“Leave Sauron to me.”
These are the last words of Saruman de Witte (Sir Christopher Lee) in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. He and the other members of the White Council have driven Sauron from his fortress Dol Guldur in Mirkwood; Saruman’s words are a promise to finish what’s left of the Dark Lord’s mind. Next time we see him in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (which was really the first time, but you know how prequels are), Saruman is in the service of Sauron, spoiled so much that he has Gandalf (Ian McKellen), works for the destruction of Rohan, and raises a filthy army of Uruk-hai to wage war and pursue the One Ring. How could the head of the Istari (sorcerers) fall so low?
The movies never offer an explanation, and JRR Tolkien has never written down a definitive date or cause for Saruman’s corruption. But for the curious, we offer the facts that Tolkien left us.
What is Saruman’s backstory?
Saruman, like all five wizards of Middle-earth, was a Maia, an angelic spirit of the same order of Sauron, sent by the Valar (analogous to Archangels) to provide inspiration and counsel to the Free Peoples who resisted evil in the Third Age. They had to be clothed in the bodies of men of old age, but with great physical and mental strength. So embodied they would lose much of their natural strength; they were not intended to be violent or to force anyone into action. They would also be subject to fatigue, hunger, injuries and the risk of death. Possessing free will, they could also be tempted from their task.
In Unfinished Stories, a collection of essays and story excerpts left by Tolkien, Curumo was the first Maia recruited for the task. He was employed by the Vala Aulë, the Smith, creator of the Dwarves and the Vala who served Sauron for his own corruption. Curumo volunteered for the responsibility, but only reluctantly accepted some of his attributes. For example, he was ordered to take Aiwendil (later Radagast de Bruine) with him. And when the Maia Olórin—later Gandalf the Gray—accepted the appointment as third emissary, it was noted that somehow he would not be the third, a prophecy Curumo recalled.
He was the first of the Istari to arrive in Middle-earth, dressed in white robes with raven hair and a beard that faded to white over the ages. He became known as Curunír for the Elves and Saruman for men. He and the Blue Wizards resided in the East for over a thousand years, but he only returned when Sauron’s power began to grow in Dol Guldur. Saruman was committed to his task at the time. In good faith he offered to take up residence in the tower of Orthanc in Isengard and fortify its defenses, an arrangement that pleased both the king of Rohan and the steward of Gondor. curunir meaning “Man of Skill” in the Elven Sindarin language, Saruman became a master of crafts, of “metal and wheels” as Treebeard would later put it, and of the knowledge behind making Rings of Power. As head of the Sorcerers, he was the most powerful among them, and he was elected head of the White Council, made up of wizards and Elves who were counted among the Wise Men who opposed Sauron.
Saruman began to fall for his vices
But even at this stage, when he was still serving the greater good, Saruman began to fall into his vices. His reluctance to take Aiwendil with him grew into utter disdain for Radagast, whom he dismissed as a fool. He also became jealous of Gandalf. The comments the Valar made about Olórin stuck with him, as did the Elf Círdan’s gift of the Ring of Fire to Gandalf and Galadriel’s favor of Gandalf for the head of the White Council. This jealousy could manifest itself in rather comical ways; Unfinished Stories tells how Saruman disdained Gandalf’s affection for hobbits and publicly disapproved of his smoking pipe weed, but secretly imitated the practice.
But Saruman’s envy led him to view Gandalf as a rival to be feared, one who must intrigue against Saruman’s plans. And while researching the craft of making rings, Saruman also became jealous of Sauron himself. Tolkien wrote in his private letters that the greatest temptation faced by the Istari was impatience: that their desire to do good, in spite of their commands, would lead to a desire to force good upon Middle-earth and from there exercise that power. to desire for oneself. rice wine. Such power was found in the One Ring of Sauron. Saruman’s study of Rings of Power included the last known location of the One Ring, going so far as to discuss the White Council’s plans to evict Sauron from Dol Guldur in the hopes that the Ring would reveal itself as its master. was free to search prevented it, giving Saruman a chance to claim it for his own.
This move to evil takes place well before the events of the hobbit, a book in which Saruman never appears, except for the vague mention of a council of “white wizards” who gathered to expel the Necromancer (Sauron) from Mirkwood; Saruman eventually gave in in his opposition to a strike. the hobbit movies fidget the timeline so he stays true to his job and the loyal head of the council. Lee’s Saruman in the prequel trilogy is pompous at times, still disdainful of Radagast and a dissenting voice against “interference” in Mirkwood, but he has no ulterior motives other than hubris. Many of the adaptations to the Necromancer’s story in the hobbit movies don’t make much sense when you think about it (and aren’t very good on their own), but showing the audience Saruman at its best is one of the few that works, and I enjoyed watching it.
Saruman calms his unsuspecting allies as they search for the one ring
After Sauron’s expulsion from Dol Guldur, Saruman placated his unsuspecting allies with the claim that the One Ring is lost forever at the bottom of the sea, while continuing his own efforts to find it. He began coveting valuable treasures and goods within Orthanc and ended his friendship with the Ents. His descent had been gradual, but his final downfall came when he assumed in his arrogance to use the palantir from Orthonc. The palantirish were the seven “Seeing Stones” of Gondor used to communicate with each other and to gaze far into space and time. With his great will, Saruman could cast the gaze of the stone wherever he pleased and gain much useful knowledge. But when he turned the stone toward Bard-dûr, Sauron’s chief fortress, he was ensnared by the Dark Lord—who is one of the palantíri himself.
The Lord of the Rings movies fail to convey Saruman’s betrayal against Sauron from the books
In Under the spell of the Ring movies, this connection is presented as one of obedient servitude on Saruman’s part. He is completely resigned to Sauron’s victory, longing for it and loyally working to bring it about. In the books, however, Saruman was even treacherous to his new master. His offer to Gandalf was that they would overtake Sauron and rule in his stead, and his men and Uruk-hai were sent out to carry the Ring to Isengard. He created his own ring and restyled himself “Saruman of Many Colors”. When are using the palantír is discovered, Gandalf muses that Saruman was probably more intimidated than he knew or would admit, more of his secret thoughts known to the enemy than he realized. Gandalf’s escape forced Saruman’s hand; if he had any hope of putting himself above Sauron, he had to strike first and claim the Ring.
It all came to nothing. The Ring went beyond his reach and his plans for Rohan were thwarted. Saruman’s eventual fate corresponds in great detail in book and film, but in radically different contexts. Lee’s Saruman tries to trade for his freedom by offering Gandalf information when he is murdered by his mistreated servant Grima Wormtongue. In the novel, Saruman, reduced to a spiteful beggar who was almost out of power, nevertheless bewitched his jailers to release him, whereupon he hastened to the Shire to leave it in ruins for the returning hobbit heroes. Inflicting cruel and senseless damage to their home, he was thwarted in this too, and there comes his end at Grima’s hands. As an immortal spirit, his “death” was not as it would be for hobbits or men, and had he remained true to his task, he would have returned to the West from which he came. But for his sins he was denied this. “And his spirit withered — wherever it was doomed to go,” Tolkien wrote in Unfinished Stories“and to Middle-earth, naked or embodied, never came back.”