- "Once he was as great as his fame made him. His knowledge was deep, his thought was subtle, and his hands marvelously skilled; and he had a power over the minds of others. The wise he could persuade, and the smaller folk he could daunt. That power he certainly still keeps. There are not many in Middle-earth that I should say were safe, if they were left alone to talk with him, even now when he has suffered a defeat. Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel, perhaps, now that his wickedness has been laid bare, but very few others."
- —Aragorn, The Two Towers, "Flotsam and Jetsam"
Saruman (Quenya; IPA: ['saruman] - "Man Of Skill") the White, of Many Colours, The White Wizard, Head of the White Council, Lord of Isengard, Sharkey, The Boss also called Curumo (Quenya; IPA: ['kurumo] - "Skillful One") or Curunír (Sindarin; IPA: ['kuruni:r] - "Man Of Skill"), was a Wizard, or Istar, who lived in Middle-earth during the Third Age. Originally, he was the chief of the wizards and of the White Council that opposed Sauron. His extensive studies of dark magic, however, eventually led him to desire the One Ring for himself. Thinking he could ally himself with Sauron and then betray him, Saruman allied Isengard with Mordor in the War of the Ring, in which he was defeated.
Saruman was the first of the five Wizards to arrive in Middle-earth, at the end of the first millennium of the Third Age. He was said to be the eldest of the order, and Gandalf acknowledged him once as the "chief of the Istari". He was an antagonist of the Free Peoples in the War of the Ring, as recounted in The Lord Of The Rings. Many feared the White Wizard and his compelling voice; even Sauron himself. His dwelling was the fortress of Orthanc in Isengard, below Methedras.
Saruman studied deeply the arts of Sauron, the better to oppose him, but he soon became enamored of Sauron's devices, especially the One Ring. He betrayed his mission and sought the power of the Ring for himself. He initially advocated an alliance with Sauron, but he soon betrayed Sauron as well, as his ultimate goal was to supplant Sauron and rule Middle-earth. But his plans came to nought, and his power was broken in the Battle of the Hornburg and the Battle of Isengard.
Before his fall, he was the chief of both the wizards and of the White Council (a league of all those opposed to Sauron). His knowledge and skill, especially of Sauron's devices, was said to be great (the name "Saruman" means "man of skill"). However, his deep study of the One Ring and Sauron's other magic corrupted him, and his overweening lust for power led to his downfall. He is one of the few characters in Middle-earth who is morally "grey" - serving neither good nor evil. He betrays both sides and ultimately works for his own ends.
Saruman was originally a Maia of Aulë the Smith - just as Sauron had once been - named Curumo, meaning "skillful one", or Curunír by the elves in Sindarin. In Valinor, the land of the Valar, a council was called by Manwë, leader of the Valar, shortly after Sauron's defeat by the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. Though Sauron was overthrown, it would later turn out that he had not been effectively vanquished and his shadow began to fall upon Middle-earth a second time. It was decided to send five emissaries to Middle-earth. These should be "mighty, peers of Sauron, yet forgo might, and clothe themselves in flesh," as they were intended to help Men and Elves unite against Sauron, but the wizards were forbidden from matching the Dark Lord in power and fear.
Arrival in Middle-earth
The five wizards arrived at the Grey Havens in the west of Eriador around the year 1000. Only the keeper of the havens, Círdan the Shipwright, knew Saruman's identity and origin. Saruman would later discover that Círdan had given Narya, the Red Ring, to Gandalf upon their first landing in Middle-earth. Even though Saruman was immediately considered the head of the order while Gandalf was not, Círdan had divined Gandalf as the wisest and greatest of the wizards. Saruman's jealousy of Gandalf grew from these events, perhaps because he feared that he would eventually supplant him as chief of wizards.
Saruman and the two Blue Wizards went into the east of Middle-earth. After one and a half millennia, he returned to the west, just as Sauron's power was growing again in Dol Guldur.
