Thoughts on the Tolkien Wizards

When the wizards came into the world, they all chose to focus on different aspects of the canvas called Arda. And that decision defined their personalities just as it determined their destiny.

Gandalf the Grey looked around, and saw the peoples of Middle-Earth. He looked them in the eye, as equals, and never forgot each species’ intrinsic worth. This inspired him in the quest against Sauron, the Great Enemy. Knowing the individuals whose fates were caught in the balance gave him a greater appreciation for the need to rid the world of evil. His was the Path of the Diplomat, forging alliances to achieve long-term goals.

Radagast the Brown looked down, and saw the beautiful but vulnerable creatures of Middle-Earth all others had overlooked. He saw the need to speak for those who have no voice. Radagast may not have played much of a role in the war, but he worked in the service of ensuring the safety of the natural world. His was the Path of the Preservationist, guarding the common heritage of future generations–environmental sustainability.

The blue wizards, Alatar and Pallando, looked beyond and saw the horizon. Always eager for new experiences, they journeyed into the unknown, past where all others dared to tread. And in these foreign lands, they relied on each other for familiarity and comfort. Their bridging of the divorced Western and Eastern realms played a crucial role in the winning of the war. Theirs was thePath of the Travelers, filling in the blank corners of the map and opening up prosperous trade routes. 

And then there was Saruman the White, who looked up to the heavens and the high tower of Barad-dur. All his life he worked to lift himself up to those same heights, first through intelligence and then by force. He buried himself in books and palantiri of forbidden magic to achieve ascendancy over his peers. So obsessed was he with the unattainable, he lost sight of what was right in front of him all along. So determined to move ahead, Saruman never appreciated the people or places already in his life until it was too late. His was the Path of the Scholar, using the accumulated knowledge of all history for guidance in future actions. Unfortunately, he strayed from that path into self-aggrandizement.

The Mystery of the Blue Wizards

The greatest question of the Tolkien Universe: Whatever happened to the Blue Wizards? Alatar “Forest Spreader” and Pallando “Friend of East.” The only thing certain is they went East while the three others remained in the West, and like their brethren they came to Middle Earth to lead the people against Sauron.

It’s unknown if they succeeded in stirring up dissent or not. It’s also uncertain if they arrived with the other 3 or came much earlier, in the Second Age. And we don’t even know if their actions were of any significance at all in the War of the Ring. Tolkien himself speculated that they probably failed, then recanted that conclusion, and died before he could flesh out their story.

Someone ought to write some amazing fan-fiction about this someday and flesh out their tale. I think it would make for some fascinating reading.

Personally, I like to think that there’s some significance to the fact that Alatar and Saruman both had lesser, helper-wizards come to Middle Earth with them, while Gandalf came alone and was said to be the only one who succeeded his task. Saruman’s resentment of being saddled with Radagast fed into his desire to be better than his peers, which in turn, led to his ultimate corruption. I think for Alatar it was the opposite. I like to believe there must have been a genuine bond between the two Blue Wizards that somehow jeopardized the mission. Maybe Alatar came to a situation where he had to leave Pallando behind in order to continue on, but couldn’t bring himself to do so, or Pallando died and Alatar couldn’t bare to go on without his dear companion.

Remember, the East was a complete mystery to even the Valar (the higher order of Gods). I think perhaps Alatar had the right idea–rather than shutting himself up in a tower and reading books about Sauron, he chose to be like Gandalf (or rather, Gandalf chose to be like him considering Alatar might have come much earlier) and network with the locals. Maybe the large range of territory in the East got the best of the two explorers. One adventure lead to another until the Blue Wizards lost sight of stopping the Great Eye–think of an RPG player getting caught up in a million sidequests until they’ve lost sight of the main story, except this wasn’t a game. Or maybe not knowing the locals led to a disastrous ambush. Not knowing the land led to their getting lost in an uncharted mountain pass. The world will never know the truth.

In the meantime though, they were living the dream if you ask me. Nearly all-powerful, exploring virgin territory with a beloved partner, meeting people, getting in adventures… Enjoying the fun of the journey and losing track of time would’ve happened to any of us in that situation. At least I’d like to think of it that way.


  1. A friend of mine had this quote from Gandalf at the bottom of her emails to me:

    “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”

    So I have a soft spot for this wizard, also because of the wonderful self-titled album by the band of that name. If Tolkien’s books are as evocative as your essay, C, I may read them yet. 😉


  2. I sympathise with them all, but eternal contrarian I am, I empathise to a degree with Saruman. Although I sprinkle some of Gandalf’s salt on my soulfood. Obsessed as I am with forbidden knowledge and such, I kinda get where Saruman came from. No interest in orcs or mechanised hoodoo though, but if the Mad Dane of Lovecraft fame perchanced to teach me spells of doom… ha. One can dream.


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