The story of the evil sorcerer known as Saruman from the Middle-earth high-fantasy franchise.
His real name is Curumo, which means "skillful one", or Curunír by the elves in Sindarin. He was a Maia of Aulë the Smith. A council was called in Valinor 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.
Shortly after Sauron's defeat by the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, a council was called in Valinor by Manwë, leader of the Valar. Sauron was not fully destroyed and his spirit was still actively causing troubles and amassing minions in Middle-earth. It was decided to send five emissaries to Middle-earth, as "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. Curumo was appointed leader of the group and the other four were Olórin (Gandalf or Mithrandir), Aiwendil (Radagast), and Alatar and Pallando (the Blue Wizards, Morinehtar and Rómestámo). Curumo came to Middle-earth in the name "Saruman".
The five wizards arrived at the Grey Havens in the west of Eriador around the year 1000. The keeper Círdan the Shipwright was the only one to know Saruman's identity and origin, yet Saruman found out later that Círdan had given the Red Ring Narya to Gandalf when they arrived to Middle-earth and divined Gandalf as the wisest and greatest of the wizards, despite the fact that Saruman was the lead wizard. Ever since Saruman grew resentful and jealous of his friend Gandalf and such jealousy would later grow slowly, 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. Meanwhile Sauron's power started to grow again. After 1.5 millenia, Saruman returned to the west as Sauron was gathering his strength in Dol Guldur. The other two Blue Wizards remained in the east and would fight against Sauron's forces from there.
Although he was the White Wizard and known as the wisest of the Istari, Saruman's serious, proud, and unsettling appearance commanded respect, but not much love from anyone. Saruman used to fight for the side of the Good and was wise, stubborn, arrogant, and humorless. In order to counter Sauron, at 2463 of the Third Age the White Council was formed and Saruman was appointed its leader, though Galadriel wanted Gandalf in this position. The proud Saruman promptly refused to step down while Gandalf had declined. Knowing that Sauron was going to start a new war, Saruman started to envy the dark lord and desired his power, especially the One Ring. During this same year, the Halfling Sméagol found the One Ring in the river Anduin and disappeared with it into the Misty Mountains for hundreds of years.
During the meetings of the Council Saruman started to note Gandalf's interest in Hobbits and The Shire. Saruman started to wonder if the Hobbits were somehow the source of Gandalf's enhancement. From that moment he kept a closer 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.
During the year 2759 of the Third Age, Saruman estabilished himself in Isengard with the permission of the Steward of Gondor Beren. Saruman settled himself as Warden of the Tower of Orthanc and representative of the Steward. Inside the tower he found a Palantír. Saruman became important in the informal alliance defending the west of Middle-earth.
An evil presence in Mirkwood caused the forest to become "sick", cursed, and dangerous. The responsible was settled in Dol Guldur. In TA 2850, Gandalf entered Dol Guldur and confirmed that the evil presence was indeed Sauron. There he also found Thráin II, who had been captured and imprisoned in the pits of the stronghold, was tortured, and Sauron took from him the last of the Dwarven Rings of Power, and left him there to die, but not before he met Gandalf and gave him a map with the secret way to the Lonely Mountain. By Saruman's advice, the White Council decided against attacking Dol Guldur. It was at this council meeting that Gandalf 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. The White Council chased Sauron away from the fortress. During the same year Gandalf gave Thráin's map to Thorin Oakenshield's company, Lake-town was destroyed, the last dragon Smaug and the Goblin Bolg were killed, and Dain II Ironfoot became King under the Mountain.
In 2851 the White Council met once more and, after that, Saruman began to search the Gladden Fields for the One Ring. Radagast decided to aid his search with birds and beasts who acted as spies hoping that Saruman's actions would help watch and hinder Sauron. Radagast did this in good faith, knowing nothing of Saruman's real ambitions to keep the Ring for himself.
10 years later, Sauron returned to Mordor and declared himself openly by contacting Saruman through the Palantír from Minas Morgul. Meanwhile, Saruman took Isengard for his own and began to fortify it.
