138

At the council of Elrond, Gandalf tells of his encounter with Saruman.

But I rode to the foot of Orthanc, and came to the stair of Saruman; and there he met me and led me up to his high chamber. He wore a ring on his finger.

Gandalf seems draw particular attention to Saruman's ring. Yet, to my knowledge, nothing more is ever said of his ring. We know that Saruman had a great deal of knowledge regarding the rings of power. Is there anything in Middle-earth lore that indicates if there was anything extraordinary about this ring? Was Saruman emulating Sauron? Or could the ring have been given to him by Sauron?

  • 1
    I'm surprised no one has mentioned this in six years, but it makes more sense when you rephrase it "he wore a Ring on his finger" - the capital R signifying that was not just a ring, but a magical ring of some power. After all, there were dozens of Rings of Power constructed throughout the history of Middle Earth besides the twenty mentioned in the poem. – Omegacron Jun 23 '17 at 18:52

11 Answers 11

104

According to The One Ring.net:

In July 3018, Saruman set a trap for Gandalf, using the Brown Wizard, Radagast, to lure him to Orthanc. When Gandalf came, Saruman revealed his rebellion sporting a newly made ring of his own, and vestments of many shifting colors. When Gandalf refused to join him, Saruman made him a prisoner atop the tower. In September Gandalf was able to escape by Eagle from the tower and return to the north.

Also,

For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman Ring-maker

So it is a magic ring that he himself made. Not one of the numerous other existing magic rings. Good catch, I totally missed that when I read it.

  • 9
    But how powerful was this ring of his? I doubt it contests even the "Nazgul rings". – Mateen Ulhaq Mar 13 '11 at 19:05
  • 5
    Do you know where the making of Saruman's ring is narrated? We know that it's not the One, the Three (accounted for), the Nine (worn by the riders), or the Seven (destroyed or taken by Sauron) (source: LOTR 1.II, just after the Ring poem). And we know Saruman has been studying ring lore. But I can't find the actual passage that describes the origin of Saruman's Ring. (By the way, an earlier draft made Saruman's ring one of the 19 (CT, The Treason of Isengard, (HoME 7), VI, note 28).) – user56 May 14 '11 at 15:32
  • 13
    In the final published novel I don't think we ever read about Saruman's actual making of the ring; I think we are supposed to believe he's trying to duplicate Sauron's feat on his own. The fact that he continues to try an acquire The One Ring likely means he hasn't yet been successful (perhaps thinking The One would give him some clues). – KutuluMike Jul 26 '12 at 18:24
  • 2
    Saruman rivalry with Gandalf started in Middlearth, right at the beginning when upon arrival Gandalf got given one of the Elven Rings instead of Saruman. – Ender Delat May 6 '13 at 18:26
62

In the Foreword to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien implied that Saruman's ring-making ability had gotten pretty advanced. He wrote that if the War of the Ring had resembled World War II,

Saruman, failing to get possession of the Ring, would in the confusion and treacheries of the time have found in Mordor the missing links in his own researches into Ring-lore, and before long he would have made a Great Ring of his own...

  • +1 for an interesting quote, but I'm missing how that's relevant to World War II? – Nerrolken Jan 29 '15 at 17:52
  • 5
    @Nerrolken Perhaps he is saying that, if left undefeated, Germany would have soon acquired the technology to build and use an atomic bomb. This would work as a comparison between the Ring and the A-bomb. Wouldn't work as an analogy of the conflict's sides, but Tolkien might not have been going for that. – Misha R Jan 29 '15 at 22:16
  • 4
    Tolkien is explaining how LOTR would have been had it been an allegory for WWII. In this supposed allegory, Sauron would be Nazi Germany which is defeated. Saruman would be the Soviet Union which aided that defeat but soon after learned how to make nuclear weapons, which are represented by rings of power. (To be clear, Tolkien is pointing out that LOTR does not fit WWII - for example, Saruman does not aid in the defeat of Sauron - and so is not an allegory for it.) – Loop Space Nov 12 '16 at 20:24
  • Tolkien objected to comparisons between LOTR and World War II. Recall that he served in the British armed forces in World War I and began writing LOTR in 1937. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Invisible Trihedron May 12 at 2:31
26

It shows Saruman's ambitions to be on a level with Sauron as a controller of peoples, a maker of Rings of Power. Him actively using the Palantir and thinking he is not controlled by Sauron through it is another sign of this.

Which of course shows Saruman's corruption and folly.

19

I thought that an interesting aspect of this question was that Gandalf had possession of Narya, one of the Elven Rings of Power.

As an aside, although Gandalf the Grey appeared subordinate to Saruman the White, Cirdan gave Gandalf this ring. (Gandalf himself says Saruman is greatest of their order; Cirdan sensed a greater good in Gandalf.)

However, as stated, Saruman at least temporarily defeated and imprisoned Gandalf, so Saruman's newly forged Ring must have been significantly powerful.

Saruman was also considered a Lore-master, especially about the history of the The Rings of Power (one reason Gandalf visited Saruman in the first place), so I wonder if Saruman knew where the Elven rings were being kept and was jealous of Gandalf.

