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Sauron is Watching You: The Role of the Great Eye in the Lord of the Rings
by Edward Lense, September 1976.
Sauron is Watching You: The Role of the Great Eye in the Lord of the Rings by Edward Lense, September 1976.

Sauron is Watching You:

The Role of the Great Eye in the Lord of the Rings.

by Edward Lense.

One of the greatest strengths of The Lord of the Rings is Tolkien's use of figures from Celtic and Nordic mythologies as inhabitants of his secondary world. Dwarves, Elves, Wizards, and even Orcs seem almost familiar compared to such beings as Shelob or Treebeard; they form a bridge between the traditions of the primary world and the realities of Tolkien's secondary world. However, Tolkien did not confine himself to such well-known figures. He was, as a Medievalist, familiar with many more arcane legendary characters, so well-acquainted with them that his imagination could work on them as naturally as if he talked to them every day.

Beorn in The Hobbit, for example, is a character in his own right, and never seems to be an echo of Norse mythology; in any case, Tolkien has imagined him so thoroughly that even when a reader is aware of his origin he remains a living character. Sauron, too, is not a figure from mythology under a new name, but a character imagined by Tolkien; nonetheless, it is clear that he is modelled on Balor of the Evil Eye, one of the most unpleasant figures in Celtic mythology, whom he closely resembles In almost every way.

It seems unlikely that Tolkien intended his readers to recognize Balor in the character of Sauron, since such a recognition adds little to the story. It is more likely that the Irish legends about Balor "inspired" Tolkien by giving him the images he needed to build up his own figure of absolute evil. In particular, tradition gave Tolkien the Evil Eye, the most striking feature of both Balor and Sauron.

Further, the Great Eye and its lesser counterparts served him as convincing emblems of evil (all the negative characters have really nasty eyes), and as a way of creating a strong sense of dread throughout the work. Burning and baleful eyes, copies of Sauron's Great Eye, are everywhere, and, naturally, make the good characters very nervous; the sense of being constantly watched by terrible eyes is an important part of the texture of life in Middle-earth.

Balor of the Evil Eye arrives at Moytura.
Balor of the Evil Eye arrives at the Second Battle of Moytura. Illustration, from Slaine: The Horned God © Simon Bisley.

Sauron's (or Balor's) Eye is, then, both a link to Celtic myth and the centre of one of the most pervasive and compelling patterns of imagery in The Lord of the Rings. Balor is a central character in the oldest forms of Celtic (especially Irish) mythology, but he is almost as elusive a figure as Sauron himself, since he is mentioned only occasionally in the sagas. He was a king of the Formoire, an evil race who ruled Ireland until they were defeated by the Tuatha Dé Danann, a godlike race who strongly resemble Tolkien's Elves.

The Formoire in general were a great deal like Sauron as he appeared in the Third Age; that is, they were evil spirits who took on hideously deformed bodies. Although the legends about them are fragmentary and confused, one thing is clear: every Formorian had one arm, one leg, and one eye. The only physical representation of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings, a bust executed by the Orcs and put on an old statue, looks exactly like the head of a Formorian:

Its (the statue’s) head was gone, and in its place was set in mockery a round rough-hewn atone, rudely painted by savage hands in the likeness of a grinning face with one large red eye in the midst of its forehead.

The Return of the King, J. R. R. Tolkien.

This is not the only way in which Sauron resembles the Formoire. That race lived in deformed bodies because they were evil, and the reason Sauron is so horrible to look at is the same. His outward form, which can only be guessed at aside from the Eye, reflects his true nature in a way that his original, beautiful body did not:

Sauron was indeed caught in the wreck of Numener, so that the bodily form in which he long had walked perished; but he fled back to Middle~earth, a spirit of hatred borne upon a dark wind, He was unable ever again to assume a form that seemed fair to men, but became black and hideous, and his power thereafter was through terror alone.

This change resembles that of Doré's illustrations for Paradise Lost, in which Satan visibly decays from an archangel to the kind of hideous shape that Sauron and Balor share with him.

The opening scene from Peter Jackson's version of the Lord of the Rings. Sauron = Balor and the Ring = the Evil Eye. Tolkein was deeply versed in many mythologies and knew the Irish myths intimately.

