The Lord Of The Rings universe is full of magic, magical characters, and wizardry.
Let’s take a very close look at Lord Of The Rings wizards that appears in the books and in the movies as well.
I will tell you what powers these wizards have, what role they played in the whole story, and also decide if they were good or evil – the answer to this question is not that straightforward as you might think.
All Lord Of The Rings Wizards:
Table of Contents
The Lord of the Rings Universe
J.R.R.Tolkien an English writer and academic is most famous for a series of books he wrote that is set in a long-forgotten period of an ancient mythological Earth.
He created what is called a Legendarium in which his books were set.
The famous works of J.R.R.Tolkien are set in a human-inhabited world.
Middle Earth is the central continent of Earth (called Arda) in Tolkein’s mythological past.
The two most famous works are Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, which are set exclusively in Middle Earth.
The stories take place mostly in the Northwest region of this fictional continent.
This region was supposed to be similar to Europe.
The area described as “The Shire” is intended to be reminiscent of England in general, but more specifically the West Midlands.
In understanding the Wizards from Lord of the Rings, it is important to understand the fictional “Universe” in which they are placed.
The stories written by Tolkein are centered on the struggle for control of Arda (Earth) and focus on Middle Earth.
The History of the Tolkien Universe
Going right back to the beginning of time there is a supreme figure or God called Ilúvatar.
He begins by creating a group of angelic-like creatures called Ainur, who sing, and through their singing, they create the universe.
Once created, a few of the Ainur descend to Arda to help rule this new creation on behalf of Ilúvatar.
This group of angelic creatures split into two forms, the Valar and the Maiar.
The Valar are the superior beings, the Gods of Middle Earth.
The Maiar are the secondary beings and they create the continents, control the sea, and assist in making the Sun and Moon travel through the sky.
During this early Earth history, the Valar and Maiar withdraw to a continent far to the west where they continue to watch over the planet.
The Maiar are the beings that will gradually take on physical form and reappear as Wizards at a later age.
Now, when we understand the universe, we can move to the individual wizards in Lord Of The Rings.
The Origin of the Order of the Wizards
In the third age, the Valar selected several Maiar to become secret ambassadors to help the people fight against Sauron.
When the five selected Maiar, Saruman, Gandalf, Radagast, Alatar, and Pallando, arrive in Middle Earth they appear as old men, wizards. We say five wizards but the number was never specified in the book.
These are the only ones that are named.
Considering the immense power that the Maiar had welded as spiritual beings, on transformation into a physical body they lose much of the power and have limitations imposed on their physical abilities.
However, despite appearances as older men, they have the ability to act as a young man would, and their magical abilities are still hugely powerful.
So we now have powerful beings that are on a mission to help others.
Back a Bit
We just mentioned Sauron a couple of paragraphs back.
It is Sauron that the wizards are supposed to help fight.
Sauron is the ruler of the land of Mordor and has expansionist plans to rule over all of Middle Earth.
Sauron was the chief lieutenant of the first Dark Lord, Morgoth who had rebelled against Ilúvatar.
This character is a bit like the devil.
The wizards are forbidden to simply attack Sauron directly because the Valar are concerned that the wizards might end up trying to grab the power themselves.
As it happens in the end, one of them does.
Just to make it more interesting Sauron has an army of 10,000 Uruk-hai to assist him.
Uruk-hai is the strongest Orc living on Middle Earth, so is not going to be an easy adversary, even for a team of wizards.
We will now move onto taking a look at each of the Wizards in turn
Radagast the Brown
Radagast the Brown is not a major character in the tales written by Tolkein, but he does appear in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales.
In the books, his role was minimal and just used as a device for setting the story.
However, in the Peter Jackson series, where he was played by Sylvester McCoy, the role was emphasized more. His powers described in the book were:
- The ability to talk with animals
- Changing shape and color
- Skills with the use of herbs
In Unfinished Tales, Tolkien describes how Radagast came from Valinor, somewhere around the year 1,000 in the third age, as did the other wizards.
