I saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug today. I loved it, but there was one thing I didn't entirely understand. I tried to search the internet for an answer, but I didn't find one.

Why did Sauron imprison Gandalf instead of killing him at the end of the movie? Is it explained in the book? Maybe Sauron is forbidden from killing him, by Valar? Or he is scared of the tremendous consequences that might come after killing a Maia?

I know an Istari cannot be killed, but his physical form can be destroyed, no?

Thank you in advance for your answer.

  • 1
    Did you mean Sauron (presumably, in the new Hobbit movie) or Saruman (in Lord of the Rings)? Dec 14, 2013 at 19:32
  • 2
    @DVK He means Sauron in the new Hobbit movie. Obviously this doesn't happen in the books, but I just checked Wikipedia and it does happen in the movie.
    – Andres F.
    Dec 14, 2013 at 22:01
  • Yes, I meant Sauron.
    – Brukmoon
    Dec 14, 2013 at 22:50
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    @DVK He did. Just watched the second Hobbit movie and... it's painful. Elves, dwarves and goddamn orcs are all out of character :( Did you know Orcs are capable of night commando-style stealth actions? Neither did Tolkien :(
    – Andres F.
    Dec 16, 2013 at 12:38
  • 7
    Heheheh ,,commando-style stealth actions" of orcs, funny, but to make it even more funny in The Hobbit book we have an example of orcs making a stealth attack on Thorin's company in their tunnels (the fastest runners used stealth to pursue the dwarves in complete darkness, using secret routes they silently approached them from behind and attacked, they even used soft shoes for limiting noise of their footsteps :). Orcs have many skills and using stealth is definitely one of their tricks :), they are also good trackers using sense of smell and skilled archers. Still, the movie was awful. Feb 19, 2014 at 19:45

5 Answers 5


In the book, Sauron never imprisoned Gandalf (so the answer is, because that would be detrimental to Peter Jackson's prequels plot):

In The Hobbit's time (or before), they met twice, first in 2063 when Gandalf went to Dol Guldur and Sauron (then known as Necromancer) fled as he wasn't strong enough yet (this is not covered in "The Hobbit", but in "The Lord of the Rings", Appendix B, "The Third Age", despite having happened during when Hobbit was happening).

2063 - Gandalf goes to Dol Guldur. Sauron retreats and hides in the East...

Second time, was during the quest to Erebor, the White Council attacks Dol Guldur where Sauron returned again. He "flees" again (same source).

2850 - Gandalf again enters Dol Guldur, and discovers that its master is indeed Sauron. who is gathering all the Rings and seeking for news of the One, and of Isildur's Heir. He finds Thráin and receives the key of Erebor. Thráin dies in Dol Guldur.

2941 - ... 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.

In addition, Gandalf recounts how the latter events at Dol Guldur happened during the Council of Elrond:

But Saruman has long studied the arts of the Enemy himself, and thus we have often been able to forestall him. It was by the devices of Saruman that we drove him from Dol Guldur. It might be that he had found some weapons that would drive back the Nine ...

... 'Some here will remember that many years ago I myself dared to pass the doors of the Necromancer in Dol Guldur, and secretly explored his ways, and found thus that our fears were true: he was none other than Sauron, our Enemy of old, at length taking shape and power again. Some, too, will remember also that Saruman dissuaded us from open deeds against him, and for long we watched him only. Yet at last, as his shadow grew, Saruman yielded, and the Council put forth its strength and drove the evil out of Mirkwood and that was in the very year of the finding of this Ring: a strange chance, if chance it was.

'But we were too late, as Elrond foresaw. Sauron also had watched us, and had long prepared against our stroke, governing Mordor from afar through Minas Morgul, where his Nine servants dwelt, until all was ready. Then he gave way before us, but only feigned to flee, and soon after came to the Dark Tower and openly declared himself.

They never directly clashed in LOTR timeline, the only time Gandalf was imprisoned was by Saruman - see below.

Now, in case you meant Saruman (not Sauron), who did, indeed, imprison Gandalf (during LOTR time):

Saruman was hoping to get Gandalf to tell him where the One Ring was.

'He was cold now and perilous. "Yes," he said. "I did not expect you to show wisdom, even in your own behalf; but I gave you the chance of aiding me willingly. and so saving yourself much trouble and pain. The third choice is to stay here, until the end."

' "Until what end?"

' "Until you reveal to me where the One may be found. I may find means to persuade you. Or until it is found in your despite, and the Ruler has time to turn to lighter matters: to devise, say, a fitting reward for the hindrance and insolence of Gandalf the Grey."