Aside from his physical resemblance to Balor and the Formoire, Sauron is the ruler of a land much like theirs, Mordor is, essentially, a Celtic hell to match the Celtic heaven of the Uttermost West. Several critics have already pointed out that the Undying Lands are based on Tír na nÓg, the Land of Youth, the Celtic Earthly Paradise that lies in the Atlantic, i.e., in the farthest West. While not strictly a supernatural realm like Valinor, Mordor has, nonetheless, all the marks of the traditional Land of the Dead as A.C. L. Brown describes it:

Some distinguishing marks of the tower of the dead in European tradition are known. It is made of glass or iron; it has iron doors; it is occasionally adorned with human heads stuck on pikes; it is beyond a terrible river or is cut off by marshes or thickets.

The marshes in this case are the Dead Marshes, which, as you would expect, are haunted by the ghosts of warriors slain in battle. They form the barrier that heroes must cross to get into the supernatural realm, and, like Mordor itself, they are physically real and part of this world, yet full of a power that makes them otherworldly at the same time, like Lothlérien and Imladris. The tower of the dead is represented both by Minas Morgul with its wavering corpse-light and revolving turret, and, of course, the Dark Tower, the “mountains of iron’ in the heart of Mordor. In any case, topography is not the only sign that Mordor is a land of the dead: even though it is peopled with living men from the South and East and with Orcs, its rulers are spirits of the dead. Sauron himself has died twice already and is hardly in this world at all, and his chief servants, the Nazgul, are, like the barrow-wight and the oath-breakers, dead men under powerful spells, Tolkien even uses the word “undead" in reference to the Captain of the Ringwraiths.

Shee Lugh sunset midsummer
A Moytura sunset: summer solstice viewed from the passage-grave called Shee Lugh. The sun is dropping behind Knocknarea.

It appears that Sauron's deformed body and his role as king of the land of the dead make him analogous to a king of the Formoire like Balor, who ruled the dead from a tower of glass, But the definitive link between then is the evil eye. Brown thought of Balor as “a personification of the evil eye or of death," and the evil eye is certainly the most formidable thing about him. The Irish saga of “The Second Battle of Moytura" describes it as something of an ultimate weapon:

An evil eye had Balor. That eye was never opened save only on a battle-field. Four men used to lift up the lid of the eye with a polished handle through the lid. If an army looked at that eye, though they were many thousands in number they could not resist (a few) warriors.

This eye, even allowing for the hyperbole of Celtic sagas, is obviously supernatural, like Sauron’s. It was also the source of Balor's strength, and the evil power that made the Formoire successful in battle. When Balor died, killed by a stone slung through the eye, his army disintegrated—prodded along by the way the eye came out the back of Balor’s head and killed twenty-seven of his own warriors. The effect is much the same as when Sauron's army scattered after the last battle at the Black Gate.

Balor of the Evil Eye arrives at Moytura.
Balor of the Evil Eye. Illustration © Jim Fitzpatrick.

The basic way in which Tolkien drew on Balor of the Evil Eye for Sauron the Great is quite clear, and, as I have mentioned, it is hardly surprising that he should have used such a model given his deep learning in Celtic mythology and his ability to see legendary figures as living beings, But the post interesting thing about this borrowing and reworking is not the ways in which Sauron resembles Balor but rather the Ways in which, through Tolkien's imaginative use of his source, Sauron transcends Balor as a figure of primal evil. The difference between them is clear if you compare Balor's eye with the eye that appears in Galadriel's mirror:

But suddenly the Mirror want altogether dark, as dark as if a hole had opened in the world of sight, and Frodo looked into emptiness. In the Black abyss there appeared a single Eye that slowly grow, until it filled nearly all the Mirror, So terrible was it that Frodo stood rooted, unable to cry out or to withdrew his gaze. The Eye was rimmed with fire, but was itself glazed, yellow as a cat’s, watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing.

The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien.

Sauron's Eye is “terrible,” but it is not terrible merely because it is a weapon (although it is a powerful weapon): rather, it is a “window into nothing," the opening into the abyss, an emblem of ultimate despair. He and the other evil beings of the work are eaten up with hatred of the living: damned themselves, they want to be avenged for their fall by dragging the rest of the world down with them. The fire or the cold light of their eyes is Tolkien's (very traditional) way of expressing their rage and hatred. Sauron's Eye is so much worse than Balor’s, then, because Balor is merely a figure of death, Sauron of damnation, That is why when Frodo felt the Eye as he stood on Amon Hen, hundreds of miles from Mordor, he “lost all hope": facing Balor’s eye in a battle must have been unnerving as well as dangerous, but facing Sauron's despair and his power at the same time would be immeasurably worse.

The view to Heapstown cairn and Knocknashee from Shee Lugh.
The view to Heapstown cairn and Knocknashee from the passage-grave called Shee Lugh.

The Lidless Eye

Sauron is utterly cruel, and the Eye is also an emblem of that cruelty, itself part of his despair, The Captain of the Nazgul uses its terror to threaten Éowyn before the gates of Minas Tirith:

Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind left naked to the Lidless Eye.

The Return of the King, J. R. R. Tolkien.

All of Sauron’s malice is concentrated in the image of the Lidless Eye. In this case the eye is an instrument of torture; in the Mirror of Galadriel it shows intense anxiety, as it restlessly seeks out Galadriel to destroy her. When Frodo feels it on Amon Hen, he is aware of the same destructive will:

And suddenly he felt the Eye. There was an eye in the Dark Tower that did not sleep. He knew that it had become aware of his gaze. A fierce eager will was there. It leaped towards him; almost like a finger he felt it, searching for him.

The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien.

But, most of all, the Eye embodies Sauron’s power. It can search out Frodo from hundreds of miles away, and “leap towards him” so effectively that its presence is almost palpable; its great power is even more evident when Frodo feels it again in the Dead Marshes on the borders of Sauron’s realm:

The Eye: that growing sense of hostile will that strove with great power to pierce all shadows of cloud, and earth, and flesh, and to see you: to pin you under its deadly gaze, naked, immovable.

The Two Towers, J. R. R. Tolkien.

This image, which occurs several times in the work, is already a great expansion on Balor's eye: Tolkien has transformed it from a straightforward emblem of death into a compelling symbol of power and hatred, a piercing force that wants to strip its enemies naked and destroy them. Had he left it at that, it would have been a convincing expression of Sauron‘s evil will. But he went on to tie almost all of the evil beings of Middle-earth together by giving them lesser versions of the Great Eye, so that a reader is confronted with its terrible image again and again in many different forms.

Nuada and the Deamon of Death by Jim Fitzpatrick.
Nuada and the Demon of Death, illustration © Jim Fitzpatrick.

Sauron's eye is burning, “rimmed with fire," and so are the eyes of other evil creatures, no doubt because they feel something of his rage. Grishnakh, for example, though he is merely an orc and not an evil spirit, has eyes that flame up when he suspects that the One Ring is within his grasp: “His fingers continued to grope. There was a light like a pale but hot fire behind his eyes". Shelob, an evil spirit in spider form, has eyes that are much more formidable:

Not far down the tunnel, between them (Frodo and Sam) and the opening where they had reeled and stumbled, he (Frodo) was aware of eyes growing visible, two great clusters of many-windowed eyes–the coming menace was umasked at last. The radiance of the star-glass was broken and thrown back from their thousand facets, but behind the glitter pale deadly fire began steadily to glow within, a flame kindled in some deep pit of evil thought. Monstrous and abominable eyes they were....

The Return of the King, J. R. R. Tolkien.

Shelob, like Sauron in the Mirror of Galadriel, is reduced by metonymy into “monstrous and abominable eyes": the rest of her spider-like body is invisible and, at the moment, seems almost irrelevant. Her greed and malice are the fire behind her eyes, and that fire is far more awful than the mechanical horror of her body.

The fell light of such beings is not necessarily a flame, though; since evil beings in the work are essentially lifeless, it is appropriate that their eyes should often have a cold gleam, something like the chilling little flames and corpse-lights of the Dead Marshes. These pallid lights are like weak reflections of the flames in Sauron's Eye. The barrow-wight is typical: “He (Frodo) thought there were two eyes, very cold though lit with a pale light that seemed to come from some remote distance”. Saruman after his fall is much the same; Gandalf noted that “in his eyes there seemed to be a white light, as if a cold laughter was in his heart”.

