In The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies

The White Council assaults Dol Goldur. In this assault, there are three Istari and two Elves. Why is it that the wizards seem less powerful than the elves? Saruman is making as much of an impact as Elrond, and Radagast is a getaway driver.

Surely, at least Saruman should be more powerful (in the modern sense of wizards being powerful) than Elrond and Galadriel, as they aren't minor gods. I understand that Radagast is a hippie, not a fighter, but Saruman is obsessed with power. It's his thing. So why is he outdone by Galadriel when she

decides that she's bored of this fight and wishes to win now, so just does.

(Sub-question: Is this the least magical scene in the series, considering Tolkien's view of magic being subtle? Don't get me wrong, as someone who enjoys flashy lights and cool fight scenes I appreciated it, it just seemed out of place, because all of those with magic had previously been portrayed in a Tolkien-compliant manner)

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    I agree, it seemed very out of place, as did she and Elrond in that scene, it should have been the three wizards with the head of their order leading them. Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 10:51
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    I recall something, somewhere, about wizards not being allowed to influence the mortal world too much? I don't recall where exactly, but I think the wizards were sent to aid the mortal races overcome Sauron, not do the job for them. In that case, it'd make sense for the elves to do a lot more than the wizards, who are bound by their code of do not do too much.
    – Theik
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 12:31
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    Remember who the bearers of the three Elven rings are... But really, isn't this just a film-ism? Everything in Tolkien's novels fits together like glue; don't expect Hollywood to bother getting stuff right!
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 12:38
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    it's mentioned in the Appendices that after the destruction of the One Ring, Galadriel crossed the Celebrant and destroyed Dol Guldor. And didn't Luthien destroy Minas Tirith (the original, in Beleriand)?
    – LAK
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 14:50
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    And Saruman is supposed to be the leader of the White Counsel, and that isn't clear in the movie. Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 3:17

8 Answers 8


The degree of power shown by Galadriel in the movie is far in excess of the book: although in the book she was capable of destroying Dol Guldur (and the suggestion is that she did so single-handed), taking on Sauron one-to-one would have been beyond her capabilities.

Tolkien's Letter 246 states up-front that Gandalf was the only one who had sufficient innate power to take on Sauron, but that while Galadriel evidently felt she could, she would have needed to be augmented by the Ring in order to do so:

Of the others only Gandalf might be expected to master him – being an emissary of the Powers and a creature of the same order, an immortal spirit taking a visible physical form. In the 'Mirror of Galadriel', it appears that Galadriel conceived of herself as capable of wielding the Ring and supplanting the Dark Lord. If so, so also were the other guardians of the Three, especially Elrond.

In the Council of Elrond, during a discussion between Galdor and Elrond, it's made even more explicit that an un-augmented Galadriel (or Elrond, or Círdan) quite simply does not have the power to withstand Sauron:

'What power still remains lies with us, here in Imladris, or with Cirdan at the Havens, or in Lórien. But have they the strength, have we here the strength to withstand the Enemy, the coming of Sauron at the last, when all else is overthrown?'

'I have not the strength,' said Elrond; 'neither have they.'

So Galadriel's display of power in this scene in the movie must be ranked as a movie invention that can't be otherwise explained. You're correct: Saruman should be more powerful (Gandalf says elsewhere in The Council of Elrond that "It was by the devices of Saruman that we drove him from Dol Guldur"), and so should Radagast and Gandalf.

That's not to say that she's weak, however; for a more in-depth analysis of Galadriel's powers, see this question: What powers does Galadriel have?

Sub-answer: there's a lot more displays of magic via flashing lights/etc in the books than is commonly supposed. Gandalf hurling lightning bolts at the Nazgul on Weathertop ("such light and flame cannot have been seen on Weathertop since the war-beacons of old"), his display of power during the Warg attack ("High in the air he tossed the blazing brand. It flared with a sudden white radiance like lightning; and his voice rolled like thunder"), more lightning bolts when he rescues Faramir ("One wheeled towards him; but it seemed to Pippin that he raised his hand, and from it a shaft of white light stabbed upwards"), for example.

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    @Yann - do NOT try to logically analyze the movie. That way lies madness. Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 12:45
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    In the books, I seem to recall that Gandalf implies that Sauron allowed himself to be driven from Dol Guldor, though I regret that I don't recall when this is mentioned.
    – LAK
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 14:46
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    I just assume that Saruman is holding back and letting the elves do all the work. After all, the wizards aren't supposed to get directly involved.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 15:16
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    @Omegacron - that correct for the books, but in the movies Saruman gets his action hero on with a parting "Leave Sauron to ME!" - but like DVK said, trying to logically analyze the movies...
    – user8719
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 15:43
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    Jackson did an awsome job with the images... but a really poor one at adapting the scenario with his continual need to change everything and invent things. A shame.
    – Joel
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 15:59

You are not quite right. Saruman is not more powerful than Galadriel. I guess she is the most powerful creature of the white council. Let me explain why I think so:

  1. In the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien clearly stated that "The only way that Lothlórien could have been conquered by the armies of Mordor is if Sauron had come there himself wielding the One Ring, for against that power the Elves could not triumph"

So you can see by yourselves that Sauron cannot beats Galadriel without the ring of power.

  1. In the first age, for example, Lutein easily beats Sauron. Another example is that even Morgoth (a god and master of Sauron) was almost overpowered by Fingolfin. Consider the fact that Saruman, Radagast and Gandalf powers are limited or restricted. Moreover, Galadriel was trained by the most powerful sorceress in the first age and she combines the blood of all three elvish royal families.

  2. Tolkien explains magic in a very abstract way as it can be observed. Sometimes if you are confident and determined you can achieve great things. Examples a lot, Gandalf defeats the balrog of Morgoth.

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    It's worth noting that Sauron is not fully recovered / not at full power. The question is not how Galadriel could defeat him in this state; rather, the question is why everyone else would be having so much apparent trouble.
    – Wolfie Inu
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 7:03

Many doubt Galadriel's abilities because she's female and just an "elf" I tend to get this a lot from some arguments...she's always the "healer, the wise one one, or just the "strategist" though that could be a male attribute as well (if we go with streotypes).

Some people say that even Glorfindel is more powerful than Galadriel, notably coz he killed a Balrog (though died with them), yet you have a quote that states, "a queen she was of the woodland Elves, the wife of Celeborn of Doriath, yet she herself was of the Noldor and remember the Day before days in Valinor, and she was the mightiest and fairest of all the Elves that remained in Middle-earth."

Now the complication starts with the term "greatest. When Tolkien says greatest and talks about a specific or a few set of skills, I think he really means that that particular individual is surpassed by none in that skill. For example, Tulkas someone mentioned long time ago that Tulkas was the greatest in strength and deeds in prowess (Valaquenta). So, as far as the Valar is concernd, Tulkas was the greatest strength-wise but that does not mean he was the wisest or the one with great inherent power. But when Tolkien uses the term "greatest" in the general sense, I think he means EXACTLY that they are the greatest - as a whole, not just talking about one thing here and there..just like when he referred to as the greatest maiar spirit being Sauron, and Feanor, greatest of the Noldor. Hence, Sauron was the greatest of Morgoth's camp, then Feanor, greatest of the Noldor, which means just that, their skills as a whole, their inherent power and their abilities were not surpassed. No one surpassed Sauron as Morgoth's servant, and out of the Noldor, Feanor was best. Hence, when Tolkien saysSo, when it says that Galadriel is the greatest, save for Feanor (with a "Maybe"), that's what it means, I think!

I don't see how hard it is to understand that of the Noldor Galadriel was second or equal only to Feanor (maybe). Her attributes are not just one or two things there, but a match a match for everyone. She could match the loremasters of the Eldar (lore and wisdom, not to mention what she learned from a Maiar - Melian - who could do as she pleases in ME), and she was also a match for their athletes (so strength and body). She was great magically and power wise (the Mirror of Galadriel, and her dismantling the walls of Dol Guldur). Also was a student of the Maia Melian, where she learned many things from, and I guess, when called for, she was not afraid of taking armed combat if you take her defense of her mother's kin literally. Hence, she was not simply the greatest in one or two areas, but she was a great individual as a whole. And though we never know what she exactly did in defense of Lorien when it was assaulted three times, it did clearly say that "despite the valor of the Elven people, the power that dwelt there was too great to overcome unless Sauron came there himself (presumably with the One Ring on his finger). Saruman, on the other hand, had their powers restricted by the Valar, and perhaps were only as powerful as they were allowed to be (like when Gandalf fought with the Balrog). The Istaris are of Maiar origin, but they are NOT in their full Mair powers nor could they just use their magic as sparingly.

  • -1 Galadriel was nowhere near the equal of Feänor. No one was.
    – user46509
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 13:17
  • (Upvote) Actually, she quite possibly was. Tolkien says of Galadriel and Feanor "these two kinfolk, the greatest of all the Eldar of Valinor, were unfriends for ever". This seems to put them on at least roughly the same level. Obviously Galadriel couldn't match Feanor in e.g. craftsmanship, but she had other talents and greater wisdom. Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 8:31

My thoughts are this.

