Mar 12 2019, 1:43am
And the character who could prove the trickiest for the screenwriters to convincingly portray.
Annatar is the single most important casting call....
He is the "Lord of the Rings" after all, the eponymous namesake for the entire saga.
I concur with Mari D and Thor'n'Oakenshield about the need for Sauron to be depicted as a layered antagonist, with motives (originally "fair" ones, like his guise of Annatar, let's remember Tolkien wrote in his latter stage of reflection) that we may, if grudgingly, sympathise initially - as did the Elves of Eregion whom he won to his cause of forging the rings of power, for the ostensible purpose of rejuvenating the scarred and neglected lands of Middle-Earth, which the Valar had simply abandoned to the dominion of Men whilst they halled themselves up in the forbidden lands of Aman.
Tolkien's description in his letters of Sauron as an aspiring "reformer" who had been given a chance by the Valar to repent after the War of Wrath and only slowly descended back into outright villainy, and at the last developed an impulse to dominate the world, is definitive for me. It must be abided by. There is something of the horribly flawed idealist in Mairon (Sauron's original name in Valinor), as he becomes more and more debased by his overwhelming lust for order, until he loses sight entirely of the welfare of the subjects he'd originally sought to succour, and instead becomes sociopathically obsessed with his own will and that one idea of ordering everything according to it.
For that reason, I'd hate for him to be given an evil or mischievous glint in his eye behind the backs of the Eregion elves. His 'cover' should be perfect, as befits a divine entity: utterly trustworthy and genteel in bearing.
My 'models' for comparing Annatar-Sauron have long been the historical Jacobin leader Maximillien Robespierre of French revolutionary fame and John Milton's tantalizing portrayal of Satan in his epic 17th century poem Paradise Lost.
Robespierre started out as an idealistic French lawyer from Arras. Under the repressive Ancien Regime, he stood up against capital punishment, for criminal justice reform, the rights of the poor to social welfare and against both slavery and wars of expansion. He dreamed of a day when this terrible monarchical regime would fall, to make way for a republic of virtue and fraternity. What's not to love?
Mirabeau once said of Robespierre during the French Revolution, "This young man is dangerous. He believes everything he says."
After the execution of the king, and his wife Marie-Antoinette, Robespierre was swept to power and immediately set about protecting the revolution from the "enemies of the people". He declared: “There are only two parties in France: the people and its enemies. We must exterminate those miserable villains who are eternally conspiring against the rights of man. . . . [W]e must exterminate all our enemies.”
This list of enemies started with the aristocrats. Our young lawyer encouraged the mobs of dispossessed people outside in the streets to take down the nobility through acts of extra-judicial justice. He incited them to action whenever political expediency called for it.
One historian notes that, "The justification of the massacres was that those killed were enemies of the republic, counterrevolutionaries who had conspired against that equality, justice, and reason whose realization would “establish the felicity of perhaps the entire human race.”".
Stanley Loomis writes that, in these September massacres, “the bloody work went on for five . . . days and nights...Cannibalism, disembowelment and acts of indescribable ferocity took place here. . . . . It has been loosely assumed . . . that most of the victims were aristocrats—an assumption that for some curious reason is often supposed to mitigate these crimes. Very few victims were, in fact, of the former nobility—less than thirty out of the fifteen hundred who were killed.”
Having secured the capital, Robespierre appointed commissioners to enforce the Revolution outside the capital and deal with the ever growing list of enemies. Norman Hampson notes in his biography of Robespierre that “the revolutionary tribunal . . . had become an undiscriminating murder machine. . . . Imaginary . . . plots and absurd charges were everyday events.”
In the Vendéan massacre, recounts Schama, “Every atrocity the time could imagine was meted out to the defenseless population. Women were routinely raped, children killed, both mutilated. . . . At Gonnord . . . two hundred old people, along with mothers and children, [were forced] to kneel in front of a large pit they had dug; they were then shot so as to tumble into their own grave. . . . Thirty children and two women were buried alive when earth was shoveled onto the pit."