His original name was Aiwendil, which in Quenya (Tolkein’s Fictitious language), meant “Bird Friend.”
One of the Vala, Yavanna, forced Saruman to take Radagast along as a companion.
Saruman was none too fond of Radagast and would call him a fool, or simple. However, Radagast was close to Gandalf.
In fact, in The Hobbit, Gandalf described him as “cousin.”
Radagast made his home at Rhosgobel on the edges of Mirkwood where he befriended birds and animals.
He also developed his abilities to change shape and color.
Rhosgobel in the fictitious local language translated as Brown Wood.
Gandalf described Radagast as a home-bird who never traveled unless he had to.
However, Gandalf had a high opinion of him and described him as an honest wizard.
In one adventure Radagast was unwittingly used by Sauron to capture Gandalf at his tower of Orthanc.
However, Radagast was also responsible for saving him as well.
Radagast really was not a major player in lord of the Rings but was always there in the background of the plot.
Radagast was portrayed as a failure in his original role.
Eventually, Radagast gave up his mission to further his interests in birds and animals.
This was revealed later in a letter from Tolkein.
However, Christopher Tolkien who took on editing Tolkein’s work states that maybe he was not a failure as quite possibly Yavanna had forced Saruman to take him specifically so he could care for the animals.
Gandalf, a wizard and the bearer of a “Ring of Power” has substantial power, but he prefers to use persuasion and encouragement to achieve his aims.
There are two incarnations of Gandalf, as he is resurrected.
He starts as Gandalf the Grey and later is reborn as Gandalf the White.
Tolkien had once described Gandalf as an angel incarnate Various scholars have made comparisons between Gandalf and the Norse God Odin (during his wanderer stage).
This idea was supported by Tolkein.
The origin of the name Gandalf is from Old Norse and means “staff elf.” One of Gandalf’s real names was Tharkûn, which is another of Tolkein’s fictitious languages means “Staff-Man.”
In Valinor, Gandalf’s name was Olórin who was regarded as the wisest of the Maiar.
When he was selected to be among the wizards going to Middle Earth he begged to be excused, saying he was too weak to face Sauron.
Gandalf had a strained relationship with Saruman, the head of the group of wizards.
Gandalf was the last of the wizards to appear in Middle Earth.
He was shorter than the others, appeared older, and leaned on his staff.
However, the Elf Círdan, who met him on arrival thought that he was the greatest of the wizards, which is why he gave him a Ring of Power.
We now move onto looking at Gandalf in his incarnation as Gandalf the Grey.
Gandalf the Grey
Gandalf the Grey has the ability to create fire just using his staff.
He also has the power to generate fireworks when required.
In addition to these two powers, he also has possession of Narya, which was one of the three rings of the Elven.
Having possession of the ring endows him with endurance, and the ability to inspire others (Two pretty useful powers).
Unlike other wizards that had been sent to Middle Earth, Gandalf the Grey, although always traveling, was pretty focused on the defeat of Sauron.
He never fails to help the enemies of Sauron and to fight him personally.
Other wizards do not seem so involved in this fight, in the way that Gandalf is.
In the years that lay between the Tolkien Books, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings Gandalf spends a great deal of time searching for intelligence on Sauron’s resurgence.
He also spends as much time as he can in the Shire.
At the celebration of Bilbo’s 111th birthday, Gandalf provides entertainment in the form of fireworks.
There is also a dispute between Bilbo and Gandalf over the ring that Bilbo has in his possession.
This was brought on by a prank that Bilbo played using the ring.
Gandalf suggested that Bilbo should leave the ring in the custody of Frodo.
After an argument, Bilbo comes to his senses and leaves the ring with Frodo as he heads off to Rivendell.
The One Ring
For the next seventeen years, Gandalf travels Middle Earth investigating the ring now held by Frodo.
Eventually, he begins to suspect that the ring is, in fact, the “One Ring” that confers invisibility on the owner.
This is confirmed when Gandalf who has returned once again to the Shire throws the ring held by Frodo into the fire and reads the inscription,
Many scholars have discussed the background of the ring in Tolkien’s story.
