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The Eye of Sauron
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rangerfromthenorth
Rivendell

Oct 1 2013, 3:05pm

Post #1 of 37 (580 views)
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The Eye of Sauron Can't Post

This may be a random question but I have been thinking of it for sometime. Why is Sauron in the form a flaming Red Eye anyways? How and why?

Not all those who wander are lost


sador
Half-elven


Oct 1 2013, 5:12pm

Post #2 of 37 (390 views)
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This is properly a Movie Board question [In reply to] Can't Post

In the books, the only indication as to what form Sauron is Gollum's statement in The Black Gate is Closed that Sauron has only four fingers in his hand, but they are enough - which sounds pretty humanoid to me.

In the Silmarillion it is stated that after the fall of Numenor Sauron wrought himself the form of "an image of hatred and malice made visible; and the Eye of Sauron few could endure", and also that he never could appear in a fair form again; but that means that the Great Eye was already a part of the form in which he wrestled with Elendil and Gil-galad. Assuming the Akallabeth (the chapter in the Sil which deals with the Fall of numenor, from which the quote above was taken) was written to be consistent with The Lord of the Rings, this means that at the time of writing Tolkien meant the Eye was both Sauron's physical Eye in his humanoid form, and a symbol of his malice and watchfulness.

Even considering LotR alone, the apellate "The Great Eye" used by Grishnakh is not a description of Sauron, but a mere symbol, as in the heraldry of Shagrat's company - as Aragorn states in The Departure of Boromir. This seems the most reasonable explanation.

However, there two instances in which the Eye seems to be physically channeling Sauron himself - when it preceives Frodo atop Amon Hen, and in the Witch-king's threat to Eowyn on the Pelnnor Fields. These two descriptions might be cases of Tolkien getting carried away with his own imagery, thus endowing the simile with a physical reality (possibly similar to the Balrog's wings?); but I still think they can be explained away.

These two cases are probably the sources for the image PJ and crew chose - together with the drawing of the Eye inside the Ring which appears on the cover of many editions of LotR. But it is clear that Saruman's statement in the FotR movie that Sauron cannot yet take physical form again, is contradicted by Gollum's testimony in the books.

And by the way, the only time an eye appears in the Ring, it is the eye of Tom Bombadil.


squire
Valinor


Oct 1 2013, 6:21pm

Post #3 of 37 (366 views)
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The movie did get its inspiration from the book, then took it a bit too far [In reply to] Can't Post

When I think of Sauron's appearance as a flaming eye, I don't just think of the movie. I remember these two passages from LotR (with my bold emphases):


Quote
But suddenly the Mirror went altogether dark, as dark as if a hole had opened in the world of sight, and Frodo looked into emptiness. In the black abyss there appeared a single Eye that slowly grew. until it filled nearly all the Mirror. So terrible was it that Frodo stood rooted, unable to cry out or to withdraw his gaze. The Eye was rimmed with fire, but was itself glazed, yellow as a cats, watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing. - LotR II.7



Quote
...and then he saw, rising black, blacker and darker than the vast shades amid which it stood, the cruel pinnacles and iron crown of the topmost tower of Barad-dr. One moment only it stared out, but as from some great window immeasurably high there stabbed northward a flame of red, the flicker of a piercing Eye; and then the shadows were furled again and the terrible vision was removed. The Eye was not turned to them: it was gazing north to where the Captains of the West stood at bay... - LotR VI.3


I agree with you that Tolkien wished the Eye to be both metaphor for piercing metaphysical sight, and a physical expression of Sauron's re-embodiment such as Gollum testified to. I think the vision in the mirror is psychic, not literal, while the view of the window in the Dark Tower is a little (just a little) more literal, in that it is conceivable that Sauron actually sits at a window in his tower and looks out from it.

There is also the suggestion, I think, that Sauron's palantir is the device whereby his eye can actually see as far as the Wise say it does; when Frodo feels the Eye approaching him on Amon Hen, for instance, in the sense that he feels he is about to be seen, I have always interpreted that as his realization that Sauron is scanning the area using the palantir (rather than telepathy, say). Added to this is the idea that Sauron projects his actual will onto anyone he can see; again, a feature consistent with the way the palantir works. But none of it is an exact science, of course; that's just not Tolkien's way of imagining his world.