Robespierre was the exact type of reformer Tolkien had modelled Sauron on, as described in that September 1954 letter and elsewhere:
"The form that he took was that of a man of more than human stature, but not gigantic. In his earlier incarnation he was able to veil his power (as Gandalf did) and could appear as a commanding figure of great strength of body and supremely royal demeanour and countenance. At the beginning of the Second Age he [Sauron] was still beautiful to look at, or could still assume a beautiful visible shape –and was not indeed wholly evil, not unless all 'reformers' who want to hurry up with 'reconstruction' and 'reorganization' are wholly evil, even before pride and the lust to exert their will eat them up.
But many Elves listened to Sauron. He was still fair in that early time, and his motives and those of the Elves seemed to go partly together: the healing of the desolate lands. Sauron found their weak point in suggesting that, helping one another, they could make Western Middle-earth as beautiful as Valinor. It was really a veiled attack on the gods, an incitement to try and make a separate independent paradise.
He had gone the way of all tyrants: beginning well, at least on the level that while desiring to order all things according to his own wisdom he still at first considered the (economic) well-being of other inhabitants of the Earth. But he went further than human tyrants in pride and the lust for domination, being in origin an immortal (angelic) spirit.’...
Though the only real good in, or rational motive for, all this ordering and planning and organization was the good of all inhabitants of Arda (even admitting Sauron's right to be their supreme lord), his 'plans', the idea coming from his own isolated mind, became the sole object of his will, and an end, the End, in itself. ... [H]is capability of corrupting other minds, and even engaging their service, was a residue from the fact that his original desire for 'order' had really envisaged the good estate (especially physical well-being) of his 'subjects'.
Likewise, Robespierre was a man so incapable of compromising on his cherished ideal of a revolutionary republic of virtue, democracy, social equality and the popular will of the nebulously defined 'French People' that he intended to help, that he actually instituted a Reign of Terror in which thousands of innocent people were guillotined, in an attempt to bring about "progress". See:
Maximilien Robespierre, known to his contemporaries as "the Incorruptible," is one of the most controversial figures of the French Revolution. His name has become symbolic for that period of the Revolution known as the Reign of Terror; certainly he was a man who wielded great influence and power over the course of events of the French Republic between 1792 and 1794; yet different people in different eras had differing opinions of the man and his power. Some, especially his English and Austrian contemporaries, saw him as the Devil incarnate...Some see in him the origins of twentieth century dictatorship along the lines of Stalin or Hitler. Most agree that, for a time, he was the most important man in the Revolution...
Robespierre's failure can be viewed as that of a man so narrow-minded in his views that eventually he cannot conceive of anything outside of them, a man so firmly convinced of his own absolute rightness that he cannot see the glaring errors he makes. It had grown inconceivable to him that anyone should oppose him successfully, and when someone did, the blow numbed him into inaction for a while. Although he started out with the best of motives, it came to the point where protection of the ideals for which he stood was everything to him, whereas protection of the people whom the ideals were originally to protect meant nothing.
In terms of how Sauron should look, I've always felt that in his Annatar guise he would have been an almost impossibly beautiful and androgynous, shape-shifting being; strong, tall, charismatic in speech and imposing in form but with a subtle touch of the feminine and a certain felinity about him. By the latter, I mean to pay homage to his genesis in Tolkien's earlier legends as "Tevildo, Prince of Cats" from the Book of Lost Tales.
I'm sorry to say that I've always seen Annatar as a blonde. I take his description of being "fair" as meaning not simply handsome but quite literally fair-haired and fair of complexion as well. We should remember that when Celebrimbor first espies Annatar, he and his colleagues mistake him for one of "the Vanyar, the fairest race of Elves". In the HoME series we learn that the Vanyar had blonde hair, while the Noldor had dark hair. So that settles it for me as far as his appearance in the canon is concerned: Annatar is blonde.
I see him as kind of like this guy:
Only with the charismatic charm of a Tom Hiddleston.
(This post was edited by Althoun on Mar 12 2019, 1:48am)