The Blue Wizards

In the first text presented in Unfinished Tales, dated tentatively by Christopher Tolkien to 1954, the arrival of the wizards to the great havens is given. After a description of Saruman's arrival, some information follows about the blue wizards.

"...But there were others, two dressed in sea-blue...of the Blue little was known in the west [of Middle-earth], and they had no names save Ithryn Luin 'the Blue Wizards'; for they traveled to the east with Curun'r, but they never returned; and whether they remaine in the East, pursuing there the purposes for which they sent; or perished; or as some hold were ensnared by Sauron and became his servants it is not now known. But none of these chances were impossible to be."

There is another text appended to this, which Christopher Tolkien claims belongs to the same time. In it, Gandalf is stated to be the only successful Istar, which first hints at the idea that the Blue Wizards failed their mission: "Indeed, of all the Istari, only one remained faithful, and he was the last-comer" (Unfinished Tales). Here, Radagast is said to have strayed from his mission in becoming enamoured with nature. But for the Blue Wizards, there is no mention of their fate. Still, this text indicates that their fates must be one of failure, though the story of the Blue Wizards was still early in its development.

The next source, chronologically in the development of the story, is in one of Tolkien's letters(which were edited by Humphrey Carpenter in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien). In Letter 180, a draft dated January 14, 1956, Tolkien writes: "There is hardly any reference in The Lord of the Rings to things that do not actually exist on its own plane (of secondary sub-creational reality): sc. have been written." In a footnote labeled at the word exist, Tolkien adds "The Cats of Queen Ber'thiel and the names and adventurers of the other 2 wizards (5 minus Saruman, Gandalf, and Radagast) are all that I recollect."

Thus, it is clear that at this point, really nothing had been determined, by the author himself, about who the Blue Wizards were (this letter even indicates less knowledge of the two wizards than the first text gives above).

Another letter fills the spot of the next significant source for information on the two wizards. Letter 211, written in October 1958, offers more specific information about their fate:

"I really do not know anything clearly about the other two - since they do not concern the history of the N.W. I think that they went as emissaries to distant regions, East and South, far out of Numenorean range: missionaries to 'enemy-occupied' lands, as it were. What success they had I do not know; but I fear that they failed, as Saruman did, though doubtless in different ways; and I suspect they were founders or beginners of secret cults and 'magic' traditions that outlasted the fall of Sauron."

In this text Tolkien does begin to create a little story for the Blue Wizards, or at least an explanation of their fates, somewhat like that given in the first Unfinished Tales text, though here their failure is given as the more likely outcome.

Saruman the White

Most often called Saruman the White, Saruman was the first of the five Wizards to arrive in Middle-earth, at the end of the first millennium of the Third Age. He was said to be the eldest of the order, and Gandalf acknowledged him as the chief of the Istari. 

For a thousand years, and maybe more, he journeyed in the East of Middle-earth, and was little heard of in the West. He had returned, though, by III 2463, for he was present at the foundation of the Council of the Wise, and was made their chief although Elrond and Galadriel would have preferred Gandalf to take this position).  It was at about this time that Saruman began to study the Rings of Power, their history and the means of their making. 

In III 2759 , he was given the keys of Orthanc by Steward Beren of Minas Tirith, and took up his abode there. He continued his researches into ring-lore, and the making of devices, and was accustomed to watch the stars from the pinnacle of the Tower. He visited Minas Tirith to research the history of the Rings, and found among the ancient books and scrolls the story of the death of Isildur and the loss of the Ruling Ring. 

In III 2851, the Council discovered proof that the Necromancer of Dol Guldur was indeed Sauron returned. Many of the Wise wished to attack the fortress and drive Sauron out, but Saruman spoke against this, and dissuaded the Council from mounting an assault. It was only after ninety years had passed that he relented and aided the Council in assailing Dol Guldur, driving Sauron back into Mordor. Saruman's knowledge was vital in this victory, as Gandalf said - 'it was by the devices of Saruman that we drove him from Dol Guldur'. 

When the Council debated the Rings of Power, Saruman claimed that his researches showed that the One Ring had been lost forever. It was later shown that he did not believe this, however, and was searching for it himself, having secretly rebelled against the Council. 

