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"The wise will stay here and hope to rebuild our town..." — Master of Lake-town
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Maia (Wizard)
"Saruman" by John Howe
Biographical Information
Other namesCurumo, Tarindor (Q)
Curunír 'Lân (S)
the White, the Wise, the Ring-maker, of Many Colours, Sharkey
TitlesLord of Isengard
PositionChief of the Heren Istarion
Head of the White Council
Istari (Wizards)
White Council
RuleT.A. 2759 - 3019
Death3 November, T.A. 3019 (existed in Middle-earth for 2019 years)
Physical Description
Hair colorWhite with strands of black[1]
ClothingWhite robes, shimmering with many colours
GalleryImages of Saruman

[Saruman] is great among the Wise. He is the chief of my order and the head of the Council. His knowledge is deep, but his pride has grown with it, and he takes ill any meddling. The lore of the Elven-rings, great and small, is his province. He has long studied it, seeking the lost secrets of their making...

Saruman the White was the first of the order of Wizards (or Istari) who came to Middle-earth as Emissaries of the Valar in the Third Age. For a time he was the chief of the Wizards, as well as the head of the White Council. However, through his appreciation of Sauron's innate strength, his envy of Gandalf and his overbearing hubris, the White Wizard fell into mimicry of the Dark Lord as his capable yet faithless servant, plotting to share in his power or to two-facedly seize the One Ring first.

Both at Sauron's whim and for his own ambitions, Saruman coordinated assaults from his Orthanc tower in Isengard against the realm of Rohan during the War of the Ring, while sapping the kingdom through his agent Gríma. However, the corrupted Wizard's legions were vanquished and he was forced to remain a prisoner in his own tower, though not for long. Allowed to leave Orthanc, he travelled to the Shire, which his outlaw pawns had gained control over, and became the hidden local thug lord. Saruman was again defeated by the rallied, oppressed Hobbits and he himself was backstabbed by Gríma for his mistreatment. His unbodied spirit was denied the West and fled naked and impotent, a fate not unlike that of Sauron.


Early history

As a Maia, Saruman was created by Ilúvatar before the Music of the Ainur.[2] In his early days in Valinor, he went by the name Curumo[3] or Tarindor.[4] Like Sauron, he was a powerful Maia of Aulë.[5]

After the Valar discovered the primeval Elves at Cuiviénen, Tarindor was one of the Five Guardians sent to protect the Elves from the forces of Melkor.[4] It is unclear how long he remained or if he accompanied the Eldar on the Great Journey.

Return to Middle-earth

After the defeat of Morgoth, the Valar grew concerned about the rising power of Sauron in Middle-earth. In Valinor, a council was called by Manwë, where it was decided to send Maiar as emissaries to Middle-earth to help the Free Peoples challenge Sauron. The council likely met in the middle of the Second Age, shortly after the creation of the Rings of Power. The council determined that these emissaries (who became known as the Istari or Wizards) should be "mighty, peers of Sauron, yet [they should] forgo might, and clothe themselves in flesh so as to treat on equality and win the trust of Elves and Men."[6]:393 Curumo, who was sent to the council by Aulë, volunteered to travel to Middle-earth as an emissary; he was appointed the first Istar and became the chief of their Order.[6]:389, 394

Even before arriving in Middle-earth, Curumo begrudged his peers among the Istari. Olórin (later called Gandalf), who did not wish to travel to Middle-earth, was commanded by Manwë to go as the third Istar. Saruman's jealousy of Gandalf began here, when Varda said of Gandalf that he was "not the third". Saruman was charged to take Aiwendil (later called Radagast) with him to please Yavanna, which he did not wish to do, and this led to his contempt for the latter Wizard.[6]:393

In Middle-earth, Curomo became known in Sindarin as Curunír and in Westron by his most common name, Saruman. Like the other Wizards, his fana took the appearance of an old man. He had raven hair and was robed in white.[6]:393

Saruman and others of the Istari arrived in Middle-earth on a ship at Mithlond (the Grey Havens) in Lindon around the year 1000 of the Third Age.[6] At the time of their arrival, their origin, nature, purpose, and true names were a secret to nearly everyone in Middle-earth. Having witnessed their arrival, Círdan alone knew the truth of their identity and origin. He chose to give Narya, the Red Ring, to Gandalf to aid him in his mission.[7] Círdan told only Galadriel and Elrond of the true origins of the Istari.[8] After a time, Saruman learned of Círdan's gift and begrudged it; this heightened the hidden ill-will that he bore towards Gandalf.[6]

Shortly after arriving, Saruman travelled into the East of Middle-earth, as did the two Blue Wizards. After one and a half millennia he returned to the West, just as Sauron's power was growing again in Dol Guldur.

Chief of the White Council

Saruman by Angus McBride

When the White Council was formed around T.A. 2463[7], Saruman was appointed its leader despite Galadriel's wishes that Gandalf be leader. Even then, he had begun to sense the resurgence of Sauron and to envy and desire his power, and especially his One Ring. Coincidentally, in that same year, the One Ring was found by the creature Gollum[7], drawing the Dark Lord closer to the conflict that would eventually prove Saruman's undoing.