(The Fellowship of the Ring, Chapter II: The Council OF Elrond)

  • I assume you meant Sauron in your second paragraph; he was The Necromancer, not Saruman.
    – KutuluMike
    Dec 14, 2013 at 19:36
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    Yes, I meant Sauron. Thank you very much for the detailed answer. We will see what Peter comes up with in the third part of the Hobbit trilogy. After that, I plan to read the books. :)
    – Brukmoon
    Dec 14, 2013 at 22:53
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    @AlexanderWinn That's a good guess as any regarding what Peter Jackson is thinking. Unfortunately it doesn't mesh with what we know of LotR (including the movies!), because at the beginning Gandalf only suspects about the return of Sauron and his search of the ring. How could this be, if he met a revealed Sauron at Dol Guldur and was interrogated about the ring? He'd have to be far less clueless at the beginning of LotR. PJ seems to be re-arranging the timeline of the Third Age in a way that is incompatible with his own movies.
    – Andres F.
    Dec 18, 2013 at 1:34
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    @AndresF. Good point, but isn't that a question for the book as well? As mentioned in the answer we're commenting on, Gandalf learned of the return of Sauron during his trip to Dol Guldur in 2850, and one can only assume that Sauron would be looking for the One Ring. Wouldn't that mean that the beginning of LotR, book and movie, has him inexplicably blind to Sauron's presence and motives?
    – Nerrolken
    Dec 18, 2013 at 2:12
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    First of all in book (at the beginning of Fellowship) Gandalf knows perfectly well that Sauron is residing in Mordor but also that he is preparing for the assault on the western lands, testing strength of Gondor and securing his power in Rhun and Haradwaith (among the rebellious tribes of men who refused his lordship) and so far he does not make any moves against his chief enemies in the West. Gandalf for a long time after the events of The Hobbit didn't know much about the Ring, he had no idea that it is the ONE Ring (and Saruman soothed his worries about the Ring that it was lost forever). Feb 19, 2014 at 19:39

Both Gandalf and Sauron are Maiar. In the storyline of the movies, It would seem that corrupting Gandalf so that he joins his side would be FAR more valuable for Sauron than destroying him. Also, Maiar actually cannot die. EVEN in the LOTR trilogy:

  • Sauron didn't die, he was only greatly diminished with little hope for him to regain strength.
  • Saruman didn't die, his spirit lives on but was denied to return to the West (Valinor).
  • Gandalf didn't die in The Two Towers: his spirit went straight to Eru

So "killing" the mortal form of Gandalf would not be a very productive thing to do in the long run. Sauron was indescribably powerful and knew this.

  • FWIW Morgoth is prophetised to die during Dagor Dagorath so presumably Ainur can die. Apr 28, 2017 at 20:54

Gandalf is a Maia. If killed his spirit would have warned the others of Sauron's return. The only option Sauron had was to keep him in a cage.

  • 2
    “If killed his spirit would have warned the others of Sauron's return.” — He would have appeared to them as a shimmering apparition, probably when they were trapped somewhere very cold with little hope of survival. Aug 22, 2014 at 12:27
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    But as Bilbo and the dwarves had no midichlorians they would not have seen him. Aug 22, 2014 at 15:27
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    There's a special hell reserved for those who mention midichlorians in LOTR discussions.
    – Oldcat
    Aug 22, 2014 at 17:45
  • @Oldcat: That might be the Orodruin Volcano Observatory. Jul 23, 2015 at 14:49
  • Or send to Galadriel.
    – Joshua
    Aug 17, 2015 at 21:04

All of these are good answers but in reality the events in the movie concerning Gandalf's plot line to Dol Guldur took place as they did simply to leave things at a cliffhanger that would be resolved in the third film, just as all the other plot lines ended.

  • I don't see why this got down rated, that's exactly the reason why Gandlaf was captured, to leave it at a cliffhanger and to make it easier to send the White Council in for the rescue in the third film...
    – Guest
    Dec 22, 2013 at 18:43
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    I reckon because the OP is looking for an in-universe explanation.
    – user8719
    Jan 12, 2014 at 21:50

Because Sauron had turned into one of the bad guys. I think they used to be friends as it's shown in the movie. But Sauron tries to make himself all powerful to ruthlessly rule the whole world. That's why he is desperate to get his hands on the ring, which is a missing piece of his power.

  • 5
    Are you confusing Sauron and Saruman? Jul 16, 2014 at 14:04

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