56

Gandalf travels to Orthanc to take advice from Saruman, at which point Saruman reveals himself as a traitor. Why does he then simply imprison Gandalf on top of Orthanc instead of killing him? Clearly Saruman is still intelligent and you would think intelligent enough to know that Gandalf would not reveal the location of the Ring. Clearly Saruman is more powerful than Gandalf otherwise he would not be able to overpower him to put him on top of Orthanc and therefore it doesn't seem impossible that he would have the power and resources (Orc army for one) to kill Gandalf.

I realise it would make for a short and boring story with no Gandalf, but is there any reason in particular that Saruman does not simply kill Gandalf at that point??

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    And you would think Saruman would be smart enough to imprison Gandalf somewhere that he couldn't be rescue easily by... oh I don't know, any large creature that could fly! – user11521 Oct 23 '14 at 18:35
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    @Michael Saruman had command of a considerable number of crows, and the area around Isengard was probably largely barren of sizeable creatures. He probably didn't suspect Gandalf had any way of contacting the giant Eagles, really the only flying creature capable of penetrating the area and willing/able to carry Gandalf away. – TylerH Apr 12 '15 at 3:58
  • @TylerH And he also should have been smart enough to figure out that Sidious would betray hi... oh wait, wrong movie. – user11521 Apr 12 '15 at 4:41
73

Could Saruman kill Gandalf, and if he could would he have survived the battle? Gandalf died after a battle with a Balrog, a Maiar in its natural form with no restrictions upon it. The Balrog itself also died in the battle.

Saruman was subject to the same restrictions as Gandalf, so there would have been no guarantee for Saruman that he would survive such a battle. There's not much point having a plan to take over the world if you could die on Step 3.

As Tolkien mentions in Letter 156:

they were embodied in physical bodies capable of pain, and weariness, and of afflicting the spirit with physical fear, and of being 'killed'.

That aside, the conclusion is that already evidenced and espoused by Saruman - he wanted Gandalf to reveal where the One Ring was hidden, and being dead would not help that plan. Imprisoning him was a prelude.

"The third choice is to stay here, until the end."

"Until what end?"

"Until you reveal to me where the One may be found. I may find means to persuade you."

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    Balrogs are bodies, not the natural form of the Maiar. The Valar/Maiar are body-optional and can wander wound as a wisp of wind or light. – CajunLuke Aug 12 '12 at 14:13
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    @CajunLuke Yes, it would be more accurate to say that they had less restrictions, but dianod's point still stands. – called2voyage Jul 22 '13 at 17:31
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    "I may find means to persuade you." is key. Saruman's magically enhanced powers of persuasion are remarkable; he could not bring himself to rule out the possibility that even Gandalf could be worn down in time. – EleventhDoctor Jul 16 '14 at 11:47
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    Didn't he also want to turn Gandalf towards his side as well? I seem to recall that being his original desire. – Zibbobz Jul 16 '14 at 17:39
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    They insist, that this is "Maia", not "Maiar". It seems, that "Maiar" is plural! :> – trejder Dec 15 '15 at 20:18
13

Saruman did not want the Valar to know that he had betrayed his original purpose for coming to Middle-Earth therefore if he killed Gandalf then Gandalf's immortal spirit would know and be free to tell the Valar. Ergo Saruman needed to keep Gandalf where Saruman could keep a close eye on him.

3

There is also quite some evidence in the narrative that Saruman tried to corrupt Gandalf and take the side of Sauron.

I have not brought you hither to be instructed by you, but to give you a choice.[...] We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order[...] The Ruling Ring? If we could command that, then the Power would pass to us.

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    Could you perhaps add some quote, to complete your answer? – Eureka Dec 19 '13 at 14:20
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    @Eureka I have not brought you hither to be instructed by you, but to give you a choice.[...] We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order[...] The Ruling Ring? If we could command that, then the Power would pass to us. – Flamma Jul 16 '14 at 17:28
  • @Flamma upvoted in this case :) – Eureka Jul 16 '14 at 20:13
  • @Eureka note that although it's true that Saruman tries to corrupt Gandalf, it seems that he wanted to corrupt him more as a mean to get the Ring than to join forces with him. The true motive of the conversation and the imprisonment seems to be getting the location of said artefact. – Flamma Jul 17 '14 at 0:18
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    You would best add that to the answer... – the dark wanderer Jul 17 '15 at 20:52
2

And given that they're immortal, with resurrection ability, Saruman knew that it'd be futile. Gandalf would just return in a new body. Esp. as he was being faithful to the mission, unlike Saruman whom didn't resurrect after Grima Wormtongue killed him.

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    I think returning from the dead was more an exception Mandos did than a rule applicable to all Maiars. – Flamma Jul 17 '14 at 0:19
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    @Flamma: it was the exception for elves to not rise again, so why not Gandalf. And Glorfindel came back to middle earth; how much more an emissary whose task isn't done. If news of this treachery reached Valinor, I shudder. – Joshua May 1 '17 at 21:47

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