How was Isengard run before Saruman's creation of Uruk-Hai?

This extract of the book got me curious:

Late one evening I came to the gate, like a great arch in the wall of rock; and it was strongly guarded. But the keepers of the gate were on the watch for me and told me that Saruman awaited me.

Who were the gate keepers? Was Saruman the only person who lived within the walls of Isengard? Did he tend all of the trees/bushes himself as well as collect food and water? Is there any indication that Saruman had helpers who, if there were nearby places, used to collect supplies?

I assume that after Saruman created the Uruk-Hai they filled these roles, excluding the tending of the grounds which I don't suppose was a priority.

  • 5
    Unlimited oompa-loompas.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 22:27
  • 3
    House elves on loan from Hogwarts?
    – RichS
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 22:55
  • 8
    @ RichS Mr Saruman mustn't get angry at Dobby! Dobby put a red sock in with Mr Saruman's whitewash!
    – Charlie
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 22:59
  • 7
    @Charlie And henceforth, he became known as Saruman the Pink, greatest and campest of the Istari. Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 9:51
  • 4
    @DisturbedNeo guess that's why he called himself "Saruman of many Colours"
    – Charlie
    Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 10:01

2 Answers 2


By Men.

  1. Men guarded the gates
  2. Men lived in Isengard
  3. Men collected Saruman's supplies

The keepers of the gates

They were Men.

'We wouldn't ask you to,' said Merry. 'We have had enough of Orcs ourselves to last a life-time. But there were many other folk in Isengard. Saruman kept enough wisdom not to trust his Orcs. He had Men to guard his gates: some of his most faithful servants, I suppose. Anyway they were favoured and got good provisions.'

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Book III, Chapter IX: Flotsam and Jetsam

Think about it: Wouldn't it have been strange for Saruman to keep Uruk-hai as his gate keepers, prior to fully revealing his traitorous plans? Gandalf would have immediately suspected Saruman of treachery if he had Orcs at his gates, not Men.

Who else stays at Isengard?

Not only Uruks and Saruman. Men, too, stay at Isengard.

Aragorn and his companions sat themselves down at one end of a long table, and the hobbits disappeared through one of the inner doors. 'Store-room in there, and above the woods, luckily,' said Pippin, as they came back laden with dishes, bowls, cups, knives, and food of various sorts.

'And you need not turn up your nose at the provender, Master Gimli,' said Merry. 'This is not orc-stuff, but man-food, as Treebeard calls it. Will you have wine or beer? There's a barrel inside there that's very passable. And this is first-rate salted pork. Or I can cut you some rashers of bacon and broil them, if you like. I am sorry there is no green stuff: the deliveries have been rather interrupted in the last few days! I cannot offer you anything to follow but butter and honey for your bread. Are you content?'

It was rather a large portion of food. Clearly the Men had taken up abode at Isengard to stockpile such a large number of "man-food". (also see the first quote in Matt Gutting's answer, referring to Isengard's houses)

Who collected Saruman's supplies?

Who indeed...? You guessed it -- Men!

Saruman had long taken an interest in the Shire - because Gandalf did, and be was suspicious of him; and because (again in secret imitation of Gandalf) he had taken to the "Halflings' leaf," and needed supplies, but in pride (having once scoffed at Gandalf's use of the weed) kept this as secret as he could.


Some while ago one of Saruman's most trusted servants (yet a ruffianly fellow, an outlaw driven from Dunland, where many said that he had Orc-blood) had returned from the borders of the Shire, where he had been negotiating for the purpose of "leaf" and other supplies. Saruman was beginning to store Isengard against war. This man was now on his way back to continue the business, and to arrange for the transport of many goods before autumn failed.

Unfinished Tales - Part III, Chapter IV, The Hunt for the Ring

Therefore, it would seem that Saruman entrusted Men, to be more specific; Dunlendish Men, with jobs in Isengard.

  • 1
    Last quote is from Unfinished Tales, first two are from The Two Towers. Will edit it in later.
    – Voronwé
    Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 11:35

We're not told who precisely was living in Isengard, but it's clear there were some.

This was its fashion while Saruman was at his height, accounted by many the chief of the wizards. ... Many houses there were, chambers, halls, and passages, cut and tunnelled back into the walls upon their inner side, so that all the open circle was overlooked by countless windows and dark doors. Thousands could dwell there, workers, servants, slaves, and warriors with great store of arms; wolves were fed and stabled in deep dens beneath.

(The Two Towers, Book IV, Chapter 8, "The Road To Isengard")

Not all of those within the walls were orcs, either. Describing the armies issuing from Isengard to attack Helm's Deep, Merry says,

I saw the enemy go: endless lines of marching Orcs; and troops of them mounted on great wolves. And there were battalions of Men, too.

(Chapter 9, "Flotsam and Jetsam", emphasis added)

We're not told what things might have looked like before Saruman fell, if indeed he was not already corrupted by the time he was allowed to occupy Isengard. The narrator says (Chapter 8),

This was the stronghold of Saruman, as fame reported it; for within living memory the men of Rohan had not passed its gates, save perhaps a few, such as Wormtongue, who came in secret and told no man what they saw.

As far as tending the grounds, there wasn't much to tend by the time of the War of the Rings.

Beneath the walls of Isengard there still were acres tilled by the slaves of Saruman; but most of the valley had become a wilderness of weeds and thorns. Brambles trailed upon the ground, or clambering upon bush and bank, made shaggy caves where small beasts housed.

As far as inside the walls:

Once it had been green and filled with avenues, and groves of fruitful trees, watered by streams that flowed from the mountains to a lake. But no green thing grew there in the latter days of Saruman. The roads were paved with stone-flags, dark and hard; and beside their borders instead of trees there marched long lines of pillars, some of marble, some of copper and of iron, joined by heavy chains.

  • Most likely that the battalions of men were the wildmen of Dunland
    – Charlie
    Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 0:14
  • 1
    @charlie possible, but not necessary. Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 1:07
  • Who else would they have been?
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 8:44
  • @Edlothiad They could also have been, or included, the Men whom Saruman employed. We know that he had such. Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 10:35

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