The idea that Sauron is a disembodied eye is certainly a
misperception, but it doesn't originate with Jackson. I remember
refuting this point in discussions back in the late '80s, using
Gollum's comment about the four fingers as my evidence. But the
counter opinion was widely disseminated; cf. Foster's COMPLETE GUIDE
TO MIDDLE-EARTH (pb edition, 1979) page 170, where the entry under
EYE starts off with "The Eye of Sauron, the form in which he appeared
in the Third Age" (emphasis mine). The original edition, back in
1974, expresses the same idea in slightly different wording: "The Eye
of Sauron, the form of his appearance to the outside world at the
time of the WR" (i.e., War of the Ring -- p. 90; ibid.). And this was
a widely used, uncontroversial source, used by no less a Tolkien
scholar than Christopher himself. So while the idea might be
mistaken, it has been a very widespread one for some time; there's no
shame in a scholar's holding to it, though I think they're reading
the evidence wrongly to do so.
I'm also uncomfortable with the idea of keeping a Black List: we
all make mistakes, and better to have those pointed out and corrected
than assign the offender to oblivion, into which the persistent
offenders will sink anyway.
On May 5, 2007, at 7:23 AM, David Bratman wrote:
> Mike Foster gave a good reply when asked how he, as a teacher of
> studies, responds when student papers include facts that are only
> true of
> the Jackson films and not of the book. He tells them, "This came
> from the
> movie you saw, not from the book you were supposed to read."
> It's about time to start keeping track of so-called Tolkien
> scholars who do
> the same thing. It's especially egregious when they're writing
> just about
> Tolkien, but those who are comparing Tolkien and Jackson have a
> obligation to keep track of which one said what.
> I found an article as early as 2003 that quoted from Jackson's
> Saruman and
> attributed it to Tolkien (see _Tolkien on Film_ p. 41), but by this
> we might as well begin classifying the prominent confusions.
> The most common seems to be the identification of Aragorn as a
> hero. Jackson's is; Tolkien's isn't. I was particularly amused by
> National Geographic "Behind the Movie" documentary narrated by John
> Rhys-Davies, who intoned "Aragorn's reluctance is surprising," as
> indeed it
> is to anyone who's read the book. Of course the documentary mixes
> the book
> and films indiscriminately and isn't scholarship at all, but that
> was too
> golden a moment of irony to miss.
> But I have another candidate for an equally widespread confusion,
> this one
> even more insidious because fewer people realize that applied to
> it's an error. I've seen it several times now, and its latest
> is the most appalling yet.
> In the new issue of _Mythlore_, the journal of the Mythopoeic
> Society -
> _Mythlore_, which really ought to know better - is an article by
> Harl contrasting the use of the visual gaze of evil watchers in
> Tolkien and
> Jackson. FIrst she discusses "The Gaze in the Book" (p. 62-65),
> then "The
> Gaze in the Movies" (p. 65-69). OK, that's clear enough. But on
> p. 63,
> when she's still discussing the book, she writes, "In his disembodied
> state, Sauron is reduced to a single large, unblinking eye".
> No, no, no! This came from the movie you saw, Ms. Harl, not from
> the book
> you were supposed to read.
> Did anyone, before Jackson, ever mistake the phrase "The Eye of
> Sauron" for
> meaning that Sauron was physically a disembodied lump of vitreous
> I can't recall that they did, but they do it all the time now.
> Applied to
> the book, it's a mistake. (And apparently it was Jackson's
> mistake: this
> isn't a change he made deliberately but his sloppy misreading of
> the book;
> see _Tolkien on Film_ p. 31). "The Eye of Sauron" is a synecdoche;
> here means "belonging to." In the book, Gollum twice refers to
> Sauron as
> "The Black Hand", and that doesn't even have "of" in it - does anyone
> reading that imagine Sauron as Thing from the Addams Family movies, a
> disembodied hand running around on its fingers?
> When would Sauron have been reduced to eyehood anyway? His body was
> destroyed in the wreck of Numenor, but as an Ainu he constructed a
> new one
> and wore the Ring on his finger. We see Jackson's version of that
> body in
> its armor in the prologue scene, wielding its +10 Mace of Power.
> cuts the ring finger off and takes the Ring, but he doesn't have the
> capacity to destroy the body. "He has only four [fingers] on the
> Hand, but they are enough," says Tolkien's Gollum, and one wonders
> if he'd
> seen that hand personally.
> To my mind, the vague, undepicted image of Sauron crouched over his
> palantir, peering into it, sending his gaze out in the form of his
> Eye even
> to such safe havens as Galadriel's Mirror, is evocative and
> But Sauron the physically helpless - no hands, no legs, no mouth [did
> anyone imagine that the guy who calls himself "The Mouth of Sauron"
> anything other than the Mouthpiece of Sauron? That he was literally
> mouth and that his boss couldn't speak?] - a big lump of vitreous
> stuck up there at the top of Barad-dur, is comic, ridiculous,
> absurd. That
> big comic double-take it takes when it realizes it's been fooled -
> it's one
> of the silliest things in the movie.
> And there are people out there who actually think this is Tolkien's
> Shame, shame. Let Jackson be Jackson, but let Tolkien be Tolkien.
> for writing it, shame for publishing it.
> - David Bratman
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