In J.R.R. Tolkien's books
Originally Saruman was opposed to the evil of Sauron but would later abandon his morality in order to try and gain more power for himself via allying with his former enemy - this theme was quite common in the series, of power corrupting and the inevitable destruction such things bring to a character: Saruman was no exception and despite his considerable power he would ultimately fall victim to his own quest for power. Saruman started quite as a noble and a gentleman. He was respected and the Head of the Order of powerful Wizards known as the Istari as well as the White Council. He was a powerful wizard, a creature known also as Maiar in Tolkien's world. This is the same species as Sauron and Gandalf, along with Ungoliant and the Maiar are the same as regular angels in Christianity. They were one of the first creatures to be created, they are immortal if not attacked and killed by battle and have the power to shape the world around them. The Maiar were created by Eru (God) in order to assist the Valar (the Archangels) with creating the world. These angelic beings, the Ainur, were all creations of Eru Ilúvatar.
Saruman was one of the Istari, one of the Maiar, along with Sauron. They were forbidden by the only more powerful creatures then themselves to use their full power. So the mighty Valar ordered the Istari in to mortal bodies of old men stopping them to use their full power. Saruman did not respect that he is not allowed to use his full power when Sauron who is also one of the Maiar is not trapped in a mortals body and can use his full power that is why Saruman joined Sauron so he could get close to the Ring, and use it to use his full power; and more.
Saruman also seeked dominion over Middle-Earth and took up residence in the Iron Fortress known as Isengard. Here, one of the superpowers during the War of the Ring was created. Saruman planned to betray Sauron as soon as he would get the One Ring, hoping to leave his mortal body for his true immortal form. He was determinated to rule Middle-earth as its new dark lord, creating a progressist industrialized society where the strongest "eats" the weak and the superior wizards could rule over the others. Saruman became a prominent member in Mordor's council and Sauron's war plan, thus he had great knowledge and information of the Enemy's plans.
Saruman acted as one of Sauron's commanders for the imminent War of the Ring and would become the secondary force against Middle-earth. Saruman planned to destroy Sauron on his own and save Middle-earth from him before he could rule it himself anyway. Because he meant to act against the Dark Lord, Saruman would not consider himself a real evil traitor, as the 5 Istari were sent to defeat Sauron and the White Wizard would have done his duty in his own way. Yet the Valar had forbidden him from abusing his power and position and Saruman planned on enslaving Middle-earth, which was actually worse. This worsening could be attributed to his excessive use of the Palantír, which corrupted him and made him more cruel, greedy, vain, and weak in mind and power (a similar corruption was happening to the Steward Denethor II as well, though he would never chose to join Sauron, no matter what).
Seeking the One Ring
In Summer 3018 Saruman told Radagast that he was willing to help Gandalf, and sent the Brown Wizard to seek him out at once. Radagast was sitting on the side of the Greenway with his horse near Bree when Gandalf found him on his way to the village. Radagast warned Gandalf that the Nazgûl were abroad, disguised as riders in black, and that they were seeking news of the Shire. He also gave him Saruman's invitation and agreed to help Gandalf by getting beasts and birds to send news to Orthanc. With that he rode away back towards Mirkwood.
However, by sending Gandalf to Orthanc, Radagast unwittingly had him captured, as Saruman's message was nothing but a trap for Gandalf, yet the Grey Wizard was given the choice to join forces with Saruman. When Gandalf came to Saruman at Isengard, seeking his counsel and revealing the discovery and location of the one Ring, Saruman revealed his desire fo the ring and that he had joined forces with Sauron. He explained Gandalf that he was no longer loyal to the White Council or the Ring-bearer and counseled Gandalf to join with him as well. Gandalf refused, so Saruman easily overpowered him and had his bodyguards trapping Gandalf on the top of the tower of Orthanc, where he was held captive. Still, Gandalf did not believe that Radagast was also a part of Saruman's plans. In fact, Radagast sent the eagle Gwaihir to rescue Gandalf from the tower.
