I've tried looking up why Gandalf claims to be Saruman but I keep finding things saying 'Gandalf is trying to show that he is as Saruman should have been - how he shouldn't be corrupt' is this correct?

  • 7
    I've always thought he was using "Saruman" as a title, instead of referring to the person. So by saying "I am Saruman" he is saying he is now the chief wizard, head of the white council. The second part of his statement shows that it is the role Saruman was meant to play before he was corrupted.
    – childcat15
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 0:08
  • in a nutshell, I think that would be a fair statement
    – The Fallen
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 2:01
  • 1
    @childcat15: I am sure you are right about the sense, but I don’t think you have to think of “Saruman” as a title for that, he is just saying that he is what Saruman was meant to be — that is what the words, quoted in The Fallen’s answer, clearly indicate..
    – PJTraill
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 22:04
  • Related: Why does Gandalf say that he is Saruman?
    – TARS
    Commented Oct 2, 2016 at 0:35

2 Answers 2


The relevant quote is:

Yes, I am white now,' said Gandalf. 'Indeed I am Saruman, one might almost say, Saruman as he should have been.

When the Istari arrived in Middle-Earth, they were as emissaries from Valinor. They no longer wanted to interfere directly in the affairs of Middle-Earth, so the 'wizards' were sent to help the free peoples of middle-earth in their fight against Sauron. You can discern this intent by what Cirdan the Shipwright said when he gave the elven-ring Narya to Gandalf:

"Take this ring, master," he said, "for your labours will be heavy; but it will support you in the weariness that you have taken upon yourself. For this is the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill."

They were, however, forbidden to "dominate the peoples of Middle-Earth or match power with power". Saruman was set up as the leader of the order, and as such bore great responsibility in carrying out this task. Thus, when he accumulated power for himself and attempted to dominate the peoples of Middle-Earth, he was in direct opposition to his orders.

Therefore, Gandalf, when he was 'promoted' after his resurrection, cast Saruman from the order. He then took the lead in inspiring the free peoples fighting against Sauron. In this capacity, he was fulfilling the role Saruman was sent for, indeed "Saruman as he should have been."

  • 17
    I think the phrase "one might almost say" is the key here. Gandalf explained it pretty well himself. Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 17:12
  • In addition to Keith's comment, it also jumps out at me that 'Gandalf' and 'Saruman' were their names on middle earth. My understanding is that they did not take those names until they arrived there. So they may not associate those names with their identities the way they would their 'real' names, adding to the confusion.
    – Nicholas
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 18:07
  • @Nicholas - I don't think that's it. We never see Gandalf or Saruman rejecting those names in any way, or indicating they viewed them lesser. The fact that Gandalf says he is Saruman is because the people he was speaking to knew them as Gandalf and Saruman.
    – The Fallen
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 22:35
  • @SSumner I think I might be trying to say something similar to you. More like the names were titles than "names", like they described their role on Middle Earth rather than their identities as Maiar. I'll readily admit that I'm far far from an expert, though.
    – Nicholas
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 13:11
  • @Nicholas - that's not really what I was trying to say. I was saying the names were just names, and he used them in the context of which names his audience knew
    – The Fallen
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 13:37

In Christian theology, Adam represents all humans, their potential and their fall. (Adam literally means "Human" or "Earth"). As told by Romans 5, Christ is the new human. He is what Adam should have been.

Tolkien was deeply religious. I suspect he may have seen Gandalf as the foil of Saruman, as representing what Saruman could have become.

  • The part of what you wrote that directly addresses the question is opinion, and ought be expressed in a comment, not as an answer.
    – Lexible
    Commented May 31, 2018 at 19:55

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