What really motivated the once noble wizard of the Lord of the Rings to turn his back on Gandalf the Gray and align himself with evil?
Although Sauron is the ultimate villain of The Lord of the rings, Saruman the White is a legendary minor villain in the franchise and was immortalized by Christopher Lee (who actually met author JRR Tolkien) in the film adaptations of Peter Jackson. Saruman was compelling because he gave in to the One Ring’s temptation and showed how powerful a wizard can be when corrupted, contradicting the beloved Gandalf.
Shortly after being introduced to The Fellowship of the Ring, Saruman quickly turns on Gandalf and imprisons him in Isengard. His sudden turn is a far cry from the wise and noble wizard seen in The Hobbit The films and audiences of the cinematic saga do not see their realignment with the evil side.
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While it’s easy to simplify Saruman’s betrayal when he falls for the One Ring’s temptation, fans have discussed more detailed reasons for years. In a post on Quora When discussing why Saruman betrayed Gandalf, a user by the name of Laurel Callahan explains that the white wizard has always been jealous of his gray counterpart. Before becoming Saruman, he was known as Curumo and lived in the Blessed Realms with the gods, also known as Aman. Gandalf, known in that realm as Olorin, had learned to be kind and merciful, while Curumo was prouder, so Gandalf earned the favor of Varda, the Queen of Valar.
A similar situation occurred when Curumo and Olorin, now Saruman and Gandalf, were part of the Council of the Sages.. Despite Saruman arriving first from Aman, council member Galadriel proposes that Gandalf become the leader. Gandalf rejects this offer, not wanting to be bound in the position, and hands it over to Saruman. Saruman’s pride is still damaged by the fact that they like Gandalf better too.
His Quora partner Nadeem Shaikh further explains that Saruman’s growing pride and jealousy led him to “give up on his mission.” Instead of resisting Sauron, he decided to defeat the Dark Lord using his own Ring. He then recklessly used the Palantir vision stone to come into contact with Sauron in an attempt to become a double agent. However, once Gandalf was with him on Isengard with the news of the Ring’s discovery, Saruman finally revealed himself to be Sauron’s ally.
Saruman’s character motivation was also discussed in Reddit, clarifying that never completely joined Sauron. The most popular answer to the site’s question about why Saruman sided with Sauron was by u / 12secondcountdown, who explained that the alliance was “just a rival facade.” By keeping Sauron’s focus elsewhere, Saruman could obtain the Ring first and become the sole ruler of Middle-earth. The post also mentions that both Sauron and Saruman knew they were in this on their own and would have turned against each other once the people of Middle-earth were no longer a factor.
Despite his intentions to destroy Sauron by using his One Ring against him, Saruman almost certainly would have been just as evil and corrupted a Ring ruler as Sauron. Saruman is not just a secondary adversary of the Fellowship of the Ring, but a cautionary tale about how pride and jealousy can lead one down a terrible and irredeemable path.
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