Plotting to overthrow Gandalf
The Shire and the village of Bree and the surrounding lands were all filled with spies and criminals at the service of Saruman. By the time Frodo and his friends are travelling to leave it, the Shire was already under Saruman control and the Hobbits were led by the wealthy pawn of the White Wizard, Lotho Sackville-Baggins. At the same time, Saruman took control of the kingdom of Rohan through his agents, the main one being King Theoden's chief advisor Gríma Wormtongue, charged to weaken Theoden and his kingdom, using his voice to keep the spell intact while Saruman is inside the King. It is likely that Saruman had promised him Éowyn, the king's niece, as a reward for his services. Gandalf went to Edoras, the capital of Rohan, only to find a cold hospitality from Gríma, who allowed him to leave with an horse.
Two days after Gandalf's escape, the Nazgûl came to learn the position of the One Ring. Saruman used the power of his voice to convince the Witch-King of Angmar that he did not know the Ring's location but that Gandalf did and they should seek him nearby. Previously the Nazgûl also went to Erebor to learn the position of Bilbo Baggins, but they failed to get any information from the stubborn living dwarves from Thorin's company. Erebor refused to cooperate with Sauron in his hunt for the Ring. During their search for Gandalf, the Nazgûl found instead Wormtongue in the fields of Rohan, who was on his way to tell Saruman that Gandalf had been to Edoras. Gríma was captured by the Nazgûl and was interrogated and divulged what he knew of Saruman's plans to the Nazgûl, specifically his interest in the Shire, and its location. Previously, the location of the Shire had been unknown to the Nazgûl, but they knew it to be the home of 'Baggins', whom they thought still had the Ring from the time he stole it from Gollum.
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. Gríma was set free, but only because the Lord of the Nazgûl saw that he would not dare tell anyone of their meeting and might do harm to Saruman in the future. The Nazgûl set out immediately for the Shire. Had the Ringwraiths not captured Gríma, they would instead have pursued Gandalf into Rohan, and possibly not find the Shire until much later, giving the Hobbits and then the Fellowship a considerable head start.
Later the Nazgûl learned that Saruman knew far more than he had revealed. They met an Orc-like man on their way to the Shire. The man was a spy of Saruman and he gave detailed maps of the Shire made by Saruman to the Ringwraiths. He was sent back to the Shire after the Nazgûl warned him that he was now in the service of Mordor.
Apparently Sauron never trusted Saruman's loyalty and now, thanks to the Nazgûl's discoveries, he knew that Saruman was never his servant and instead he was nothing but a new growing threat against him, a neutral traitorous force who is completely independent from the sides of good or evil and acts against both. In fact Saruman was only loyal and friend to Saruman himself, not acting as a tool of Eru or Morgoth. The White Wizard at this point believed that he would find no pity from either faction (a mistaken assumption, as Gandalf and Galadriel were willing to pardon him). Saruman could not fool Sauron anymore and use the surprise effect to attack him later, so he concentrated all efforts into obtaining the One Ring for himself.
Against the Rohirrim
The very first opening battle of the War of the Ring started at June 20 3018, when the forces of Dol Guldur attacked Woodland Realm and were defeated by King Thranduil. That same day the first part of the long Battle of Osgiliath started as well. Sauron's grand strategy was to defeat the strongest of the nations that opposed him, Gondor, and to do so he would need to take the capital city and greatest fortress of Gondor, Minas Tirith. To this end, the war effort of Mordor was focused in the south in and around Gondor, in a strategy of divide and conquer. To keep Gondor's ally Rohan, on its northern border, from sending aid, Sauron promoted the rise of Saruman at Isengard to the west of Rohan. Thus all of Rohan's forces would have been focused in the west trying to stem the tide of the Isengard attack, and none would be sent to Minas Tirith's defence. Gondor suffered several attacks fr Sauron's forces and destroyed the city of Osgiliath, though Boromir still managed to liberate the city and prevented an early siege of Minas Tirith. Osgiliath kept suffering multiple attacks from Sauron.
