History of the Dark Tower of Mordor
“Then at last his gaze was held: wall upon wall, battlement upon battlement,
black, immeasurably strong, mountain of iron, gate of steel, tower of adamant, he saw it:
Barad-dûr, Fortress of Sauron.”
LOTR: FOTR, B2, C10
This page written and edited by our Dark Historian Grievous
Barad-dûr is the fortress of Sauron, a massive stronghold that is known and feared across Middle-Earth. Towering nearly a mile into the sky, the fortress was immenseley strong. Massive armies of Orcs, Wargs, Olog-hai, Dark Men, and Black Uruks were sheltered within. Towers, walls, forges, and siege weapons were built atop a mountain around the great Dark Tower of Sauron. None passed the Gates of Adamant and lived.
Barad-dûr was founded with the realm of Mordor in the thousandth year of the Second Age. Sauron began construction on a mountain at the end of a spur of the Ash Mountains. The site of the tower was out of the way of blasts from Mount Doom, but close enough for traffic between the two. Over six hundred years the fortess of Sauron towered higher into the sky, until the forging of the One Ring. This Ring was used to finish the Tower, and from it Sauron commanded the realm of Mordor. In the highest chamber of the Dark Tower Sauron watched over his realm. Great captains of Orcs and Dark Men were housed at Barad-dûr. The Dark Tower became the greatest fortress in Middle-Earth since the Breaking of Thangorodrim.
“There he took up again his great Ring in Barad-dûr, and dwelt there,
dark and silent, until he wrought himself a new guise, an image of malice and hatred made visible;
and the Eye of Sauron the Terrible few could endure.”
From Barad-dûr Sauron commanded many wars against the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth. He left the One Ring in the Tower before surrendering to Númenór at Umbar, and his spirit returned to the Tower after his old body’s demise with Númenór itself. Reclaiming the Ring, he made a new body, great and terrible. He mustered his armies again for war on Gondor, a kingdom of Númenórean exiles that was being set up on his borders. But to Gondor’s aid came Arnor, the sister-kingdom of Gondor, and the High Elves of Lindon and Rivendell. Armies marched from Barad-dûr to Dagorlad, but were defeated.
The armies of the Last Alliance marched to Gorgoroth, and camped before the gates of Barad-dûr. For seven years the fortress was besieged by the combined armies of Gil-galad, Elendil, and Durin IV. The seven of the Nazgûl who had not been defeated at Dagorlad fought hard at Barad-dûr, but to no avail, for the armies of the Alliance were strong. At last Sauron himself came forth, and on Mount Doom he fought with Gil-galad and Elendil themselves. Both of them he slew, but Isildur, the son of Elendil, cut the Ring from Sauron’s finger. Sauron was defeated, and Isildur lead the armies of the Alliance to destroy the Dark Tower. In that final push the last of the Nazgûl and lieutenants of Sauron were defeated, Anárion, Isildur’s brother, was slain, and Barad-dûr was razed. The Dark Tower and all the works of defense around it were destroyed, but the foundations could not be removed, for they were made with the power of the One Ring, which Isildur had taken.
For thousands of years the ruins of Barad-dûr lay vacant. In the year 2000 of the Third Age the Nazgûl returned to Mordor, occupied the Gondorian watchforts that had been built on the borders, and captured Minas Morgul. During the time between these events and the return of Sauron it is not unlikely that, in secret, Orcs began the work of rebuilding the Dark Tower. Upon Sauron’s return reconstruction began in full-force, until over three thousand years after its initial destruction Barad-dûr once again towered over the lands of Mordor. Walls, pits, towers, gates, and bridges unassailable became occupied by the armies of shadow once more.
Between the twin pinnacles of the Dark Tower the Eye of Sauron burned, watching over the lands of Middle-earth and searching for the Ring of Power. Sauron believed it lost, yet still had hope of its recovery. In the Dark Tower he obtained a Palantír, likely that of Minas Ithil or that of Osgiliath. HE searched for visions of the Ring with it, until the creature Gollum was brought to the prisons of Barad-dûr. There Sauron himself interrogated the creature with much torture, and discovered that the One Ring still existed, and was in a land called Shire with a creature called Baggins. At once the Nazgûl set forth from Minas Morgul to find the Ring.
