In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, when Gandalf is meeting with Saruman, Galadriel and Elrond in Rivendell, they are discussing the Necromancer. When Gandalf suggests that it is Sauron returning, Saruman insists that it's impossible and Sauron cannot and will not return.

The Istari (the wizards on Middle-earth) were sent back specifically to prevent the return of Sauron, so why would Saruman insist that it was impossible? Surely at least he'd investigate further to refute it.

I'm reasonably prepared to accept the answer "Jackson. 'Nuff said", although it'd be nice if there was another reason.

Edit: I found this related, but not duplicate quesion, as it doesn't address why he wouldn't check further

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    I think this is related to my old question: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/42666/…
    – djm
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 20:27
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    It's because Saruman is a bad guy in the main trilogy, but he isn't in The Hobbit, so Peter Jackson needed a way to make it OK to not like Saruman without having him do anything actually evil.
    – Kevin
    Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 2:02

3 Answers 3


There's certainly an element of "Jackson, 'nuff said" in it - in the books the Wise (Eldar and Istari) had begun to suspect that the power in Dol Guldur was Sauron by TA2060 (approx. 900 years before the events of the Hobbit) and knew it for certain by TA2850 (approx. 100 years before the events of the Hobbit).

However, it is broadly accurate to Saruman's behaviour in the books, where it's documented that Saruman opposed any action against Dol Guldur. All of this is documented in the Lord of the Rings chapter the Council of Elrond:

Some, too, will remember also that Saruman dissuaded us from open deeds against him, and for long we watched him only.

And also that he had argued to the Council that Sauron's Ring would never be found again (and therefore Sauron could never be a potent force for evil again):

"At the worst," said he, "our Enemy knows that we have it not and that it still is lost. But what was lost may yet be found, he thinks. Fear not! His hope will cheat him. Have I not earnestly studied this matter? Into Anduin the Great it fell; and long ago, while Sauron slept, it was rolled down the River to the Sea. There let it lie until the End."

Eventually Saruman yielded and agreed to an assault on Dol Guldur, but it was only after discovering that Sauron's servants were also searching the Gladden Fields for the Ring. This is told in the Tale of Years for the Third Age:

2939: Saruman discovers that Sauron's servants are searching the Anduin near Gladden Fields, and that Sauron therefore has learned of Isildur's end. He is alarmed, but says nothing to the Council.

The assualt on Dol Guldur, and other events of the Hobbit, then took place in TA2941, two years after that.

Footnote 55 (on the entry or TA2851) to the Tale of Years finally makes Saruman's motive explicit:

It afterwards became clear that Saruman had then begun to desire to possess the One Ring himself, and he hoped that it might reveal itself, seeking its master, if Sauron were let be for a time.

So it's therefore clear that Saruman wanted to leave Sauron alone so that the Ring might reveal itself, but it was only after the danger of Sauron finding it first became real that he finally consented.

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    This is a great answer! I had thought it was just foreshadowing of his future betrayal. Did Saruman believe that he could use the Ring's power without being corrupted by Sauron, or did he just not care if he was? Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 10:04
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    @JoshZmijewski scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/60055/… That question addresses what would happen, and if you keep clicking through, you should get an idea of his thoughts, feelings, hopes dreams, and favorite colour(s)
    – Yann
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 10:07
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    @JoshZmijewski - Keep in mind that the entire temptation of the ring is the attitude "I can control it even though others can't." In fact, that's probably why the powerful crave the ring so intensely. The greater your power, the greater the belief that YOU can control it despite the failure of others.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 19:02
  • @Omegacron - Exactly. Letter 246 contains an extended discussion of this and the crucial phrase "It was part of the essential deceit of the Ring to fill minds with imaginations of supreme power".
    – user8719
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 19:04
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    @Yann And that makes all kinds of sense, of course. Everyone thinks they can handle the ring. Thanks for linking me through to that. Tolkien's skill as a worldbuilder, his level of detail, the thought put into each tiny bit of minutiae, was really something else, wasn't it? Peerless. Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 10:16

My idea when watching this scene was that it was basically a foreshadowing of Saruman's future treachery. Though he was still very loyal to the anti-Sauron side of things at this point, it's possible that some small part of his mind was already starting to tend in a pro-Sauron direction, therefore perhaps a subtle and even unconscious desire not to investigate and therefore possibly endanger Sauron as he is just beginning to rebuild his strength. To the audience it seems rather obvious that the Necromancer is really Sauron. I am reminded of Star Wars, where it is also rather obvious to most of the audience that Darth Sidious, Senator Palpatine, and the Emperor are all one and the same, but to the other characters in the story, this is a huge secret which would vastly alter the plot if known!

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    To look at it from a different perspective: at this time, Saruman didn't want to believe that Sauron would or could return. A threat one refuses to see is a threat one is likely to fall victim to. This could be seen as part of the reason, psychologically, that Saruman was able to be turned, as opposed to Gandalf who was expecting Sauron to return before he even did, and thus was ready and waiting to resist Sauron's many corrupting influences—the One Ring itself being, of course, the most obvious. Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 9:58
  • Though if that is the case, as it seems to be, then Jackson made a really stupid change. As the question pointed out, the sole purpose for the Wizards being in Middle-Earth was to resist Sauron, who was already starting to act again. Commented Dec 20, 2014 at 17:51
  • @suchiuomizu Yeaaaaah, true. I don't think that was ever explicitly stated in the films though, so I guess Jackson was counting on the casual audiences not even knowing that specifically? Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 15:02

If you cross reference several of the books it becomes clear that Saruman at that time was already under Saurons influence. He always had the stone of Orthanc (the Palantír) since that belongs in Orthanc to begin with (see the Silmarillion) so it's highly likely that wether knowingly or unknowlingly he was already caught in the web.

Denethor too has a Palantír which, again, is how he fell under Saurons influence.

All Palantír were corrupted long before The Hobbit even started. So in my opinion Saruman was already in league with Sauron (and/or trying to take the ring for himself) at that time. This is supported by the Ents anger, Saruman hasn't been creating an army for a short time to anger the Ents thus, the wanton destruction of the forest of Fangorn has been going on for a long timespan by Ent accounts and Ents get pretty close to immortality.

Finally he couldn't have built an army that size that fast, he would have to have already been at it for a long time, not just creating the uruk-hai, but also the trial and error it takes to get the crossbreed just right, as is evidenced by the extremely good combination of orc ferocity and human cunning.

If I'm not mistaken both Gandalf and Galadriel are suspicious of Saruman in that meeting to begin with,

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