The dark lord Morgoth was once Sauron’s master, but who was the more powerful The Lord of the Rings villain? Though Sauron is the overarching nemesis in The Lord of the Rings, forcing its heroes on a quest to destroy the One Ring and meet his armies in numerous battles to protect Middle-earth, Sauron was once bound to a master before becoming the titular villain in Tolkien’s epic trilogy. And while Sauron and Morgoth had similar ambitions, there are significant differences between the two villains – including who was more powerful during their reigns of terror. Since Amazon’s The Rings Of Power is bringing their pre-Lord of the Rings history to the screen, here’s who comes out on top in the Morgoth vs. Sauron power comparison. Once known as Melkor, Morgoth is the primary villain of Tolkien’s extensive legendarium for Middle-earth, featured in The Silmarillion and The History of Middle-earth. Seeking to control Arda (the world) and Valinor (the Undying Lands, where Elves and eventually the Ring-Bearers could dwell in eternal peace), Morgoth exerted his influence as the first and strongest of the Valar to corrupt the world and bent it to his will. As Melkor, he was seen as a resplendent, noble, gifted politician and irresistibly charming. As Morgoth, however, as his corruption spread across the world, his proportions shifted, and he was an ever-threatening presence: impossibly tall and surrounded by a dark aura. In J. R. R. Tolkien’s work, few characters or creatures have been brave enough to challenge him in person.
On the other hand, Sauron grew in the shadow of his Master, his ambition rising to meet that of Morgoth’s while he served him. Before he was Sauron, he was known as Mairon, among the most powerful of the Maiar who served the Valar. When the Valar finally ousted Morgoth due to The War of Wrath at the end of the First Age, Sauron became the second Dark Lord to terrorize Middle-earth. Sauron intended to use both trickery and overwhelming power to force Middle-earth to its knees, with his chief strategy controlling the Rings of Power through the One Ring. Both Morgoth and Sauron managed to inflict significant damage upon the world and their enemies before their downfall, but Morgoth was undoubtedly the more powerful of the two. There are three particular reasons outline why he would win any Morgoth vs. Sauron match-up.
Valar Vs. Maia: What’s the Difference?
The difference between Valar and Maiar is key to understanding why Morgoth vs. Sauron would always end in the former’s victory. The Valar were known as the Powers of Arda. Created by Ilúvatar, the supreme being who created the world, the Valar were tasked with shaping and ruling the world. Melkor was the first and strongest of the Valar, but his view of what Arda should be differed greatly from Ilúvatar’s, so the rest of the Valar were constantly forced to combat his evil. Powers differ for each Valar. For example, Manwë could control the winds of Arda, and Ulmo controlled the waters. Morgoth’s abilities before his ultimate fall from power included the power to curse those who opposed him, the ability to shape-shift and deceive his enemies, vast physical strength, and pyrokinesis, among others. His mere presence could corrupt that which surrounded him – eventually diminishing his stature but ensuring his evil spread far and wide.
The Maiar, on the other hand, were created by Ilúvatar to assist the Valar in shaping the world. Each of the Maiar was assigned to one or more of the Valar, and their powers reflected their masters’ abilities. Their overall abilities are quite similar to those of the Valar, such as the ability to shape-shift, immortality, and the power to augment the world around them as their masters do. Though they are considerably powerful beings, they are lesser than the Valar simply because they were made to serve them. Sauron is not the only well-known Maiar in The Lord of the Rings’ Middle-earth. Before being known in Middle-earth as Gandalf, he was Olórin, just as Saruman was once the Maia known as Curumo and Radagast were once known as Aiwendil.
Who Was Smarter: Morgoth Or Sauron?
Melkor constantly battled against the efforts of his fellow Valar, shifting their labors and attention elsewhere so he could wreak havoc on the world in the meantime. He managed to destroy the two Great Lamps, which cast the world in darkness and allowed his corruption to spread. The destruction of the Lamps led to the Valar building Valinor, which gave Melkor virtually free reign over all of Middle-earth. This gave him the time to allow the continent to fall into darkness, filling it with terrible creatures and ensuring decay everywhere. Sauron, with his considerable power, was installed in the fortress of Angband at this time and ensured that Morgoth’s evil would be carried out even after he’d been captured by the Valar and brought back to Valinor. Morgoth, as cunning as he was, managed to convince the Valar of his innocence after ages spent in captivity, leading to the corruption of the Elves, which was the beginning of Morgoth’s plan to amass an army and turn the races of Middle-earth against one another.