Lastly, I've always loved that the Eye that Frodo sees in the Mirror is a cat's eye, even though it belongs to Sauron's humanoid body. I believe that is one of the last remnants of Sauron's original imaginary incarnation in the Lost Tales as Tevildo, Prince of Cats!



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rangerfromthenorth
Rivendell

Oct 1 2013, 6:42pm

Post #4 of 37 (323 views)
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interesting [In reply to] Can't Post

So Squire you do believe then that Sauron was physically present during the time Frodo then?

I agree that the palantir probably assisted Sauron's far-reaching sight, but some of it surely comes from his Maiarness. I can remember Gandalf speaking of his own far reaching sight in the books too, but I do believe Sauron was probably more powerful than Gandalf in this respect, and in many others.

Not all those who wander are lost


rangerfromthenorth
Rivendell

Oct 1 2013, 6:46pm

Post #5 of 37 (323 views)
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defintely a Reading Room question... [In reply to] Can't Post

I was and am searching for thoughts on this subject from the book, I understand the concept in the Movies but I guess I searching for the reality in the actual world not the movie depiction.

Part of it though stems from the reality that I was introduced to Middle Earth via the Movies so I probably carried in many Jackson presuppositions to my reading of the stories. Hence why I asked the question here (seeking out those who probably read the books before seeing the movie) and I seem to be getting some good thoughts on the subject from both you and squire.

Not all those who wander are lost


Hamfast Gamgee
Gondor

Oct 2 2013, 12:57pm

Post #6 of 37 (302 views)
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I think I must be one of the few book fans [In reply to] Can't Post

That does think of Sauron as an eye. It does make sense to me, I have thought that Sauron's body as it were, was destroyed by Isildur when Isildur took the Ring and when Sauron recovered it was as an Eye. I wouldn't take Gollum as a reliable witness, frankly. Remember this is the person that thought that he had escaped from Mordor all by himself, I think it more likely that Gollum saw the Mouth of Sauron rather than Sauron himself. Which, coincidentally is another reason as to why I think that Sauron wasn't quite of humanoid form in the third age was that he needed someone like the Mouth of Sauron to do some of his duties.


Meneldor
Tol Eressea


Oct 2 2013, 2:18pm

Post #7 of 37 (260 views)
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So if he got his ring back, [In reply to] Can't Post

what would the eyeball do with it? Look at it? Wear it like a teeny little crown? Tongue


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.


rangerfromthenorth
Rivendell

Oct 2 2013, 3:50pm

Post #8 of 37 (252 views)
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that of course if the logical question [In reply to] Can't Post

what would have happened if Sauron got it back if he were an eye? Would you cast the ring into the eye and all of sudden Sauron would be back? Great question.

Not all those who wander are lost


acheron
Gondor


Oct 2 2013, 4:08pm

Post #9 of 37 (257 views)
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he doesn't need a physical body to use (or hold) the Ring [In reply to] Can't Post

Sauron is canonically disembodied after the destruction of Numenor, but his spirit is able to flee to Middle-earth, and, uh, re-embody.

I don't think it is specifically mentioned, but given the rest of the history, Sauron would have had the Ring with him on Numenor, and therefore brought it with him after the Akallabeth, while he was a spirit. So he can use and hold the Ring while disembodied, quod erat demonstrandum.

(That said, I do think it is fairly clear that he re-re-embodied during the time of LOTR, and not as a giant eyeball.)

For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much -- the wheel, New York, wars, and so on -- while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man, for precisely the same reasons. -- Douglas Adams


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Oct 2 2013, 4:10pm

Post #10 of 37 (254 views)
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I never really put much thought into his physical manifestation in the TA [In reply to] Can't Post

I had always thought that he was a dis-embodied spirit of malice, with no picture in my head. Though this would present its own problems.

How would he, as a spirit, wear the Ring?

Perhaps the proximity of it would increase his power, just enough, to assume a shape to take the Ring in a physical hand.

Slightly OT. I had always thought of dis-embodied Sauron, as a bit similar to the Ringwraiths. they have no physical presence, as such, and have mainly the power of fear and malice. Think of Sauron as a more psychological threat than physical. He manipulates others to do his bidding: orcs, goblins, trolls, Saruman, the RWs, and others. This thought suggested itself to me, when the WK didn't take the Ring from Frodo, but stabbed him with his Morgul Blade. He had no physical presence, and thus needed to manipulate Frodo to take the Ring to Sauron for him.