Some scholars believe it to be an allegory to the second world war and the atomic bomb. Others believe it was inspired by the Ring of Gyges in Plato’s Republic.
Later, outside the Shire, Gandalf meets Radagast the Brown, who informs him that the Nazgûl (or night riders) who are allies of Sauron have left Griffen out of Mordor.
He also carries a request from Saruman that Gandalf meets him at Isengard.
Gandalf does as requested, and when he meets Saruman, he discovers that Saruman has changed and is after the One Ring for his own use.
Gandalf refuses to help him and Saruman imprisons Gandalf in the Tower.
Gandalf manages to escape and the story goes on to describe several battles.
The ultimate end of Gandalf the Grey occurs when he fights the Balrog, eventually killing him and saving Frodo and his party.
However, Gandalf dies from his injuries soon after.
Gandalf the White
When Gandalf is reincarnated after he is killed by the Balrog, he really comes into his own.
He demonstrates his power when he returns by demonstrating his immunity to the weapons of his friends who accidentally attack him.
He then continues by healing Théoden, who was suffering from spiritual sickness.
This is where he gets really tough and leads a war against his old boss Saruman, who has now gone over to the dark side completely.
The war ends with Gandalf smashing up the staff of Saruman and casting him out of the Order of the Wizards and the White Council.
With Saruman dealt with Gandalf returns his attention to Sauron and rallies the allies in the defense of Gondor and leads the defense of the White City of Minas Tirith.
Finally in Lord of the Rings, he distracts Sauron long enough so that Frodo can complete his mission.
In another story in “Unfinished Tales,” Gandalf returns to the west following his role in the war with Sauron and the defeat of Saruman.
Gandalf is the only wizard who gets to go home and retire.
Gandalf the White who originally lacked confidence as Gandalf the Grey ends up as the strongest most powerful wizard of all.
Gandalf – Book Vs. Movie Comparison
There are several differences in the book and in the movie in Gandalf’s character and the storyline.
It’s quite natural that the movie does not follow the original book in 100% of aspects.
Let’s check the differences in the book and in the movie in the video below that will provide you the summary.
Just as we looked at Gandalf in two parts (grey and white), so too will be split Sarunman into two sections: Saruman the White, and Saruman of Many Colors.
Saruman the White
Saruman is the leader of the group of wizards sent to Middle Earth by the godlike Valar to challenge Sauron in the novel Lord of the Rings.
The main theme in the character of Saruman is a study of the corruption of power.
Saruman starts as the great leader on the side of good, but ultimately loses sight of his goal and is seduced by power.
The name Saruman is taken from a dialect of Old English and means “Man of Skill or Cunning.”
At the beginning of the story Gandalf is very much in awe of Saruman and describes him as his chief, and head of the White Council. He is also chief of the Order of Wizards.
Saruman is seen as a powerful figure. In “Fellowship of the Ring” Gandalf describes Saruman as “great among the Wise,” and that “his knowledge is deep.”
As a leader, he is effective and starts well in the fight against Sauron.
He is fortunate enough to hold the seeing-stone of Orthanc, which allows him to view many things without having to leave his base at the Tower.
Unfortunately, this power starts to change Saruman and he loses sight of the quest they have been charged with (to assist in the defeat of Sauron).
Instead, he starts to focus on his own power.
Saruman of Many Colors
When Saruman tricks Gandalf and imprisons him in his tower, Saruman has finally crossed the line, and was it not for Radagast the Brown, and his legion of Eagles, he would have succeeded, but Radagast manages to free Gandalf and Saruman is now unable to step back from the path he has taken.
Saruman has moved from a wandering wizard who is fighting against Sauron to a ruler of a kingdom in his own right.
A ruler with armies of soldiers at his disposal.
He is so powerful that he tries to take on Sauron and take the ring.
Saruman has boundless ambition and renames himself Saruman of Many Colors.
Eventually, Saruman’s power is broken when the Riders of Rohan defeat Saruman’s army and he is forced to return to his Tower.