Saruman began crossing men with Goblins to create monsters called Uruk-hai, more powerful than either. He sent spies to waylay Frodo Baggins on his flight from the Shire, including his half-orcs and thugs, such as Bill Ferny, in Bree. Later Gandalf informed the races of Middle-earth about Saruman's treason during the Council of Elrond. Isengard became completely industrialized and the forest of Fangorn suffered serious damage and massive deforestation by the orcs' fires. Saruman's army, made of Uruk-hai, got large and strong and Isengard became a wasteland war factory of combat and siege weapons.
Saruman proceeded to openly attack Rohan 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. This forced the Fellowship to aboid any road too close to Isengard, as Saruman kept watching over them, and also failed to make it through the Pass of Caradhras, forcing them to go through the mines of Moria.
His treachery revealed
As he was leading the war campaign against the people of Rohan, Saruman's army included now Wargs. The wizard used his convincing voice to make alliances with other factions, such as Trolls. The Dunlendings, sworn enemies of Rohan who had been driven to live in the mountains, joined with Saruman in order to get their revenge and retake Rohan. Saruman ordered his army to spare nobody and burn everything at sight. The Uruk-hai and the Dunledings raided and burned several villages of Rohan, including the Westfold, without taking prisoners and only destroying and killing everything. The slaughtered victims in the Westfold included defenseless women and children. Thanks to Saruman and Wormtongue, King Theoden did not respond against a single attack from Isengard and let Saruman's army move freely throughout Rohan.
However, Theoden's son, Prince Théodred, was alerted by his scouts to the mustering taking place in Isengard. Saruman's army was crossing the Fords of Isen. On February 25, 3019 Théodred attacked Isengard's vanguard in the First Battle of the Fords of Isen. However, Saruman had tricked the scouts; reinforcements were quickly sent from Isengard and his army was already marching out to attack the ford. The Rohirrim fought bravely, but they were taken from the rear by Saruman's second force made of Dunlendings, Uruk-hai, and Warg riders and Théodred ordered a retreat. His forces retreated to an island in the fords, but they were surrounded and Théodred was killed.
One of Saruman's Uruk parties led by Uglúk found the then leaderless, weak, and failing Fellowship at Amon Hen, on February 26 3019. They had been commanded to bring the Hobbits to him and kill the rest of the Fellowship. The Uruks succeeded in killing the Gondorian captain Boromir, who's father, the Steward Denethor II, always favored Saruman over Gandalf. The Uruk-hai captured Merry and Pippin, since they thought Pippin had the Ring. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli chased the Uruk's party in order to save their friends while Frodo and Sam kept going on their own to Mordor.
Uglúk's party was met by an Orc party from Mordor commanded by Grishnákh. The Orc captain was angered at Saruman's false loyalty to Sauron and wanted the Hobbits to be handed over to Mordor, but the Uruk-hai refused. The tensions between Isengard and Mordor where growing, but in the night of February 29 3019 a Rohirrim party led by Theoden's nephew, Éomer, ambushed the Orcs near Fangorn Forest and destroyed them all while Merry and Pippin fled from the battlefield. This resulted with Gríma Wormtongue accusing Éomer of warmongering and had the weakened Theoden arresting him.
Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli arrived at Edoras to free King Theoden from Saruman's control. After he dealt with Gríma and his men, Gandalf freed Theoden's mind from Saruman. At this point Saruman became very weak in terms of power, thanks to his constant use of the Palantir, and Gandalf the White was now the most powerful wizard of Middle-earth. Wormtongue refused to redeem himself and fight for the side of good again and fled from Edoras to dwell with Saruman at Orthanc. Realizing that Rohan had no chance to escape war and that Saruman meant to destroy the Men of Rohan, Theoden had the Edoras evacuated and prepared the defenses of his kingdom.
