Gandalf And Saruman: The Tale Of Tolkien’s Two White Wizards

The Legendarium of J.R.R. Tolkien includes not just The Hobbit, and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, but also The Silmarillion. Altogether this is the legendarium, and within it are invented languages, histories, and stunning characters; but the real beauty of Tolkien’s Middle Earth is the thick allegory everywhere within it. The characters of Tolkien’s world have a lot to teach us.

All of Tolkien’s main characters forever face a choice, and a dilemma. They have the choice to cave in to their own desires, or to instead, overcome their weaknesses in order to do the right thing. Perhaps these dilemmas and choices are seen most clearly in the two wizards within the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Gandalf, and Saruman.

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Now before we go further I should state that there were not just two wizards in the Tolkien legendarium, there were, in fact, five wizards – but only the two most powerful of them play a major role in The Lord Of The Rings. In The Hobbit.only one is a character in middle of the fray.

So just what are these wizards? Well, there is a very definite answer to that, and the answer is….they are wizards. They are not beings that are of the same kind as the other races of or species of persons inhabiting Middle Earth. The wizards are not Hobbits, they are not men, they are not dwarves, and they are not elves.

The Tolkien based films by Peter Jackson are terrific films, but they do not, even with the extended director’s versions, tell the whole tale. Tolkien’s legendarium world is just too big for film, it can only truly be seen in the mind of a reader. Peter Jackson’s films, however, not making it exactly clear just what the wizards were isn’t to be faulted over much. Tolkien himself never made it very clear in The Hobbit, or the Lord Of The Rings trilogy what the wizards were either.

One must read the ENTIRE legendarium to know, and that means, of course, reading The Silmarillion.

While there is literally nothing at all I can detect that is overtly Christian in the legendarium of J.R.R. Tolkien, Mr. Tolkien himself was most certainly a Christian, and a very close friend of another well known author of thickly allegorical fantasy fiction, C.S. Lewis. So in the end, there are many a metaphor in the works of Tolkien that can be related directly to something Biblical. One has to actually be looking to see those metaphor, and that was probably intentional, as universal themes are a bit more appealing to even the Christians when escaping into such a fascinating work of world building as the Tolkien novels provides.

Simply put – the five wizards are somewhat like the Biblical angels, some are more powerful or less powerful than others, but these, the Istari, are clothed in flesh, and in the appearance of men.

One thing important for the reader to understand about the world of Tolkien’s legendarium is that Middle Earth is a large continent in that world, but not the entire world. Middle Earth is merely were the most of the action takes place. Only the dwarves, the hobbits, and men are from Middle Earth, the other characters are actually from somewhere else entirely – a place referred to as the undying lands.

“Undying Lands? What is that?”

Well, the undying lands are where the lesser “gods” live. In Tolkien’s legendarium, there is most certainly a creator God, and that creator created various and sundry lesser gods, and all manner of other eternal spirits that may or may not be trapped in or inhabiting a body of flesh. Tolkien’s elves are also originally from the “undying lands,” and throughout The Lord Of The Rings, a major underlying theme is the elves are leaving Middle Earth to return there, they are turning over reign of Middle Earth to mankind.

There is absolutely no reason at all for the lover of Tolkien’s work to also know the Bible, however, one could make a case that “the elves” are rather like the progeny of the angels of the Bible having been cross bred with mankind. In the Bible, of course, it was demonic angels that bred with mankind – so there are always twists in such comparisons.

Let us return our focus now to the subject at hand, the two white wizards of the Tolkien legendarium.

In December 2012 the world will get the first part of the second series of helpings offered up by Peter Jackson in regards to the work of Tolkien set to film. The first film for The Hobbit will be released then, and the viewers will all be soon introduced to Gandalf The Grey, a bumbling old fellow that always seems to know a hell of a lot more than he is willing to say.

In The Hobbit, Gandalf seems near omniscient at times, as he orchestrates events he is certain will turn out right. He is here, and he is there. He appears, and then he is gone, and nobody much ever realizes just when he slipped away.

There is, in The Hobbit, mention of a mysterious and evil being known only as “the necromancer,” and this, of course, turns out in the end to be Sauron, who manifests himself in The Lord Of The Rings as a great eye of fire. The five wizards were entirely sent to Middle Earth for a single solitary purpose, and that was to help the beings of Middle Earth contend with this Sauron, who can for all intents and practical purposes be thought of as something like the Biblical Satan.

Of the five wizards, only Gandalf really sticks to his mission. While it is likely that all five were very much afraid of the much more powerful Sauron, only Gandalf, who was initially thought to be the second most powerful of the wizards, faces his fears, and overcomes them.

Concerning Gandalf, the official description from the legendarium is as follows:

Warm and eager was his spirit (and it was enhanced by the ring Narya), for he was the Enemy of Sauron, opposing the fire that devours and wastes with the fire that kindles, and succours in wanhope and distress; but his joy, and his swift wrath, were veiled in garments grey as ash, so that only those that knew him well glimpsed the flame that was within. Merry he could be, and kindly to the young and simple, yet quick at times to sharp speech and the rebuking of folly; but he was not proud, and sought neither power nor praise… Mostly he journeyed unwearingly on foot, leaning on a staff, and so he was called among Men of the North Gandalf ‘the Elf of the Wand’. For they deemed him (though in error) to be of Elven-kind, since he would at times work wonders among them, loving especially the beauty of fire; and yet such marvels he wrought mostly for mirth and delight, and desired not that any should hold him in awe or take his counsels out of fear. … Yet it is said that in the ending of the task for which he came he suffered greatly, and was slain, and being sent back from death for a brief while was clothed then in white, and became a radiant flame (yet veiled still save in great need)

Of Tolkien’s wizards, Gandalf was not thought to be either the wisest or the most powerful, but perhaps he was always BOTH the wisest, and most powerful. Gandalf, was humble, and so he was elevated over the pride filled, jealous, and power hungry Saruman. While Gandalf was well known to all races or species of “people’s” on Middle Earth, he was also very in touch with the natural world, the flora and fauna were things he respected greatly, and this, perhaps, was why he was so forever interested in the creatures that seemed the very least of significance, hobbits.

Hobbits, having had no real significance in the events of Middle Earth at all before Gandalf saw something in them; were known for simple pleasures, eating, drinking, singing and dancing, and growing things. They had no kind of government, needed none, and were rather keen on staying out of everything, and enjoying their lives. The perfect sort of values that lead one to doing the most noble of deeds, but the proud and the self deemed wise never see such things. The truly wise, of course, do.

Without getting too thick into the details and the differences between the novels by Tolkien and the adaptation for film by Peter Jackson, suffice it to say that Gandalf sacrificed himself for his friends, and for the entire world – not for any surety of their success, but merely to provide a chance that they might succeed. In doing so. He faced a demonic thing that was easily his equal, and he overcame it, transcending himself to become Gandalf The White.

Saruman is a classic fallen angel, pride, of course, was his failure. Literally, his entire presence in Tolkien’s novels mirror’s that of the character Sauron, who Saruman and the other wizards were sent to Middle Earth to combat, not admire. Saruman’s very name meant man of skill, and he excelled at technological things, chemistry and metalwork.

Saruman is so intelligent and powerful that he is widely regarded by all as the White Wizard, one of the wisest and most powerful entities of all within Middle Earth, but whether or not he was ever that is something left up to the reader to decide. Gandalf had saw him as a superior mind, and wiser than himself, and as Gandalf humbled himself, he wound up being elevated above Saruman.

While all of Tolkien’s wizards are of the same order of spiritual beings, Saruman, the pride filled industrialist, thinks the rest of them are stupid. Radagast The Brown, who Gandalf says is his cousin, Saruman hated from the start. Radagast, of course, was the wizard that dedicated himself to flora and fauna, which are obviously the polar opposites of the mind the creature Treebeard described as “of wheels and metal,” Saruman.

So far as the rings of power are concerned, Saruman was intensely jealous of Gandalf, as he knows that Gandalf was given one of the three rings of power designed by and for the elves. Sauron, of course, created a ring of power that surpassed all others, and was THE Lord Of The Rings.

Rather than seek to do what he was sent to do, and use his vast knowledge and wisdom towards the purpose he’d once had, Saruman fell prey to jealousy, pride, and fear. He was too proud of his own skill to find any value in nature, or seemingly weak creatures like hobbits, and he was too jealous of Gandalf’s ring of power to think straight. Saruman was also too afraid of Sauron to imagine defeating him, and so he rather fell into admiring him, as Sauron was, of course, more powerful and talented than any of the wizards.

The wonderful films of Peter Jackson, endorsed by the Tolkien family, are not entirely accurate, as changes were made for the film versions of The Lord Of The Rings, and most surely, there will be some slight changes as well within the upcoming Peter Jackson adaptations for The Hobbit.

We shouldn’t be too hard on Mr. Peter Jackson, in my opinion, he is doing a very fine job, and there won’t be anyone more exited about the new film about Bilbo Baggins’ adventures come December, Lord willing, and should the creeks not rise too much.

Besides changing some minor parts of the plot, Jackson also omits some things that we Tolkien lovers must surely find troublesome, but I’m willing to forget those things too because of the extreme quality of what Jackson has already produced.

The film clips I’ve shared here have been edited even further, but I did not do that, and so far as whoever did do it is concerned, I’m practically positive they had to edit the originals in order to not violate some silly corporation’s codes.

Finally, corporations – it is impossible to measure just how vast are the gaps between the minds of some silly egomaniac with zero grip on reality as Ayn Rand, and a master such as Tolkien.

Were Ayn Rand the author of The Lord Of The Rings, then surely Sauron and Saruman would be the John Galt-ish heroes of a decaying industrialized Middle Earth where nobody cares about the Earth itself, or silly moochers and parasites such as hobbits, who do nothing but eat, drink, dance, and enjoy all that the God of creation has given them.

Thanks for reading.