Gandalf makes him an offer to allow him to go free but Saruman rejects this and Gandalf defeats him and breaks his wizard, casting him out of the Order of Wizards and the White Council.
Later in the book, we meet Saruman again, after he has convinced his captors to release him and he is reduced to begging with his sidekick WormTongue.
He heads towards the Shire where some of Saruman’s agents have taken control of the Shire and are busy industrializing it and causing massive destruction.
Saruman rules the shire through these agents and Wormtongue.
When Frodo returns he stages an uprising and the agents of Saruman are defeated. Even at this stage, Frodo offers the former leader of the wizards the opportunity to go free.
However, Sarumanturns on Wormtongue and blames him at which point Saruman is finally slain by Wormtongue.
Saruman – Book Vs. Movie Comparison
If you read the book and also saw the movie, you have for sure noticed several differences between the two.
The video below will summarize the differences to you in easy to understand way.
The Blue Wizards
The remaining wizards in the party of five that were sent to Middle Earth actually played no real role in the story and were normally lumped together as the “Blue Wizards” when referred to.
Their names were Alatar and Pallando.
Since they are referred to as a pair we will continue that in our description.
An alternative tradition gives their names as Morinehtar and Rómestámo.
In many of his early writings, the author Tolkien suggests that these two failed in their task to fight against Sauron and were sidelined from the story.
However, in a later letter (1958), Tolkien hints that the Blue Wizards may have gathered together many hundreds of followers in cults and secret organizations.
Yet another account of them in “The Peoples of Middle-Earth” states that the Blue Wizards arrived earlier than the other wizards and played an invaluable role in sowing disarray and promoting rebellion in the Eastern lands.
This action stopped Sauron from using all his forces in the west.
In this version of events, the two Blue Wizards were referred to as Darkness-slayer and East-helper.
This account ties in nicely with the letter which talks about the large number of followers that the Blue Wizard gathered.
When people say that the Blue Wizards failed, maybe they are being unjust to the two Ble Wizards.
This is all still a matter of debate among scholars of Tolkien’s work.
Were the Wizards in Lord of the Rings Good or Evil?
The Lord of the Rings and other books in the Tolkien Universe is so complex in nature that it is hard to fathom all the truths about the wizards.
Even their names were researched by Tolkein in Norse and old English languages, where other, lesser, authors would just have made-up names.
The peoples that inhabited the universe were all constructed with great care and such detail was provided by Tolkein, not only in his books but in numerous letters he wrote.
Each of the Wizards, even the Blue Wizards who play virtually no role in the books, other than being counted in the five wizards have a backstory that Tolkien created.
What other authors would have such detailed knowledge of wizards that were basically walk-on roles in his book?
Clearly, Gandalf comes over as the ultimately Good Wizard, the hero of the book.
But even with Gandalf we see at first he has a reluctance to take part in the expedition.
As the book goes on, we see Gandalf growing and becoming stronger, his goodness shining through.
He is the only one of the five that eventually returns home.
With Saruman, we see almost the reverse.
We see the powerful Chief of the Wizard Order with great confidence and who initially played a major role in the battle against Sauron.
As the story goes on we see corruption starting to chip away at this powerful character until in the end he is seen as a despicable evil character.
While Radagast the Brown is not highlighted as much as Gandalf and Saruman, he is overall a good wizard.
He is there when needed in the fight against the evil Sauron, but he also focuses a great deal of time caring for the animals and birds, as he did before he came to Middle Earth.
If he had not cared for the birds the invaluable eagles would not have been available to the wizards.
Learning The Actual Magic
You’re maybe looking for ways how to improve your own magic skills and abilities.
My website also focuses on teaching various magic tricks, that are suitable also for beginners.
So if you feel like you’d like to try it and learn some simple tricks, I prepared an overview of websites and youtube channels where you can start.
Also, the video right below will teach you the best easy card tricks for beginners.
I hope this has not been overly complex.
I have tried to give a clear view of the Wizards in Lord of the Rings and a feeling for their roles within the story.
We can see that the wizards’ roles changed throughout the book but overall the wizards played a positive role.