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The names Sauron and Saruman are very similar in writing and pronunciation.

Is it an accident? or having an a forethought reason?

  • 45
    I've just noticed that Bilbo and Frodo have the same surname. Coincidence or conspiracy? – Valorum Mar 29 '15 at 20:16
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    @Richard as i know consonants are more significant in pronunciation than vowels, therefore SRN and SRMN (M & N are very near) are very similar. is not it? – alex Mar 29 '15 at 20:21
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    Note: Tolkien invented his languages way before writing LotR. He started developing them before The Silmarillion (which he mostly wrote around 1917-18), which is way before The Hobbit (about 36-37) which is before LotR. Being a philologist Tolkien chose names carefully basing his decisions on the language he had developed. He didn't just "put together similar names". If you are interested in these kind of things you must read the letters. They are extremely insightful in the way he wrote. – Bakuriu Mar 29 '15 at 21:37
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    Obligatory: shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=1140 – user36867 Mar 30 '15 at 15:10
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    It's to confuse people with dyslexia, clearly. Just like the word "dyslexia" was designed to piss off people with dyslexia ;) – Niet the Dark Absol Mar 30 '15 at 16:50
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As far as I can tell there's no major etymological connection between them. Obviously Tolkien wrote the languages (Quenya/Sindarin) on which both names are supposedly based but I've seen no evidence that he intended the names to be similar.

  • Sauron - From Saura ('putrid'); literally he is the "Putrid One"
  • Saruman - From Saru ('skill'); literally he is the "Man of Skill".

It's worth noting that in Tolkien's own reading of LoTR, the names are actually pronounced quite dissimilarly, more like "sow-ore-onnn" and "saaar-oo-munn"

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    Is there a video you could link where Tolkien pronounces the names that way? – Ixrec Mar 29 '15 at 20:44
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    @Ixrec - I'm hunting for one as we speak – Valorum Mar 29 '15 at 20:47
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    It's not much help (since it's not online) but you can get both pronunciations on Tape 2 of the Tolkien Audio collection at timecode 19:20 – Valorum Mar 29 '15 at 20:59
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    "Saruman" isn't Quenya: "Now the White Messenger in later days became known Elves as Curunír, the Man of Craft, in the tongue of Northern Men Saruman" (UT, Istari essay). Interestingly, and probably not relevant, but the "nír" in "Curunír" means "male", not "Man" (i.e not "human"). – user8719 Mar 29 '15 at 21:12
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    @Demarini - You'd think, wouldn't you. Tolkien pronounced the word with a very long drawn out inflection, in much the same way that smaug is almost three syllables. – Valorum Mar 30 '15 at 17:23
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The character, and name, of Saruman first emerged in a plot-outline from 1940 that is given in History of Middle-earth 7:

The wizard Saramond the White [written above at the same time: Saramund the Grey] or Grey Saruman sends out a message that there is important news: Trotter hears that Black Riders are out and moving towards the Shire (for which they are asking).

Aside from one brief hesitation (reverting back to "Saramund" in a subsequent outline) Tolkien appears to have definitively decided on "Saruman" from that point forward.

The only discussion of similarity of the names that I'm aware of is in reference to his (partial) renaming in Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings; for example FlyingMoose.org's critique:

They decided to rename "Saruman" to "Aruman" for the movie; evidently they were concerned that moviegoers would confuse the name "Saruman" with "Sauron"...

And Tolkien Gateway:

From early on in the production, it was decided that "Saruman" and "Sauron" sounded too much alike, and might confuse viewers. On concept art, Saruman is called "Ruman", but prior to recording, this was changed to "Aruman". However, during recording, it was again changed, to "Saruman". Because of this late change, several instances of "Aruman" remain in the finished film.

Regarding the names themselves, they are presented as being in two different languages in Tolkien's world.

"Sauron" is a Quenya name; in Sindarin he is called "Gorthaur".

"Saruman" is a Northern Mannish name (actually Old English), presented as a translation of Elvish "Curunír", as the Istari essay in Unfinished Tales confirms:

Now the White Messenger in later days became known Elves as Curunír, the Man of Craft, in the tongue of Northern Men Saruman.

There is no evidence of any author's comments regarding similarity of this name to Sauron's.

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