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NOTE: This article is about the version of Saruman from the film saga by Peter Jackson. You may be looking for information on his original book counterpart.
Villain Overview

One of the Halflings carries something of great value. Bring them to me alive, and unspoiled. Kill the others.
~ Saruman orders Lurtz to hunt down the fellowship.
The world is changing. Who now has the strength to stand against the armies of Isengard and Mordor? To stand against the might of Sauron and Saruman and the union of the Two Towers? Together, my Lord Sauron, we shall rule this Middle-earth. The old world will burn in the fires of industry, the forests will fall. A new order will rise! We will drive the machine of war with the sword and the spear and the iron fist of the Orc. We have only to remove those who oppose us. It will begin with Rohan. Too long have these peasants stood against you, but no more. Rohan, my lord, is ready to fall.
~ Saruman's speech to Sauron.
There will be no dawn… for Men.
~ Saruman's most famous line.

Saruman the White is the secondary antagonist of Peter Jackson's Middle-earth live-action film saga.

He is a powerful and wise, yet vain and self-serving Wizard and the former head of both the Istari and the White Council, who now rules over Isengard. During the War of the Ring, Saruman sided with Sauron, bred him an army of Uruk-hai, tried to get his hands on the One Ring and assisted his master in the war for the conquest of Middle-earth. He is the archenemy of his former friend Gandalf.

He was portrayed by the late Sir Christopher Lee, who also played Frankenstein's Monster in The Curse of Frankenstein, Count Dracula in Hammer Studios' Dracula films, Fu Manchu in Hammer's Fu Manchu series, Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, King Haggard in The Last Unicorn, Cushing Catheter in Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequel films, and The Jabberwock in Alice In Wonderland.

Roles

He is the secondary antagonist of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, serving as the main antagonist of both The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, as well as a minor yet pivotal antagonist in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. In The Hobbit trilogy, Saruman appeared as a supporting character in both The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

Biography

Background

Like Gandalf, Saruman is an angelic being known as a Maiar who was sent to Middle-earth by Eru (Tolkien's version of God) to protect it in a political capacity from great threats, the greatest being Sauron. He eventually joined the White Council and became its leader. Following Sauron's first downfall, Saruman declared the Dark Lord vanquished, although he secretly began studying Mordor's dark magic and became particularly interested in the missing One Ring.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

When Gandalf met with Saruman and the rest of the White Council in Rivendell, he discussed the threat posed by Smaug, suggesting that if Sauron were to return, "the Dragon could be used to terrible effect". Saruman dismissed Gandalf's concerns, arguing that Sauron was long destroyed. But Gandalf presented the Morgul blade of the Witch-king of Angmar to the Council as proof of evil's reemergence, before revealing that there was a Necromancer residing in Dol Guldur. Saruman was again dismissive, arguing that the Necromancer was merely a mortal man conjuring dark magic.

In the Extended Edition, Gandalf brought up the matter of the Rings of Power wielded by the Dwarf-lords, several of which had been destroyed by Dragon-fire, and others taken by Sauron before his defeat. Saruman countered that to command the Rings, Sauron would need the One, showing his vast knowledge of the devious means of the Dark Lord. He fleetingly assured the others that it must have been taken into the sea by the waters of the Anduin.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Saruman in Dol Guldur

Saruman appeared to assist Galadriel while rescuing Gandalf in Dol Guldur. Saruman, along with Elrond, took on the Nine Nazgûl, with him fighting the Witch-king on several occasions. When the Dark Lord himself emerged, Saruman appeared to be paralyzed with both awe and fear at the Sauron's power. After Galadriel banished Sauron from Dol Guldur, draining much of her reserves in the process, Saruman appeared to have made a serious decision. He dissuaded Elrond from pursuing Sauron, feigning concern for Lady Galadriel's weakened state and assuring his allies that the Dark Lord should be left to him.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

When Gandalf met with Saruman at Isengard, seeking his counsel, the White Wizard seemed unmoved by his concerns, only showing interest in the One Ring's location. In time he revealed his true colours; he insisted that Sauron could not be defeated, and that Gandalf should join him in serving the Dark Lord. Gandalf refused and mocked the former White Wizard's descent into desperation and thirst for more power. Angered, Saruman initiated a fight with Gandalf, which ended in the traitor trapping the Grey Pilgrim on the top of the Tower of Orthanc.

