A Distant Evil: The Necromancer

The Necromancer of Dol Guldur by DJO
So just who is this Necromancer that seems to crop up at random times in The Hobbit? Thorin and the dwarves want vengeance on him. Gandalf alone has dared to explore the Necromancer's dread tower of Dol Guldur. Even Bilbo, who has never set foot outside of the Shire, has heard dark tales of this mysterious and evil being.

However, despite his bad reputation, nobody in The Hobbit (at least at first) seems to have any idea who the Necromancer really is, or what his plans are . . . besides making Mirkwood a pretty bad neighborhood.

As an example of just how powerful the Necromancer is, consider this: when Thorin finds out from Gandalf that his father was tortured in the dungeons of Dol Guldur, he begins to muse on how he and the other Longbeards might get revenge on the Necromancer. Gandalf, however, cautions Thorin and suggests that the Dwarfs would be better off forgetting about the Necromancer and instead focus their energy on defeating Smaug:
“We have long ago paid the goblins of Moria,” said Thorin; “we must give a thought to the Necromancer.”

“Don’t be absurd! He is an enemy quite beyond the powers of all the dwarves put together, if they could all be collected again from the four corners of the world.”
-The Hobbit; Ch. 1: An Unexpected Party 
More powerful than all of the dwarves? This Necromancer dude sounds serious. Read on past the break to find out just who he is and where he comes from!

All right, here comes the big reveal: the Necromancer is . . . Sauron! Ba-baam! Huge surprise, eh? Well at least it would be for those of you who've never read FOTR, which (considering my audience) is probably 1% of you. However, despite the fact that the Necromancer's identity may not be the best kept secret in the world, I think this is a good opportunity to dust off the Silmarillion and LOTR and shed a little light on Sauron's past and (maybe) make some predictions about what his motives/plans are during the events of The Hobbit.

A History Lesson
Morgoth and Fingolfin by John Howe
Now, if you haven't read the Silmarillion (first off, you're missing out on a great book) it may surprise you to learn that Sauron wasn't always the Supreme Overlord of Evil in Middle Earth. In fact, originally, Sauron was just the lieutenant of an even more powerful Enemy: Morgoth.

Never heard of Morgoth? Originally named Melkor, he is the Enemy of the High Elves that lived in Middle Earth. Aided by Sauron, Balrogs, dragons and legions of Orcs, Morgoth made war on the Elves and their allies for thousands of years before finally being defeated and cast out into the Void. His underling, Sauron, barely escaped the same fate.

Sauron during the First Age by Vezz801
In the mythology of Middle Earth, the world is ruled by the Valar (powerful beings roughly equivalent to the pantheon of Greek gods). Morgoth was the most powerful of the Valar, but unlike the others he wished to rule all of the world by himself. In the beginning he rebelled against the others and fled to Middle Earth, along with a host of lesser (but still powerful) spirits called Maiar. Chief among these lesser spirits was Sauron, who became Morgoth's chief lieutenant.

Early on during the war between Morgoth and the Elves, an army of orcs captured the river island Tol Sirion and the fortress Minas Tirith (no, not that Minas Tirith . . . an earlier one) that had been erected on it. Sauron made Minas Tirith his base of operations, and according to the Silmarillion, the island became the haunt of vampires and werewolves. But wait, it gets even cooler. Not only was Sauron commanding a bunch of werewolves and vampires, he could actually assume the form of a vampire or werewolf as well:

Luthien and Huan face Sauron by Justin Gerard
Now, in the end the Valar come to the aid of the Exiled Elves and defeat Morgoth in a huge war that ends up drowning Beleriand (a huge chunk of western Middle Earth). Sauron, however, escaped the destruction and fled east into the far shadows of Middle Earth. The wrath of the Valar was so terrible that for an entire millenia Sauron did not come out of hiding. Of course, his lust for power eventually got the better of him and he crept back to the known parts of Middle Earth and claimed the land of Mordor for his own.

Annatar by Vezz801
Shortly after Sauron established his seat of power in Morder he appeared in Eregion to a group of High Elves that had survived the ruin of Beleriand. Sauron came to these elves in disguise and called himself Annatar, or Lord of Gifts. He taught the Elves many things, including how to create rings of power.

