Wizard (Middle-earth)


Wizard (Middle-earth)

In the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, the Wizards of Middle-earth are a group of five beings outwardly resembling Men but possessing much greater physical and mental power. They are also called the Istari (Quenya for "Wise Ones") by the Elves. The Sindarin word is "Ithryn" (sing. "Ithron"). They were sent by the Valar to help and assist the peoples of Middle-earth to contest Sauron.

They were of the Maiar, spirits of the same order as the Valar, but lesser in power. The first three were known in Mannish tongue of Westron as Saruman ("Man of Skill"), Gandalf ("Elf of the Wand"), and Radagast ("Tender of Beasts") . The two others did not have names in Westron, and were known as Alatar and Pallando. Each Wizard was assigned a colour with matching clothes, White being indicative of the chief, Saruman (himself one of the most powerful of the Maiar). Gandalf was Grey, Radagast was Brown, and Alatar and Pallando were both Blue. In Tolkien's work "The Lord of the Rings" Gandalf and Saruman both play important roles, while Radagast plays only a very minor part. Alatar and Pallando do not feature in the story, as they journeyed far into the east after their arrival in Middle-earth.

Tolkien gives multiple names for all of them. Their Elvish Quenya names were Curumo, meaning "Skillful one" (Saruman); Olórin, meaning "Dreaming" or "Dreamer" (Gandalf); Aiwendil, meaning "Friend of birds" (Radagast); Morinehtar, meaning "Darkness-slayer" and Rómestámo, meaning "East-helper" (either Alatar or Pallando). There are various other names in Sindarin, Khuzdul, and other languages of Arda for each of the wizards listed in their individual articles

History and background

Arrival

They came to Middle-earth around the year 1050 of the Third Age, when the forest of 'Greenwood the Great' fell under shadow and became known as Mirkwood. It was named this when Sauron formed a new army and began to command from Dol Guldur (South Mirkwood). The wizards already appeared old when they entered Middle-earth. They were stripped of much of their powers and deliberately "clothed" in the bodies of old Men, as the Valar wished them to guide the inhabitants of Middle-earth by persuasion and encouragement, not by force or fear. However, they aged very slowly and were in fact immortal. They were, physically speaking, "real" Men, and felt all the urges, pleasures and fears of flesh and blood. Therefore, in spite of their specific and unambiguous goal, the Wizards were capable of human feelings; thus Gandalf felt great affection for the Hobbits. They could also feel negative human emotions like greed, jealousy, and lust for power. It is hinted in the essay in "Unfinished Tales" that the Blue Wizards may have fallen prey to these temptations, though information published in "The Peoples of Middle-earth" seems to contradict this version of their history. They went into the East and do not enter into the stories of Middle-earth.

While in this form, although immortal, their physical bodies could be destroyed by violence—thus Gandalf truly died in the fight with the Balrog, and it was beyond the power of the Valar to resurrect: Eru Ilúvatar himself intervened to send Gandalf back. [In "Letters", #156, pp 202–3, Tolkien clearly implies that the 'Authority' that sent Gandalf back was above the Valar (who are bound by Arda's space and time, while Gandalf went beyond time). Tolkien clearly intends this as an example of Eru intervening to change the course of the world.] The Istari also carried staffs, which seem to be tied to their ability to wield magic; when Saruman is defeated at Isengard, Gandalf in the same breath casts him from the White Council and breaks his staff (although he retains the persuasive power of his voice).

Purpose

The sending of the wizards to Middle-earth by the Valar, with the dictate to never match Sauron's power with power, was in recognition of ancient error. The Valar had tried directly interfering in the destiny of the Elves in the Years of the Trees by leading the Eldar into the West, and this resulted in many bloody wars and confrontations, even between the Elves themselves. Recognizing this mistake, the Valar decided that now when the time had come to aid Men in the struggle against the Dark Lord, rather than trying to directly interfere, they should instead aid Men in achieving their own destiny. Thus, Gandalf and the other wizards were meant to not use their natural power as Maiar in fighting Sauron, but to use their great wisdom to persuade Men to take the course of action which would achieve Men's own goals, rather than trying to dominate them with their own. Saruman failed this directive when he tried to set himself up as a new power in opposition to Sauron, but Gandalf remained faithful to his orders. The wizards were sent to Middle-earth from Valinor, despite the fact that direct interference from the Valar in the affairs of Middle-earth was a rarity, because the Valar had not forsaken the faithful Men and Elves who still lived there. The wizards were sent to the North-west of Middle-earth (the Grey Havens, and the region from Arnor to Gondor in general), because the Valar felt that because of those remnants of Elendil's old kingdom, that was the region with the greatest hope of mounting resistance to Sauron. Very few of Middle-earth's inhabitants knew who the Wizards really were; the Wizards did not share their identities and purposes except to great rulers. Most thought they were Elves or wise Men (the name "Gandalf" represents this interpretation, meaning "Wand-elf", because the Men who gave him the nickname believed he was an Elf). This shouldn't be surprising, as some of Middle-earth's elves had long beards. Círdan's beard is mentioned in "The Return of the King".

Saruman originally had the greatest power of the five Istari and was appointed the head of the White Council. In the year 2759 of the Third Age, he was invited by the rulers of Gondor and Rohan to settle in Isengard. Saruman was learned in the lore of the Rings of Power, gradually becoming corrupted by the desire for the Rings and by Sauron's direct influence on him through the "palantír" of Orthanc. Eventually he became ensnared in Sauron's power, took the title "of Many Colours" (as well as changing his robes thus) and assisted him in the War of the Ring (although he ultimately wanted the One Ring for himself, so that he could defeat and replace Sauron), until he was defeated by the Ents and Gandalf, who broke his staff and cast him out of the White Council. Saruman's death came at the hands of his servant Gríma Wormtongue in the Shire, after the destruction of the One Ring.

Later events

During the War of the Ring, it was Gandalf who led the Free Peoples to victory over Sauron. He also became "Gandalf the White", and defeated the traitorous Saruman. After the destruction of Sauron's forces in front of the Black Gate at the mountainous borders of Mordor, Gandalf left Middle-earth and went over the Sea, along with the Ring-bearers and many of the Elves.

In the course of "The Lord of the Rings", it is never made clear what exactly Gandalf and Saruman are. Treebeard tells Merry and Pippin that the wizards appeared after the Great Ships came over the Sea (ca. ME-date|TA|1000, according to Appendix B, some 2000 years before the time of "The Lord of the Rings"), but little else is revealed in the narrative. Riding with Gandalf to Minas Tirith at the end of Book III, Pippin wonders what Gandalf really was, and realizes that it was the first time in his life that he had done so. In this passage, Gandalf ponders the ability of the "palantíri" to see into the past, and recalls events in Valinor from the Years of the Trees—though whether from his own memory is not clear. ["The Two Towers", Book III, "The Palantír", p. 204.]

The essay given in "Unfinished Tales" was originally begun in order to be included in the appendices of "The Lord of the Rings", but was not completed in time. A more explanatory passage on the nature of the wizards is found at the end of "The Silmarillion".

Sources

*"The Lord of the Rings"
*"Unfinished Tales"
*"The Silmarillion"
*The Lord of the Rings film trilogy

References

See also

* Blue Wizards
* Vala
* Maia


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