What happens to Sauron when he dies? Sauron is one of the most fascinating (and terrifying) Lord of the Rings characters on Middle-earth. While he is the primary antagonist in the Lord of the Rings movies, we never see him in the present day beyond in his ethereal form as a searching, burning eye. In the new fantasy series Rings of Power, that changed and we see the character in the form of the human Halbrand.
We know that the TV series is set to explore Sauron’s rise, and his creation of the magic rings, as well as his downfall at the hands of Isildur at the battle of the last alliance where he was first destroyed. Then, the Lord of the Rings movies conclude Sauron’s story when he is destroyed again, this time for good. But given that the character is so powerful, what happens to Sauron when he dies, and is he really dead at the end of Lord of the Rings?
What happens to Sauron when he dies?
There are two important factors to keep in mind when thinking about what happens to Sauron when he dies. First, that he’s a Maia, and second, the One Ring.
Because Sauron is a Maia he can’t die like mortal beings of Middle-earth. That’s because Maiar are essentially demi-god angels, in direct service to the Valar and Eru Ilúvatar. As we see with Gandalf, when a Maia is killed on Middle-earth, they aren’t necessarily completely dead and this applies to Sauron too. However, unlike Gandalf, Sauron wasn’t reincarnated after his death, and therefore did not return to Middle-earth.
The second thing to consider was that while the One Ring was still intact, Sauron could never be completely killed. That’s because the One Ring contained part of Sauron’s essence. With it he was stronger, and without it he was weaker. But either way, while it was still on Middle-earth he could not be killed.
When the One Ring was destroyed, Sauron was destroyed, and essentially killed, for good. He was turned into a greatly weakened spirit with no powers, and he never presented a threat to Middle-earth again.
Sauron’s destruction at the end of the Second Age
Sauron was at the height of his power towards the Second Age. Then, he was in possession of the One Ring and had armies that roved across Middle-earth. That came to an end when the Númenóreans joined forces with the Elves, led by king Gil-Galad, and fought back against Sauron in the battle of the last alliance.
In the battle Sauron slew the Númenórean king Elendil, but his son Isildur used the broken blade Narsil to cut the One Ring off of Sauron’s hand. Separated from the One Ring, Sauron lost his physical form and was temporarily destroyed.
Sauron regained his strength in the fortress of Dol-Guldur, under the name The Necromancer. There, he plotted how to regain his One Ring while still recovering from his defeat.
Sauron’s destruction at the end of the War of the Ring
The Sauron who we see in the Lord of the Rings movies is a character who has largely lost his power after his destruction at the end of the Second Age. He is still unable to regain his full form and power without his One Ring, and is still in the process of mustering and organising his forces with the help of lieutenants like Saruman and The Witch-king of Angmar.
When the One Ring is destroyed in the Cracks of Doom, he loses all of his remaining power and is essentially killed for good. He is unable to take on any shape of form, because so much of his strength was tied to the One Ring, and becomes a malevolent (but harmless) spirit. While he is not dead – at least as humans would describe it – he completely lacks any strength or presence.
For more on Lord of the Rings, check out our guide to the Rings of Power season 2 release date, or the Rings of Power cast. Or, check out our guide to the new Lord of the Rings movie with our explainer on the Lord of the Rings: War of the Rohirrim release date, as well as our pieces on its main characters Helm Hammerhand, Frealaf Hildeson, Eowyn, Freca, and Wulf.