[Sauron] perceived that the power and majesty of the Kings of the Sea surpassed all rumour of them, so that he could not trust even the greatest of his servants to withstand them; and he saw not his time yet to work his will with the Dúnedain. . .Therefore he humbled himself before Ar-Pharazôn and smoothed his tongue; and men wondered, for all that he said seemed fair and wise.(The Silmarillion, 270-271)
This is my 3rd post on “Akallabêth”, the chronicle of Númenor and the Second Age. The Silmarillion proper comes to an end with the downfall of Morgoth which ends the First Age of Middle-earth. The Second Age immediately follows, the age of that great civilization of men, Númenor. It is also the age in which Sauron assumes the mantle of “chief bad guy” and in which the stage is set for much of the backstory of The Lord of the Rings.
In my first post on “Akallabêth” I examined Tolkien’s thoughts on the key themes of the Second Age. In the second post, I took a look at the establishment of Númenor and its relationship with the Blessed Realm. With the great kingdom now established, Sauron is working to exploit the Númenoreans’ growing distrust of the Valar and the Elves.
Break with the Valar and the Elves: As the Númenoreans give themselves evermore over to the fear of death, they begin to not only distrust but to despise the Valar and the Elves.
Sauron’s Surrender: Sauron, seeing that he is outnumbered at the moment, knows that time is on his side, and so feigns surrender and repentance. However, this allows him to get even closer to where he truly wants to be – inside the heads of the Númenoreans.
A False Religion: Now living in the heart of Númenor, Sauron establishes a sort of “cult of Morgoth” that concocts horrible new evils.
Sauron’s Malice: Like his Lord in the First Age, Sauron forever bears a sort of psychopathic grudge against those who have humiliated him. He will go to great lengths to defile and destroy the Númenoreans.
The Faithful: In this time, the elf-friend remnant among the Númenoreans grows ever smaller and suffers persecution, and comes to be known as “The Faithful.”
Suspicious Minds: Sauron, in the guise of a true-friend, exploits the Númenoreans’ fear of death agains the Elves and the Valar, much like Morgoth exploited Fëanor’s frustrations just before the destruction of the Two Trees.
Sauron’s Spite: And Sauron hated the Númenóreans, because of the deeds of their fathers and their ancient alliance with the Elves and allegiance to the Valar; nor did he forget the aid that Tar-Minastir had rendered to Gil-galad of old, in that time when the One Ring was forged and there was war between Sauron and the Elves in Eriador. Now he learned that the kings of Númenor had increased in power and splendour, and he hated them the more; and he feared them, lest they should invade his lands and wrest from him the dominion of the East. But for a long time he did not dare to challenge the Lords of the Sea, and he withdrew from the coasts.267
The False Prophet: For now, having the ears of men, Sauron with many arguments gainsaid all that the Valar had taught; and he bade men think that in the world, in the east and even in the west, there lay yet many seas and many lands for their winning, wherein was wealth uncounted. And still, if they should at the last come to the end of those lands and seas, beyond all lay the Ancient Darkness. ‘And out of it the world was made. For Darkness alone is worshipful, and the Lord thereof may yet make other worlds to be gifts to those that serve him, so that the increase of their power shall find no end.’271
Worshipping the Darkness: Then Ar-Pharazôn the King turned back to the worship of the Dark, and of Melkor the Lord thereof, at first in secret, but ere long openly and in the face of his people; and they for the most part followed him.272