Sauron, however, was extremely cunning as well. He used his shape-shifting abilities to deceive the Elves into forging the Rings of Power in the Second Age, the time in Middle-Earth’s history which the Amazon show Rings of Power is it. Sauron planned to use these Rings of Power to dominate the remaining Elves in Middle-earth, whom he saw as his greatest enemy. As a result, he forged the One Ring in secret in the fires of Mount Doom, infusing it with part of his soul to make it powerful enough to control the other rings. Unbeknownst to him, however, the Elves would immediately become aware of his presence once he put on the Ruling Ring. Furious, he waged war against the Elves, demanding that the Rings of Power be returned to him. Though the Elves were able to hide the greatest three and were able to pass one on to the Dwarves themselves, Sauron managed to find the other fifteen and passed them on to those he believed he could control. Nine were given to Men, who easily fell to his power and became the Ringwraiths, and he gave six to the Dwarf-lords, who became unimaginably wealthy but never truly fell to the Dark Lord’s desires. His initial plan had been thwarted, and by imbuing the One Ring with a substantial part of his soul, he gave the heroes of Middle-earth a way to defeat him once and for all.
In this case, Morgoth was more cunning, as his rule and terror lasted for an unfathomable amount of time, and his corruption spread further than Sauron could ever muster. It could be argued, however, that in an emotional and perhaps political sense, Sauron was once superior to Morgoth. Morgoth became enslaved to his villainous desires and sought only to crush his enemies and destroy everything good in the world. Sauron, at first, wasn’t interested in total devastation. He wanted dominion over Middle-earth by manipulating its people. Though Morgoth’s powers and cunning led to more successes over time, Sauron’s strength lay in his overall ambition to rule.
Who Had The Greater Army?
Once again, Morgoth wins in this regard. Though Sauron’s armies were undoubtedly great, its ranks filled with Orcs, Uruk-hai, Trolls, and Nazgûl mounted on Fellbeasts; other powerful beasts were not at Sauron’s disposal that could have easily turned the tide during the War of the Ring. Morgoth, the creator of all things evil within Middle Earth, did not only corrupt the Elves and turn them into Orcs but also created dragons, which were powerful and intelligent beasts, nearly invulnerable, and possessed overwhelming greed. The most famous of Tolkien’s dragons is Smaug, who is featured as the villain in The Hobbit. Morgoth also created the Balrogs, which feature in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Balrogs were Maiar who were seduced and corrupted by Morgoth. They were mighty creatures – one single Balrog was all that was needed to drive the Dwarves from their home of Khazad-dûm, the greatest and most fortified dwelling of the Dwarves. The Balrogs and Dragons were not a part of Sauron’s army, as they were nearly all driven from Middle-earth or destroyed by the time he rose to power again in the Third Age, and as such, his army would be at a distinct disadvantage against Morgoth’s.
Though Sauron was undoubtedly a great and terrible villain in The Lord of the Rings movies, in the grand scheme of Arda and Middle-earth, he doesn’t come close to Morgoth’s power. Morgoth’s rule and terror over Middle-earth allowed Sauron to rise to power and continue his legacy, but there were only a handful of beings more powerful than Morgoth in the entire history of Middle-earth. Sauron, even at his most powerful, would be no match for his old master.
Neither Morgoth Nor Sauron Is The Most Powerful Being In LOTR
Morgoth might be the historic Big Bad of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, but he’s not the most powerful being in Lord of the Rings history overall. As is implied by the fact he created the Valar, the most powerful being in Tolkien’s mythology is Eru Ilúvatar, which means “the one, father of all.” in Elvish. While it’s possible there are similar beings to Ilúvatar out there, it’s almost not worth speculating over their existence. Tolkien never wrote about them, and due to his religious beliefs, it’s safe to assume he intended Eru Ilúvatar to be an all-powerful deity in the Judeo-Christian sense. Tolkien’s work has deliberate and overt Christian parallels, and the earliest part of the story of Melkor and Eru Ilúvatar is heavily influenced by the history of God and the Devil in The Bible. Melkor being a fallen Valar is an obvious example of this, but Tolkien scholars have been able to find many influences of Tolkien’s faith on Middle-Earth’s deep lore.
Due to his infamous absence from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, some in the fan base mistakenly believe that Tom Bombadil is the most powerful being in Tolkien’s mythology. The legend of Tom Bombadil is much bigger than the character, however. There are many Lord of the Rings fans who haven’t actually read the incredibly lengthy original texts. There’s no shame in this (despite what some hardcore corners of the fandom say), but it does leave these movie-only Middle-Earth fans vulnerable to misconceptions about Tom Bombadil’s power. He is incredibly powerful and is immune to the effects of the One Ring. He is not, however, more powerful than Morgoth. Whether he’d win in a Sauron vs. Tom Bombadil matchup is a little more debated. What’s indisputable is that neither Tom Bombadil, Morgoth, nor Sauron is anywhere near as powerful as Eru Ilúvatar — creator of Middle-Earth itself and the deliberate equivalent of God in The Lord of the Rings.