I've seen plenty of talk about Gandalf, but do any of the things Saruman did during the course of the books break the rules of direct interference?

Off the top of my head:

  • He imprisoned Gandalf
  • He caused a storm above Caradhras upon the Fellowship (in the movies)
  • He created a new breed of Orc (Uruk-Hai)
  • He amassed an army of Orcs
  • He set this army upon Helm's Deep
  • Invented war machines for that army to use?
  • He corrupted Théoden through Grima Wormtongue
  • Probably many other things
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    Simple answer: Yes, and that's why he wasn't reincarnated after his death.
    – Voronwé
    Jul 14, 2017 at 9:44
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    Where's the textual evidence for point 2? The Fellowship speculate about whether the storm is due to Sauron or just the native hatred of the mountain itself, but I've never seen anything implying it was Saruman's doing. Jul 14, 2017 at 12:36
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    @DanielRoseman Saruman causing the storm is an invention of the movie, not found in the original story.
    – Dranon
    Jul 14, 2017 at 13:43
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    Thanks, I've added a note next to that to mention it's from the movies.
    – MKHC
    Jul 14, 2017 at 13:51
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    @Voronwë gandalf's reincarnation was a sort of one-of-a-kind ex-machina fiat. C'mon Eru himself intervened. It is not expected he would do so for any U2 wizard. The istari knew the sacrifices they were making upon accepting their quest, and they did not expect reincarnation. Not even Gandalf. Jul 14, 2017 at 15:06

2 Answers 2


He outright broke Rule 1 and Rule 2.

to reveal themselves in forms of majesty, or to seek to rule the wills of Men or Elves by open display of power.
Unfinished Tales - Part IV: II The Istari

With Tolkien himself admitting Saruman's downfall.

Saruman the White, fell from his high errand, and becoming proud and impatient and enamoured of power sought to have his own will by force
Unfinished Tales - Part IV: II The Istari

The consequences of Saruman's actions were the worst possible outcome for the death of the mortal form of an Istari.

When his spirit looked to the west, to return from where it came. A wind blew it away in rejection. The rejected spirit is left to wander Middle-earth "house-less" being unable to take up a new physical form. For eternity.

To the dismay of those that stood by, about the body of Saruman a grey mist gathered, and rising slowly to a great height like smoke from a fire, as a pale shrouded figure it loomed over the Hill. For a moment it wavered, looking to the West; but out of the West came a cold wind, and it bent away, and with a sigh dissolved into nothing. Return of the King: Book Six - Chapter VII, The Scouring of the Shire

It must be said. Gandalf had also broken the rules (revealing himself in a form of majesty against the Balrog). However, he did so to stop the ring from falling into the hands of a servant of Morgoth, in doing so he saved the ring. In that case, Gandalf was exempted. However he may or may not have been cast out of the Istari order for his actions and sent back to Middle-earth as a full-blown Maiar.

  • Saruman was condemned to the same fate as Sauron. But sauron had some of his power still vested in the phisical realm in the form of the +1 ring, so he "cheated" his death at the hands of Isildur. Jul 14, 2017 at 15:09
  • I'm rather skeptical of that linked article, as some important parts go directly against what Tolkien said in Letter #156. Also, I'm not sure I've seen non-speculative sources saying that Gandalf was specifically trying to keep the ring from Durin's Bane; from what I've seen, the balrog's threat was an immediate one, independent of their mission. Though similarly speculative, I've seen it argued that Gandalf was able to fight the balrog more directly because it was unrelated to his mission.
    – Harris
    Jul 14, 2017 at 15:17
  • You've lost me, I don't follow. The article itself says people will hold it against him. But ye, I take everything I read not from tolkien with a pinch of salt including all the answers I've given and everyone else has given anywhere. No one who isn't Tolkien can answer your question 100% truthfully unless he uses only Tolkien's words. Durin's Bane was a threat to the destruction of the Ring, so he had to be destroyed. He was also just dangerous to have around in general, so he had to be destroyed.
    – Edlothiad
    Jul 14, 2017 at 15:47
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    @JDoe fighting the Balrog. He matched power with power.
    – Edlothiad
    Jul 14, 2017 at 19:27
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    @Edlothiad You mention power with power, while ignoring a key part of that rule - "seek to rule the wills of Men or Elves by open display of power" there was no desire to rule anyone's will there. Jul 15, 2017 at 1:35

For myself, I would consider

amassed an army of orcs...

to be going beyond what the Istari were meant for. If we use Gandalf and Radagast as good examples (though Radagast barely does anything in the books), the idea was not to take charge of armies, but to encourage the leaders of those who could potentially oppose Sauron to do just that. Although Gandalf did lead Minas Tirith de facto while Denethor was mad, he wasn't directly responsible for making attacks. Even the decision to attack the Black Gate was Aragorn's decision, advised by Gandalf.

Edit: Gandalf's fighting the Balrog did break the rules, mostly because he revealed himself to be 'a wielder of the flame of Anor' and all that. So he isn't exactly a great example. I would still consider Saruman to have broken the rules by 'dominating the peoples of Middle-Earth' - i.e. attempting to take over Rohan. Not to mention, you know, he was evil.

  • 1
    Gandalf breaks the rule as well. He uses his full power to fight the Balrog.
    – Edlothiad
    Jul 14, 2017 at 9:48
  • @Edlothiad scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/18923/… Jul 14, 2017 at 9:51
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Edlothiad
    Jul 14, 2017 at 10:01
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    Hang on a second tho'. First Gandalf attempted to flee the Balrog. That didn't work so he attempted to trick the Balrog into stepping on the bridge then breaking it. That didn't work either, so then and only then does Gandalf power up. So he did make a sincere effort to follow "the rules"
    – Gaius
    Jul 14, 2017 at 16:57

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