As Saruman unleashed the full force of Isengard against Rohan, Sauron's main army of Orcs and Trolls was mainly focused on attacking Gondor, while Sauron's other armies mainly made of Orcs and Easterlings attacked the northern Middle-earth: Dol Guldur in southern Mirkwood, to defeat Lothlórien and Woodland Realm, then pass the Misty Mountains to attack Rivendell, and wheel around to take Rohan and Gondor from the rear. As the army of Isengard was marching to Helm's Deep, the army of Rohan fought thousands of Uruk-hai, Dunlendings, and Warg riders in the Second Battle of the Fords of Isen on March 2 3019, which resulted with Saruman's victory. Rohan retreated to Helm's Deep, in the ancient fortress known as the Hornburg.
Battle of Helm's Deep
Saruman's commander had finished his first task of creating a supply route into Rohan and he now moved on to his more important task - the Hornburg. As the Southrons of Harad invaded Gondor with their Oliphants, the Battle of the Hornburg took place. This was the second largest battle of the War of the Ring and the ultimate fight against Saruman. Due to the casualties of the battles at the Fords of Isen, Saruman's army was reinforced by other Orcs. Isengard army included: 10,000 Uruk-hai Infantry, 5000 Isengard Orcs, and 2000 Dunlendings. The army of Isengard had a great advantage and managedto storm the Hornburg after occupying the entire valley of Helm's Deep. Gandalf and Éomer brought reinforcements of Rohirrim cavalry, which included the scattered survivors from the Fords of Isen. The Hornburg was invaded by Saruman's army in the night and the battle lasted from March 3 to March 4. Meanwhile Saruman had left Isengard weakly garrisoned, not expecting an attack by nature itself. In fact a force of Ents of Fangorn invaded Isengard as a retaliation for Saruman burning a huge portion of Fangorn. Led by Treebeard, the Ents destroyed the weapon factory of Isengard and opened the dam to drown the Orcs.
Saruman was utterly defeated by Gandalf, the Ents, and the Rohirrim. All his plans had been thwarted: his Shire networks failed to capture Frodo Baggins and his invasion of Rohan ended in disaster with the utter defeat of his army at the Battle of the Hornburg, with the survivors dying at the wrath of the Fangorn Forest. Leaving Isengard undefended resulted in its destruction at the hands of the Ents. Saruman's servants were either scattered or killed. Wormtongue found himself confined to Orthanc with his master.
Imprisoned in his fotreess
Saruman remained confined to Orthanc, besieged by Ents, until Gandalf and Theoden came with the Rohirrim and the Fellowship. Saruman made one final attempt to turn Théoden and Gandalf over to evil by using the power of his voice. Everyone had been worned to be weary of Saruman's voice and his spell was broken by Saruman's own anger at Theoden's resistance, showing his true colors (went from a gentle voice to an hateful evil tone). His rival Gandalf 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 and was seriously tempted for a moment to let Gandalf helping him and save him from his own corruption 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 of the Istari and broke his staff. The infuriated Saruman promised that all of them would die at the hands of Sauron anyway and tried to find a way out from his tower. Wormtongue then threw Saruman's Palantír off a balcony of Orthanc, undecided about which he hated more, Saruman or Gandalf, and hitting neither. The Palantír fell from the tower and Saruman lost his last chance of comunication with the world and a possibility to have Sauron helping him to escape his captivity. The Palantír was recovered by Pippin and the Rohirrim left Saruman at the mercy of Treebeard, as the wizard was already unleashing his wrath against Wormtongue.
Saruman remained left out of the final stages of the War of the Ring. Both him and Gríma imprisoned in Orthanc as the Ents were planting new trees in Isengard to undo the damage caused by Saruman's industrialization. Saruman seems to have punished Gríma severely for throwing the Palantír. Saruman was also said to have scalped Gríma and beaten him over time, often hitting him or kicking him in the face. The constant abuse caused Gríma to hate his master even more and becoming very miserable.
With Saruman defeated, the rest of the war focused on the threat of Mordor. Sauron never sent help to free the lying double agent Saruman. Survivors from Saruman's army joined with Sauron.