Just some thoughts.....


Brethil
Half-elven


Oct 2 2013, 4:23pm

Post #11 of 37 (247 views)
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True Acheron [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Sauron is canonically disembodied after the destruction of Numenor, but his spirit is able to flee to Middle-earth, and, uh, re-embody.

I don't think it is specifically mentioned, but given the rest of the history, Sauron would have had the Ring with him on Numenor, and therefore brought it with him after the Akallabeth, while he was a spirit. So he can use and hold the Ring while disembodied, quod erat demonstrandum.

(That said, I do think it is fairly clear that he re-re-embodied during the time of LOTR, and not as a giant eyeball.)




I *believe* I have read in Letters how he was not quite sure how to reconcile this, and that it just must be accepted (can't find it now, of course...but I am sure I have read it within the last few months.)

From a mechanical standpoint, if the Ring can transport weaker mortals into a spirit sort of plane (thus their invisibility and the seeing of the Firstborn on the other side) then maybe this is the realm the Ring at the point? So maybe in a spirit-plane sense it could somehow be with him in either a physical body or a spirit existence.

Its fan conjecture and fun for us I suppose, as I do not believe JRRT had quite worked that bit out.

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!

















Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Oct 2 2013, 5:09pm

Post #12 of 37 (244 views)
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I think there were two versions... [In reply to] Can't Post

One where Sauron left the Ring in Mordor, but later Tolkien changed the fact, so that Sauron could use the power of the ring to aid him in Numenor.

I cannot find the sources or citations ATM, but I am pretty sure of this. I am pretty busy today, but I will try to look later.


Brethil
Half-elven


Oct 2 2013, 5:16pm

Post #13 of 37 (240 views)
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I think so Rem [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
One where Sauron left the Ring in Mordor, but later Tolkien changed the fact, so that Sauron could use the power of the ring to aid him in Numenor.

I cannot find the sources or citations ATM, but I am pretty sure of this. I am pretty busy today, but I will try to look later.




(for some reason I recall too that he was afraid to leave it behind).

and the bit of the equation about how the Ring travelled with Sauron's spirit was a sticking point (wait, what was the middle part..?) LaughLaugh

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!

















rangerfromthenorth
Rivendell

Oct 2 2013, 6:47pm

Post #14 of 37 (229 views)
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On the Ringwraiths [In reply to] Can't Post

While the Ringwraiths were a kind of spiritual being with not the normal physical presence, they most definitely had a physical presence. Take for instance their riding of horses and fell beasts, or the very fact that the Witch King was holding a Morgul blade as he stabbed Frodo. So if he could hold a blade, I suppose he could have held a ring. At least, that seems to make sense to me.

Not all those who wander are lost


rangerfromthenorth
Rivendell

Oct 2 2013, 6:55pm

Post #15 of 37 (228 views)
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I believe i read somewhere [In reply to] Can't Post

That after the incident with the Numenoreans, Sauron took on a physical form but was no longer allowed to take on any other form besides his form as a dark lord because his "fair" disguise (that is afterall what his other incarnation was) was destroyed. He could only appear in the form of malice that he was. I do believe this has to do with the problem of spirits becoming incarnated, Tolkien wrote on this in one of his letters that if a Maia became an Orc chieftan and died he could not reincarnate himself but his spirit would be sent back out of Arda to face judgment. Of course, when Gandalf dies he goes to eru and is sent back to finish his job, he could not reincarnate himself, Maia do not possess such power see Saruman. But Sauron, thanks to his Ring, had an anchor in this world with which his spirit was tied. He could "reincarnate" himself with some effort, but not as easily as he was allowed to change shapes before his physical body died in the hull of a Numenorean ship. His death in incarnated form limited him in his process of reincarnation. Perhaps this happened again after isildur cut the ring from his hand. for his spirit did not just carry away the ring when his body died again...

Not all those who wander are lost

(This post was edited by rangerfromthenorth on Oct 2 2013, 7:00pm)


Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Oct 2 2013, 11:59pm

Post #16 of 37 (209 views)
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But if Gollum didn't see him... [In reply to] Can't Post

why would he say that he "has only four fingers on the black hand, but they are enough"? Why would the Mouth of Sauron have only four fingers on his hand? Being fooled about an escape (which I'm sure they made just hard enough to be convincing) is a very different thing from hallucinating a mutilated hand where none exists. That's quite specific and rather awful in its implications (it's spoken as a victim of torture who fears that hand and is never going to forget it).

No, I think Sauron had a form at this time, but a black, foul one which could no longer deceive anyone into thinking him anything other than he was, and the Eye is the embodiment of his perception and will, amplified and projected via palantir. The same word imagery, by the way, is used of the palantir of Minas Tirith. Denethor himself asks Gandalf "Do you think the eyes of the White Tower are blind?" We later find out that he's referring to the sight granted to him by the palantir. And because we see him in the flesh, nobody thinks he's referring to some disembodied eyes in the tower. The eyes are obviously his. The only difference is that none of the characters whose perspective is given in the book "see" Sauron himself...except Gollum.

I think Sauron does not want to show his hideous form. I rather think he was probably very proud of his beautiful appearance before and he's very angry and bitter that he can't look that way anymore. Also, it's a matter of pride and control. The great Lord does not do his errands or deliver his messages himself. That's what servants are for.

Silverlode

"Dark is the water of Kheled-zram, and cold are the springs of Kibil-nla, and fair were the many-pillared halls of Khazad-dm in Elder Days before the fall of mighty kings beneath the stone."



Eye's on Guard
Lorien


Oct 3 2013, 1:41am

Post #17 of 37 (198 views)
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Good question... [In reply to] Can't Post

Maybe I could use it as a monocle? Wink


ElendilTheShort
Gondor


Oct 3 2013, 10:01am

Post #18 of 37 (194 views)
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Beings of sufficient power could reimbody but it took time. [In reply to] Can't Post

Each reincarnation diminished them naturally, this is where Sauron's investment in the Ring paid off, as he would not diminish unless it was destroyed.

Gandalf is a special case, his return was immediately required due to the urgency of the situation hence Eru's intervention.

As an aside the action of G's reincarnation is proof of the importance of the matter of the War of the Ring. No other being in the mythology has been immediately reincarnated due to urgency, and the only two others that have been were allowed to do so through mercy, due to their great deeds, the tragedy of their situation, and perhaps the future importance of what they had achieved, being Beren and Luthien. G's reincarnation resulted in the final destruction of the last great physical manifestation of evil, allowing men to thrive and providing the final act causing the elves to leave ME for the Undying Lands


(This post was edited by ElendilTheShort on Oct 3 2013, 10:04am)


ElendilTheShort
Gondor


Oct 3 2013, 10:16am

Post #19 of 37 (190 views)
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Yes he had a form during the later TA [In reply to] Can't Post

He was not ashamed of it though as it was a form he had taken on previoysly during the SA after capturing the Gwaith I Mirdan (spelling??) and killing Celebrimbor, shooting his body full of arrows and using it as his banner. At this stage he no longer required the Annatar guise and it says in Unfinished Tales that his rage could not or was not hidden any longer. Whether he instantaneously changed forms or whether it took days, weeks or months is not clear. Remember Sauron by his nature was very powerful even for a Maia, much more so than any of the spirits that were incarnated as the Istari, plus he had his Ring which greatly increased his natural power, so it is not to be wondered that what he could achieve is significantly greater than what any others in ME at the time could do.


Lightfoot
Rivendell


Oct 3 2013, 1:07pm

Post #20 of 37 (204 views)
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I always wondered [In reply to] Can't Post

where his other eye went! I mean all you hear about is an eye singular- most people I have seen have two. Perhaps he is a Cyclops!?

Faithful servant yet master's bane,
Lightfoot's foal, swift Snowmane



squire
Valinor


Oct 3 2013, 5:33pm

Post #21 of 37 (180 views)
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"I've got my eye on you" "Give me a hand" "Leg it!" "Man the guns" [In reply to] Can't Post

Phrases like this are common enough in our language, where a pair or plural is referred to by a collective singular. I think Sauron may be thought of as having two eyes, despite the dire references to his extended powers of sight and perception as "the Eye".