The White Council
When the White Council was formed at approximately year 2463 of the Third Age in order to counter Sauron, Saruman was appointed its leader, though Galadriel wanted Gandalf in this position. Saruman refused to step down due to his pride, while Gandalf had declined. At this point Saruman had begun to sense the resurgence of Sauron and to envy and desire his power, and especially the One Ring. This was also the same year that the One Ring was taken by the Halfling Sméagol (later called Gollum), who disappeared with it into the Misty Mountains for hundreds of years. It was during the meetings of the Council that Saruman first noted Gandalf's interest in Hobbits and The Shire, and believing that all his deeds related to some as yet undisclosed plan of his for self-enhancement, Saruman himself began keeping a greater watch on Gandalf and sent spies to The Shire. At first, he himself visited it secretly but stopped when he realized that its inhabitants had noticed him. Amongst the purposes of his visits was to procure some of the halflings' Pipe-weed, since in secret imitation of Gandalf he had begun to smoke.
- "You did not seriously think that a hobbit could contend with the will of Sauron? There are none who can. Against the power of Mordor there can be no victory. We must join with him, Gandalf. We must join with Sauron. It would be wise, my friend."
"Tell me, 'friend', when did Saruman the wise abandon reason for madness?!"
- —Saruman and Galdalf, The Fellowship of the Ring film adaptation
In the year TA 2759, Saruman settled in Isengard with the permission of the Steward of Gondor, Beren, although he settled only as Warden of the Tower and representative of the Steward (the stronghold had by then been abandoned by Gondor). There he became important in the informal alliance defending the west of Middle-earth. In the tower of Isengard, Orthanc, he also found one of the remaining Palantíri.
In TA 2850, Gandalf entered Dol Guldur and confirmed that the evil presence was indeed Sauron. By Saruman's advice, the White Council decided against attacking Dol Guldur. Gandalf would later remark that it was at this council meeting that he first began to suspect that Saruman desired to possess the One Ring. Saruman's real intention was to permit Sauron to build up his strength, so that the One Ring would reveal itself. He later found that Sauron had more knowledge of the possible location of the One Ring than he expected, and in TA 2941, he finally agreed to attack Dol Guldur.
Ten years after, Sauron abandoned Dol Guldur he returned to Mordor and declared himself openly. He established contact with Saruman through the Palantír captured from Minas Ithil, now Minas Morgul. In this year, Saruman also took Isengard for his own and began to fortify it.
When Gandalf presented Saruman with the discovery and the location of the One Ring, Saruman revealed his desire for it and his secret alliance with Sauron. He had also shed the title of Saruman the White; Saruman no longer had any loyalty to the White Council, or the Ring-bearer. He tried unsuccessfully to gain Gandalf's allegiance. When Gandalf refused to join with him, Saruman held him captive in Isengard. Gandalf later escaped with help from Gwaihir the Windlord, one of Middle-earth's large Eagles, and made Saruman's treachery known to the rest of the White Council.
The Beginning of the End
By one account, the Nazgûl came two days after Gandalf's escape and Saruman used his Voice to persuade the Lord of the Nazgûl that he did not know the Ring's location but that Gandalf did and they should seek him nearby. After the Nazgûl heard this they went back on the main road rode along and instead found Gríma Wormtongue (who went to tell Saruman that Gandalf had been to Edoras) who revealed that Saruman was hiding his knowledge of the Shire from them. By another account, Saruman only discovered that Gandalf had escaped when the Nazgûl arrived, he has been, according to this account, about to beg Gandalf for forgiveness and help, only to find him gone. He pretended that Gandalf was still there and had just told him the location of the Shire.
The Nazgûl later learned that Saruman knew far more than he had revealed. On their way to the Shire, the Nazgûl met one of Saruman's Shire spies, from whom they got detailed maps of the Shire made by Saruman. They sent the spy back to the Shire after warning him that he was now in the service of Mordor (the Orc-like man in the Inn of the Prancing Pony).
Believing that he would find no pity from either quarter (a false assumption, since he was later offered pardon by Gandalf); Saruman now put all efforts into obtaining the One Ring for himself. Not all of these efforts ever became known, but they included sending spies to waylay Frodo Baggins on his flight from the Shire (Bill Ferny in Bree), attacking Rohan outright with Uruk-hai, and dispatching raiding parties of Uruk-hai accompanied by Moria Orcs on likely routes the Fellowship of the Ring might take through Rohan to go towards Gondor. One of those parties captured Pippin and Merry and shot Boromir "with many black-feathered arrows" when he tried to defend the Hobbits. This led Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli on a search which eventually led to the Battle of Helms Deep as well as the Destruction of Isengard by the Ents under Treebeard, leading to the end of Saruman's reign of power in the north.
