the Lord of the Black Land launched several incursions across the Great River. The greatest of these emerged from Minas Morgul, with the Witch-king leading a huge army out against Minas Tirith, and the Dark Lord sending out a cloud of darkness to cover their way. There followed the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, in which Sauron came close to victory, but the arrival of unforeseen reinforcements allowed the Gondorians to beat back and survive the assault.

From the Window of the Eye in the heights of Barad-dûr, Sauron watched his opponents gather what forces they could and stage an apparent counter-attack. Crossing Anduin, they marched northward through Ithilien toward the Gates of Mordor. The Lord of the Black Land had little fear of this small force, and in response sent a great army northward to meet the Captains of the West and, if they would not yield, to crush them.

And then, without warning, all Sauron's plans failed. While his concentration had been on the small army approaching his Gates, spies had crept across the deserts of his Black Land and to the Fire-mountain at the heart of his domain. Realising that they meant to destroy his Ring, the Dark Lord sent his Nazgûl winging toward Orodruin, but he was too late. The One Ring went into the Fire, and the Lord of the Black Land fell. More than five thousand years after he had first come to the Black Land of Mordor, the loss of the power held within the Ring left the former Dark Lord as no more than a hollow and impotent spirit.


Notes

1

It is uncertain whether Sauron remained away from Mordor for the entire time he was training the Mírdain in Eregion, but this does appear to be the case. In The History of Galadriel and Celeborn in Unfinished Tales, it's said that 'Sauron himself departed from Eregion about the year 1500...', which does seem to imply that he had remained there for the preceding three hundred years (having arrived in about the year II 1200).

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 5 April 2021
  • Updates planned: 1

For acknowledgements and references, see the Disclaimer & Bibliography page.

Original content © copyright Mark Fisher 2021. All rights reserved. For conditions of reuse, see the Site FAQ.

Website services kindly sponsored by Discus from Axiom Software Ltd.
Discus' intelligent text reporting helps you to explore a DISC profile from every angle.
The Encyclopedia of Arda
The Encyclopedia of Arda
Menu
Homepage Search Latest Entries and Updates Random Entry