Soon, Saruman's allegiance to his Lord Sauron required him to summon his minions 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 either Mordor or Isengard. 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 unfazed by the revelation and he is unmoved in the plots he has weaved. He is only professedly fully-commited to his master as his plan is vaguely two-fold: to mainly aid Sauron in dominating Middle-earth, or cheat him by claiming the One Ring when the opportunity arose.

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, and hauling them to Isengard, in clear violation of his ostensible loyalty to Sauron. 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 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 minions vanquished and perhaps fearing his master's ire when hearing of his recent defeat, Saruman sealed himself within Orthanc and made no attempt to answer his Lord Sauron's summons to the Seeing-Stone.

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 his Lord 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, as it was cut from the final picture, and he is never even seen in the theatrical cut. In the latter, he is said to be robbed.

Personality

Saruman was once a wise and moral Wizard who fought against the evil of Sauron alongside the rest of the White Council. He believed only great power could vanquish evil, unlike Gandalf. However, he would eventually join a darker power and serve Sauron, due to believing he would inevitably emerge victoriously and desiring power which Sauron would grant him. Though admirative and emulative of his master, the wizard slightly entertains the thought of supplanting him and ruling all by himself if possible.

He was incredibly knowledgeable, cunning, and arrogant. He was willing to commit any vile crime with no remorse, such as burning entire villages and wiping out the entire race of Men, showing he had shed any morality he originally possessed. He had no problem killing women and children, to the point of sending 10,000 Uruk-Hai to Helm's Deep for the sake of completely exterminating everyone from Rohan without mercy. However, this combination of ruthlessness and arrogance ended up being his undoing, because due to sending his entire army of strongest warriors there, he left Isengard thinly defended when Treebeard led the Ents in attacking him for callously having many of their kin cut down and/or burned. Due to only having average Orcs left to defend him and the tower, they were overwhelmed and defeated very easily.

Following his defeat, Saruman was also shown to be bitter and spiteful, cursing Gandalf and Théoden in the aftermath of receiving his comeuppance. He was also sadistic as he cruelly gloated to Gandalf that Frodo Baggins would die.

Powers and Abilities

Powers

  • Magic: As the White Wizard, Saruman had vast magical powers that excelled all his fellow wizards, including Gandalf.
  • Immortality: Saruman was immortal and had lived thousands of lifetimes, as was typical for his kind.
  • Telekinesis: Saruman was capable of telekinesis, both through his staff and hand, as well as telepathy.
  • Pyrokinesis: Saruman could cast fire from his staff, which he used to try and smite Gandalf while being imprisoned in Orthanc.
  • Animal Communication: Like Gandalf, he was capable of communicating with animals, using this ability to receive information from his crow spies.
  • Endurance: Saruman was capable of defeating Gandalf the Grey in a duel with relative ease, to the point that he was able to toy with him before torturing him. He was revealed to have some fighting skills as shown in his battle against the Ringwraiths.
  • Mind Corruption: One of Saruman's most disturbing abilities was his ability to corrupt and gain control over the minds of others, as he did with King Théoden, to the point of even speaking through him.
  • Atmokinesis: Another of Saruman's most destructive abilities is his weather manipulation, allowing him to create incredibly powerful storms such as the one he cast upon Caradhras.