The Ringwraiths’ eyes are less closely described, which is natural enough since they are invisible. But, again, the terror of their Captain's presence is concentrated in his eyes. Ih the only scene in which the narrator is close to him, as he stands on the Pelennor Fields confronting Éowyn, the hidden eyes are the most terrifying thing about him: “A crown of steel he bore, but between rim and robe naught was save only a deadly gleam of eyes: the Lord of the Nazgul.

His first act is to deliver to Éowyn his speech about how “thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye”. On the next two pages, Éowyn “raised her shield against the horror of her enemy's eyes"; Merry, nearby, “hardly dared to move, dreading lest the deadly eyes should fall on him"; and the great Nazgul, preparing (as he thought), to finish off Éowyn, "Bent over her like a cloud, and his eyes glittered.”

An illustration of David and Golieth.
An illustration of David and Golieth.

It would be strange anywhere but in The Lord of the Rings that these eyes, visible only as a glitter, should be the most terrifying thing in such a scene. Other writers would surely stress the more spectacular images here: the over-whelming darkness, the flying monster, the Nazgul's empty robes, the fires and clamour and ruin of the battle all around. But it is characteristic of Tolkien that the hypnotic eyes should impress and cow Merry and Éowyn more than all the rest, and that Tolkien himself should return to them so consistently.

Those glittering ghostly eyes seem to have been important to Tolkien; he used the some image a little later, in Legolas’ account of the march of the oath-breakers, in which, after Aragorn’s victory at Umbar, the host of the Dead "stood silent, hardly to be seen, save for a red gleam in their eyes that caught the glare of the ships that they were burning". This particular detail of the ships is, I think, the most frightening image of the Dead that Tolkien presents, and it is certainly a fitting one, since that army is made up of evil ghosts; it is an integral part of the horror of Mordor even though Aragorn uses it against Sauron.

The ghostly eyes of the Witch-king and the other dead men may be terrified and chilling, but, aside from the Great Eye itself, no evil character's eyes can match Gollum's for sheer gaudiness. Gollum's eyes glowed with a pale or green flame even in The Hobbit:

As suspicion grew in Gollum's mind, the light of his eyes burned with a pale flame.

He (Bilbo) turned now and saw Gollum's eyes Like small green lamps coming up the slope.

The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien.

In The Two Towers, where there are over a dozen references to the light in his eyes, the two colors even seem to correspond to his moods: a pale light indicates that he is relatively happy, a green light that he is upset. At times he looks like a traffic light. When he is debating within himself whether or not to betray Frodo and Sam, for example, the lights switch back and forth rapidly or, again, when Frodo traps him at the Forbidden Pool, he is glad at first: “He came close to Frodo, almost nose to nose, and sniffed at him. His pale eyes were shining.” But then, “suddenly he turned back. A green light was flickering in his bulging eyes. ‘Masster, masster!* he hissed. ‘Wicked! Tricksy! False!”.

The strange lights in Gollum’s eyes are not merely decoration, but emblems of the evil that the Ring has created in him, Once he had been a hobbit, sore or less like Frodo and Sam, and there is certainly no reason to think that his eyes flashed green and yellow then. Rather, the horror of his eyes, as of his whole physical appearance, is something external to him. The Ring has destroyed him, but - even so it is possible at times to see the old Sméagol within the ruined Gollum. When that happens, when the evil of the Ring is muted, the light can vanish along with his hatreds. The only time Tolkien describes this change is the scene on the stairs of Cirith Ungol, where for a moment Gollum is at peace watching the hobbits' quiet sleep:

Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and they went dim and grey, old and tired.

The Return of the King, J. R. R. Tolkien.

Unlike such entirely evil beings as Sauron and Shelob, Gollum can change, and the signal for his recovery of himself is that the light fades from his eyes; because the evil is not really part of him as he was in the beginning, he can be “cured” still, as Gandalf often insists But the cure is fragile, and here, when Sam at his most boorish broke the peaceful mood, Gollum “withdrew himself, and a green glint flickered under his heavy lids.”

Lugh of the Long Arm rides to battle. Illustration by Jim Fitzpatrick.
Lugh of the Long Arm rides to battle. Illustration © Jim Fitzpatrick.

All of these evil eyes, even Gollum’s, are basically lesser versions of Sauron’s Eye, and are lighted by the same evil will for power that drives him. Not only do they resemble his Eye in physical appearance, but, taken together, they are as ubiquitous as his. It seems that no matter where you go or what you do in Middle-earth, you will inevitably find yourself confronting someone like Grishnak or Gollum, or, if you are really unlucky, Sauron himself.