Treebeard kept Saruman updated of the events in Middle-earth: during the rest of March, several places in Gondor was place of battles against Mordor. On March 10 the siege of the city of Cair Andros started, while the very long Battle of Osgiliath finally ended on March 12, with Mordor's victory. On the days 11 and 15 of March, two major battles took place at Lórien, as the forces of Dol Guldur, Mordor, and Moria attacked the realm of Galadriel and Celeborn with 100 of Trolls and thousands of Orcs from Mordor and Dol Guldur and 4,000 Goblins of Moria. Both attacks were repelled by the Galadhrim force of Lórien.
On March 14 the Siege of Minas Tirith started and the city-fortress was invaded by tens of thousands of Mordor Orcs and Uruks, Variags, Haradrim , Mumakil, Easterlings, Warg Riders, Trolls, 4 Great beasts, and 9 Nazgûl. Denethor's defences were destroyed and the man committed suicide, yet on March 15 the aid of Thedoen arrived and the Rohirrim defeated the Orcs at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
Aragorn also, before rejoining with the Rohirrim, led the Army of the Dead through Lamedon and Ciril and destroyed the Corsairs who worked for Sauron. That same day the Battle under the Trees took place in Mirkwood and Dol Guldur, where Thranduil defeated the Nazgul and the forces of Mordor and Dol Guldur. On March 17 the major battle of the north, the Battle of Dale, took place. 200,000 Easterlings led by their own Emperor came to destroy Erebor and Dale, but the forces of Dale and the Lonely Mountain prevailed on March 20, though King Brand, King Dáin II Ironfoot,and Lord Thorin III Stonehelm lost their lives. On March 22 the Orcs attacked Lórien once more and were defeated again by Galadriel's superior power. Treebeard and a host of Ents set out to prevent them entering Rohan. The despairing Orcs fled eastward but were either killed by the tree-shepherds, drowned in the River Anduin or fled to Dol Guldur. Then finally on March 24, the siege of Cair Andros ended with the victory of Gondor and Rohan.
Sauron was finally defeated and destroyed on March 25 3019, by the Gondor-Rohan host led by Aragorn as a deversion to drove Sauron's attention away from Frodo. Sauron and the One Ring were destroyed and the eagles, led by Gwaihir destroyed the remaining Nazgûl. The Orcs, Wargs, and Giant Spiders in Dol Guldur kept causing troubles and the Battle of Dol Guldur started in March 28 and ended in April 6 with Galadriel destroying Dol Guldur once and for all.
While he was still imprisoned in the tower of Orthanc, Saruman used the power of his voice to sweet-talk the Ent Treebeard into letting him out the door under pretence of only going out for a restricted time, but Saruman, being a liar and convincing Treebeard he had reformed, escaped with Wormtongue. Because Saruman handed over the Keys of Orthanc, Treebeard let him go and also he wasn't able to bare further the fact he was keeping two living beings imprisoned.
Conquering the Shire, and final defeat
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 and Wormtongue were met as wanderers by Gandalf, Galadriel, and the Hobbits after Sauron's defeat, on their way back to their homes. The disgraced Saruman reacted with anger at Galadriel's empathy and lack of avversion. He promised that both her and Gandalf would soon fall from grace as well without him and leaves with Wormtongue after refusing another offer of reformation and freedom from his hatred and envy.
Once an extremely powerful wizard, Saruman became a dangerous cruel bandit known as Sharkey and leader of cutthroats that already worked for him since years before the War of the Ring. Now a small-time criminal master in Hobbiton, Sharkey personally took over the Shire, that was already under his control thanks to the countless agents that used to spy Gandalf, and for about half a year he manipulated the Hobbits into serving him. Saruman killed Lotho Sackville-Baggins who had ruled the Shire as Saruman's right hand man. As the leader of the so-called Ruffians, he took a band of half-Orc humans to the Shire, where they became his police and bodyguards. He generally made life miserable for the Hobbits, imposing martial law, immense restrictions and general tyranny on the people. As a revenge he industrialized, enslaved, and destroyed the Shire, while he occupied Bag End, Bilbo's old house in Hobbiton. The Shire became a smoking, dark, depressive wasteland.
When Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin returned to the Shire, Frodo realized that this was his vision of the future from Galadriel's mirror. Using the courage and skill they discovered in themselves while abroad, they were able to take-up leadership of the Hobbits who wanted to resist the tyranny of Sharkey and the Ruffians. Soon, the Shire-folk were rallied against the invaders and managed to assemble a force. Saruman's Ruffians got defeated on November 3 3019 in the Battle of Bywater, the very last battle of the War of the Ring.
The next day, Frodo and his three companions, leading the Hobbits of the Shire, marched to Hobbiton. Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin recognized Sharkey as Saruman, who smirks at them. Saruman had a brief verbal fight with Frodo, which resulted with the bandit stabbing the Hobbit with a dagger. However, Frodo was wearing Bilbo's coat of Mithril and survived Saruman's attempted murder. Frodo was reluctant to kill Saruman because he was no killer and forbade every Hobbit from hurting Saruman and Wormtongue without his command. But Saruman scorned Frodo's mercy and made to leave the Shire with his henchman Wormtongue. He humiliated Wormtongue before leaving by revealing Wormtongue ate Lotho-Sackville Baggins, with Wormtongue despairing and telling Frodo that Saruman forced him to do that. The both angered and amused Saruman laughed and kicked him in the face before turning around a walking away to leave the Shire.
In the end, Saruman was killed when Gríma Wormtongue, in a moment of mad rage that had been repressed for too long, slit his throat as the former wizard was leaving Hobbiton, because Saruman beat him and degraded him once too often. Before Frodo could say anything, the Hobbit archers shot Gríma at once, killing him as well.
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.
In Sir Peter Jackson's films
Saruman is portrayed by the late Christopher Lee in Peter Jackson's film adaptation of the classic Middle-earth Saga.
The Hobbit trilogy
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Saruman appears in the Hobbit film trilogy as the leader of the White Council. When Gandalf meets with him in Rivendell, he discusses the threat posed by Smaug, suggesting that if the Enemy ensnares him, "a dragon could be used to terrible effect". Saruman demolishes the theory, arguing that Sauron has been vanquished. But Gandalf presents the Morgul blade of the Witch-King of Angmar to the council, before revealing that there was a Necromancer residing in Dol Guldur. Saruman denies the nature of the evil there, telling the others that it is just a mortal man conjuring dark sorcery (it is possible that he suspects that the Necromancer is Sauron and is trying to allow him to regain his strength to form an alliance with him or it may be due to Saruman's own jealousy of Gandalf that he feels the need to stop his plans).
In the extended edition, Gandalf brings upt the matter of the Rings of Power wielded by the Dwarf-lords, several of which were destroyed by Dragon-fire, others taken by Sauron before his defeat and the last one on the hand of Thrain II, who has mysteriously vanished in the Battle of Azanulbizar. Saruman counters that to command the Rings, the Dark Lord would need the One (showing his vast knowledge of such devices). He fleetingly assures the others that it must have been taken into the sea by the waters of the Anduin (possibly a lie, as Saruman might have already began searching for the One Ring in the river and attempts to conceal his actions from the Wise; or hopes that Sauron's growing in power might result in its reemergence in the vicinity).
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Saruman appears to assist Galadriel while rescuing Gandalf in Dol Guldur. The White Wizard, along with Elrond, takes on the Nine Nazgûl, with him fighting the Witch-king himself on several occassions. When Sauron himself emerges, Saruman appears to be paralyzed with both awe and fear at the Dark Lord's power (he may as well be acting or pleading). After Galadriel banishes Sauron from Dol Guldur, draining much of her reserves in the process, Saruman appears to have a taken a serious decision. He dissuades Elrond from pursuing Sauron, feigning concern for Lady Galadriel's weakened state and assuring the Elf-lord that the Dark Lord should be left with him (it is now apparent that Saruman intends to pledge himself to Sauron and prepare his conquest of Middle-earth)
The Lord of the Rings trilogy
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
When Gandalf came to Saruman at Isengard, seeking his counsel, Saruman seemed unmoved by the former's concerns. He further revealed that he had sworn fealty to Sauron and urged his friend to join them. Gandalf refused and mocked the former White Wizard's descent into desperation, Angered, Saruman initiated a fight with the other, which ended in Saruman trapping Gandalf on the top of the Tower of Orthanc.