- "You have become a fool, Saruman, and yet pitiable. You might still have turned away from folly and evil, and have been of service. But you choose to stay and gnaw the ends of your old plots. Stay then! But I warn you, you will not easily come out again. Not unless the dark hands of the east stretch out to take you!"
- —Gandalf the White
Saruman's plans failed, and he suffered a series of setbacks. Saruman's Shire network did not capture Frodo Baggins, and Éomer destroyed his only partially successful raiding party. His invasion of Rohan ended in disaster with the utter defeat of his army at the Battle of the Hornburg. Leaving Isengard undefended resulted in its destruction at the hands of the Ents (Saruman had underestimated the Ents' anger and strength).
Confined to the Orthanc and with his servants scattered or killed, Saruman made one final unsuccessful attempt to turn Théoden and Gandalf over to evil. The latter then offered Saruman a chance for redemption, which involved surrendering his staff and the Keys of Orthanc as a pledge. Saruman had a moment of doubt but in the end pride, anger, and hate won over and he refused the chance of redemption.
Gandalf, who had returned from death to supplant Saruman, as the White and the head of the Wizard, expelled Saruman from the order and broke his staff. Saruman also lost the Palantír of Orthanc when Gríma Wormtongue threw it off a balcony of Orthanc, undecided about which he hated more, Saruman or Gandalf, and hitting neither.
- "There is only one lord of the Ring, only one who can bend it to his will. And he does not share power!"
- —Gandalf speaking to Saruman, The Fellowship of The Ring
Left out of the final stages of the War of the Ring, Saruman eventually managed to persuade the Ents who kept him captive into letting him leave Isengard after he met the conditions of handing over the Keys of Orthanc. He then went to the Shire, which his agent Lotho Sackville-Baggins had brought under control. He spent his final days as a small-time criminal master in Hobbiton known as Sharkey (from the Orkish sharkû, meaning "old man"), until he was overthrown in the Battle of Bywater. In the aftermath of that battle Frodo confronted Saruman and exiled him from the Shire, but before he could leave Gríma Wormtongue killed Saruman by slitting his throat with a dagger, on the very doorstep of Bag End.
After his departure from Orthanc, King Elessar entered the tower with the intent of re-ordering that realm. Inside, Elessar's men found many treasures that Saruman had conned off of King Théoden. There was a secret closet that could only be found with the aid of Gimli the dwarf; it contained the original Elendilmir, which had presumed to be lost forever when Isildur perished in the Gladden Fields, as well as a golden chain which was presumed to have once borne the One Ring.
Saruman, being a Maia, did not truly die. His spirit separated from his body much like Sauron's after the Downfall of Númenor. As an incorporeal spirit, he should have been called to the Halls of Mandos, but the tale implies that he was barred from returning. Tolkien indicated that his spirit was left naked, powerless and wandering, never to return from Middle-earth:
"Whereas Curunir was cast down, and utterly humbled, and perished at last by the hand of an oppressed slave; and his spirit went whither-soever it was doomed to go, and to Middle-earth, whether naked or embodied, came never back"
- Curumo is the Quenya name for Saruman. Its Tengwar spelling is aU7Ut^, and its IPA pronunciation is [ˈkurumo].
- Curunír is the Sindarin name for Saruman the White. It roughly translates to mean "man of skill". Curunir was the original name given to Saruman as the leader of the Wizard, or Istari, who first came to Middle-earth to combat the evils of Sauron. Late in the Third Age around the time of the War of the Ring, this name was less known and rarely used save among the Elves and even rarely used by them except for their leaders, such as Elrond in Rivendell, Celeborn and Galadriel in Lothlórien, and Círdan at the Grey Havens.
- Saruman as called by Gandalf, Men in Rohan, and men in most other places.
- Sharku is the name given to him by his Uruk-Hai meaning in Black Speech "Old Man".
- Sharkey, a form of the word is later used by the Ruffians at the Shire, from "Sharku".
Powers and Abilities
Saruman's status as chief of the Wizards and head of the White Council (before Gandalf) gave him arsenal to a variety of powers. Though he would eventually be defeated by Gandalf in the end, Saruman's powers and abilities were very mighty indeed at the peak of his power.