In the beginning the disguised Sauron and the Elves worked together, creating the Nine Rings for men and the Seven Rings for the Dwarves. However, both the Elves and Sauron had tricks up their sleeves. In Mordor, Sauron forged the One Ring to rule the others, and in secret the Elves forged the Three Elven Rings. As soon as the elves put their rings on they were aware of Sauron, his lies and the One Ring. Immediately they removed their rings, thwarting Sauron's plan to control them, and in his wrath the Dark Lord launched an attack on the Elves.

In the ensuing war, Eregion was destroyed and Sauron was nearing victory, when out of the West the Men of Numenor appeared. Sauron fled to the east where he began building up power in those far countries, but several centuries later he was again confronted by an even mightier force from Numenor. Those forces of Numenor were so overwhelming that Sauron surrendered and was taken captive back to the island kingdom of Numenor.

In Numenor, Sauron was originally kept a prisoner; but soon, through a combination of lies and flattery, he became the advisor of the King of Numenor. Corrupted by Sauron, the King forbade the High Elves of the West to visit Numenor, banished any Elf-Friends from the capitol, and eventually launched an attack on the Undying Lands. Obviously, this didn't end well.

The Destruction of Numenor by Darrell K. Sweet
The forces of the king of Numenor were completely destroyed and the island of Numenor sunk beneath the waves. Sauron underestimated the wrath and power of the Valar, and his physical body was destroyed when the island sank beneath the waves.

Sauron's spirit fled back to Mordor where he began gathering his creatures and servants once more. Eventually he was ready for war again, but this time he was opposed by an alliance of both Elves and Men (the survivors of Numenor).

Now we're getting to the part of Sauron's history that more people are familiar with, because it ties directly into the events seen in the opening scenes of the FOTR movie. Sauron's forces were beaten back to Mordor. A huge battle was fought at the gates of Mordor (the site would eventually become the Dead Marshes as seen in TTT), and the Elves and Men broke past the gates and drove Sauron's armies to the very slopes of Mount Doom. And it's there that we see Sauron in his last physical manifestation:

Sauron, The Lord of the Rings
Of course, we all know how Sauron killed the kings Elendil and Gil-galad, but was then defeated by Elendil's son, Isildur, who cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand. For the last time, Sauron's physical body was destroyed, but because Isildur refused to destroy the Ring, Sauron's spirit survived and fled into the East to be lost to all knowledge. But was that the end? Nope.

The Necromancer

Everything we just reviewed is ancient history when the Hobbit begins. In fact, no one has seen or heard from Sauron for almost 3000 years! There has, however, been spreading rumors of the Necromancer . . . a shadowy evil that had crept into Mirkwood and built the fortress of Dol Guldur 2000 years before Bilbo begins his quest. It was Gandalf who first explored Dol Guldur and reported to the White Council that the Necromancer was none other than Sauron.

It is this revelation that sets up a lot of Gandalf's actions in the Hobbit. You'll notice in the book that everyone's favorite wizard is constantly disappearing and reappearing. Well, it turns out that whenever Gandalf isn't helping Bilbo and the dwarves along, he's actually conferring with the White Council, trying to determine how best to deal with the threat of the Necromancer.

I'll stop their with the history lesson, because I don't want to give away any spoilers. Suffice it to say that the Sauron the Necromancer actually plays a much larger role in The Hobbit than people might first assume. In fact, I've read quite a few complaints lately from people who are upset that Mr. Jackson is dragging Sauron into too much of The Hobbit. They feel like in the Hobbit, the Ring and Sauron are only a side note and should not be a focus of the movies.

I however, have to disagree. The main goal of Bilbo and the dwarves is to defeat Smaug.The only reason they are able to defeat Smaug is because Bilbo spotted a weak point in the dragon's armor (oops . . . so much for no spoilers). The only reason our hobbit hero can get close enough to Smaug to see the weak spot is because he's wearing the Ring. The only reason he's wearing the Ring is because the Ring abandoned Gollum and Bilbo happened to find it. Clearly, without the Ring Bilbo's adventure would have ended in disaster. Now, doesn't it seem like an awfully large coincidence that the Ring would slip of Gollum's finger right when the White Council is noticing the growing power of the Necromancer? I don't think so. Sauron was influencing the Ring, the Ring was responding to the call of its Master, and then Bilbo found the Ring and was miraculously able to help defeat the Dragon.

I think it seems pretty clear that whether he meant to or not, Sauron's actions play a crucial role in the Hobbit. So I gotta be honest and say that including the Necromancer a bit more in the Hobbit movies doesn't really bother me.