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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Elthir
Gondor

Oct 3 2013, 5:47pm

Post #22 of 37 (189 views)
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Sauron's Third Age body [In reply to] Can't Post

Here's a few from Letters. Sorry I don't have the letter numbers here.

quote:
'In the contest with the Palantr Aragorn was the rightful owner. Also the contest took place at a distance, and in a tale which allows the incarnation of great spirits in a physical and destructible form their power must be far greater when actually physically present. Sauron should be thought of as very terrible. The form that he took was that of a Man of more than average 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.' JRRT
Surely Sauron is the incarnated 'great spirit' referred to here, but yet since he is at a distance during this struggle Aragorn also has this advantage. Tolkien writes elsewhere: 'I note your remarks about Sauron. He was always de-bodied when vanquished.' JRRT 1957

I take this to include his Third Age vanquishing. And that line begins a letter which talks about Sauron's body (the following quote is from the same letter). My emphasis of course.

quote:
' ... It was thus that Sauron appeared in this shape. It is mythologically supposed that when this shape was 'real', that is a physical actuality in the physical world and not a vision transferred from mind to mind, it took some time to build up. It was then destructible like other physical organisms. But that of course did not destroy the spirit, nor dismiss it from the world to which it was bound until the end. After the battle with Gilgalad and Elendil, Sauron took a long while to re-build, longer than he had done after the Downfall of Nmenor (I suppose because each building-up used up some of the inherent energy of the spirit, that might be called the 'will' or the effective link between the indestructible mind and being and the realization of its imagination). The impossibility of re-building after the destruction of the Ring, is sufficiently clear 'mythologically' in the present book.' JRRT
Note the impossibility of 're-building' after the 'destruction of the Ring' (not after having lost possession). In LOTR JRRT may have (wisely IMO) kept Sauron mainly 'offstage', but that doesn't mean he was but a spirit or incorporeal. See also Gollum's remark about Sauron's fingers, as mentioned.

quote:
'But they were still living on the borders of Myth -- or rather this story exhibits 'myth' passing into History or the Dominion of Men; for of course the Shadow will rise again in a sense (as is clearly foretold by Gandalf), but never again (unless it be before the great End) will an evil daemon be incarnate as a physical enemy; he will direct Men and all the complications of half-evils, ... ' JRRT
Also

quote:
'After which the Third Age began, a Twilight Age, a Medium Aevum, the first of the broken and change world; the last of the lingering dominion of visible fully incarnate Elves, and the last also in which Evil assumes a single dominant incarnate shape.' JRRT



Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Oct 4 2013, 1:39am

Post #23 of 37 (176 views)
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Just what I wanted to say!! [In reply to] Can't Post

Perfect!! I have been reading Letters, but couldn't find these references. Thank you!!


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Oct 4 2013, 5:09pm

Post #24 of 37 (145 views)
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Do you think it is significant that these sightings are both by Frodo? [In reply to] Can't Post

As a Ring-bearer, Frodo may be sense Sauron in a form other than his literal one. Maybe Sauron feels like a terrifyingly inescapable eye in some sense, even if he isn't literally a big eyeball.

A potential further, though controversial Eye sighting - Frodo in Rivendell

Quote
But low in the South one star shone red...Frodo could see it from his window, deep in the heavens, burning like a watchful eye...

..contrversial because there is no telling whether that's a regular astronomical sighting (I think Mars has been suggested) or whether Frodo is sensing something Sauronish. I certainly choose to enjoy that passage as a reminder that Frodo can't forget all about his quest, even in Rivendell. That works whether you think he's seeing saurons's Eye, a flicker of flame from Mount Doom, or even if he's seeing Mars or Betelgeuse or some other perfectly normal astronomical body that just happens to be creepily reminiscent of what he knows he's got to do.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowim I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


squire
Valinor


Oct 4 2013, 5:45pm

Post #25 of 37 (134 views)
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Of course [In reply to] Can't Post

The function of the Eye, in the context of the story as a whole, is to search for the Ring. Thus the Ringbearer is the one who perceives the Eye (although in the scene on Mt. Doom, the text seems to be from Sam's point of view as Frodo has withdrawn from the role of narrator by that point. But Sam is also sensitized to the Eye by then).

Following this analysis, we can object to the film's adoption of the Eye as Sauron's physical manifestation. We - the audience, the Army of the West, anybody in sightline of Barad-dur - see the Eye. That goes against what Tolkien intended by his powerful but selective choice of symbolism on this matter.

But as I said, in the film's defense, at least they didn't make it up out of nothing.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.

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