In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Thorin's company comes to Rivendell. While there, Elrond, Galadriel, and Saruman privately brace Gandalf to inquire about his activities with the dwarves. (~1h35m)

Gandalf argues that Thorin's personal quest to reclaim Erebor will have a larger strategic benefit: the dragon Smaug is a likely ally of "the enemy" (Sauron), so it's better to dispense with it now.

Saruman insists that Sauron is permanently crippled and can never pose a threat, and is pretty quick to discount the few pieces of evidence presented.

Knowing that he later throws in completely with Sauron, I have to wonder: is Saruman's behavior at this meeting simply genuine skepticism, or is he already turned and knowingly undermining his evil master's enemies?


1 Answer 1


With himself

By then Saruman wants the Ring for himself, and hopes that leaving Sauron alone for a bit might help the Ring re-surface. He is not in any way in league with Sauron yet, as he has not started using the Palantir. (Note that he was never truly Sauron's servant, his plan A was to get the Ring for himself and plan B to survive by allying Sauron rather than to die opposing him)

Also note that in the books, there is actually much more time (90 years) between the moment Saruman refuses an attack on the Necromancer and the time it happens, because in between Saruman becomes afraid of Sauron's ability to recover the Ring by himself from Dol Guldur.

Relevant quotes gotten from this answer to a related question :

2851 The White Council meets. Gandalf urges an attack on Dol Guldur. Saruman overrules him (footnote: It afterwards became clear that Saruman had then begun to desire to possess the One Ring himself, and hoped that it might reveal itself, seeking its master, if Sauron were let be for a time.). Saruman begins to search near the Gladden Fields.

2941 Thorin Oakenshield and Gandalf visit Bilbo in the Shire. Bilbo meets Sméagol-Gollum and finds the Ring. The White Council meets; Saruman agrees to an attack on Dol Guldur, since he now wishes to prevent Sauron from searching the River. Sauron having made his plans abandons Dol Guldur. The Battle of the Five Armies in Dale. Death of Thorin II. Bard of Esgaroth slays Smaug. Dáin of the Iron Hills becomes King under the Mountain (Dáin II).

c. 3000 The shadow of Mordor lengthens. Saruman dares to use the palantír of Orthanc, but becomes ensnared by Sauron, who has the Ithil Stone. He becomes a traitor to the Council. His spies report that the Shire is being closely guarded by the Rangers.

-- Lord of the Rings, Appendix B "The Tale of Years", The Third Age

  • 11
    Even using the palantir, I don't think he became a servant of Sauron. (He was useful to Sauron, in that he wasn't directly opposing him, though.) Rather, he was still biding his time until he obtained the Ring for himself. He certainly had no intention of returning it to Sauron, and I doubt he was under any delusion about his fate under a victorious Sauron.
    – chepner
    Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 18:01
  • True, that's why I said "in any way", but he is still "ensnared by Sauron" : c. 3000 [...] Saruman dares to use the palantír of Orthanc, but becomes ensnared by Sauron, who has the Ithil Stone. I'll edit my answer to make it more clear
    – gdelab
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 11:19

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