During this period, Saruman spent years in Minas Tirith examining its archives. It is possible that there he surmised that a palantír would still be located in Orthanc, the tower of Isengard.[9] He offered to make Isengard his home and to command the defences of the West. This was welcomed by King Fréaláf of Rohan and Steward Beren of Gondor alike. In T.A. 2759, Saruman was given the Key of Orthanc in the ring of Isengard his abode, hoping that he would prove an important ally.[8][10] There he became important in the defence of the free lands of the West. In Orthanc he came upon the Orthanc-stone, one of the seven seeing stones, but kept it secret and hidden, particularly from the White Council.[11] He would later betray the Council by concealing his use of it.

In T.A. 2851, the White Council met and Gandalf revealed that the evil presence in Dol Guldur was indeed Sauron and that he had returned, and urged an attack there. Saruman however believed that Sauron would be useful in his quest: allowing Sauron to build up his strength, the One Ring would reveal itself, and Saruman hoped to have sufficient strength to seize it first himself until that event. With this strategy in mind, Saruman overruled Gandalf. It soon became clear that Saruman desired to possess the One Ring himself.[12]

He soon found that Sauron had more knowledge of the possible location of the One Ring than he expected, and in T.A. 2941 he finally consented to an Attack on Dol Guldur against Sauron at which point Sauron retreated to Mordor.[12][7]

Dol Guldur by Angus McBride

In T.A. 2953, the Wise gathered once more to debate about the Rings of Power. Saruman quieted the Council claiming to have the knowledge that the One Ring was lost forever in the Belegaer. Following their final meeting (and the death of Steward Turgon), Saruman took Isengard for his own and fortified it.[10] Saruman, jealous and afraid of Gandalf, set spies to watch all his movements; thus he discovered the existence of the Shire and noted Gandalf's interest in it, and started sending agents in Bree and the Southfarthing.[7] As Lord of Isengard, Saruman began to bring trouble to Rohan by aiding its enemies.[11] But the Wise were already suspicious about him; Aragorn tried to advise Steward Ecthelion II not to trust Saruman for his help against Sauron.[10]

Sauron had declared himself openly in Mordor; he established contact with Saruman through the Ithil-stone his minions had captured from Minas Ithil. Through his jealousy towards Gandalf and his ever-growing pride and arrogance, and through the use of the palantír, Saruman was ensnared by Sauron. Using either the knowledge of his new ally or lore of lost Eregion, Saruman crafted his own lesser ring and sought to emulate Sauron. His corruption was complete around T.A. 3000.[7] The Wizard intended to share in the Dark Lord's power one way or another; he would aid in Sauron's victory to win his approval and become his equal lieutenant, or cheat him and try to supplant him by acquiring the One Ring for himself.

War of the Ring

At about this time, in an attempt to control Rohan, Saruman bought the allegiance of King Théoden's chief advisor, Gríma, who then counselled the ailing king to do nothing about the steady resurgence of Sauron's armies. Saruman and Gríma's treachery would have crippled Rohan's military might and allowed Sauron lordship of the kingdom, had not Gandalf interfered a year later and revealed to Théoden his right-hand man's true designs, healing the old king and revitalising his political and military rule.[13]

He had sent spies to negotiate the purchase of pipe-weed from the Shire, in preparation for the war, and also learn of any Hobbits who had departed recently in hopes of finding out who possessed the One Ring.[14]

Saruman did not reveal his true intentions until Gandalf presented him with the discovery and location of the One Ring. On 10 July, T.A. 3018, Gandalf arrived at Isengard.[15] Saruman demanded that Gandalf submit to him or to Sauron. Saruman then stood forth as Saruman of Many Colours, and when Gandalf refused to join his new Lord or tell him of the Ring, he held him captive in Isengard.

Saruman commanding his forces from Orthanc as seen in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers film

It must have been during Gandalf's captivity in Orthanc that Saruman began to assemble his following of Orcs, Dunlendings and Uruk-hai into a massive army, since Gandalf came to an as yet undestroyed Isengard. From the pinnacle of the tower Gandalf could see that Saruman was gathering his hordes of Orcs and Wolves in his pits and forges, both in service and in competition with Sauron.[16] One can speculate that if matters had developed a little more slowly, his puppet Gríma would have gained full control over Rohan, and the Rohirrim would have been enslaved or destroyed.

Gandalf later escaped, and so Saruman's treachery and professed allegiance to Sauron became known to the rest of the White Council when Gandalf reported this during the subsequent Council of Elrond.[16]

Saruman soon also betrayed his master, Sauron, by lying to the Witch-king when he arrived at Isengard. Sauron had sent the Nazgûl searching for Baggins, who had found the One Ring years before, and the Shire, his home. Saruman pretended to know nothing about the Shire. But the Lord of Minas Morgul and his company did not have the strength to assault the Ring of Isengard. Saruman told them that he believed Gandalf knew the whereabouts of the Ring, and the Nazgûl departed.[17]

In September of T.A. 3018, the Nazgûl captured one of his Shire spies who told the Witch-king everything, betraying Saruman, and exposing the Wizard's double treachery. They also seized some maps and information about the Shire and Baggins.[14] Perceived as a turncoat by the Free Peoples and fearing being caught as an unfaithful vassal of Mordor, Saruman put all efforts into reassuring Sauron of his commitment or obtaining the One Ring for himself.[18]

The failure to capture the Ring at Emyn Muil further ruined Saruman's plans, as he was revealed as a certain traitor to Sauron as well.

The Wrath of the Ents by Ted Nasmith

Finding himself in a precarious position, Saruman could only hope to acquire the Ring or convince Sauron of his loyalty. Therefore he implemented an aggressive strategy of attacking Rohan, endeavouring to kill the King's son Théodred, sending spies to waylay Frodo Baggins on his flight from the Shire, and dispatching raiding parties on likely routes a company of the Ring might take to Gondor. Ironically, one of these parties captured Peregrin Took and Meriadoc Brandybuck and transported them to Fangorn Forest in time to mobilise the Ents. Gandalf also suspected Saruman had found (and destroyed) the remains of Isildur, who had worn the Ring before it had been lost.

Saruman's Shire network failed to capture Frodo Baggins, Gandalf rallied Rohan to victory, Éomer stopped his brutal, but only partially successful raiding party, and control of Isengard was lost to the Ents. Aware he was utterly defeated, Saruman briefly considered repenting for his deeds, but at the last moment could not go through with it. Whether he had hope he could escape, whether he was too proud to surrender to Gandalf, or whether he thought his master would pardon him, Saruman refused to leave the confines of his fortress. Saruman made a final attempt to woo Théoden and Gandalf to his cause but failed: his staff was broken and he was expelled from the Order of the Istari.

Left out of the final stages of the War of the Ring and unable to be of any use to Sauron, he eventually managed to convince his captors, the Ents, to let him leave Isengard, as apparently the magic of his voice still remained.

The Voice of Isengard by Matt Stewart

On their way to northern Dunland, on 28 August[19] they were confronted by Gandalf, Celeborn, Galadriel and the Hobbits, but they passed as travelling beggars as Saruman kicked Gríma to move on, and he exclaimed how he hated his lord. Gandalf told Gríma that he was free to leave him but he did not reply. As Saruman was considered powerless, there was little concern for his escape.[20] On 22 September[19] they entered to the Shire, which his ally Lotho Sackville-Baggins (undisturbed by events elsewhere) had brought under control. He established himself in Hobbiton and spent his final days as a small-time thug lord whom his ruffians called Sharkey, imposing a terror regime to avenge himself upon the peaceful Halflings. But even this operation fell apart after Frodo and Samwise Gamgee returned; he was eventually betrayed and killed by his own agent Gríma on 3 November, T.A. 3019.

Saruman, who was a Maia, had lost his shape with his "death". As a discorporate spirit, he turned westward, but a wind came from the West and pushed him away. Apparently his spirit was left naked, powerless, and wandering in Middle-earth, not unlike Sauron after the One Ring was destroyed.


Curunír by Gregor Roffalski

In appearance, Saruman was as an old man with black hair. At the end of the Third Age, his hair and beard had turned mostly white — he had only black hairs about his lips and ears. He was tall, his face was long, and his eyes were deep and dark. He would appear in a white cloak, a habit he later changed into a cloak that changed colours as he moved.

He was not actually a Man, or even an Elf (as Men often suspected), but a Maia clothed in flesh — an Istar (see Origins above). As such, he was immortal and extremely powerful, yet had limits on how far these powers could be used. His two most salient powers were his knowledge and his voice. Saruman was, in a very real way, the junior brother of Sauron both having been Maia of Aulë, Valar of Smithcraft, in the very beginnings of time. The parallels between Sauron and Saruman in both character and actions are many.


Knowledge of the "deep arts" (or magic, such as it is in Middle-earth) was of particular interest to Saruman, especially when relating to power such as the Rings of Power and the far-seeing palantíri. He was also deeply learned in ancient lore regarding powerful kingdoms such as Númenor, Gondor, and Moria.

His voice and speech were extremely convincing, more powerful than mere rhetoric. When he focused this power on a person or a group of people, he could sway their hearts, plant fears and sow lies as he pleased. According to the stature of the listener, this spell could last as long as the speech did, or it could take root in them and last forever. Saruman's voice was so powerful that he was able to convince the Witch-king that he knew nothing of the One-Ring or the Shire. His voice was not hypnotic, however, rather it was persuasive; and the real danger the voice posed to the listener was not them falling into a trance, but agreeing with it.[21]

Aside from his voice, Saruman has other subtle abilities such as giving great speed and motivation to his orcs at a distance and setting his will against all those in his dominion that might oppose him. Aragorn takes note of this ability while tracking the party of orcs holding Merry and Pippin hostage. Saruman also seems to be able to move around totally unheard by others, as there are numerous examples of him using this ability. Several examples include his sneaking up on Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas's camp in The Riders of Rohan, his wholly unheard entrance in The Voice of Saruman and his quiet but sudden appearance to the hobbits in The Scouring of the Shire.

Other powers include knowledge of machinery and chemistry, probably separable from explicit magic (for instance, the "blasting fire" employed by his Uruk-hai army in the battle of Helm's Deep, was some kind of chemical explosive). Machinery and engines characterised both his fortified Isengard and his altered Shire arenas of influence. In this, he sought to emulate, or even surpass his ally, Sauron. This inclination was constitutional in them both from the very beginning.

His science also extended to biological areas. He is believed to have crossbred Men and Orcs, creating a new race of Orcs unafraid of daylight, the dreaded Uruk-hai, a major improvement on Sauron's thralls who hated daylight. His mannish spies in Bree were said to have Orc blood, giving them heightened senses over ordinary men. He also employed scavenger birds in his service, although this might also be attributed to Radagast the Brown, ordering them to report to Orthanc, Saruman's stronghold.

Being regarded as more powerful than Gandalf (at least before Gandalf's "rebirth"), it's fair to assume he would also wield explicit magic similar to Gandalf, such as artificial light, locking spells, creating fire, etc.

Saruman, walking on the same ruinous path as Sauron, attempted to forge for himself a Ring of Power. This he wore during the War of the Ring which he revealed when he called himself "Saruman the Ring-maker".[16] He had great knowledge and lore of the magic rings created by Sauron and by the Elven-smiths, though at this time the full art of ring-making was lost and known only to Sauron and so Saruman's knowledge of the craft was incomplete. It is assumed that Saruman's Ring was the equivalent of one of the lesser rings in power and any details of this power are not mentioned. It is also assumed that it too lost its power, if it had any, when the One Ring was destroyed, since Saruman's craft of ring-making was still based on Sauron's. When Gandalf was given Narya, the Ring of Fire, Saruman learned of the gift and resented it. This may be another reason why Saruman desired to have a ring of his own.


Saruman resembled Gandalf not only in appearance, but originally also somewhat in deportment, but unlike Gandalf, Saruman was proud, even haughty, and in this he was more akin to Sauron. He saw himself as the most powerful of the Istari, expressing clear contempt for Radagast the Brown, patronising tolerance of the Wise and Elves, and sheer disdain for lesser Men. Saruman was no fool (though he saw Radagast as one); he realised Gandalf's power, and eventually came to see him as an equal, and later as a superior, much to his distress. He became jealous of Gandalf, eventually convincing himself that Gandalf was scheming against him, which justified his own scheming against Gandalf and the rest of the White Council, and the Free Peoples of Middle-earth as well. Saruman's ultimate agenda, in the end, was not very different at all from Sauron's, in that he himself ultimately sought to become a tyrant of Middle-earth; regardless if by his new master's side or (more preferably) on his own - if he attained the One Ring First.

Saruman likely was true to his mission in the beginning, and actually believed in working to stop the return of the Darkness, but his pride and later arrogance (as well as his jealousy towards Gandalf and domination by Sauron) turned him into a traitor to the cause he had once served. Saruman's betrayal was not sudden, but slowly grew over time as Sauron used Saruman's lust for power, admiration of strength and envy as tools of control, until at last Saruman had convinced himself that he could not have taken any other path and that it was too late now to repent. To the last the corrupted Wizard only believed in his own counsel and the deceptive words of the Dark Lord. These false beliefs kept Saruman from taking his last chance at redemption, and because he must have realised this after Gandalf's truly generous terms he only became more bitter and filled with the rage of failure, blaming Gandalf more than anyone else for his downfall.



Saruman "went mostly among men". He always sought power, and it lay in the hands of the kingdoms of Men.

No records speak of his earliest journeys into the east; after his return he became a servant of Gondor, receiving the keys to Orthanc from Beren as its warden. When Gondor weakened, he claimed Orthanc for his own without any formal declaration (or objection from Gondor), yet remained nominally an ally of Gondor and of Rohan.[11]

When he turned to treachery, Saruman employed men mainly from Dunland, and agents from other lands, turning old grudges into fuel for new hatred. The Dunlendings were enticed with the old stories that they had once lived in Calenardhon before the Strawheads. The Dunlendings became his soldiers and it also seems probable that he used some of them to create Half-orcs.

Gríma Wormtongue played a vital role in Saruman's plans: with Saruman's counsel Gríma began to weaken the king, estranging him from his other counsellors and even his own kin, until Gríma had in effect become the leader of Rohan.


Saruman was once on good terms with the Elves, and was voted in as the leader of the White Council, a group of Elves and Istari united against Sauron.

Saruman knew that Gandalf had been given the third Elvish ring Narya by Círdan the Shipwright. This nurtured his jealousy of Gandalf and his resentment towards the Elves.

Saruman had little use for, or interest in, the Elves, who were declining and their lands were few and secretive; although they wielded marvellous powers and two Rings of Power, they were not useful nor accessible for Saruman's ambitions. Also, they succumbed less easily than other races to manipulation.

Even though Isengard lay very close to Lothlórien, Saruman had very little or no contact with it. Saruman never trusted Galadriel and he accused her of scheming for Gandalf at his expense.[20]


Saruman drew his original strength of Orcs from tribes in the Misty Mountains, and perhaps from Moria Orcs. He made use of Warg-mounted Orcs for raids against Rohan.

