Did Peter Jackson get the Great Eye of Sauron wrong?

Dr Zaius

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May 1, 2001
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The debate among Tolkien fans over whether Peter Jackson depicted Sauron wrong in the Lord of the Rings films continues, and here's some interesting information from Wikipedia concerning Sauron and how he should have been.

There is plenty of evidence supporting the notion that Tolkien never intended Sauron to be thought of a great disembodied eye. Although Sauron's power was diminished from that which he originally possessed during the First Age and Second Ages, and he did spend a long time unable to manifest as he previously had, his form was still supposed to be roughly humanoid. During those earlier ages he frequently changed into monstrous forms for various purposes (such as a vampire or werewolf), but his native form was beautiful and angelic. His first incarnation after the fall of Númenor was exceedingly hideous, and his skin burned like black fire. If fact, so dangerous was Sauron's physical form that the greatest of the Elvin captains, Gil-galad, perished from Sauron's heat.

And, unlike the movies, Sauron didn't sit atop the tower of Barad-dur where he could be easily observed by everyone for miles around. Instead, Tolkien describes the tower of Barad-dur as an incredibly huge fortress, with Sauron peering out from a window in the highest chamber, his presence so terrible that it could be felt almost as a crushing physical force of pure hatred almost 30 miles away. But he was not supposed to be just a giant eye; rather the "Great Eye" or the "Lidless Eye" was intended to be a metaphorical term to convey where his attention was directed at any given time. Even among the mighty during the First and Second Age, few could withstand Sauron's daunting eyes when brought into his presence.

Check out the section on 'Appearance' and 'Eye of Sauron' here. A good case can be made that Jackson probably got a bit too literal with the references to the Great Eye. It probably would have been easier to depict Sauron as a dreadful and mysterious entity of hate incarnate had he remained cloaked within the tower. The eye could still have been used with effect in those scenes where Sauron's attention was fixed on Frodo or Aragorn from far, far away.

Sometimes less really is more.