In the Undying Lands around TA 1000, Manwë summoned a council of the Valar to send three messengers to Middle-earth. Two Maiar came, Curumo (later known as Saruman) sent by Aulë, and (Morinehtar) Alatar, sent by Oromë. Manwë asked where Olórin was, and he came, after returning from a journey. Manwë asked Olórin (Gandalf) if he would go as the third messenger. Olórin said that he was too weak, and he was afraid of Sauron. Manwë said that that was all the more reason to go, and that he commanded Olórin to go as the third. Then Varda said "Not as the third." Yavanna begged Curumo to take (Radagast) Aiwendil, and Alatar took (Rómestámo), Pallando as a friend. They were forbidden to dominate the peoples of Middle-earth or to match Sauron's power with power. When Saruman, the greatest of the Wizards, disobeyed this injunction, he was cast from the order and banished from Valinor.
Most were given different names from before they had come and they arrived in different colours of clothing from each other, and they were called Wizards. Many of these wizards came to the northwestern regions of Middle-earth. The chiefs of those that came to Middle-earth were five in number. Although the only wizards explicitly named or mentioned in the books are the Istari, there are several allusions to there being many other, lesser wizards in Middle-earth, just as "magic rings" are treated as much more commonplace than the Rings of Power, although none are actually seen. When the five istari came to Middle-earth, sent by the Valar, they were known as Heren Istarion or translated as Order of Wizards. After they arrived, the two Blue Wizards went into the east and no one heard from them again. Radagast the Brown liked plants and animals, and so he lived in Mirkwood for many years. The other two wizards, Curunir and Olórin have gone to the Elves, Dwarf and to the Men. Curunir, now known as Saruman was wise and respected enough by all that he had become head of the White Council in TA 2463. However, his pride had grown and he was jealous of the potential power and purity of spirit in Gandalf, who would eventually surpass him in power. This caused him to slowly betray the original purpose of the Istari.
Of the other surviving Istari, Saruman was killed outside of Bag End, in the Shire, by his demented servant Grima Wormtongue after the fallen wizard tried to rule the hobbits. Saruman's spirit looked to the West, but was blown away. Saruman was banished from the order and Valinor anyway unless he had repented his acts which he never did before his death or before Frodo, Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, and Bilbo set out for the Grey Havens. Radagast may have chosen to go to the Grey Havens or chosen to stay in Middle-earth. His fate is unknown but as he was already immortal of the race of the Maia he would ultimately be forced to leave Middle-earth. The Blue Wizards assumingly went east before the War of the Ring, and whether they played a part in the events of the war is unclear. At the end of the Third Age the Istari passed from sight, with the fall of Sauron their work was done. Gandalf passed over Sea with the Last Riding of the Keepers of the Rings.
The Istari bore the forms of old Men, although they were vigorous and aged very slowly. They possessed great skill of body and mind; their powers were focused through their staffs. Each of the Istari had his own colour and grade within the Order. Saruman the White was the eldest and Gandalf the Grey second. The other Istari were Radagast the Brown and the two Blue Wizards, who dwelt far in the east.
|Middle-earth name||Colour||Maia name||Belongs to|
|Saruman||White (later Many Coloured)||Curumo||Aulë|
|Gandalf||Grey (later White)||Olórin||Manwë and Varda|
- Curunir, the white wizard, was more commonly known as Saruman. He later claimed the title "Saruman of the Many Colours", after he was seduced by the evil power of Sauron.
- Olórin, the grey wizard, was more commonly known as Gandalf the Grey. However, after dying at the hands of a balrog, Gandalf was reborn as Gandalf the White.
- Aiwendil, the brown wizard, was more commonly known as Radagast. Radagast was a lover of nature and so did not play any major part in the War of the Ring except for announcing to the Great Eagles that Gandalf was at the Orthanc with Saruman
- Alatar and Pallando, the Blue Wizards. (Note: Later in his life, Tolkien wrote a note, suggesting that the names of the Blue Wizards were Morinehtar and Rómestámo. It is
Saruman was killed by Gríma following the Battle of Bywater, and Gandalf returned to the Undying Lands in TA 3021. However, the fates of the three other Istari are relatively unknown. Alatar and Pallando disappeared in the east, while Radagast stayed in Middle-earth at least until TA 3018.