He also bred Orcs in the pits of Isengard, eventually creating crossbreeds of Orcs and Men (probably Dunlendings or Bree-men) This programme apparently also involved feeding these greater Orcs Man-flesh as a treat.

His Uruk-hai legions displayed great discipline and fierce loyalty, in addition to the other improvements such as height, strength, endurance and resistance to sunlight. There also appears to have been middle stages between Men and the Uruk-hai, Men with varying degrees of Orkish appearance such as Half-orcs and Goblin-men. These were reported by Pippin and Merry to have been part of Saruman's regular army, but were not Uruk-hai, since the hobbits would have recognised these from their earlier capture.

Saruman's servants called him "Sharkey" both in Isengard and later in the Shire.[22]


Saruman made contact with the Ents in Fangorn Forest shortly after he settled in Isengard. The oldest of the Ents, Treebeard received him and gave him free access to the forest.[23]

Saruman also consulted with Treebeard, learning much old lore that the Ents would have remembered from ancient times. Saruman did not return this favour, but only listened.[23]

The Ents saw Saruman's treachery early, and became very concerned, primarily with Saruman's Orcs felling trees on the edge of Fangorn for use in the furnaces of Isengard and sometimes for no reason at all.

The Ents also appear to have had a sense of order, how things should be, that Saruman encroached upon. The crossbreeding of Men and Orcs particularly alarmed them, out of proportion to other concerns enemies of Saruman might have had. Also alarming was the pure fact of his treachery — the Istari were supposed to have a special responsibility.

Saruman used the Ents and the Fangorn forest without concern for the consequences. He clearly misjudged the Ents' abilities and will to act. This might not have been as incautious as it seemed, since major contributing factors to the Ent's actions were advice and requests from Gandalf, and concern about the rising power of Sauron (and their wish to support the front-line troops of the war, Rohan and Gondor).

Saruman clearly had the ability to understand the minds of the Ents when he found it useful. He managed to talk Treebeard into setting him free from Orthanc by pushing just the right buttons — Ents dislike the concept of caging up any creature.


The race of Hobbits and their lands seemed too insignificant to interest Saruman: until he took notice of Gandalf's special concern for them. Studying Gandalf made him focus gradually more and more on the Hobbits and The Shire. For a period he actually travelled there in secret, mapping out the lands. Gandalf was aware of this, but at this point only amused.

He began smoking pipe-weed (a habit of the Hobbits that Gandalf had picked up), also in secret. His demand for tobacco opened up trading between The Shire and Isengard, and the power his money could wield there and the corruption it could cause began to fascinate him. Some of his agents went in secret, and some were known to Gandalf and the Rangers.

His anger towards the Hobbits may possibly stem from the attention Gandalf showed them. It certainly strengthened immensely when he discovered that the Hobbits had "conspired" with Gandalf to keep the One Ring from him.

This, and the sudden urgency caused by the Ringwraiths' hunt for the Ring-bearer from The Shire to Rivendell, made him increase his activity in the area, leading to a build-up of power that would lead to virtual conquest of The Shire.

He might also later have blamed the ruin of Isengard by the Ents on Peregrin Took and Meriadoc Brandybuck, who clearly catalysed events.

This all came together when Saruman escaped from the Ents and retired to The Shire and his thug regime in place there. It appears he immediately switched the focus of this operation to wanton destruction: pollution, murder, fire, chopping down trees for no reason, a last blow against Hobbits and Gandalf.

At his final utter defeat by a Hobbit uprising, his life was spared even when he tried to assassinate Frodo Baggins. At this moment he actually conceded a short-lived respect to Frodo.


Saruman was supposedly eager to go to Middle-earth, against Manwë's counsel. After his 'death' he was apparently barred from returning to Valinor, and therefore was denied reincarnation and condemned to waft away and disappear like so much smoke.[22] In his corrupt state, Saruman sought power and the imposing of order in Middle-earth by any means necessary, even if it meant betraying the mission he was entrusted with and throwing in his lot with Sauron.

Sauron, in origin a Maia of Aulë like Saruman, awed and frightened him. During the height of his arrogance, Saruman thought he could contend with Sauron, but in the end he found himself meddling with a spirit of far greater power and knowledge than himself. Caught peering into the palantír he was seduced by Sauron to his allegiance, no longer opposing (and perhaps even desiring) his victory. The Wizard sought to become the quasi-equal lieutenant to Sauron and receive his favour in triumph, yet he was proved to be a duplicitous ally by actively coveting the One Ring. After the Escape of Gandalf, Saruman understood the only paths ahead of him were to: show Sauron his loyalty by crippling Rohan, hoping to at the very least be spared, or claim the Ring first; otherwise he would come to ruin and torment.

Saruman grudgingly brought with him Radagast as a companion from Valinor, at the request of Yavanna, yet still managed to arrive alone, and first. Shortly after, he went into the East with the two Blue Wizards, and later returned alone. There he may have wrought many great works to diminish the influence of the Enemy or searched for lore to help him in his schemes.

Radagast, even though Saruman scorned him, served both Gandalf and Saruman very usefully (and wholly unintentionally, as he admitted "he had just the wit to play the part I set him", that of persuading Gandalf to come to Isengard).[24] Radagast also sent birds to Saruman and Gandalf to report the different happenings in Middle-earth.

Saruman had always been jealous of Gandalf, and knew that he was keeping secrets from him, such as his suspicion about Bilbo's ring and Narya, secret. Gandalf also suspected Saruman of plotting to gain the One Ring for himself, and hinted at this at a meeting of the White Council. Gandalf blew nine small smoke rings and one great one that wavered a bit, seeming almost palpable, and yet blew away, symbolising (almost prophetic of) Saruman's failure in achieving the One. In general, Saruman must have viewed Gandalf as his only peer, and as such to be feared and treated with (although not necessarily shown) respect. He always kept a watchful eye open for Gandalf's doings, and actually picked up the habit of smoking pipe-weed by sending out spies tailing Gandalf to the Shire. After revealing his fealty to Mordor and his desire for the Ring, Saruman offered Gandalf the chance to join with Sauron, or perhaps get the One for themselves. Ultimately, certain that Gandalf could be forced to tell of the Ring's whereabouts or that at least Sauron would prevail, he came to underestimate Gandalf and think little of his interventions.

Nevertheless, Saruman exercised more power than Gandalf, even with the ring Narya, as became clear when he placed Gandalf under arrest at the pinnacle of Orthanc. The text does not make it clear whether Saruman lost power or whether Gandalf gained power, but when Gandalf returned as "Gandalf the White", he could summon Saruman at his will, forcibly keep him in his presence, and finally break Saruman's staff (with whatever implications that might have had for Saruman's powers).

Despite his apparent disdain for the Grey Pilgrim, Saruman several times came very close to setting aside his pride and asking Gandalf for pity and help. The closest call came when the Ringwraiths (on their way to the Shire) arrived at Isengard while Gandalf still remained in captivity there. Saruman, realising he might have already lost Sauron's trust, actually went to seek Gandalf's pardon, only to find his erstwhile captive missing from the top of Orthanc.


Saruman had control over many birds, probably having been taught to tame them by Radagast. Crebain spied for him and brought him news.[25] In addition, the Orcs Saruman took in his armies had amongst them wild Wolves and even Wargs, a sort of demonic cousin of the former.


Saruman is a Mannish translation of Quenya Curumo, his original name in Valinor as a Maia; and Sindarin Curunír which is supposedly the same name (with the ending -ndîr "man"). All names mean "Skilled Man" or "Cunning One" (root curu "skill").[26][27][28]

Saruman is derived from Old English: the root word searu means "device, design, contrivance, art" and the whole name means "man of skill".[26]

Other names

  • Curumo - (Q: "cunning", pron. [ˈkurumo]) his name in Valinor, before he came to Middle-earth during the Third Age.[3]
  • Curunír - His Sindarin name, he was also called Curunír' Lân ("Curunír the White") [6]
  • Sharkey - The name used for him by the hobbits of the Shire.[29]
  • Tarindor - Meaning "High/wise-mind(ed)-one", used when he was sent to Cuiviénen with the other Five Guardians.[30]
  • The Wise - Title claimed by Saruman.[16]
  • The White - Title claimed by Saruman as head of the Istari.[31]
  • Ring Maker - Title claimed by Saruman while trying to bring Gandalf to his side.[16]
  • Of Many Colours - Title claimed by Saruman while trying to bring Gandalf to his side.[16]
  • Tree-killer - Title given to Saruman by Quickbeam[32]

Other versions of the legendarium

In the earlier versions of The Lord of the Rings, Saruman was sketched merely as a fawning servant of Sauron, while the army he musters is not in rivalry of Mordor's but from the beginning in his new master's employ. In other drafts, the treacherous Wizard hands Gandalf over to the evil Giant Treebeard or betrays him to the Black Riders.[16]

Saruman's older names in these drafts were Sarumond and Saramund,[33] containing the English term mund "hand".


Saruman was invented and introduced in the story in order to explain Gandalf's absence in the first part of The Lord of the Rings, replacing Treebeard as the Wizard's captor.[33]

As a scholar, Tolkien would also have been well aware of the name of a similarly-named historic 'head of his order', Jaruman.

Portrayal in adaptations

Saruman in adaptations
Saruman in The Lord of the Rings (1978 film)
Christopher Lee as Saruman in The Lord of the Rings (film series)
Saruman in The Lord of the Rings Online
Saruman in Lego form
Saruman in Lego form  


1978: The Lord of the Rings (1978 film):

Fraser Kerr provided the voice of Saruman. From early on in the production, it was decided that "Saruman" and "Sauron" sounded too much alike, and might confuse viewers. On concept art, Saruman is called Ruman,[34] but prior to recording, this was changed to Aruman. However, during recording, it was again changed, to "Saruman". Because of this late change, several instances of "Aruman" remain in the finished film.