Soon, Saruman's allegiance to Sauron required him to summon his servants in Isengard in preparation for the War of the Ring. After the trees were cut down and the gardens destroyed, the Orcs began forging weapons in the underground watery caverns and breeding Uruk-hai that could travel long distances and travel daylight. As work went on, Saruman confronted Gandalf on the rooftop of Orthanc, trying to discern the whereabouts of the One Ring and force the latter to submit to Mordor. Gandalf instead warned him that Saruman would be only a tool to Sauron, as the other is the only Lord of the Rings and does not share power, before jumping and being picked up by Gwaihir the Windlord. As Gandalf flew on the Great Eagle's back out of Isengard, Saruman seemed unphased by the revelation and unmoved in his intent to become Sauron's chief servant and perhaps even his equal.
Crebain spies watching over the Pass of Rohan forced the Fellowship of the Ring to take the dangerous Pass of Caradhras on their way to Mordor. Informed by his agents, Saruman used his dark sorcery to make the spirit of the mountain cause avalanches and snowstorms over Caradhras. He reveled in how he was now forcing Gandalf's hand to either choose the Gap of Rohan or go through the mines of Moria.
By the time the Fellowship was about to depart Lorien, Saruman summoned Lurtz and had him and a war-band of Uruk-hai be armed and tasked with retrieving the hobbit carrying the One Ring (though ensnared by Sauron, Saruman might still retain a desire for it if possible). In an ensuing ambush at Amon Hen, his servants took Merry and Pippin, since they thought the two were the hobbits who had the Ring, though Lurtz himself was killed by Aragorn in the process.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Saruman bought Gríma Wormtongue into his service and had him help possess King Théoden's mind, rendering Rohirrim leadership useless. Through the Palantir, Saruman conversed with his lord Sauron and assured him that "Rohan is ready to fall" and they "shall rule this Middle-earth". While his servants cut down trees from Fangorn and finalized preparations for the war, Saruman allied himself with the Wildmen of Dunland and convinced them to band together with the Orcs and pillage Rohirrim villages, plundering for riches and killing the peasants who had long stood against Sauron. However, Gandalf, now Gandalf the White, and more powerful than Saruman, broke the wizard's control over Théoden. Wormtongue returned to Saruman, who had by that time amassed a whole army of 10,000 Uruk-hai to bring down Rohan. The Orcs attacked the Rohirrim at Helm's Deep, but were defeated when Gandalf, Éomer, the Rohirrim, and the Huorns arrived. The Ents, meanwhile, attacked Isengard and flooded it, destroying all of Saruman's machines and drowning the Orcs in the caverns. With his fortifications shattered, his servants vanquished and unable to carry out Sauron's will in the West, Saruman sealed himself within Orthanc.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Théoden, and Éomer came to talk to Saruman and ask him where Sauron was going to attack next. Saruman shot a fireball at Gandalf, but Gandalf was unaffected and destroyed Saruman's staff. Théoden offered Wormtongue a chance to rejoin the Riders of Rohan. Wormtongue was clearly going to accept in order to escape Saruman's poor treatment, but Saruman slapped him. As Saruman was about to reveal Sauron's next plan, an enraged Wormtongue stabbed him in the back with a knife, twice. Saruman fell over the edge of Isengard and was impaled in the spike of a wheel that was once part of one of his own machines.
This is only shown in the Extended Edition of The Return of the King, as it was cut from the final picture, and he is never even seen in the theatrical cut.