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Old 12-22-2013, 09:51 PM   #1
Nikkolas
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Mightiest of the Maiar?

Well I just found this....
"Sauron was as near an approach to the wholly evil will as is possible. Yet he had begun well, at least on the level of desiring to order all things according to his own wisdom. But he went further than any human tyrant in pride and lust for domination, being in origin an immortal spirit, of the same kind as Gandalf and Saruman but of a far higher order."

Seems to me Tolkien is saying here in no uncertain terms that Sauron as a being was innately much greater and more powerful than Curumo and Olorin.

So then was Sauron the strongest Maia? Or was perhaps someone like Melian even better?
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Old 12-23-2013, 02:09 AM   #2
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You elided the quotation from Letters 183. The phrase you have highlighted is actually a footnote to this sentence,
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But [Sauron] went further than human tyrants in pride and the lust for domination, being in origin an immortal (angelic) spirit.*

* Of the same kind as Gandalf and Saruman, but of a far higher order.
Tolkien indicates in several places in his writings that there are greater and lesser Maiar, just as some Valar were greater than others. And in Manws Council of the Valar for determining how to respond to Saurons rising might in the Third Age, when Manw commands Olrin [Gandalf] to accompany Curumo and the other Maiar as emissaries to Middle-earth to help Elves, Men and Dwarves resist Sauron, Olrin initially objects that he is afraid of Sauron.

(That is all I can contribute to the forum, and only because it is Christmas and so vacation. Merry Christmas to The Barrow Downs.)
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Old 12-23-2013, 02:13 AM   #3
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So then was Sauron the strongest Maia? Or was perhaps someone like Melian even better?
While I've seen some suggestions that Sauron was the mightiest Maia, I don't think there's any definitive evidence to that effect. I think some people like the idea that Sauron might have been to the Maiar as Morgoth was to the Valar, but it's not really something which I think can be substantiated.

In lieu of an absolutely certain answer, I would argue that onw and Ilmar were probably the mightiest of the Maiar simply because they were their Chiefs and the immediate servants of Manw and Varda. However, their rank is hardly proof of their power, Melkor being originally most powerful of the Ainur despite Manw being the leader.

That being said, I personally perceive Sauron being among Maiar of near-Vala stature along with the aforementioned chiefs, as well as other powerful Maiar like Melian, Oss and Uinen. Perhaps Sauron originally occupied within the household of Aul a similar position of eminence to that of onw, Ilmar, Oss and Uinen in the service of their respective Valar - albeit, I would argue, not the highest among Aul's folk, as I think we would have been told if he was.
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Old 12-23-2013, 08:40 AM   #4
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"Might" is such a subjective term.

Physically, I think Enw may be argued to have the most physical power, as he is said in The Simarillion to be unsurpassed in arms by "any in Arda".

From a standpoint of wisdom, Olrin was confirmed as "the wisest".

Sauron was said to be the greatest servant of Melkor given a name, that is, known enough to the Eldar to have been named. But that leaves open the possibility that Sauron was not the most gifted of Melkor's vassals.
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Old 12-23-2013, 06:44 PM   #5
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Agreed. We must be careful not to equate "position" (rank in the valinorean stature) with "might" or "power" in combat.

For example, it is clearly stated (in the Valaquenta), wrt the Valar, that "Greatest in strength and deeds or prowess in Tulkas", and also that Orome is "less strong than Tulkas" - and yet Tulkas is named last among the Lords of the Valar in Order.
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Old 12-24-2013, 04:21 PM   #6
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Physically, I think Enw may be argued to have the most physical power, as he is said in The Simarillion to be unsurpassed in arms by "any in Arda".~Inzil
Right, and if we are talking physical might I would not put Sauron at the top, because the times when he has gone into combat, he's lost or been killed. Granted he apparently took on Elendil and Gil-galad at the same time, but he was killed nonetheless.

And The Silmarillion says that Sauron is the greatest of Morgoth's servants, but that is an important qualifier.

Tolkien writes Sauron was wiser than Melkor and understood more of the Music as well. So, he has that going for him even though Olorin is counted as the "wisest" of the Maiar.

I think Sauron's greatest might, and I can't think of a better word for it than this, is spiritual. That is he was a master of bulldozing others' free wills and making his servants' wills act in accordance to his will. Corrupting Ar-Pharazon and he pretty much got an entire island destroyed without lifting a weapon. The Ringwraiths were completely enslaved to his will and even with the orcs he managed to organize and control them to a greater extent than Morgoth.
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Old 12-25-2013, 10:22 PM   #7
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Melkor being originally most powerful of the Ainur despite Manw being the leader.
Not only that. In the beginning he was stronger than all their combined strength, "so great was the power of his uprising that in ages forgotten he contended with Manw and all the Valar" [Sil, p. 26].