By far Saruman's greatest power (and the only one he was able to retain after the downfall of Isengard) is speech. He seems to have the ability to bend any but the absolute strongest minds to his will, simply by speaking to them. Even with Isengard broken and Saruman's treachery revealed, Gandalf had to be very careful, Saruman could ensnare almost anyone with the power of his voice, few can contend with his will. Gandalf was not drawn into this power when he confronted Saruman; in trying to enchant some in the company, he left others out of his designs, and thus could not ensnare everyone at once. However, even in this situation, it is said that only Gandalf himself remained totally unmoved. Aragorn stated during this time that few other than Gandalf, Elrond and Galadriel could resist his voice, even at this point. Saruman later used his persuasive power to escape Orthanc, convincing Treebeard to let him go.
Saruman was extremely learned in Ringlore and mechanics, and his knowledge enabled him to create great forges. Unfortunately, it was Saruman's extensive knowledge of the Rings of Power that led to his downfall, as he became enamored of the power of the rings, and particularly the One Ring.
Portrayal in adaptations
Lord of the Rings film trilogy
In Peter Jackson's film trilogy, Saruman is played by Sir Christopher Lee and is the primary antagonist in The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. Unlike the novels, he is portrayed as an outright second-in-command or "puppet" of Sauron and is referred to only as "the White," omitting his title of "Saruman of Many Colours." Lee is the only cast member to ever have met Tolkien.
By the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, Saruman has become convinced that Sauron cannot be defeated; as such, he allies himself with the Dark Lord. He imprisons Gandalf in Orthanc and begins creating Uruk-hai. He tracks the Fellowship using birds and summons avalanches and rock-slides to try and defeat the heroes at Caradhras. Saruman's Uruks attack the Fellowship at the conclusion of the film, killing Boromir and capturing Merry and Pippin.
In The Two Towers, Saruman recruits the Dunlendings to burn the Westfold, then amasses an Uruk-hai army of 10,000 to destroy Rohan. He is aided by Gríma Wormtongue and is depicted as having outright possessed Théoden. At the climax of the film, Saruman's army is defeated at Helm's Deep and Isengard is overrun by Ents.
Saruman does not appear in the theatrical cut of The Return of the King; Treebeard only suggests that the fallen wizard's power is no more. In the extended edition, Gandalf, Aragorn, Théoden, Gimli, Merry and Pippin confront Saruman in Isengard at the beginning of the film. Gandalf wishes to interrogate Saruman, but Gríma stabs Saruman at the pinnacle of Orthanc. As Saruman falls to his death, he drops the Palantir.
The Scouring of the Shire, which is where Saruman meets his end in the novels, is entirely omitted from the film adaptations. Jackson considered the Scouring anticlimactic.
Peter Jackson's trilogy explicitly shows Saruman influencing the weather to create the snowstorm on Caradhras that defeated the Fellowship's efforts to cross the mountains there, although the book didn't even suggest that. Though Boromir thought the storm and falling boulders might be caused by some evil, saying "there are fell voices on the air; and these stones are aimed at us," Aragorn and Gandalf believed it was just the forces of nature that might be expected on "Caradhras the Cruel." In the extended edition, he was also seen to shoot a fireball at Gandalf and others soon before his end in the trilogy.
In the film trilogy, Saruman's staff of power is a replica of his own tower of Orthanc, with a white crystal set between the spires. As a talisman of his authority, it is also used as a walking stick. He uses it to duel Gandalf the Grey. Gandalf the White destroys Saruman's staff effortlessly in The Return of the King extended edition.
The Hobbit film trilogy
Saruman first appears in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. He arrives in Rivendell for a meeting of the White Council. Saruman expresses his disapproval of Gandalf's actions concerning the quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and dismisses Gandalf's reasons as 'looking for trouble where none exists'. He is skeptical of the information Gandalf provides on the Necromancer and he further dismisses the information when he learns it came from Radagast the Brown, who he believes is a fool and an embarrassment to the Istari due to his consumption of mushrooms. When presented with the Morgul blade, Saruman states there is no proof that it belonged to the Witch-king of Angmar. Saruman sums up all of Gandalf's concerns as nothing to worry about, but states that he feels he cannot condone the quest of the Dwarves to reclaim Erebor. However, unbeknownst to Saruman, the Dwarves have already left Rivendell.
