We know that, although publicly he scorned Gandalf, Saruman copied him and also smoked, and imitated Sauron, as often said in The Lord of the Rings. But I just saw a quote about Radagast, saying that

Radagast is, of course, a worthy wizard, a master of shapes and changes of hue; and he has much lore of herbs and beasts, and birds are especially his friends.

And then I remembered Saruman's cloak that changes colour, and I wonder, maybe Saruman also scoffed about Radagast

"Radagast the Brown! [...] Radagast the Bird-tamer! Radagast the Simple! Radagast the Fool! Yet he had just the wit to play the part that I set him."

but then somehow he got this cloak idea from the "master of changes of hue".

It's just a thought – any more evidence?

4 Answers 4



The color of Saruman's cloak was chosen to reflect his arrogance. He considers himself superior to other wizards, hence his cloak has "many colors", as opposed to grey or white. It also shows his willingness to destroy a thing (i.e. white light) to understand how it works [*]. Gandalf recounts the following conversation in Lord of the Rings, which explains Saruman's mindset clearly:

'For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman Ring-maker, Saruman of Many Colours!'

I looked then and saw that his robes, which had seemed white, were not so, but were woven of all colours, and if he moved they shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered.

'I liked white better,' I said.

'White!' he sneered. 'It serves as a beginning. White cloth may be dyed. The white page can be overwritten; and the white light can be broken.'

[*] That Tolkien considered this immoral, of course, is a reflection of the mindset of the Professor himself ;)

  • But he considers himself superior to Gandalf, yet he smokes as well, copying him.
    – MadTux
    May 7, 2013 at 6:02
  • 3
    @MadTux That's true, and Saruman could very well have copied something else from Radagast. However, the reason why he chose a many-colored cloak is explained in the book, and is not related to Radagast :)
    – Andres F.
    May 7, 2013 at 12:21
  • Saruman's reason for the public.
    – MadTux
    May 7, 2013 at 12:36

As far as I know, Saruman despised Radagast due to his early partnership with him enforced by The Vala Yavanna. He does come to Saruman to help in the The Silmarillion. I can't remember precisely but I'm certain Saruman continued to think of him as a fool. All-in-all I highly doubt that Saruman would try in anyway to emulate him. His scorning of Gandalf was different there was old rivalry between the two, due to Gandalf being given the Ring of Fire, Narya, which Saruman thought he deserved. So although he might scorn and emulate Gandalf I doubt he would do the same with Radagast.


Probably not.

master of shapes and changes of hue

Let's look at what the Oxford English Dictionary has to say about the word "hue" (and remembering that Tolkien worked on the staff of the dictionary, which makes this a valid reference):


Of these, definition 1 appears to be the most relevant here, and is the earliest attested (971) so let's have a look:

...Form, shape, figure; appearance, aspect; species.

Unfortunately the fuller definition is behind a login screen, but it goes on to derive "colour" from the more primitive forms. However, this being Tolkien, when we read it context: "master of shapes and changes of hue" - it seems obvious that "changes of hue" here probably does not refer to colour - Radagast may be a shape-changer!

This is discussed further here (which also notes: hue from Old English hīew, hiw "form, appearance, color") - Christopher Tolkien's own speculation (noted in the just given link):

Can this have been suggested by by Beorn's acquaintance with Radagast?

Is sourced from HoME 7, The Council of Elrond (1), note 27.

(As an interesting aside, the 3 occurrances of the word "hue" in the Silmarillion all relate to colour, so the question of what exactly Tolkien did mean here must remain open.)

  • 1
    That's very interesting. Note, though, that definition 3a, "colour", is attested just as early (971: "Seo [smerenes] is brunes heowes & godes stences") and so it's not clear that he must have meant 1a.
    – Charles
    Nov 25, 2014 at 20:48

I would say that he probably did copy Radagast, but there is no direct proof. Radagast was well known for favoring beasts and birds. At some point, Saruman saw the power of using the birds as spies (as stated in LOTR.) Since he had secretly copied behaviors from Gandalf, it wouldn't be a large leap to assume that he also copied the control of birds from Radagast.

Saruman specifically disparaged Radagast and his favoring of birds, about the same as he disparaged Gandalf and his pipe weed...could be the only real link between Saruman and copying from Radagast. (He verbally berated both of them for things that he secretly copied from both of them.)

  • 1
    Good point! Of course, this isn't specifically the cloak, but still good point. +1
    – MadTux
    Jan 19, 2014 at 9:15

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