I’ve seen many writers (from Michael Moorcock to the present) comment on Sauron as an embodiment of evil, lacking motivation. While I agree that he is hardly a psychologically-realized character in the modern sense, I don’t know that Sauron’s motivation is all that mysterious — at least in the books. He wants to be worshipped. In the Black Years and in the Akallabeth, he sets himself up as a god, holding out promises of immortality, promises the Ringwraiths foolishly accept. He wants a world of subjugated, worshipful slaves whose history he has rewritten for them. His Ring was crafted as a device for controlling other’s minds and perceptions, governing what they could and could not see, so as to make them easily bent to his will while remaining unaware of that bending of their minds; his seizure of the Seeing Stones achieves a similar purpose on a far smaller scale. He wants to see everything, survey everything, watch and monitor everything, while making himself and his rule the only thing that others see or are capable of seeing. He wants to be a god. And he expects to achieve that aim by acting as a prison warden watching the world from the top of his iron, panoptical tower, in which all the world are his prisoners (as opposed to the “Free Peoples” of Middle-Earth) and are, in the end, crushed and manuevered into feeling that it is but natural to be his prisoners. He is part Stalin, part NSA, part theocratic dictator.
In other words, now that The Lord of the Rings is over and Mordor crumbled into ruin, Sauron could probably get a backup job as either the next lord dictator of Uzbekistan or the chair of a national or global surveillance organization, positions for which he is eminently qualified both psychologically and professionally.
Note: My argument here is indebted to the writings of Tolkien scholar Andrew Hallam, who is also a good friend. His writings on Sauron and the Ring have shaped my own thinking about The Lord of the Rings over the years.
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