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.
The other four who were chosen were Olórin (Gandalf), Aiwendil (Radagast), and Alatar and Pallando (the Blue Wizards). Curumo was appointed overall leader of the group.
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"