We know that Saruman bore ill-will toward Gandalf for millennia before the events of The Lord of the Rings. It began with their arrival in Middle Earth when Cirdan gives Narya to Gandalf, or at least shortly thereafter when Saruman learns of this gift.

And the Grey Messenger took the Ring, and kept it ever secret; yet the White Messenger (who was skilled to uncover 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, which afterwards became manifest.

The manifestation of this ill-will was clear at the meetings of The White Council. Gandalf had mentioned he had suspicions that Saruman was being corrupted when The White Council, due to Saruman's leadership, did not immediately attack Dol Guldur and Gandalf went by himself to learn the true identity of The Necromancer. There are other manifestations, the above quote indicates Saruman's ill-will was hidden for only a short time before he learned that Cidran thought Gandalf was more deserving of Narya.

So why would Gandalf have said that Saruman was very wise and go to see him for counsel about The Ring of Power if he knew that Saruman was already looking for it for himself?

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    Gandalf didn't know that Saruman was corrupted. There was a rivalry between the two, but Saruman was head of order and the formost expert on ring lore (save for Sauron of course), so it made sense for Gandalf to ask for his help.
    – user8252
    Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 5:20
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    To add to what ALS said, just because you don't like your boss doesn't mean you shouldn't seek his advice/keep him in the loop about what's going on.
    – Monty129
    Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 13:32
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    Though it is rare, even mortal enemies can still share respect for one another and have value for each others' wisdom.
    – Iszi
    Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 16:01

2 Answers 2


When he went to visit Saruman, Gandalf did not know he had been corrupted. Gandalf knew that there was a certain ill-will, as has been said, but did not know the White Robes had turned to the dark side.

Gandalf knew that he and the others had been sent to shepherd the mortals through the Third Age. The rise of Sauron as a malevolent force would have been the undoing of all their hard work. Gandalf, quite reasonably, expected that in the face of the utter destruction of the Good races and the crumbling of all their work, Saruman would put aside their rather petty differences and work with him towards the elimination of the Enemy.

Saruman was knowledgeable and wise, and knew many things which had been forgotten to most, if not all, others. He alone of the peoples in Middle Earth was still knowledgeable about Ringlore and the crafting of rings. Moreover, he was in many ways Gandalf's boss ("the head of my Order").

When Gandalf discovered that Bilbo's ring was THE Ring, he realized what it meant and what was on the line. He sought every aid, every ally, every source of support he could find. It would have been morally reprehensible for him to NOT seek the aid of the single individual best equipped to inform them all of the Ring's history, powers, weaknesses, etc. For all Gandalf knew, Saruman could have known a simple spell or ritual that would have stripped the Ring of its power or defenses, or hidden it away where it could not be found.

Once he realized Saruman had betrayed them, it was too late - he'd already spilled the beans.

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    When you say "the White Robes had turned to the dark side" are you referring to Saruman's White robes or is there a suggestion of an order of white robes? i.e. more than one like Saruman? Obviously Gandalf became Gandalf the white, but were there others of the white?
    – AidanO
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 7:49
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    I think he refers to Saruman only. Other white wizards apart from Gandalf and Saruman are never mentioned.
    – mort
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 9:57
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    @AidanO: There was only one White Wizard, and wizards sometimes referred to each other by the color of their robes. Thus, I was referring to Saruman with that statement.
    – Jeff
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 13:52
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    @Jeff, thanks for clearing it up, thought for a second I'd missed out on a whole range of wizards!
    – AidanO
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 14:14
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    In the book, Saruman had in actuality stopped wearing white robes, and instead wore a robe of many colors once he had become corrupt i.e. gone over to the dark side, metaphorically. Gandalf doesn't notice initially when he visits Saruman at Isengard, then suddenly realizes, which I think was a signal. @Jeff answer makes sense, that Saruman had been "The White"; Gandalf, grey; Radogast, brown. Commented May 8, 2013 at 17:18

It is mentioned in the Fellowship of the Ring that Saruman is an expert in the area of magic rings and is supposedly the wisest of the Istari. When Gandalf returns as Gandalf the White, he comments that he is "Saruman as he was meant to be." This may refer to Gandalf's new power or his greater wisdom and foresight. If the later is true, then Gandalf seeks his advice because he is wiser than Gandalf and is more knowledgeable about the Rings of Power.

  • 2
    Gandalf has always been wiser than Saruman, as stated in the Valaquenta. Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 23:42
  • remove the "is wiser than Gandalf" part and your answer would be ok...
    – user24069
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 15:22

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