The Labby Rock dolmen.
The Labby Rock, one of the largest Irish portal dolmens, traditionally marks the spot where Nuada of the Silver Arm was slain by Balor of the Evil Eye on the ridge of Moytura.

Looking Inward into Emptiness

Frodo, exposed to the Eye because he is carrying the Ring, feels the powerful hostile will that strives to “pin you under its deadly gaze, naked, immovable,” but, while he is more subject to this feeling than anyone else in the work, he is not alone in his feeling that he is being watched, that invisible eyes are trying to get at him. This sense begins with his feeling of lurking danger just before he leaves Bag End, and continues steadily through his long journey. Still, his and Sam's experiences as they approach Mordor demonstrate this sense of dreadful watchfulness most clearly, because Mordor is full of watchful eyes. It is an evil place, and, in The Lord of the Rings, part of the definition of an evil place is that it is watching you.

Frodo's first reaction to Mordor as he approaches it, but is still far away, sets up the recurring image of the Shadow itself as an eye, an eye powerful enough to spot him even as he climbs down from the Emyn Muil:

I wish (he says) we could get away from these hills! I hate them. I feel all naked on the east side, stuck up here with nothing but the dead flats between me and that Shadow yonder. There's an Eye in it.

The Two Towers, J. R. R. Tolkien.

Of course the Eye is Sauron's own, looking out sleeplessly from the Dark Tower. But it is not the only eye in Mordor. There arc also the Nazgul overhead: "While the grey light lasted, they cowered under a black stone like worms, shrinking, lest the winged terror should pass and spy them with its cruel eyes”.

Even aside from the patrolling Ringwraiths, Mordor has other sentries. The Black Gate is a nest of eyes, its two giant watch-towers “full of sleepless eyes". Even after Frodo and Sam leave the Gate, defeated, to look for another way into Mordor, “for many miles the red eye seemed to stare at them as they fled". But Minas Morgul, the haunted city, is no better, Faramir warns them against it, calling it "a place of sleepless malice, full of lidless eyes", and their sight of the place bears him out:

In the walls and tower windows showed, like countless black holes looking inward into emptiness; but the topmost course of the tower revolved slowly, first one way and then another, a huge ghostly head leering into the night.

The Return of the King, J. R. R. Tolkien.

The holes “looking inward into emptiness" recall the description of Sauron's Eye in the Mirror of Galadriel; it is the same force and the same inner emptiness that makes these windows so sinister.

Once Frodo and Sam are in Mordor, the sense of being watched is even more acute. The windows of the Black Gate and of Minas Morgu] are bad enough, but they cannot match the Silent Watchers who guard tho pass of Cirith Ungol. These Watchers, at first, seem to be merely symbolic guardians, Like the stone lions in front of the New York Public Library. But they are a good deal more than that: they are alive in their own mysterious way, and guard the pass by their will. Sam discovers their malice when he takes a good look at them:

The monstrous Watchers sat there cold and still, revealed in all their hideous shape. For a moment Saw caught a glitter in the black stones of their eyes, the very malice of which made him quail.

The Return of the King, J. R. R. Tolkien.

It is natural that Sam should feel that something is strange when he sees the glitter in their eyes, since no one (especially Sam) expects statues* eyes to glitter, The fact that the statues are Watchers makes it even more appropriate that heir hostile will should emanate most of all, as it seems, from their eyes. Nonetheless, it is striking that Tolkien should choose this particular image: just as he stresses the glint of the Nazgul's eyes during the fight with Éowyn, so here he concentrates the horror of the Watchers on their black glittering eyes rather than (as other writers might) in their awesome size, their vulture-like faces, or their great stone claws.

Almost all of the eyes of Mordor are especially eerie because they are like the eyes of skulls; they are windows in deserted towers, the openings of caves, the stone eyes of the Silent Watchers. This kind of imagery complements the burning or chilling eyes of spirits like Shelob and the barrow-wight, and, further, intensifies the imagery of Mordor as a land of the dead. At the same time, of course, the presence of so many unpleasant eyes creates a strong sense of dread, a feeling that the watchers will see you at any moment and destroy you.

Luke blows up the Deathstar.
Luke Skywalker destroys the Death Star, which represents Balor's Evil Eye and the One Ring.

