|The White Council in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey|
|Other names||Council of the Wise|
|Date founded||T.A. 2463|
|Purpose||To co-ordinate the resistance to Sauron|
|Notable members||Saruman, Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond, Círdan|
|Notable for||Attack on Dol Guldur|
|Gallery||Images of the White Council|
The White Council, also referred to as the Council of the Wise, was a group of the wise in Middle-earth which met irregularly. Its purpose was "to unite and direct the forces of the West, in resistance to the shadow."
The following individuals were clearly stated to have been members of the White Council:
- Saruman, the appointed leader of the Council
- Galadriel, who first summoned it
- Gil-galad (at least in the first one)
- "other lords of the Eldar" did join.
A "White Council" first met in c. S.A. 1701.[note 1] At this meeting it was decided that Imladris should become the stronghold of the Elves in Eriador, rather than Eregion. No members are mentioned explicitly, but it is implied that at least Gil-galad and Elrond were members because Gil-galad gave Vilya to Elrond at that Council. Galadriel and Celeborn were also present at Imladris in that moment. It seems likely that the "White Council" of the Third Age echoed this "White Council" of the Second Age.
There are only four known meetings of the White Council:
- T.A. 2463: there were Saruman, Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel and Círdan, and other lords of the Eldar. It was mooted that Gandalf be the head of the Council, but to Galadriel's dismay he refused the office as he preferred his independence. Saruman was chosen as their chief instead, because of his knowledge on Sauron's devices, and he begrudged Gandalf for being the desired candidate.
- T.A. 2851: the Council met at Rivendell. Gandalf urged an attack on Dol Guldur following his discovery in the previous year that its master was indeed Sauron. Saruman overruled him because in secret he had begun to desire the One Ring for himself. Saruman insisted that there was no reason to attack Sauron, claiming therefore that, the One Ring fell into the Anduin, and by now it had been flown to the Sea.[note 3] In reality Saruman wanted to win some time, knowing that the Ring would sooner or later reveal itself to return to its Master; moving against him, it would make the Ring to hid again. Unusually for a White Council meeting, Gandalf sat apart from the others, in silence and smoking, whilst Saruman spoke against the attack on Dol Guldur. This irritated Saruman and he spoke to Gandalf afterwards, asking him why he did not join in the discussion, and mocked his smoking. Gandalf replied that pipe-weed, a practice of the Halflings, gave him 'patience'. Saruman mocked him again and in response Gandalf sent out many rings of smoke into the air and grasped them in his hand before they vanished. Saruman read this gesture as suggesting that Gandalf suspected him of wanting to possess the One Ring, or that there was a connection between the rings of power and the Halflings.
- T.A. 2941: Gandalf said that although the One Ring was lost, its existence alone allowed Sauron to live, who had now the Nine Rings and three of the Seven, and repeated his call to attack Dol Guldur. Saruman finally submitted for he knew that Sauron was searching for the One Ring in the Anduin and thrusting him from Dol Guldur would allow him to search freely. The White Council launched an attack on Dol Guldur, but Sauron, having already made plans, fled to Mordor.
- T.A. 2953: following Sauron's open declaration in 2951, there was a discussion on the Rings of Power. Saruman once again repeated his claim that the One Ring had been lost down the Anduin and into the Sea[note 3] this quieting Gandalf's worries about Bilbo's Ring. Afterwards, Saruman retreated to Isengard and isolated himself from the others and would be ensnared by Sauron in 3000.
Portrayal in adaptations
- Having arrived at Rivendell with Thorin and Company, Gandalf met with Elrond, Galadriel, and Saruman. It seems that Gandalf was unaware that the meeting would take place. Whilst this meeting is not explicitly called the "White Council," its membership and discussion points have much in common with the White Council in Tolkien's writings. Much of the history of the Third Age is conflated and substantially altered. Gandalf told the Council that Radagast had found Dol Guldur occupied by a Necromancer. Saruman was very skeptical of Radagast's story and dismissed Gandalf for believing him. Gandalf and Galadriel converse telepathically before the wizard showed the Council a morgul blade which belonged to the Witch-king; the blade and Nazgûl had been buried together many centuries previously following the downfall of Angmar. Saruman is sceptical about the evidence and Radagast's claims and forbids Gandalf to continue his journey. However Gandalf had already arranged for Thorin and Company to leave Rivendell during the meeting.
- Gandalf has been imprisoned and tormented by Sauron after a failed solo mission to the stronghold of Dol Guldur. Galadriel arrives at the fortress to rescue him, vanquishing an Orc in the process. She and Gandalf are then surrounded by the spectres of the Nine, but Elrond and Saruman arrive on the scene and attack them. Galadriel heals Gandalf, and he is swiftly taken to safety by Radagast. Sauron himself manifests before the council, but Galadriel assumes a dark, ethereal form and overpowers him. Sauron's spirit then flees into the East.
- In J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn" it states that, "At this time the first Council was held". This followed the driving out of Sauron from Eregion, which occurred S.A. 1701 according to J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Second Age". According to J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn", note 10, "the first Council" was emended to "the first White Council".
- The discrepancy is noted in Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, p. 424
- According to Of the Rings of Power Saruman makes this claim in the second meeting, and in Appendix B, this argument is said in the last meeting; in the Council of Elrond this claim was "repeated what he had said to us before".
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Mirror of Galadriel", p. 357
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "VIII. The Tale of Years of the Third Age"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn", p. 254, note 10
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion", "The Stewards", "...the Watchful Peace, during which Sauron withdrew before the power of the White Council..."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Hunt for the Ring", "(iii) Concerning Gandalf, Saruman, and the Shire"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond"