White Council

From Tolkien Gateway
White Council
The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey - The White Council meets.jpg
The White Council in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Other namesCouncil of the Wise[1]
Date foundedS.A. 1701 (first)[2]
T.A. 2463 (later)[3]
PurposeTo co-ordinate the resistance to Sauron
Notable membersSaruman, Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond, Círdan
DisbandedT.A. 2953[3]
Notable forAttack on Dol Guldur
GalleryImages of the White Council

The White Council, also referred to as the Council of the Wise, was a gathering of the Wise in Middle-earth. At least two different Councils were known to have existed in the history of Middle-earth: one which met at least once after Sauron was driven out of Eriador in S.A. 1701,[5] and another which first met in T.A. 2463[3] and went on to meet irregularly throughout the course of the Third Age. The purpose of the Council was "to unite and direct the forces of the West, in resistance to the shadow."[6]

Members[edit | edit source]

Second Age[edit | edit source]

No members are explicitly identified as being part of the first White Council during the Second Age, however it is implied that at least Gil-galad and Elrond were members as Gil-galad gave Vilya to Elrond at the Council. Galadriel and Celeborn were present in Imladris at the same time as the Council, making them potential candidates as well.[5]

Third Age[edit | edit source]

The following individuals were clearly stated to have been members of the later iteration of the White Council during the Third Age:

Other lords of the Eldar were said to have joined the Council at some point in time.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

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. It seems likely that the "White Council" of the Third Age echoed this "White Council" of the Second Age.[7]

In T.A. 2063[3] Gandalf entered Dol Guldur, thus daunting the concealed Sauron into fleeing eastwards, beginning the Watchful Peace; although this was before the formation of the Council, the feat was attributed to them.[8][note 2]

Dol Guldur by Angus McBride

In T.A. 2463,[3] following Sauron's return to Dol Guldur and the end of the Watchful Peace in 2460,[3] Galadriel summoned the first meeting of the White Council.[4]

There are only four known meetings of the White Council:[3]

  • 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 deep knowledge on Sauron's devices, and he begrudged Gandalf for being the desired candidate.[1]
  • T.A. 2851: The Council met at Rivendell.[9] The Grey Pilgrim urged an attack on Dol Guldur following his discovery in the previous year that its master was indeed the returned Dark Lord.[1] Gandalf also wished to simultaneously prevent a union between Sauron and Smaug - the Dragon that had sacked Erebor not long ago.[10] Saruman overruled him, however, because in secret he had begun to covet Sauron's power for himself.[3] The White Wizard thus insisted that there was no reason to attack the Dark Lord, claiming therefore that, the One Ring had fallen into the Anduin, and by now it had been flown to the Sea.[note 3] In reality Saruman wanted to win himself some time, knowing that the Ring would sooner or later reveal itself if it felt the growing presence of its master, Sauron; moving against him, it would make the Ring hide again.[1] 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.[9]
  • T.A. 2941: Gandalf said that although the One Ring was lost, its existence alone allowed Sauron to still manifest - the Enemy, who now had the Nine Rings and three of the Seven - and repeated his call to attack Dol Guldur.[1] Saruman finally conceded to the assault for he had been alarmed by Sauron's searching for the One Ring in the Anduin[3] and believed that thrusting him from Dol Guldur would allow him to search freely.[1] The White Council launched an attack on Dol Guldur, but the Dark Lord, having already made plans, fled to Mordor.[3][1]
  • T.A. 2953: Following Sauron's open declaration in 2951,[3] 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[11][note 3] this quieting Gandalf's worries about Bilbo's Ring. Afterwards, the Wizard retreated to Isengard and isolated himself from the others[3][1] and would be ensnared by the Dark Lord in 3000, becoming his power-lusting vassal.[3]

Portrayal in adaptations[edit | edit source]

The White Council meets in Rivendell in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

2012: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:

Having arrived at Rivendell with Thorin and Company, Gandalf found himself unexpectedly taken by Elrond to meet with Galadriel and Saruman at Saruman's behest. Whilst the 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 for the film; Gandalf reveals his concerns regarding an alliance between Sauron and Smaug, before telling the Council that Radagast had found Dol Guldur occupied by a Necromancer. Ever begrudging Gandalf, Saruman dismisses Gandalf for believing Radagast's story. Gandalf and Galadriel converse telepathically before the Wizard shows the Council a Morgul blade which belonged to the Witch-king; the blade and the Nazgûl had been buried together many centuries previously following the downfall of Angmar. Saruman is still skeptical 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, knowing already that Saruman would hinder him out of spite and pride.

2014: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies:

Gandalf has been imprisoned and tormented by Sauron and his minion after a failed mission to the stronghold of Dol Guldur. As Gandalf telepathically makes contact with Radagast, Galadriel arrives at the fortress to rescue him, vanquishing the Orc jailor in the process. She and Gandalf are then surrounded by the spectres of the Nazgûl, but Elrond and Saruman arrive on the scene and attack them. Galadriel heals Gandalf while their companions battle the Nine. After Gandalf is swiftly taken to safety by Radagast, Sauron himself manifests before the council, forcing Galadriel to assume a dark, ethereal form in order to banish him, assisted by the power of Nenya and her phial. The Dark Lord's spirit then flees into the East, which Elrond suggests should be kept under watch by Gondor, who should be warned of the Enemy's return. Both awed and shaken by Sauron's display of strength, Saruman plays down on Galadriel and Elrond's worries, professedly vowing that he himself would deal with Sauron, and ultimately foreshadowing his later corruption.

See also[edit | edit source]


  1. 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".
  2. The discrepancy is noted in Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, p. 424
  3. 3.0 3.1 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".


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn", p. 254, note 10
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
  4. 4.0 4.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Mirror of Galadriel", p. 357
  5. 5.0 5.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "VIII. The Tale of Years of the Third Age"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn", p. 254, note 10
  8. 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..."
  9. 9.0 9.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Hunt for the Ring", "(iii) Concerning Gandalf, Saruman, and the Shire"
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Quest of Erebor"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond"