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In Tolkiens last pieces of writing, he confirms the blue wizards come to Middle Earth much earlier than the other three istari, which surprises me considering Gandalf is said to be the wisest of the Istari and Saruman the Greatest of their order.

Is there reason that may be given for the blue wizards being sent earlier?

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  • Technically according to Nature of Middle-earth, all five wizards had already previously been sent in the first age, so they're just revisiting.
    – ibid
    Aug 12, 2021 at 7:32

2 Answers 2

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The source of this is the Glorfindel material published in History of Middle-earth 12. There we read:

The 'other two' came much earlier, at the same time probably as Glorfindel, when matters became very dangerous in the Second Age. Glorfindel was sent to aid Elrond and was (though not yet said) pre-eminent in the war in Eriador. But the other two Istari were sent for a different purpose. Morinehtar and Romestamo. Darkness-slayer and East-helper. Their task was to circumvent Sauron: to bring help to the few tribes of Men that had rebelled from Melkor-worship, to stir up rebellion ... and after his first fall to search out his hiding (in which they failed) and to cause [? dissension and disarray] among the dark East ... They must have had very great influence on the history of the Second Age and Third Age in weakening and disarraying the forces of East ... who would both in the Second Age and Third Age otherwise have ... outnumbered the West.

The ellipses and questionable passages are quoted verbatim, but the emphasis is mine. Christopher Tolkien notes that it is an "even rougher and more difficult" note than others previously given.

This is the sole text I'm aware of which references an earlier coming of the Blue Wizards, and it's obvious from it that they were sent separately and not as part of the Istari that came later, the reason being that they were an initial mission to assist at a dangerous time in the Second Age. No further information is available.

This of course would probably require some reworking of the published material relating to the Wizards; a habit that Tolkien did fall into in his later years.

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In the early Second Age, Sauron did not yet have an influence in the East, and the people previously under Morgoth's control were starting to rebel. (Morgoth hadn't been there since the early first age, and Sauron couldn't risk being seen there as long as he was still pretending to be good). So by beginning their mission then, the Blue Wizards were able to more effectively repel Sauron from gathering massive armies there.

This information all comes from Tolkien's writings of the last year of his life, which is the place where Tolkien first decided to have the Blue Wizards arrive in the Second Age.

But until [S.A.] 1600 he [Sauron] was still using the disguise of beneficent friend, and often journeyed at will in Eriador with few attendants, and so could not risk any rumour that he was gathering armies. At this time he perforce neglected the East (where Morgoth’s ancient power had been) and though his emissaries were busy among the multiplying tribes of eastern Men, he dared not permit any of them to come within sight of the Númenóreans, or of Western Men.
The Orcs of various kind (creatures of Morgoth) were to prove the most numerous and terrible of his soldiers and servants; but great hosts of them had been destroyed in the war against Morgoth, and in the destruction of Beleriand. Some remnant had escaped to hidings in the northern parts of the Misty Mountains and the Grey Mountains, and were now multiplying again. But further East there were more and stronger kinds, descendants of Morgoth’s kingship, but long masterless during his occupation of Thangorodrim, they were yet wild and ungovernable, preying upon one another and upon Men (whether good or evil). But not until Mordor and the Barad-dûr were ready could he allow them to come out of hiding, while the Eastern Orcs, who had not experienced the power and terror of the Eldar, or the valour of the Edain, were not subservient to Sauron – while he was obliged for the cozening of Western Men and Elves to wear as fair a form and countenance as he could, they despised him and laughed at him. Thus it was that though, as soon as his disguise was pierced and he was recognized as an enemy, he exerted all his time and strength to gathering and training armies, it took some ninety years before he felt ready to open war. And he misjudged this, as we see in his final defeat, when the great host of Minastir from Númenor landed in Middle-earth. His gathering of armies had not been unopposed, and his success had been much less than his hope. But this is a matter spoken of in notes on “The Five Wizards”. He had powerful enemies behind his back, the East, and in the Southern lands to which he had not yet given sufficient thought.
The Nature of Middle-earth - "Note on the Delay of Gil-galad and the Númenóreans"

The 'other two' came much earlier, at the same time probably as Glorfindel, when matters became very dangerous in the Second Age. Glorfindel was sent to aid Elrond and was (though not yet said) pre-eminent in the war in Eriador. But the other two Istari were sent for a different purpose. Morinehtar and Romestamo. Darkness-slayer and East-helper. Their task was to circumvent Sauron: to bring help to the few tribes of Men that had rebelled from Melkor-worship, to stir up rebellion ... and after his first fall to search out his hiding (in which they failed) and to cause [?dissension and disarray] among the dark East ... They must have had very great influence on the history of the Second Age and Third Age in weakening and disarraying the forces of East ... who would both in the Second Age and Third Age otherwise have ... outnumbered the West.
The Peoples of Middle-earth - "The Five Wizards"

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