In The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Saruman arrives at Dol Guldur, after being summoned there (presumably by Galadriel) along with Elrond, to rescue Gandalf. Saruman appears as Galadriel and Gandalf are surrounded by the Nazgûl and asks if she needs assistance. At this, two of the Nazgûl turn towards him and both he and Elrond begin to battle with the Nine. Saruman duels several of the Ringwraiths, appearing to be able to handle up to two at a time. In the end, both he and Elrond overpower the Nine and they retreat momentarily. After Gandalf is taken away by Radagast, Sauron appears before the remainder of the White Council along with the returning Nazgûl. Saruman appears to ready himself for battle but is in awe of the power of Sauron. Galadriel rises in a terrifying ethereal form and begins a battle of wills with Sauron. Saruman seems to barely notice this, still stunned in amazement of Sauron. Galadriel eventually gains the upper hand and banishes Sauron from Dol Guldur. Saruman notes that while Galadriel has banished Sauron, it took nearly all of her power to do it and encourages Elrond to take her back to Lothlórien, Elrond argues that Sauron must be found and permanently destroyed. Saruman replies that without the One Ring, Sauron will never regain his full power and that they should 'leave Sauron to me.' This is most likely the point, where Saruman begins his fall into evil. Although he spoke of Sauron not regaining is full power, Saruman was clearly dumbfounded after witnessing his power first hand, foreshadowing his eventual loss of any hope of defeating him.
Sir Christopher Lee reprises his role as Saruman in Peter Jackson's live action Hobbit trilogy. He had expressed interest in voicing Smaug the dragon, but the role ended up going to Benedict Cumberbatch. Following the White Council storyline, Saruman should be leading an attack on Dol Guldur along with the other members of the White Council to remove Sauron (The Necromancer). Christopher Lee also managed to humour Peter Jackson by asking him "Am I still in the movie?". This refers to when Christopher Lee's (Saruman's) death scene was cut from the theatrical version of The Return of the King and he fell out with Peter Jackson.
There is also a song of him created by the heavy metal band Lorien. A song was dedicated to him called "The Voice of Saruman".
Ralph Bakshi version
In Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated film of The Lord of the Rings, Fraser Kerr provided the voice of Saruman. At one point in that film's development, film executives thought that the names "Saruman" and "Sauron" were too similar, and would confuse the audience, and decided that Saruman should be renamed "Aruman". This decision was eventually reversed, but some references to "Aruman" remained in the finished film. The dialogue of Bakshi's film retained Saruman's adoption of the title "Saruman of Many Colours", and the character was dressed in red. In Ralph Bakshi's animated film, Saruman sends a swirling stream of magical fire from Isengard to Helm's Deep to blow apart the ramparts and walls of Helms Deep.
Peter Howell played Saruman in BBC Radio's 1981 serialisation of The Lord of the Rings.
Voice Dubbing actors
|Foreign Language||Voice dubbing artist|
|Spanish (Latin America)||Blas García|
|Spanish (Spain)||Camilo García|
|Portuguese (Brazil) (Television/DVD)||Jonas Mello / Ednaldo Lucena (The Hobbit trilogy)|
|Italian (Italy)||Omero Antonutti|
|French (France)||Michel Le Royer|
|Polish||Aleksander Bednarz † (AUJ)|
|Czech||Boris Rösner † (The Lord of the Rings trilogy)
Pavel Rímský (The Hobbit trilogy)
|Slovak||Marián Slovák (The Lord of the Rings trilogy)
František Kovár (The Hobbit trilogy)
Translations around the World
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Chinese (Hong Kong)||薩魯曼|
|Kurdish||سارومان (Arabic script) Saruman (Latin)|
|Serbian||Саруман (Cyrillic) Saruman (Latin)|
|Uzbek||Саруман (Cyrillic) Saruman (Latin)|
|Manwë (Súlimo) • Ulmo (Ulubôz) • Aulë (Návatar) • Oromë (Aldaron) • Námo (Mandos) • Irmo (Lórien) • Tulkas (Astaldo)|
|Varda (Elentári) • Yavanna (Kementári) • Nienna • Estë • Vairë • Vána • Nessa|
|Eönwë • Ilmarë • Ossë • Uinen • Salmar • Melian • Arien • Tilion • Curumo (Saruman) • Olórin (Gandalf) • Aiwendil (Radagast) • Alatar (Morinehtar) • Pallando (Rómestámo)|
|Sauron (Mairon) • Gothmog • Durin's Bane • Ungoliant • Shelob • Curumo (Saruman)|