Frodo and Sam feel this dread most intensely on the last stages of their journey, but, while less intense, it is present throughout most of the work. Even in The Fellowship of the Ring, where the Company is far from Mordor, the sense of watchfulness is acute. Mordor is not the only land that most has eyes: there are spies everywhere, ruthless and efficient, and there are also barrow-wights, ores, and even malign willow-trees watching you and waiting to get you, It is not much of an exaggeration to say that large parts of The Lord of the Rings read like the record of a paranoiac’s delusions.

This paranoid vision is not entirely a matter of terrible eyes that fill the world: they are dreadful in themselves, but also reminders that Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf, and their companions are in constant danger, In a sense, however, no reminders are ever necessary, since the plot of work is, in the simplest terms, a story of flight and Pursuit. It is true that the direction of flight is toward the pursuers, but it is flight nonetheless, from the moment when Frodo first hides from a Black Rider in the middle of the Shire until he finally stands exposed to the Eye at the edge of the Crack of Doom.

The complexities of the struggles, battles, marches, and bluffs that Gandalf sets up are only devices to keep the Eye looking in the wrong places; Gandalf, especially, sometimes seems like a madman who spends all his time constructing elaborate plots to keep his enemies off balance. He is given to saying things like, "His Eye is now straining toward us, blind almost to all also that is moving”. One of the things it is blind to, as Gandalf intends, is the fact that Frodo is approaching Mount Doom to unmake the Ring. It is characteristic of Sauron that he should be looking in the wrong place, but it is also characteristic that he should be looking with great intensity.

Lugh by Jim Fitzpatrick
The Coming of Lugh, illustration © Jim Fitzpatrick.

The sense of watchfulness that Gandalf is referring too starts very early in The Fellowship of the Ring; long before anything seems to have happened, Bilbo starts to worry because his gold ring has been "growing on my mind lately. Sometimes I have felt it was like an eye looking at me". This is the kind of remark that leads to kind suggestions about taking a nice long rest, but after this point there is no rest or escape from threatening eyes until the Ring has gone into the fire. Under the strain of constant surveillance, the Company come to seen far more paranoid than Bilbo. Aragorn dives to the ground when he sees a flock of crows, as if they were fighter planes; Frodo sees even the moon over Rivendell as “a watchful eye”; Sam sees "a log with eyes" floating down the Anduin.

From such beginnings the tension increases steadily throughout the work as one evil being after another appears, always with chilling or burning eyes, and, most of all, as Frodo repeatedly feels the power of Sauron's Eye that is always at the point of finding him out. The pressure of imminent discovery becomes intense during the last journey into Mordor, and reaches its climax when the Eye finally, but too late, sees Frodo:

The Dark Lord was suddenly aware of him, and his Eye piercing all shadows looked across the plain to the door that he had made: and the magnitude of his own folly was revealed to him in a blinding flash, and all the devices of his enemies were at last laid bare.

The Return of the King, J. R. R. Tolkien.

Tolkien's phrasing is unusually ironic here: Sauron’s belated understanding of what has been going on comes to him in a “blinding flash,” but he has actually been blind all along, The things that make his Eye terrible are the things that lead to his fall: the malice that makes him look out from his own land toward enemies that he wants to destroy, the anxiety that makes him look only for armies which can destroy him by brute force (the only power he really understands), the despair that makes Frodo's love for the Shire, and his willing self-sacrifice, incomprehensible. As a result of his blindness, then, Sauron is defeated and passes into the void, and the evil eyes that have been such an important part of the texture of Middle-earth vanish with him. He does no better than Balor in his last battle; Balor died because his eye was a better target than a weapon, Sauron because he could see everything except what really mattered.

The Eye failed Sauron, but it did not fail Tolkien. His skill in building up a simple motif from an obscure saga resulted in one of his most persuasive and memorable images: the Eye is not only all that a reader needs (or wants) to see of Sauron, but an effective emblem of all the dread and sense of menace that Sauron inspires in Middle-earth. And, most of all, it is a brilliant concrete representation of the nature and power of absolute evil.

Source: Mythlore, 1976.

Shee Lugh at sunset.
Shee Lugh close to sunset at midsummer. From this location, where Lugh of the Long Arm sat during the Second Battle of Moytura, the sun sets behind Knocknarea.