Mordor/Sauron aka The Evil of the Ring

A Theme for Mordor and the One Ring


MORDER/SAURON aka THE EVIL OF THE RING THEME, has two names and is assigned to two categories: Mordor and The One Ring. The theme represents "the Ring's "character... (and its) effect on the world." (Doug Adams, CR--FOTR liner notes, page 29) and "the most villainous inclinations of the Ring and for Mordor itself." (Doug Adams, CR--FOTR liner notes, page 9)

Since this music has been identified as Sauron's Theme from the inception of the site, I will continue to use that as the primary name.

In the ROTK, this theme gets mixed consistently with the History of the Ring theme to produce a hybrid. This happens in a variety of ways but often the melody of the History theme is tainted with the key of Sauron's theme and/or played with the reedy rhaita. Since Doug refers to this theme exclusively (by ROTK) as the Evil of the Ring, he calls it the History/Evil hybrid. Since I'm continuing to use the Sauron designation, I'll use History/Sauron hybrid.

This duality of names associated with this music illuminate in interesting difference in focus with regard to the 'Big Bad'. In the CR-TTT, the category of Mordor is not discussed, most certainly for space constraints. Therefore, the music is only identified in terms of the Ring, not in terms of Sauron. But in the ROTK, where I count the theme being used more than 20 times, Doug Adams consistently calls it the Evil of the Ring theme. Since this is one of the nastier pieces of thematic music in the movie and since, within the context of the plot, the Ring/Mordor/Sauron would out trump Isengard/Saruman as being the worst of two evils, to which category it is assigned seems to identify the Big Bad in slightly different ways. In one case, the Evil seems to be Sauron and the combined forces his realm, Mordor. In the other case, the Ring seems to out shadow its maker in importance. Sauron provides a faceless depiction of Evil but he is a person. The Ring is, for all intents and purposes, inanimate. I wrote this to a friend:

It's interesting that Doug is choosing to consistently identify the theme as 'Evil of the Ring' and not 'Sauron's Theme'. IMO, it makes the antagonist the Ring and not Sauron. It's considerably less personal to do so and I'm not sure it's the best choice. The Ring is the tool of Sauron. The Ring has not sent the troops to Minas Tirith. The Ring is not bringing darkness to the land (not a factor in movie since they chose not to feature that aspect). And Gondor and Rohan are not fighting to gain control of the Ring. It's Sauron who is the big, bad here... not the Ring. The Ring is Frodo's burden and the thing he is most concerned with. And the Fellowship knows they are buying time for Frodo to destroy it. But I don't think the thousands of regular folk know anything about the Ring. They just know someone - Sauron - is trying to destroy their world and they're fighting back.

It might be worth noting that my friend was not as bothered by this as I was which just points out we all have our own relationship to the story that we bring to every interaction we have in its regard. Of course, it should go without saying that I think it's a good thing that the story allows for this.



Places this theme is heard in FOTR:

  • During our first shot of Barad-Dur. This is right after Gandalf leaves the Shire to research the Ring. HS COMMENT

  • A phrase played as Arwen races with Frodo to the Ford of the Bruinen sounds like a variant of Sauron's Theme to me. (Just before we see the Ringwraiths chasing her)

  • As the members of the Council of Elrond are arguing over what will happen with the Ring and Frodo shows an uncomfortable reaction to the effect of the Ring. The Descending Third Theme is playing softly in the background

  • As Frodo is looking into Galadriel’s Mirror and sees the Shire on fire and Hobbits made slaves. The picture of the Shire is replaced by an image of the Eye of Sauron.

Places this theme is heard in TTT:

Places this theme is heard in the ROTK:

  • On the ROTK Soundtrack CD, Track 1 - A Storm is Coming, an unused cue toward the end of the track (~2:00 - end), there is a mix of a speeded up variant of the Seduction Theme, Sauron's Theme, and the Descending Third motif.  This was section was originally intended for the fight between Sméagol and Déagol (which doesn't contain any music in the movie).

  • Just after we hear Sauron call to Pippin through the palantír, "I see you." The palantír becomes energized and a struggle between the Will of Sauron and the Will of a Hobbit ensues. (EE version)

  • A quiet but menacing hybrid of the History of the Ring and Sauron's theme is heard as Pippin says, "He asked me my name. I didn't answer. He hurt me." and Gandalf shoots back, "What did you tell him about Frodo and the Ring?" (EE version)

  • Another quiet hybrid of Sauron and History of the Ring theme as Pippin and Gandalf look out from their balcony at Minas Tirith and see Mordor. Gandalf says, "Yes, there it lies. This city has dwelt ever in the sight of its shadow." (EE version)

  • The classic version of Sauron's theme plays over the Descending Third motif just after the beacon of Minas Morgul is lit. There's another brassy phrase played as the winged beast perched over the Minas Morgul gives a roar and the camera pans down to show the gates of the city opening and Orc troops marching out.

  • After Sam threatens Gollum that if, "one hair stands up on the back of my head, it's over. No more slinker. No more stinker. You're gone. Got it?", a very quick phrase of the Sauron/History hybrid plays as Sam replies to the inquiring Frodo as to what that was about, "Nothing, just clearing something up." (EE version)

  • A very quiet, almost seductive version of the Sauron/History hybrid plays as Denethor makes clear his wishes regarding the Ring. "It should have been brought back to the Citadel to be kept safe. Hidden. Dark and deep in the vaults, not to be used. Unless at the uttermost end of need." (EE version)

  • There's a hint of the Sauron/History hybrid just after Faramir goes to the fallen Denethor and calls, "Father". Denethor's eyes change from the anger he's directed toward Faramir to love... it's only a moment later we realize he's seeing the 'other' son. (see more below)

  • At 1:33 on Cirith Ungol - ROTK - Track 9 there's a quick phrase of the Sauron/History hybrid that would have been heard as Frodo and Gollum continue climbing up the stairs after Sam is told to go home.

  • A very aggressive, low brassy version of Sauron's theme is played over the Descending Third motif as Gothmog orders, "Bring up the wolf's head."

  • After Frodo stops his fight with Gollum in Shelob's lair when Gollum declares, "It was the precious. The precious made us do it." Frodo agrees and says he'll have to destroy the Ring for both their sakes. That doesn't sit well with Gollum who launches another attack on Frodo but falls into a crevice in the process.

  • As Grond assails the gate and Gandalf calls for a return, "Back to the Gates! Hurry", the music combines Sauron's Theme and the Gondor Theme and places it over the 5 Beat Pattern.

  • The rhaita returns with the classic version of the theme as Grond breaks through and Gandalf cries, "Steady! Steady!" It resumes a few moments later as the battle is brought inside the gate.

  • A very quiet, almost seductive version of the Sauron/History hybrid plays as Denethor makes ready a pyre in the Tomb of the Stewards.*

  • As Gandalf, declaring the city breeched, calls for retreat but also for all to fight for their lives. A woman's choir sings lyrics from On the Fields of the Pelennor using the Sauron/History hybrid as a melody.

  • Low brass plays a slight variant of the classic Sauron theme as the Black Gates of Mordor part and the Mouth of Sauron answers Aragorn's summons of the Dark Lord. (EE version)

  • A quick version of the Sauron/History hybrid plays on mid brass as Sam, stunned from the surprise attack of Gollum outside the Crack of Doom, gets up to see Frodo running into Sammath Naur.

  • There was music written for the moment at Mount Doom when Frodo is faced with finally destroying the Ring. He is standing at the brink and holding the Ring over the lava but he looks tormented. Sam pleads with him. "What are you waiting for? Just let it go? At that moment, the music drops out in the movie but what was scored for it was a final combination of the History of the Ring, the Seduction of the Ring, and the Evil of the Ring (Sauron's Theme). Frodo eyes fix on the Ring and his demeanor turns from tormented to focused... intent... rapt... determined.  As the twisted, slippery music comes to a quiet end, Frodo calmly turns back to Sam.. his mind decided. The music can be heard on the CR-ROTK, Disc 5, Track 1, Mount Doom, 0:51 - 1:25.

  • Just after Sam reaches down for the dangling Frodo and commands, "Give me your hand", we see the Ring sitting on the lava... the Elvish writing revealing itself. Three notes sound. Doug Adams writes in the AS-ROTK: The Ring’s themes attempt to collect themselves, the first pitches of History—or Evil—sliding glassily in the violins. Reduced to its quintessence, the Ring’s melodic line rises a half-step up-and-back-down. It is the antithesis of everything the Fellowship has represented. Through hours of music, the Fellowship’s whole-step down-and-back-up has come to represent Middle-earth’s honor. This, then, is everything it battles against—Middle-earth’s would-be nadir.

    A fellow soundtrack fan, Christian Kühn, wrote:

    I finally managed to "reduce" the trilogy to two sentences, for a (musically educated) friend who asked what this music is like. My answer:

    "Half-step vs. whole-step. And the whole-step wins!"

And so it does... the whole-step wins

A note re: the Sauron/History hybrid and Denethor. I wrote this while working on the themes:

There's a hint of the Sauron/History hybrid just after Faramir goes to the fallen Denethor and calls, "Father". Denethor's eyes change from the anger he's directed toward Faramir to love.... it's only a moment later we realize he's seeing the 'other' son. Does the Ring have something to do with this hallucination or does it hint at Sauron's influence via the Palantír or is it just Denethor's yearning for the Ring that is bending his mind toward hallucination? I've also noticed that Shore is using the Sauron/History hybrid to show Denethor's fascination and yearning for the Ring but not the Seduction Theme. I suspect he's saving the Seduction Theme for those in direct contact with the Ring.