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Where Is Sauron At The Beginning Of The Second Age?

Everyone and their mother knows that Sauron is going to be a major antagonist in "The Rings of Power" series. Apart from that fact, though, we don't actually know much about what the villain will be up to — especially when the show starts. Vanity Fair's first look article confirmed that Sauron will be a major factor in the show, but clarified that initially, we'll only hear about "hints of danger to come." TheOneRing.net reported a leak back in mid-2021 stating that Sauron "will not be revealed in Season One."

In another Vanity Fair interview, showrunner J.D. Payne explained that the show only has the rights to the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "The Hobbit." That's it. Payne explained that, in spite of this restricted amount of source material, "There's a version of everything we need for the Second Age in the books we have the rights to...As long as we're painting within those lines and not egregiously contradicting something we don't have the rights to, there's a lot of leeway and room to dramatize and tell some of the best stories that [Tolkien] ever came up with."

Okay. That works for most of the story. But if you read the appendices to "Return of the King," there isn't much at all about Sauron until roughly 500 years into the Second Age. Even at that point, all we really get is a brief note on a timeline that says "Sauron begins to stir again in Middle-earth." Half a millennium later, he sets up shop in Mordor proper. This bare-minimum amount of info leaves room for the team to mostly make up the story — as long as it doesn't "egregiously contradict" Sauron's early Second Age activity. The question is, what does that look like?

Where is Early Second Age Sauron in the source material?

In order to get a solid idea of what Sauron is up to in the early portion of the Second Age, we mainly need to look at two different books: "The Silmarillion" and "Unfinished Tales." Toward the end of "The Silmarillion," we get a solid description of Sauron's condition as the First Age ends and the Second Age begins.

To set the stage, it's important to realize that during the First Age, Sauron is a very powerful being. He's an Ainur (a supernatural spirit) that serves as the second in command to the Dark Lord Morgoth. He can shapeshift and plays a major role in Tolkien's famous story of Beren and Lúthien. Everything is going splendidly for this powerful lieutenant ... that is until the First Age ends with the downfall of his master in the catastrophic War of Wrath. When that happens, Morgoth is banished to the Timeless Void (read: he's no longer part of the story) and his servants are killed or scattered. At least, most of them are.

In "The Silmarillion," it explains that Sauron is one person who doesn't run. Instead, he puts on an attractive physical appearance and submits himself to his enemies, the angelic Valar and their Elven and Manish allies. Sauron asks forgiveness for his evil actions and the text even says, "some hold that this was not at first falsely done, but that Sauron in truth repented, if only out of fear, being dismayed by the fall of Morgoth ..."

At this moment, it appears that there's actually a chance Sauron could come back to the good side of the force, but then he finds out some unpleasant news ...

Sauron is called to account for his crimes

When Sauron repents at the end of the First Age, he's informed that, in spite of his humility, he will still have to basically be put on trial as a war criminal. This makes him ashamed at the prospect of public humiliation and concerned at the possibility of a long prison sentence.

Rather than submit to the consequences of his past crimes, he takes the first opportunity he gets to escape the sticky situation and flee back to Middle-earth, where he hides. In "The Silmarillion," we then get an unpleasant sentence stating that "he fell back into evil, for the bonds that Morgoth had laid upon him were very strong."

A bit later in the text, it explains that after a while Sauron realizes that his enemies aren't chasing him, and he starts to plot how he can regain his old power. Even then, it says that "for long he dissembled his mind and concealed the dark designs that he shaped in his heart. As Sauron quietly builds his power, he begins to dominate many of the wild, local Men on the edges of the Middle-earth map. Eventually, this hidden-yet-growing threat is noticed by the Elven King Gil-galad, who even sends a letter to the king of Númenor asking for help. In this letter, which is recorded in "Unfinished Tales," one of the first things Gil-galad says is, "A new shadow arises in the East. It is no tyranny of evil Men ... but a servant of Morgoth is stirring, and evil things wake again. Each year it gains in strength, for most Men are ripe to its purpose."

This is clearly referencing Sauron's growing power. Within the next few hundred years, the Dark Lord chooses Mordor as his new home base, and the rest of the story is off to the races.

Will we see Sauron in the first season of Rings of Power?

Sauron's story at the beginning of the Second Age is a bit of a slow burn. He repents from wickedness, changes his mind, flees in humiliation, hides for a long time, reignites his pride, and secretly builds a new base of power for nearly a thousand years. The question that has to be asked, then, is where will he be at the beginning of Amazon's show.

The showrunners have already clarified (in the above-mentioned Vanity Fair article) that they had to reduce the timeline of the show to make the story more manageable. Even so, between the rumors and reports, it seems like they aren't in a hurry to reveal who Sauron is in the first season.

Even so, no one has said that Sauron won't be in the first season at all, just that there will be hints of danger and he may not be revealed. If that's true, the show could still disguise Sauron as a character who is honestly scared and afraid. He could be running from his past and could be trying to lay low as much as possible ... setting the stage for future danger to come.

While nothing will be certain until the first season officially airs, it's perfectly possible that we may see Sauron and not even know it. For instance, the man in the fire shown in the first trailer for the series could very easily be Sauron fleeing from his enemies. He could also be one of the wanderers with giant Elk antlers strapped to their backs. Heck, he could be anyone they want to make him. Remember, he can change his appearance and he's in hiding when the Second Age starts. The one thing that seems fairly certain at this point is that we're going to have some fun playing guess who, as the show slowly sets up the villain's big reveal, whenever and wherever that finally does take place.