Every wizard in The Lord of the Rings obviously had a purpose to be sent to Middle-earth, with Gandalf's being to help out in the defeat of Sauron and Morgoth's forces, etc. However, because Saruman was not returned to life after his death by Grima, he must have fulfilled his purpose.

I've read that Gandalf came back as the White in order to fulfill the purpose Saruman had failed in. So, obviously, Saruman had a purpose and failed it, but why? What was his purpose? And why was he not sent back to complete it, but instead Gandalf was sent in his place?

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    There's a bunch of different questions here. You might want to focus on which one is most important to you, and whether an answer to that question will likely answer the others for you...
    – Valorum
    Feb 20, 2014 at 19:08
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    This is a minor detail, but how could Saruman be "sent back" while he was still in Middle-earth? Gandalf was able to come back because he died - that is, he had to "leave" Middle-earth before he could be "sent back" to Middle-earth. By the time Saruman died, Sauron was dead as well. There was no reason to send him back then. And Gandalf was always a good guy, both before he died and after he came back. Saruman had been a baddie for years. If Saruman died (let's say during the Ent attack), how do you know he would come back as a good guy?
    – Wad Cheber
    May 16, 2015 at 23:11

3 Answers 3


The Five Wizards, also known as Istari, were five Maiar spirits in human form sent to aid the Free Peoples of Middle-earth against the threat of Sauron. Saruman was one of the five Istari, meaning his purpose was to defeat the Dark Lord.

These should be "mighty, peers of Sauron, yet forgo might, and clothe themselves in flesh," as they were intended to help Men and Elves unite against Sauron, but the wizards were forbidden from matching the Dark Lord in power and fear.

But Saruman worked with Sauron. In fact,

His extensive studies of dark magic, however, eventually led him to desire the One Ring for himself. Thinking he could ally himself with Sauron and then betray him, Saruman allied Isengard with Mordor in the War of the Ring, in which he was defeated.

So, He betrayed his mission, that's probably why he didn't come back.

Also, the Istari where sent to Arda in the Third Age. Morgoth was at the beginning of the world. So, Gandlaf wasn't sent to defeat Morgoth, but Sauron, who was Morgoth's apprentice.


In Valinor, a council was called by Manwë. This was likely in the middle of the Second Age, shortly after the creation of the Rings of Power. It was decided to send five emissaries to Middle-earth. These should be "mighty, peers of Sauron, yet forgo might, and clothe themselves in flesh" — Istari, or Wizards. One of those who went was Curumo (later in Sindarin Curunír, or in Westron Saruman). Saruman was one of those who volunteered, whereas the last one, Olórin, (later Gandalf) was commanded by Manwë to go.

tl:dr:he had the same job as Gandalf.


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    +1 and see also the Istari essay in Unfinished Tales.
    – user8719
    Jun 24, 2014 at 10:08

They all had the same purpose, to oppose Sauron in Middle Earth, but not by direct force. Curumo aka Saruman was the strongest initially but was corrupted by desire and as Gandalf the White tells the Hobbits, he was Saruman as he should have been.

  • This is correct. One gets the feeling that they were left with a good degree of autonomy, and so long as they stayed within their mission parameters they were probably expected to figure out what was best to do themselves once they got to Middle-earth.
    – user8719
    Apr 22, 2014 at 7:27

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