2001-03: The Lord of the Rings (film series):

Saruman was played by Christopher Lee. Saruman's depiction in the series is more akin to the early drafts: he is a more committed vassal of Sauron; still, he is seemingly not above cheating his master, instructing Lurtz to bring him the Hobbits carrying "something of great value" (the One Ring). In the films, his corruption by Sauron is directly portrayed to have come about through his use of one of the Palantíri found in the tower of Orthanc, through which Sauron fueled the lust for power and accompanying arrogance and greed already festering in Saruman's heart. The films did not include the Scouring of the Shire, so Saruman's last appearance was in Isengard, during his encounter with Gandalf and Théoden. In the extended edition of The Return of the King, Gríma stabs Saruman in the back, causing him to fall on a spiked wheel below the tower of Orthanc.

2012-14: The Hobbit (film series): Christopher Lee reprised his role as Saruman, although the character does not appear in the book.[35] He appears as part of the White Council alongside Gandalf, Galadriel and Elrond. He is sceptical about the appearance of a Necromancer in Dol Guldur. However, when he participates in the attack on Dol Guldur, he sees for himself that Sauron has indeed returned. After the skirmish, he appears shaken by the display of Sauron's power, but claims he will take it upon himself to keep an eye on the Dark Lord and pretends to care for Lady Galadriel's weakened state.


1993: Hobitit:

Saruman was played by actor Mikko Kivinen. He appears only in the "Vanha metsä" ("Old Forest") episode.

Radio series

1955: The Lord of the Rings (1955 radio series):

The voice of Saruman is provided by Robert Farquharson.

1979: The Lord of the Rings (1979 radio series):

The voice of Saruman is provided by James Arrington.

1981: The Lord of the Rings (1981 radio series):

Peter Howell played Saruman. Because the series follows a chronological timeline rather than the flashbacks of the books, Saruman's betrayal is brought out much sooner than in the book. Excerpts from The Hunt for the Ring are dramatised to flesh out Gandalf's escape from Isengard, and the Nazgul's pursuit. In the final episode, Saruman's death at the hands of Wormtongue at Bag End is included.

1992: Der Herr der Ringe (1992 German radio series):

Saruman is played by Manfred Steffen.

2001-2003: Pán prsteňov (2001-2003 Slovak radio series):

The voice of Saruman is provided by Andrej Hryc. Saruman appears in all three series (seasons) of this adaptation, with his most prominent appearances in the episodes covering The Two Towers.


2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (video game):

Though Christopher Lee provided the voice of Saruman for many scenes, the only visual appearance of the Wizard of from re-used movie clips, his voice is played over several of Gandalf's actions.

2003: The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring:

Saruman is one of the "Hero" units of the Servants of Sauron, the game also depicts his creation of the Uruk-hai.

2004: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth:

Saruman is the main "Hero" unit of the Isengard faction, the evil campaign follows his despoilment of both Isengard and the Fangorn Forest, war on Rohan and later conquest of the outlying lands.

2006: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II:

Saruman is still the main "Hero" unit of the Isengard faction but plays no role in the storyline.

2011: The Lord of the Rings Online: Rise of Isengard:

Though frequently referred to in-game since 2007, Saruman made no visual appearance until 2011 and the Rise of Isengard expansion. Many quests in the game display the stretch of the White Hand - Saruman's minions are present in the Shire as early as T.A. 3018, as well as Bree-land, Lone-lands, Eregion, Enedwaith, Dunland, Gap of Rohan, outskirts of the Fangorn Forest and even Moria.
In the storyline of Rise of Isengard Saruman first appears buying the loyalties of the Dunlending clans, bringing with him riches and maintaining a friendly appearance. He also still keeps his affairs in Rohan private, to the point that when a Rohirrim questions the desolation of Nan Curunír and the presence of Trolls in Isengard, the Wizard manages to use his voice to convince him that it was all for the good cause. At one point, traitorous Dunlendings capture the player and send him to Saruman as a gift - once again the Wizard maintains a friendly and noble appearance, trying to discern the location of The Ring, before the player escapes.
A major storyline is derived from a single line in The Fellowship of the Ring, where Saruman calls himself "Ring-forger". Long having researched the Rings of Power, Saruman sends his minions to pillage what remains of Ring-Forges of Eregion, looking for any knowledge of ancient Elven smiths that have remained here. Using that lore, he constructs a massive Ring-Forge under Isengard, where he creates five lesser rings and a master one to command them. He keeps the master ring to himself and gives the other to his most trusted lieutenants, though none of the mortals are prepared for it and are turned into monstrosities. A large force of players defeats them one by one, reclaiming lesser rings and later use those rings to turn upon the master one. In the ensuing fight Saruman's ring is destroyed shortly before the Battle of Hornburg, and with it the lesser ones lose their power.