In July III 3018, when he was ready to reveal himself, Saruman set a trap for Gandalf, using the Wizard Radagast to lure him to Orthanc. When Gandalf came, Saruman revealed that he had made a Ring of his own, and that he was no longer Saruman the White, but claimed the title Saruman of Many Colours. When Gandalf refused to join him, he was imprisoned on the pinnacle of the Tower of Orthanc -- Saruman hoped to gain the secret of the One Ring from him, or at least prevent Gandalf from using it himself.

Encyclopedia of Arda

Radagast the Brown

In a 1954 passage in Unfinished Tales he (Tolkien) says "of all the Istari, one only remained faithful... for Radagast, the fourth, became enamoured of the many beasts and birds that dwelt in Middle-earth, and forsook Elves and Men". (1)

(This is patently unfair to Radagast, no a bad fellow as wizards go, who lent his aid to the watch on Sauron, and played a small but crucial - and completely faithful - part in the Great Years. But it illustrates Tolkien's pessimism.)

In 1954 he was uncertain about the Blue Wizards, but in a letter of 1958 he says of them "I fear that they failed, as Saruman did, thought doubtless in different ways; and I suspect they were founders or beginners of secret cults and 'magic' traditions". (2)

However, in The Peoples of Middle-Earth they get a happier ending; they "must have had great influence on the history of the Second Age and Third Age in weakening and disarraying the forces of [the] East".

(1) Unfinished Tales, p.390
(2) The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, p.280
(3) The Peoples of Middle-Earth, p.385

Richard Sturch: 'On Tolkien and Williams'
The Charles Williams Quarterly - 118 (Spring 2006)

Gandalf and the Istari

"Gandalf is not, of course, a human being (Man or Hobbit). There are naturally no precise modern terms to say what he was. I would venture to say that he was an incarnate 'angel'... with the other Istari, wizards, (those who know), an emissary from the Lords of the West, sent to Middle-Earth as the great crisis of Sauron loomed on the horizon. By 'incarnate' I meant they were embodied in physical bodies capable of pain and weariness... "

"Why they should take such a form is bound up with the mythology of the 'angelic' Powers of the world of this fable. At this point in the fabulous history the purpose was precisely to limit and hinder their exhibition of 'power' on the physical plane, so that they would do what they were primarily sent for: train, advise, instruct, arouse the hearts and minds of those threatened by Sauron... "

The Letters of J. R. R Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter, editor (page 202)

"Gandalf really 'died' and was changed... 'I am Gandalf the White, who has returned from death'."

(The Letters, page 201)

Cranmer renouncing his recantation

Cranmer renouncing his recantation" from the 1631 ed. of Foxe's Acts and Monuments;
 woodcut - Bodleian Library, Oxford

Good people, give not your minds to this glozing world,
Nor murmur against the glory of the Queen;
Love each other, altogether love each other;
Each to each be full of straight goodwill,
Wherethrough let the rich give naturally to the poor
Always, and especially in this present time
When the poor are so many and food so dear.
What else? Yet for myself I will something say:
I am quite come to believe in Omnipotent God
And in every article of the Catholic Faith.
But since the Queen will have me cut for obedience,
Outcast from her, I must have an outcast's mind,
A mind that is my own and not the Queen's,
Poorly my own, not richly her society's.
Therefore I draw to the thing that troubles me
More than all else I ever did - the writings
I let abroad against my heart's belief
To keep my life... if that might be... that I signed
With this hand, after I was degraded: this hand,
Which wrote the contrary of God's will in me,
Since it offended most, shall suffer first;
It shall burn ere I burn, now I go to the fire,
And the writings, all writings wherein I denied Gods will,
Or made God's will be the method of my life,
I altogether reject them.

Charles Williams - 'Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury'
(First produced in the Chapter House, Canterbury,
as part of the Festival of the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral,

20 June 1936)

Addisons Walk, 20th September 1931

Just before 3am on the Sunday morning of the 20th September, Tolkien, Lewis and another Inkling, Hugo Dyson, took a stroll along the Cherwell in the grounds of Magdalen College. All the previous evening the men had been discussing their lifelong fascination with myths. It was sad, Lewis declared, to think that classic tales of courage, beauty, sacrifice and virtue are all untrue and ultimately worthless.

Tolkien stopped his skeptical friend cold by forcefully arguing: No! They are not lies! Myths contain great spiritual truths.

Lewis recalled later in a letter to a friend that whilst walking we were: "... interrupted by a rush of wind which came so suddenly on the still, warm evening and sent so many leaves pattering down that we thought it was raining. We held our breath..."