What would have happened if Sauron got his hands on the One Ring in the Lord of the Rings movies? In Peter Jackson’s fantasy movies, you can’t go two minutes without one of the Lord of the Rings characters droning on about how dreadful it will be if Sauron gets the One Ring around his spikey fingers.
Elrond, Galadriel, and Gandalf all describe Sauron with the ring in apocalyptic terms; we’re talking about a “human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria” type disaster that would doom the world forever. But what would actually happen if Sauron got the Ring? What was the dark lord planning, and how bad would things have really been?
What would have happened if Sauron got the One Ring?
It would have been disastrous for Middle-earth if Sauron had managed to slip on his magical Ring. The first reason is that it would restore Sauron to his full power (or near enough that no being on Middle-earth would be able to challenge him) and give him influence over those wearing the lesser rings.
That includes Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel (who wear the Three Rings), which isn’t ideal considering they’re essentially leading the forces of good against Sauron. In a best-case scenario, the three would manage to remove their rings before Sauron corrupted them, but it would leave the good guys at a severe disadvantage going forward as they’d have lost the magic of the rings.
Secondly, Sauron with the Ring is such a terrifying threat because it effectively removes his greatest weakness. As long as the Ring isn’t in Sauron’s possession, it could theoretically still be destroyed, taking the dark lord with it. If Sauron gets it back, then that’s not an option any more. You would have to beat him on the battlefield, and by the time of the Third Age, that was a tall order.
Militarily, Sauron and Mordor were extremely powerful, certainly a lot stronger than the rag-tag armies the forces of good could muster up. Ultimately it’s unlikely an alliance of Men and Elves would have been able to stop Sauron and his armies of orcs if he were leading them with the power of the Ring.
Elrond admits they basically face inevitable defeat even if Sauron doesn’t get the Ring in the books. “Have we here the strength to withstand the Enemy, the coming of Sauron at last, when all else is overthrown?” he asks. “I have not the strength.” So basically, the good guys were banking everything on the Ring being destroyed.
Now it’s true Isildur managed to beat Sauron at the end of the Second Age even with the Ring, but that was extremely lucky, and the races of Men and Elves can’t bank on a miracle happening again, especially if you consider how diminished the forces of good were during the Third Age.
Realistically the only way Sauron could have been defeated would be to ask the Valar in Valinor for help and pray they intervene just like they did when it seemed like Morgoth was going to conquer the world.
If you love Lord of the Rings, check out our guide to the Rings of Power season 2, or if you want to know more about the Rings of Power characters, we have deep fives on Durin, Gil-Galad, and Celebrimbor.