2014: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor:

Voiced by Roger Jackson, Saruman appears in this game as a non-playable character. The game's protagonist, Talion, finds various artefacts that reveal that Saruman's spies are active within the borders of Mordor in the years between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It is later revealed that Saruman was controlling Queen Marwen of the Nurnen to hinder Sauron while bringing about the destruction of the men of Nurn.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Voice of Saruman"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Ainulindalë: The Music of the Ainur"
  3. 3.0 3.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Istari", note 6
  4. 4.0 4.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Carl F. Hostetter (ed.), The Nature of Middle-earth, "Part One. Time and Ageing: XIII. Key Dates", p. 95
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Valaquenta: Account of the Valar and Maiar According to the Lore of the Eldar"
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Istari"
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
  8. 8.0 8.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Palantíri"
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion", "The Stewards"
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The House of Eorl"
  12. 12.0 12.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond" p. 250-51
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The King of the Golden Hall"
  14. 14.0 14.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Hunt for the Ring", "Concerning Gandalf, Saruman, and the Shire"
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Great Years"
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond"
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Hunt for the Ring"
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Hunt for the Ring"
  19. 19.0 19.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Chief Days from the Fall of Barad-dûr to the End of the Third Age"
  20. 20.0 20.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "Many Partings"
  21. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Voice of Saruman"
  22. 22.0 22.1 , p. 1020
  23. 23.0 23.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "Treebeard"
  24. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond", p. 258
  25. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Ring Goes South"
  26. 26.0 26.1 Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 81
  27. Helge Fauskanger, "Quettaparma Quenyallo", Ardalambion (accessed 21 June 2024)
  28. Didier Willis, ed., "Hiswelókë's Sindarin dictionary", Hiswelókë (accessed 21 June 2024)
  29. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Scouring of the Shire"
  30. J.R.R. Tolkien, Carl F. Hostetter (ed.), The Nature of Middle-earth, "Part One. Time and Ageing: XIII. Key Dates", "Notes", p. 102, note 7
  31. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Shadow of the Past"
  32. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "Flotsam and Jetsam" p. 568
  33. 33.0 33.1 Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. xxiii
  34. 1978 - The Lord of the Rings Gallery at (accessed 26 March 2011)
  35. "Christopher Lee will star in the Hobbit prequel" dated 8 February 2011, The Telegraph (accessed 21 December 2011)
Maia of Aulë
Position established
Chief of the Istari
c. T.A. 1000 - 5 March, 3019
Followed by:
Preceded by:
Lord of Isengard
T.A. 2759 - 15 August, 3019
Elessar granted Isengard to the Ents

Valar Lords Manwë · Ulmo · Aulë · Oromë · Mandos · Irmo · Tulkas · Melkor
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Úmaiar Sauron · Balrogs (Gothmog · Durin's Bane) · Boldogs
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The Hobbit film series
Source material: The Hobbit · The Lord of the Rings
Films An Unexpected Journey (extended editionThe Desolation of Smaug (extended edition) · The Battle of the Five Armies (extended edition)
Music An Unexpected Journey (Special Edition) · The Desolation of Smaug (Special Edition) · The Battle of the Five Armies (Special Edition) · "Song of the Lonely Mountain" · "I See Fire" · "The Last Goodbye"
Tie-in books An Unexpected Journey Official Movie Guide · Visual Companion · Movie Storybook · Annual 2013 · Chronicles: Art & Design · Chronicles: Creatures & Characters · The World of Hobbits
The Desolation of Smaug Official Movie Guide · Visual Companion · Movie Storybook · Annual 2014 · Chronicles: Art & Design · Chronicles: Cloaks & Daggers · Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon · Activity Book · Sticker Book · Ultimate Sticker Collection
The Battle of the Five Armies Official Movie Guide · Visual Companion · Movie Storybook · Annual 2015 · Chronicles: Art & Design · Chronicles: The Art of War · Activity Book
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Characters Bilbo · Thorin · Gandalf · Balin · Fíli · Kíli · Dwalin · Dori · Nori · Ori · Óin · Glóin · Bifur · Bofur · Bombur · Smaug · Radagast · Elrond · Galadriel · Saruman · Azog · Bolg · Thranduil · Legolas · Tauriel · Bard · Bain · Tilda · Sigrid · Master of Lake-town · Alfrid · Dáin Ironfoot · Necromancer · Bert · William · Tom · Beorn · Thráin · Thrór · Goblin King · Gollum · Frodo
The Lord of the Rings film series
Source material: The Hobbit · The Lord of the Rings
Films The Fellowship of the Ring (extended editionThe Two Towers (extended edition) · The Return of the King (extended edition)
Music The Fellowship of the Ring (The Complete Recordings) · The Two Towers (The Complete Recordings) · The Return of the King (The Complete Recordings) · "May It Be" · "Gollum's Song" · "Into the West"
Tie-in books Official Movie Guide · The Making of the Movie Trilogy · Complete Visual Companion · Gollum: How We Made Movie Magic · There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale · Weapons and Warfare · The Art of The Lord of the Rings · Sketchbook
The Fellowship of the Ring Visual Companion · The Art of The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers Visual Companion · Photo Guide · The Art of The Two Towers
The Return of the King Visual Companion · The Art of The Return of the King
Video games The Two Towers · The Return of the King · The Third Age · Tactics · Conquest · Aragorn's Quest · Lego The Lord of the Rings
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