The Folly of Saruman, Afterthought

I just thought of something new, regarding Saruman of many Colors.  He is a traitor or ‘turncoat.’  He also does ‘turn-coats.’  What is interesting in this concept is its deep symbolism.  Not only are all colors weaker than white, and not only does Saruman change “coats,” but his “coat” also changes color continuosly.  It is comparable to his constant change in loyalties.  He feigns loyalty, for a time, to the White Council and the side of good.  He later feigns loyalty to Sauron.  But in truth he is only true to his own pride and desires.  Throughout his role in Middle Earth, he is continuously shown as playing both sides, skirting the edges, hedging his bets.  In some ways, having many colors, does the same.  It shows a deepset insecurity in his stature.  Not only does he have to dominate every color (ie Maiar/istari), he has to be every color.  He resents others gifts and talents.  This can be seen, to a small degree, in his taking up smoking and taking an interest in the Shire, like Gandalf.

Like Gollum, and even the Orcs, Saruman is to be pitied.  He has nothing, except, perhaps, his “coat.”  Otherwise, he is only a shrivelled up corpse inside, as is shown at his death.  Yet even then, some part of him remains, regretting his choices and yearning to the West he’s denied.


6 thoughts on “The Folly of Saruman, Afterthought

  1. Well, I wanted to congradulate you on your writting… it’s very interesting. Being an extreme Tolkien fan myself, I love reading and hearing from others who share my passions.
    I, too, have noticed Saruman’s changing loyalties, but there is one thing that I disagree with you on.
    You see, I believe that at one time, he WAS dedicated and loyal to the Council. I think that after he was introduced to the deep Evil of Middle Earth, feelings that were already present in him were just allowed out.
    I believe he did have a sort of LONGING for others’ gifts before his mind was poisoned. Sauron, I think, noticed this too, and used it towards his advantage. Sauron had power, Saruman wanted power, and before you know it, they’re ‘allies’, at least they are in Saruman’s eyes.
    But, with all the other points you’ve made, i agree. I, also, started contemplating the fact that Saruman’s coat was turned into the different colors, but what would seem to make him more powerful, created his downfall.
    and by the way: i love your banner picture on here. very coolness!
    Seremela Felagund Nenharms
    aka: brit 🙂

  2. In reality, I also agree with you. It was just a poor phrasing; one I saw editing, but decided to leave. Saruman was at one point loyal to the Coucil…BUT…it is there where the seeds of his treachery were born. He always resented the fact that Galadriel prefered Gandalf over him. Also, as head of the White Coucil, he began his studies into the Ringlore. What is important to note about Tolkien’s ideas about evil is this: It is dangerous to study the ways of the Enemy, delve too deep and you yourself may be trapped. This is the lesson of Saruman.

  3. Considering Tolkien’s warnings about delving too deep into the ways of the Enemy, I wonder of Tolkien was at all familiar with Nietzsche’s warning in Beyond Good and Evil that “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

    I’ve always seen Saruman as the true villain of The Lord of the Rings, rather than Sauron. Sauron always struck me as too impersonal, more a force of malignant nature than a proper villain. Saruman, however, is different. He has a personality of sorts. He sought power to oppose evil, but forgot his reasons for seeking power in the first place once he began to achieve it. He lost sight of his original ideals, and his original purpose: to lead the people of Middle-Earth against Sauron by inspiring them and offering wisdom, rather than taking command himself. Saruman spent too long staring into an abyss that stared back at him, and became the monster he had set out to oppose.

    I wonder if Saruman himself fully understood what he had done. I’m not sure he does, since Tolkien never really delves too deeply into the motivations of his antagonists.

    • If you recall Tolkien’s views on evil, to delve to deeply into evil is to enter into evil and allow it purchase in your life. If he held this truth, the lack of detail in his villains makes perfect sense.

      Though I think that the main focus of much of his writing is not necessarily evil, but the folly of evil and those struggling against it. This again accounts for the greater level of personalization and characterization of Saruman and Gollum. Tolkien was most interested in “the fall” rather than the state of evil. Conversly, he dealt greatly with the notion of salvation and conversion from evil. This is true for both the “detailed” villains…the protagonists are always offering the olive branch…sometimes to be rebuffed, but in others to lead to conversion, if only temporary.

      One other thing to think on is this: Saruman, as a maia always desired order and precision. He saw the way to victory through control, through knowledge, rather than human will. This ultimately, a character flaw, leads to his final fall…furthered by his unyielding pride.

  4. Pingback: Saruman of Many Colors « The Red Book of Westmarch

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