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I'm rereading The Lord of the Rings. Appendix A, "Annals of the Kings and Rulers", tells us that Aragorn son of Arathorn spent part of his youth in Minas Tirith under the assumed name "Thorongil" serving under Ecthelion, Steward of Gondor.

Thorongil often warned Ecthelion not to put trust in Saruman the White in Isengard, but to welcome rather Gandalf the Grey.

Appendix B, "The Tale of Years", tells us,

2957-80 Aragorn undertakes his great journeys and errantries. As Thorongil he serves in disguise both Thengel of Rohan and Ecthelion II of Gondor.
10th July 3018 Gandalf imprisoned in Orthanc.
18th September 3018 Gandalf escapes from Orthanc in the early hours.
25th October 3018 Council of Elrond.

Saruman's treachery was not clear to anyone before the dispute with Gandalf in July 3018. And Aragorn did not learn of it till he and Gandalf met again in Rivendell in October. So why was Aragorn already suspicious of Saruman roughly 40 years earlier?

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Just as one does not simply walk into Mordor, one does not simply turn from a leader of Istari tasked with helping Mankind to fight Sauron into a Sauron-apprentice. It takes ages to make that switch. –  DVK Dec 13 '12 at 18:09
    
@DVK – unless Sauron has a Palantir to ensare you . . . –  MadTux May 4 '13 at 14:12
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5 Answers 5

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Not sure where this is in the annals, but it says in the Tolkien Companion by J.E.A Tyler

Saruman made his first deliberate move in this direction (toward imposing his will, which was forbidden of the Istari) in the year 2759 Third Age, when he appeared at the Coronation of King Frealaf of Rohan, successor of the mighty Helm Hammerhand. The Wizard brough with him rich presents, and declared himself the friend of Rohan and gondor, and a little later was able to persuade Steward Beren of Gondor to grant him the Keys of Orthanc, the mighty Tower which, together with its fortress of Isengard, commanded the strategic Gap of Rohan. All thought this was a welcome move.

All, that is, except a weary ranger who would see everything given up by Gondor as a challenge to it's power.

And it further says that

all the time the Wizard was secretly searching the Tower of Orthanc for a long-lost treasure of the Dunedain ... the Palantir of Orthanc.

Then in 2851 the White Council met to think of ways to stop Sauron from coming back

Saruman, hoping that the Ring would expose its location if Sauron were left unharassed, deliberately overruled a strong recommendation (from Gandalf ... that Dol Guldur be attacked.

By his actions, Gandalf may have suspected that Saruman was up to something, although I don't think Gandalf even knew of the ring.

So, either through his own understanding of the Palantir through the lore of his people or through his association with Gandalf, Aragorn was more naturally suspicious than Gandalf and I think it makes sense that he'd know something was amiss well before anyone else had reason to suspect.

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Perhaps Aragorn took his lead from Galadriel, who apparently mistrusted Saruman from the get-go and had 1900 years to study him. Also, Gandalf was a friend and advisor to Aragorn's family and community, not to mention Aragorn himself. Saruman by 2957 had to have already been fully turned by Sauron, breeding Uruk-hai and building his war machine, and so wouldn't have welcomed the young heir of Isildur with open arms.

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I would say rather that he didn't mistrust Saruman, but Saruman was blocking Gandalf's suggestions at every turn (at the White Council)... being friends with Gandalf, Aragorn probably had heard of this. No doubt Aragorn too had knowledge that Sauron had returned (and Saruman kept saying he hadn't and that the One Ring would never be found).

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Aragorn's opinion seems to be at that point that Gondor's preparations for war should be guided by Gandalf instead of Saruman. While he wouldn't have known then that Saurman was a traitor, his open strategies in opposing the Enemy were now--in Aragon's opinion--inferior to those of Gandalf. He was saying that he thought that General X's ideas were better than those of General Y.

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Also, don't forget Aragorn had the gift of foresight. I'm not saying he had a vision or anything like that, he just may have had a strong feeling that Saruman was not the way to go. Plus what everyone else said.

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