Sauron himself was known as Melkor's mightiest servant, not the mightiest of the Maiar. I'm not sure we can gauge the power of most of the Maiar since few are known even to the Elves for they tended to remain hidden, that is, unclad. Some were almost as great as the Valar as is said, so there were quite powerful ones. Of the chief ones known, Manw's banner-bearer is said to be "surpassed by none in Arda" [p. 24] in might of arms.

Also with Melkor it seems with each succeeding capture he is taken captive by lesser and lesser spirits. First it was against the Valar and then Tulkas took him in. Then at the end of the First Age he was taken in by a Maia, Enw! This further shows how much his power was spent when in the beginning he could go against all the Valar on his own.
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Old 12-25-2013, 10:27 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
Sauron was not the most gifted of Melkor's vassals.
Perhaps, but it is also said, "In all the deeds of Melkor the Morgoth upon Arda, in his vasts works and in the deceits of his cunning, Sauron had a part". [Sil, p. 26]
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Old 12-25-2013, 10:43 PM   #9
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Agreed. We must be careful not to equate "position" (rank in the valinorean stature) with "might" or "power" in combat.

For example, it is clearly stated (in the Valaquenta), wrt the Valar, that "Greatest in strength and deeds or prowess in Tulkas", and also that Orome is "less strong than Tulkas" - and yet Tulkas is named last among the Lords of the Valar in Order.
I think in that first list the order is not necessarily who is the greatest power overall in order, but there is a 2nd list on which Tulkas is not included that starts with the sentence, "Nine were of chief power and reverence... the High Ones of Arda: Manw and Varda, Ulmo, Yavanna and Aul, Mandos, Nienna, and Orom... in majesty they are peers, surpassing beyond compare all others, whether of the Valar and the Maiar, or of any other order that Ilvatar has sent into Ea." [Sil, p. 23]

So what does "less strong" mean between Tulkas and Orom when clearly the latter is supposed to be one of the 9 greatest beings in Arda. I do not know. Like the Greek gods Zeus, Hades, and Poseiden these Nine are all peers in majesty, although not necessarily in practice as Manw is King and the strongest, as was Zeus.
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Old 12-27-2013, 07:32 PM   #10
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Sauron was more powerful than Gandalf and Saruman, but I don't believe he was the most powerful of the Maiar. Eonwe and Arien are implied to be mightier than anything Morgoth has to offer.
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Old 12-28-2013, 01:18 PM   #11
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It's worth mentioning the antiquarian perspective- that in the Old Dispensation Tolkien included some later Maiar among the Valar (e.g. Osse); and also postulated Children of the Valar, specifically Fionwe (> Eonwe), and Kosomot (= Gothmog) son of Morgoth! So, was Gothmog even mightier than Sauron?
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Old 12-28-2013, 01:35 PM   #12
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It's worth mentioning the antiquarian perspective- that in the Old Dispensation Tolkien included some later Maiar among the Valar (e.g. Osse); and also postulated Children of the Valar, specifically Fionwe (> Eonwe), and Kosomot (= Gothmog) son of Morgoth! So, was Gothmog even mightier than Sauron?
No it's said in more than one place that Sauron was the mightiest of the maia that followed Morgoth.
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Old 12-28-2013, 01:37 PM   #13
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Sauron was more powerful than Gandalf and Saruman, but I don't believe he was the most powerful of the Maiar. Eonwe and Arien are implied to be mightier than anything Morgoth has to offer.
You dont provide any evidence for your belief about Saruman other than that it is your belief. Same for Enw and rien. Individual unsupported belief is not a valid argument.

Tolkien also indicates that all comments about rien are part of the Mannish Silmarillion tradition, and so not necessarily true.
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Old 12-28-2013, 02:00 PM   #14
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You dont provide any evidence for your belief about Saruman other than that it is your belief. Same for Enw and rien. Individual unsupported belief is not a valid argument.

Tolkien also indicates that all comments about rien are part of the Mannish Silmarillion tradition, and so not necessarily true.
Just, because something was part of the Mannish version of the Silmarilien does not mean it does not have some truth. In every account Arien is an incredibly powerful Maia and either fights off the forces Morgoth sends or ends up burning him for life.

As for Eonwe he is called the mightiest in arms out of the Valar. He is Manwe's personal herald and was in charge of the War of Wrath. At present I don't have all my books, but there are plenty of quotes supporting these statements.
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