  • 14
    In "The Istari", published in "Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle Earth", Saruman indeed knew that Gandalf possessed a Great Ring: "And the Grey Messenger took the Ring, and kept it ever secret; yet the White Messenger (who was skilled to discover all secrets) after a time became aware of this gift, and begrudged it, and it was the beginning of the hidden ill-will that he bore to the Grey..." It does not say so, but I think it would be reasonable to assume that Saruman's desire to possess a Ring of his own might have begun then as well -- and he would make one if he could not find one. – MLP Mar 12 '11 at 6:00
14

It seems likely the Saruman's ring was made by him as he implied. There is however the small chance that it could be a lesser ring made by the Elves of Eregion in the second age, presumably given to him by Sauron as a gift (or a trap), or found by him during his researches.

In Eregion long ago many Elven-rings were made, magic rings as you call them, and they were, course, of various kinds: some more potent and some less. The lesser rings were only essays in the craft before it was full-grown, and to the Elven-smiths they were but trifles — yet still to my mind dangerous for mortals. But the Great Rings, the Rings of Power, they were perilous.

LotR I 2 (60)

13

You're right - nothing more is ever said of this ring, even when we see Saruman later in Isengard or in the Scouring of the Shire.

Saruman definitely lays claim to making the ring in the Fellowship of the Ring:

He wore a ring on his finger. ... 'For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman Ring-maker...'

Gandalf never calls the claim into doubt so presumably he believed him, and we do have the word of the author from the foreword of the Lord of the Rings that Saruman had been researching Ring-lore:

Saruman, failing to get possession of the Ring, would ... have found in Mordor the missing links in his own researches into Ring-lore, and before long he would have made a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth.

We now definitely know that Saruman's ring was not a Great Ring but that Saruman had been researching rings, so it should be reasonable to assume that the ring is of Saruman's making rather than a gift from Sauron. It is never revealed what powers it may or may not have - Saruman definitely ascribed some potency to the ring (otherwise why call attention to it), but that may have been a bluff on his behalf.

One reason that we may not have seen the ring again was because of the nature of the later appearances by Saruman - in Isengard he was up in Orthanc, not seen closely enough to identify the ring. The remaining appearances all occur after the destruction of the One Ring and given all Ring-lore is ultimately derived from Sauron's influence on the Elven-smiths of Eregion, even the Three, Saruman's ring (if it had power) may have been rendered useless and hence discarded once that destruction occurred.

2

Sauron (nee: Mairon) as well as Saruman were Maia of Aule the Smith. It is safe to say that both of them studied and learned the craft of magic rings from Aule. Sauron, however might have used some powers that Melkor lent him or gave him in the making of the One, as he was Melkor's chief lieutenant, and Melkor taught him many things and gave him additional power to do his evil works. Saruman never had the knowledge that Sauron apparently was granted from his master, and therefore though he could make magic rings probably due to the knowledge they had both received from Aule, he didn't know how to make one to enslave other people, as of course they would never learn such things from Aule, as doing so would be against the will of Eru.

1

Saruman's robes stopped shimmering in many colours as soon as the One Ring was destroyed. It is feasible that his lesser ring that he had forged had given him such powers of illusion. In an early draft, Tolkien speculated that the ring-lore had given him "Voice" but he dropped that idea. It would have been clearer had Treebeard mentioned that Saruman lost his powers of colour the instant the world had changed far away.

  • Welcome to SFF.SE. Your answer would be more substantive if you could find that particular quote by Tolkien. – Mat Cauthon May 12 at 1:46
  • 1
    Thank you! I don't have the books in front of me. I just remember that Tolkien had a few ideas that did not make it into the books: Trotter with wooden feet, and Tolkien wondering if the Shadow in Moria might have been Saruman "uncloaked" into a new form. – norman May 12 at 18:56
0

The Silmarillion doesn't say any of that but I think he is on the right track. The lesser rings were not like this. And Saruman's powers after he became plainly corrupted differ greatly from Gandalf and Radagast's powers. It could be simply his ego leading to further demonstration of his powers, but the idea that he has manifested this power in an object could explain things like his "voice" something known to have powerful influential effects, something that he had in common with Sauron.

0

I think it is probably a case of Saruman imitating people- he is frequently imitating Gandalf, (example- he smokes pipeweed because Gandalf does, he pays attention to the Shire because Gandalf does, etc) and he also aspires to be the "Lord of the Rings" like Sauron. It also might have served a practical purpose, maybe it allowed him to communicate with his captains or something, I'm just speculating here. He is trying to raise himself up to the level of Sauron here- previously he had been trying to get Saurons ring, but this is implying he is inferior to Sauron, since he can't make his own ring. He tries to defy this by making his own ring, then he will have a ring of power like Gandalf and have made a ring of power like Saruman

-6

I think the ring of Saruman would have been very powerful. Saruman himself was a maia of Aule, and like Sauron, he had skills of craft. He was also very powerful at the height of his strength.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.