When PJ had Galadriel save Gandalf he was showing the power of the "weaker" sex. He was showing that in the self sacrifice of female Queen or a woman was a match but exceeded the power of evil of men.

Gandalf understood and tried to ask the the Lady Galadriel to go not to release her power, cause he understood the danger. The Elf queen could be more evil. I think it is poetic.

That I female elf queen's power was greater then any force and meant time was available for Frodo to destroyed the ring.

I also think it confirmed that Elfs rather then being one dimensional ie "goodies" could be darker or evil "inferno" if meant saving lives. I love this scene cause it showed elf's weren't pure and could be evil for a good cause.

But love was what drove her action to defend with such ferver. Like they say no fury is stronger then a woman scorned, he'll would freeze over.

Lady Galadriel loved Gandelf and used all her will to defend him.

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    Welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy! Please add citations, if possible, to improve this answer.
    – Null
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 13:50

There are a few different points here which may point to why this scene is not so contrary to Tolkien's writings. True, it is not as described in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but here goes:

  1. Sauron did not have the ring which makes him less powerful than usual;
  2. The Istari, wizards, are primarily meant to assist and encourage those in Middle Earth. Obviously, when threatened they can defend etc; in the Dol Goldur scene it may be that Saruman was assisting the others take on Sauron.
  3. From the Silmarillion, we know, the Eldar have some capability to take on Balrogs (i.e. those lesser spirits, like Sauron, who sided with Morgoth; and Sauron was top dog) and defeat them. And particularly someone like Galadriel, of royal stock, who had seen the light of the two trees, and been trained by Melian the Maia, had some capacity to do this.
  4. The Elven Rings of Power have a preserving force, which may have assisted her and Elrond in this scene. But they may not have been a significant contribution.
  5. Using the light of Earendil in her hand (?), which in turn is the light from the only surviving Silmaril, which in turn is light from the two trees, may also have assisted.

Sauron did not have his ring which contained the majority of his power. Galadriel has seen the two trees, is EXTREMELY versed in sorccery, has her ring Nenya, and the light of Erendil. She is the most powerful being in Middle Earth at the time.


While this doesn't directly explain Galadriel's power, the following theory could explain why she seems more powerful than Saruman at Dol Guldur:

(Tl;dr - Saruman wasn't using his full power as he was already influenced by The One Ring and/or Sauron.)

Perhaps I'm the only one who saw things this way, but my interpretation of what Jackson was portraying in that scene seems to be a bit different. My sense from other scenes in the Hobbit movies was that Saruman was already lusting for The One Ring and thus falling under the influence of Sauron. As such, he (Saruman) was not wielding his full power during the battle at Dol Guldur; while he went through the motions of fighting The Nine, he didn't really attack Sauron. Whether this was ordered by Sauron, a conscious decision by Saruman, or something from Saruman's subconscious isn't so clear.

Actions of Galadriel and Gandalf before this (e.g. the White Council when Gandalf presents a Morgul blade) indicated that they were suspicious of Saruman. Galadriel may have felt she needed to use her full powers to repel Sauron and also save Gandalf, who was incapacitated at the time.

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    A very interesting interesting point, but not one that answers the question at hand re: Galadriel's power.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 20:25
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    @Richard: The question is asking about the battle at Dol Goldur. I explained why Saruman may have appeared weaker in that battle.
    – GreenMatt
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 20:27

Could it simply be what Saruman suggests that Sauron needs his ring to access all his potential power and as he didn´t wield it but she wielded hers in the scene (plus Saurman seems to be aiding her too... while shitting his robe haha), might have tipped the scales in favor of a logical result?

  • This looks more like a comment, try adding some link or quotes to proove your answer
    – Rocket
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 17:16
  • Elrond and Gandalf were also wearing their rings; why were they still so outmatched by Galadriel?
    – jwodder
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 18:44
  • It´s not just a comment, it´s an attempt to provide an answer to the question. Mine simply uses the fact that Frodo has the ring at the time of the fight and that Galadriel having hers makes her powerful enough for the task. It should outweigh any other logic at play in the situation. Gandalf for example is physically very weak in the situation which would explain his inability to challenge Sauron again (he just lost a one-on-one fight in the same fortress, remember?) Anyway, both the books and the movies are nice pieces of fiction with incomplete lore. I was just intrigued by the fight ;)
    – upnorth
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 0:28
  • The Elivish rings are not about imbuing the wearer with power. They were not made as weapons. -1
    – user46509
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 13:15

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