Well . . . let me know what you all thing! Should the Necromancer play a larger role in the movies or not?

Later . . .


  1. Even if people don't feel Sauron's story has a place here (which I think you are right that it does), at the very least we should know what is so important for Gandalf to abandon the group so often.

    But do you think it is justified for the Necromancer to pop up at the Battle of Five armies, as has been rumored (though based on extremely fragile evidence)?

    1. I dunno . . . my first reaction on hearing that rumor was one of disappointment. I hope that it's not really happening. But at the same time, there have been very few things I didn't like about LOTR, so I feel like PJ deserve's some slack.

      Yeah, really . . . my mind is torn. What's your opinion?

  2. I liked some of his wilder diversions, and disliked others, so it could be bad IMO. It just seems like we can't have Bilbo getting near Sauron in any way without making everything really odd with the ring. Wouldn't the ring be screaming out to him if that happened?

  3. Super interesting! It almost makes me feel bad for Sauron, he got his butt kicked so many times. Thanks for condensing the history.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I have never been on your website before, got to say, very nice job on summing Saurons history up!
    When it comes to PJ's take on the LOTR books, I feel that we have to give the man and is team a lot of credit. There are very few movie production teams in the world that could have done as fine a job as them. But yha I do have a few problems with PJ's work like the Witch King - Gandalf confrontation, taking out Tom Bombadil, and most of all replacing Glorfindel's seen with....HER! But we also have to remember that his team and him did (in my opinion) have flawless casting, great the Gimli-Legolas banter, and they upheld J.R.R.T.'s legacy by knowing to respect the detail of his descriptions of characters, scenes, landscapes etc...

    Therefor, by looking back on P. Jackson's take on J.R.R.T.'s writings I would say that there should be nothing (at most very little)for the fans to worry about. But we can not make the mistake of thinking that we are going to watch 'The Hobbit' as we know it. This is because Peter Jackson has said on many an occasion that him and his writing team have carefully analysed the book and have concluded that it would never work (as it is) as a movie. They are going to make 3 movies (3+ hours a piece) so my guess would be that the production team will do what the did to LOTRs but that they will include many of Tolkiens writings in order to fill the minutes a long with their writers extending scenes.

    1. Dónal>>Thanks for the comment! I agree with you . . . while the LOTR films weren't perfect, they were definitely close enough to perfect that PJ and his crew deserve a bit of trust from the rest of us. I'm still deciding exactly how I fill about some of the changes . . . but on the whole I'm just plain old excited.


  6. I have not read the Hobbit in years, still have not read LOTR (!), but on readings you points I agree - he should be in the films...also, having been interested and excited by the idea of this shadowy wraith-like figure involved in necromancy lingering in Mirkwood, who is really Sauron....I really can't wait to see it in the films, I just hope they do it justice, and hope Benedict Cumberbatch sounds sinister enough...

    I think they are trying to hard with some characters-Legolas is a pointless(abysmally acted) character in the films anyway (I hope not in the books) and is not in the Hobbit at all apart from in the background in Mirkwood...I think bringing the Necromancer and white council and that whole subplot only hinted at in the books to expand the films is an excellent idea

  7. Brilliant article, and yes i whole-heartdly agree. The presence of Sauron within this film is more than needed/justified and people who say otherwise (i feel) do not have the best interests of this fantasy series at heart. The "younger" necromancer is a formidable enemy and as Gandalf hints may be/could be far more powerful enemy than anyone can imagine. To have Gandalf simply disappear for chunks of time during the film would have been met with howls of scorn and i personally like the fact that a part of the book i always wished had been expanded on now is through the film. Not that i have seen it yet!

  8. Wonderful article, the only think that disturbed me is when you said Valar were like a pantheon of Greek Gods... I would have said Norse Gods, because the world of Tolkien is really based on Norse Mythology, not Greek one. I know, I'm a dork but I don't like to see these two messed up, else than that, your article was wonderful :)

  9. Just one note on the summary... Sauron took the form of a werewolf (as can also be clearly seen in the picture you provided above),as well as a huge dire wolf, and very much less so a vampire if at all (dont clearly remember him being a vampire, at least).

  10. awesome article.
    but i dont understand why he was in spirit form before, then physical form as necromancer ,
    then spirit form again (or an Eye) in LOTR.

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