Abilities

  • Vast Knowledge: Similarly to Gandalf, thanks to living many lives of man, Saruman had a vast knowledge of Middle-earth, much of which was documented in many books he kept in his tower. He also has great magical knowledge, such as of the casting of spells and use of the palantír.
  • High Intelligence: He was very wise and intelligent, able to craft powerful weapons such as explosives, breed a new breed of Orc dubbed the Uruk-hai and strategize the downfall of Rohan and a very nearly successful attack on Helm's Deep, finding a way to exploit their defenses.

Quotes

Your love of the halfling's leaf has clearly slowed your mind.
~ Saruman to Gandalf.
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.
~ Saruman reveals his true colors to Gandalf.
I gave you the chance of aiding me willingly, but you have elected the way of pain!
~ Saruman to Gandalf
It is over. Embrace the power of the Ring, or embrace your own destruction!
~ Saruman threatens Gandalf
So you have chosen… death.
~ Saruman vows to kill Gandalf.
The power of Isengard is at your command, Sauron, Lord of the Earth.
~ Saruman speaks with Sauron.
Moria… You fear to go into those mines. The Dwarves delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-dum… shadow and flame.
~ Saruman on Moria.
Do you know how the Orcs first came into being? They were elves once, taken by the dark powers, tortured, and mutilated. A ruined and terrible form of life. Now… perfected. My fighting Uruk-Hai. Whom do you serve?
~ Saruman to Lurtz on the origin of Orcs.
Hunt them down. Do not stop until they are found. You do not know pain, you do not know fear. You will taste man-flesh!
~ Saruman ordering the Uruk-Hai hunting party.
If I go, Théoden dies!
~ Saruman to Gandalf through Théoden.
Rohan is mine!
~ Saruman to Gandalf through a possessed Théoden.
Gandalf the White. Gandalf the Fool. Does he seek to humble me with his newfound piety?
~ Saruman curses Gandalf.
The world of Men shall fall. It will begin at Edoras.
~ Saruman plans the attack on Rohan.
A new power is rising. Its victory is at hand. This night the land will be stained with the blood of Rohan. March to Helm's Deep. Leave none alive. To war!
~ Saruman's speech to the armies of Isengard.
Gandalf does not hesitate to sacrifice those closest to him. Those he professes to love. Tell me. What words of comfort did you give the halfling before you sent him to his doom? The path you have set him on can only lead to death.
~ Saruman taunts Gandalf on Frodo.
A man of Rohan? What is the house of Rohan but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek and their brats roll on the floor with the dogs? The victory at helms deep does not belong to you, Théoden, horse-master! You are a lesser son of greater sires.
~ Saruman to Théoden
You withdraw your guard, and I will tell you where your doom will be decided. I will not be held prisoner here!
~ Saruman's last words.

Trivia

  • In the film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the scene of his death was cut out from the final version since the film was already three hours long with the in-story explanation being that he is trapped in the Tower of Isengard.
    • However, the cut scene can be found in the Extended Edition.
  • Christopher Lee was the only member of the cast to have met J.R.R. Tolkien in person.
  • Famously, Christopher Lee originally wanted the role of Gandalf but was cast instead as Saruman due to his age.
  • Saruman's scourging of the Shire was cut from the Peter Jackson movies and instead, he was defeated before Sauron.
  • When reading about the Dwarves in the Mines of Moria unearthing Durin's Bane, there is a picture of the gates to the mines. This picture was drawn by Tolkien himself.
  • In the scene where Saruman is stabbed, Christopher Lee gasped rather than screamed due to that being the sound people actually made when they were stabbed.
  • While Saruman is never directly shown to desire to usurp Sauron, like in the books, it is hinted at numerous points. For example, Saruman has the Uruk-hai become loyal to him and not Sauron, even to the point of refusing to take orders from Sauron's orcs and delivering to Saruman, rather than Sauron. He also ordered the Uruk-hai to bring the Ring to him, not to Sauron. It is possible that if the Uruk-hai brought the Ring to him, he would have kept it for himself.

TolkienPeter Jackson

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