by Thorondor-(Valar)
March 24, 2004

Tolkien Encyclopedia > Maiar > Istari > Istari

When a thousand years had passed of the Third Age of the Sun, and the first shadows after the Last Alliance had returned, an Elven ship arrived at the Grey Havens. There were five old men, wearing robes of different colors, pointed hats and black boots. Each man had a long, white beard, and each carried a staff. They were the Istari, but commonly known as the Wizards among men.

Originally, the Istari were angelic Maiar spirits, sent by the Valar to aid Middle-earth in its struggle against evil; but in Middle-earth they were forbidden to use their Maiar powers. The “magic” they wielded was the power that occurred only in the mortal world, and therefore they were given human bodies, that restricted their spiritual and physical strength.

When the Istari arrived at the Grey Havens, their number was five, although only three of them are known in the tales that are still preserved. The other two journeyed far to the east, and they did not interfere with the matters of the western lands. All that we know of them are their names: Alatar and Pallando.

Of all Wizards, Gandalf was the greatest. He is known by many names: Mithrandir among the Elves, Tharkún to the Dwarves, Incánus in the south, and Olórin in the long forgotten West. With his wisdom, Sauron, Lord of the Rings, was defeated. Gandalf wielded one of the three Elven rings, Narya, ring of fire, which originally belonged to the Elf, Círdan of the Grey Havens. It was given to Gandalf because Círdan saw much wisdom in him.

Before Sauron had enough power to rise again, Gandalf helped greatly in the battle against Smaug the Dragon and in the Battle of the Five Armies. Later he had large part in the Battles of Hornburg and of the Pelennor Fields. Alone he threw the terrible Balrog of Moria down from the peaks of Zirak-zigil. The most well-known and important of his deeds is that he found out that a hobbit from the Shire, Bilbo Baggins held the One Ring. It was taken to Mordor, and destroyed in Mount Doom, and so Sauron was diminished into shadow, his dark kingdom was destroyed and his monstrous servants perished or lost their minds and ran away. When this happened, Gandalf’s task in Middle-earth was fulfilled, and he left back to Valinor with the last ship.

One of the five Wizards is Radagast the Brown. He was originally a Maia of Yavanna and known as Aiwendil in Valinor. He wasn’t as visibly concered with the matters of Middle-earth like Gandalf, but he might have been protecting nature from Sauron’s evil. Radagast had part in the capture of Gandalf by Saruman. He unwittingly caused it and unwittingly released him.

Originally the greatest of the Istari was Saruman the White, called Curunír by the Elves. He had great power over Men’s minds and great skill in his hands. He settled in Isengard and was chosen to be the head of the White Council because Gandalf had refused. For hundreds of years Saruman truly was Rohan’s friend and tried to destroy Sauron. He did it by researching about the Rings and everything he could find about the Dark Lord. Perhaps he saw too much, for he wanted to become a Power and wanted the One Ring for himself. He had become pride and he was jealous of Gandalf and feared him. Later his thoughts were revealed to Gandalf and he declared himself as Saruman the Many-colored. Later he allied with Sauron, but was actually controlled by him. He gathered Orcs and evil Men to Isengard but his might was shattered by the anger of the Ents, by the valor of the Rohirrim and by the wisdom of Gandalf who broke his staff and cast him out of  the order of Wizards. Saruman met his end later in the Shire, slain by his servant, Gríma.

    Lord of the Rings
    Robert Foster – The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth