Mouth of Sauron

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Mouth of Sauron
(True Name Unknown)
Tolkien's legendarium character
Aliases Lieutenant of Barad-dûr
Messenger of Mordor
Race Men (Black Númenóreans)
Book(s) The Return of the King

The Mouth of Sauron is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. He appears in The Lord of the Rings — specifically in the chapter "The Black Gate Opens" in the third volume, The Return of the King — as the chief emissary of Sauron.

He belonged to the race of the Black Númenóreans and briefly appeared in person when he haggled with the Army of the West in front of the Black Gate (Morannon in Elvish), trying to convince Aragorn and Gandalf to give up and let Sauron win the war for Middle-earth. When Gandalf turned his proposal down, the Mouth of Sauron sets all the armies of Mordor to attack them.

Also known as the Lieutenant of Barad-dûr, he had served Sauron for much of his life, learning great sorcery but forgetting his own name. As the Mouth of Sauron, "he entered the service of the Dark Tower when it first rose again". There is some dispute over the length of time this implies. If it refers to Sauron's most recent return to Mordor, the Mouth of Sauron would have served Sauron for some 68 years when he encountered Aragorn and Gandalf. But some have theorized[citation needed] that since Mordor "first rose again" during Sauron's return shortly after the destruction of Númenor, the Mouth of Sauron may be well over 3000 years old. This is unlikely since no mortal could live that long, and Tolkien says explicitly that he was a living man and not a wraith.

The Mouth uses Sauron's name although Aragorn states earlier in the second volume, The Two Towers, that Sauron does not "use his right name, nor permit it to be spelt or spoken".[1] (Similarly, in "The Council of Elrond", Glóin describes a messenger who speaks of "Sauron the Great".) Christopher Tolkien conjectured that this inconsistency can be understood in terms of Aragorn's information being out of date, relating to Sauron's previously hidden identity.[citation needed]

Concept and creation[edit]

The appearance and the arrogance of the Mouth of Sauron before the Army of the West has been described as showing Biblical influences. The character matches the description of the False Prophet in the Book of Revelation, speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and is reminiscent of Saint Paul's comments in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians where he describes his public humiliation by the enemy.[2]

War and analogies to World War II in particular are another theme that has been identified in the Mouth of Sauron. Gandalf's refusal to negotiate with the Mouth, a mere emissary of Sauron, has been seen as an echo of Churchill's position in World War II[3] while the Mouth's offer of a peace in slavery has been compared to Vichy France under German occupation.[4]

In adaptations[edit]

The Mouth of Sauron as depicted in the 1980 animated film The Return of the King

The Mouth of Sauron is featured in the 1980 animated version of The Return of the King produced by Rankin/Bass and was voiced by Don Messick. He rides out briefly with a single companion and makes no mention of Frodo's capture.

The Mouth of Sauron as he appears in the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

In the 2001–03 The Lord of the Rings film trilogy by Peter Jackson, the Mouth of Sauron does not appear in the theatrical cut of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, but he does appear in the extended version, riding out alone to meet Aragorn and his party. He is played by a virtually unrecognisable Bruce Spence, with the words lammen gorthaur (Sindarin for "Voice of the Dread Abomination"; i.e., "Voice of Sauron") in Cirth runes written on his helmet. His helmet covers his entire face except for his mouth (which is inconsistent with the book, where Aragorn meets his gaze), which is horribly diseased and disfigured. His mouth is also disproportionately large, creating an unsettling effect. This change was made digitally, long after the footage had been shot. After Jackson rejected the idea of turning the mouth sideways to appear vertical on the face, the designers came up with the idea of rendering it twice as large as the original.[5]

The extended DVD cast commentary mentions that Jackson considered different depictions of the character, such as having Kate Winslet (who starred in Heavenly Creatures, another Jackson film) play the role, partially to emphasise the temptations Aragorn was facing. When discussing Bruce Spence's costuming in the final version, the design team explained that their interpretation of the Mouth of Sauron was that he was something of a high-ranking priest in the Morgoth-worshipping cult that Sauron promoted in his domain. Therefore, combined with his role as an ambassador and herald, he has an ornate costume consisting of priest-like robes and stylized helmet which covers his entire face – including his eyes – except for his mouth. The design team speculates that he is probably blind, but his role as Sauron's "mouthpiece" is so specialized that this does not concern him. Further, his lips are cracked and blackened, with rotting teeth, to hint that Sauron's very words are so evil that simply repeating them causes his mouth to decay.

According to designer Walter Mahy, the original design for the Mouth of Sauron's costume had the helmet hooked directly into the mouth, pulling it permanently open. This did not work out as it made it impossible for the actor to speak. However, Peter Jackson liked the idea of the robe flowing up into the helmet and this was retained for the final version.[6]

In another departure from the text, Aragorn refuses to believe the emissary's insinuation that Sauron has recovered the Ring, and decapitates him with Andúril; whereas in the book, the Mouth of Sauron claims diplomatic immunity, saying "I am a herald and ambassador and may not be assailed!" Gandalf observes pointedly that he has not been threatened.[7] The Mouth of Sauron also says that Frodo suffered a slow and painful death from Sauron, whereas in the book, he claims that Frodo is alive and being tortured by Sauron, and agrees to let him go if the Fellowship surrenders to Sauron.

Jackson said that he had cut the encounter from the theatrical version due to its lack of effect; he commented that in the book it was dramatic since the reader does not know Frodo Baggins' fate, but in the film the audience knows that both Frodo and Samwise Gamgee are alive. Once the Mouth is beheaded, his horse and body are not visible in the following shot as Sauron's armies of Orcs march through the Black Gate, even though Aragorn's sword is visibly stained with his blood.

He is also featured in EA Games' The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King video game, and Warner Brothers' The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest as a boss character the player must defeat, in both games he appears in the level "The Black Gate". He is also a playable villain in The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II, The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (GBA), The Lord of the Rings: Conquest, and Lego The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), "The Departure of Boromir", ISBN 0-395-08254-4 
  2. ^ Morse, Robert E. (2002). Bilbo's Birthday and Frodo's Adventure of Faith. iUniverse. pp. 134–135. ISBN 0-595-21935-7. 
  3. ^ Timmons, Daniel (2006). Croft, Janet Brennan, ed. Tolkien and Shakespeare: essays on shared themes and language. McFarland & Co. p. 87. ISBN 0-7864-2827-9. 
  4. ^ Shippey, Tom (1983). The Road to Middle-earth. Houghton-Mifflin. p. 116. ISBN 0-395-33973-1. 
  5. ^ Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens (2004). Director/Writers' Special Extended Edition commentary (DVD). New Line Cinema.
  6. ^ Russell, Gary (2004). The Art Of The Lord Of The Rings. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 187. ISBN 978-0-618-51083-2. 
  7. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), "The Black Gate Opens", ISBN 0-395-08256-0 

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