“A brief vision he had of swirling cloud, and in the midst of it towers and battlements,
tall as hills, founded upon a mighty mountain-throne above immeasurable pits; great courts and dungeons, eyeless prisons sheer as cliffs,
and gaping gates of steel and adamant: and then all passed. Towers fell and mountains slid; walls crumbled and melted, crashing down; vast spires of smoke and spouting steams went billowing up, up, until they toppled like an overwhelming wave, and its wild crest curled and came foaming down upon the land. And then at last over the miles between there came a rumble, rising to a deafening crash and roar; the earth shook,
the plain heaved and cracked, and Orodruin reeled.”
LOTR: ROTK, B6, C3
From Barad-dûr Sauron directed the War of the Ring, and organized vast armies in Udûn and Morgul Vale. From the Dark Tower Sauron eagerly watched the battle that took place before the Black Gates, for it seemed the heir of Isildur would perish and the strength of Gondor would be forever quenched. But at that moment the One Ring was destroyed. The creatures of Sauron were distraught and fled every which way, and the Nazgûl were destroyed in the torment of Mount Doom. The foundations of Barad-dûr, made with the Ring, were unable to support the massive weight of the Dark Tower and were crushed. The mountain the fortress was built upon was destroyed by earthquakes resulting from the eruption of Mount Doom, and Barad-dûr slid into ruin, taking with it Sauron himself.
What lay within the Dark Tower of Barad-dûr
Barad-dûr was a fortress of tremendous size and strength. Its walls and towers were extremely strong, and made of a black stone. This stone was strong to the point that it was compared to adamant; however, it is also likely that the power of the Ring strengthened the Dark Tower further. Barad-dûr was built upon a small mountain at the end of a short spur of the Ash Mountains, and commanded a wide view of Gorgoroth, even without a Palantir.
The front walls of Barad-dûr were unclimbable, not just due to their height but also to the lava-filled ravine that stretched in a crescent from one side of the mountain face to the other. This ravine was fueled by a stream that flowed from Mount Doom, and could only be crossed by a single bridge. This bridge was guarded by two tall guard-towers, behind which loomed the outer wall and the Gates of Adamant. The walls followed the line of the lava ravine, and had many works of defense wrought upon it. In places the wall spiked out for greater archer coverage; upon each spur was a catapult, and between them were small towers. The walls rose higher as they climbed onto the mountain, and ended at two tall towers. These towers housed captains and generals of the Orcs of the Red Eye. They were the tallest towers on the fortress, excepting the Dark Tower of Sauron.
From the guard-towers walls protected the rear of the fortress from an unlikely mountain attack, until they met the Dark Tower. The rear-wall met with the Second and Third Walls as well, which curved behind the outer wall, with great arches of stone in between. Each wall was higher than the former, for easier defense, and in each was set a gate of steel. On the Third Wall four small guard-towers had been built. In the circles between the walls pits, torture devices, stables, and machines of war were located. There was a small courtyard between the Third Wall and the Dark Tower itself. The entrance to the Tower led to a large atrium with stairs leading higher and lower into the tower. The lower stairs led to immeasurable pits, dungeons, forges and mines, while the higer ones led up into the Dark Tower of Sauron.
The Dark Tower itself stretched ever higher into the black clouds of Mordor, which were thicker around the tower due to the will of Sauron. Two watchtowers branched off the tower above the entrance. Around the lower part of the Dark Tower there wrapped a band of stone, the remains of the twisted peak of the mountain. Still higher the Dark Tower climbed, covered in spikes and ruins of shadow, until it reached the top. The tower was full of treasure, weapons, armor, materials, great stores, barracks for the footsoldiers of the tower (on the lower levels), and rooms for high-ranking captains like the Mouth of Sauron. At the top was the Window of the Eye, above which was the Iron Crown of the Dark Tower, between the twin pinnacles of which was the Eye of Sauron. The highest room was the Well of the Eye inside the Iron Crown, beneath which was the room that contained the Window of the Eye and the Throne of Sauron. The Well of the Eye contained many valuable objects, ranging from the Palantír of Osgiliath to the three remaining of the Seven Rings. These items were destroyed with the rest of Barad-dûr with the destruction of the One Ring.