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Old 03-20-2017, 09:17 PM   #1
Morsul the Dark
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Saruman's Pits

First off long time no see.

Secondly I've been listening to LOTR on tape, my job requires much driving. I've enjoyed getting back into LOTR been quite some time. Anyway, something caught my attention, Gandalf goes to Saruman then is put at the top of the tower(which seems a really odd lack of thought from Saruman) but Gandalf talks about seeing the first pits and evil works. How quickly did Saruman get those up and running? Wouldn't Gandalf have seen them on his way into Orthanc? I don't believe Gandalf was there too long.
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Old 03-20-2017, 09:37 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Morsul the Dark View Post
I don't believe Gandalf was there too long.
According to the Tales of Years, Gandalf was imprisoned on the 10th of July and did not escape until the 18th of September. As such, he was imprisoned atop Orthanc for over two months.

However the text does say the following:
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'They took me and they set me alone on the pinnacle of Orthanc, in the place where Saruman was accustomed to watch the stars. There is no descent save by a narrow stair of many thousand steps, and the valley below seems far away. I looked on it and saw that, whereas it had once been green and fair, it was now filled with pits and forges. Wolves and orcs were housed in Isengard, for Saruman was mustering a great force on his own account, in rivalry of Sauron and not in his service yet.'
This suggests that the pits and forges were already in place when Gandalf arrived, but I suppose it could be argued that "I looked on it and saw" does not necessarily mean he looked on it immediately; he may not, in fact, have been able to do so:
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'Over all his works a dark smoke hung and wrapped itself about the sides of Orthanc. I stood alone on an island in the clouds; and I had no chance of escape, and my days were bitter.'
Perhaps the work only started after Gandalf arrived, but when he was first taken to the pinnacle of Orthanc he could not actually see to the ground.

It's also possible that when Gandalf refers to "the valley below" he is exclusively referring to the vale of Nan Curunír beyond the Ring of Isengard itself. Upon riding up to Isengard he may not have been able to see the work going on; presumably at least some of the valley was behind or to either side of Isengard proper, and thus any works going on there might have been hidden from view on the ground.

Note that when the characters travel along the approach to Isengard in Book III, no forges or industrial works are mentioned:
Quote:
most of the valley had become a wilderness of weeds and thorns. Brambles trailed upon the ground, or clambering over bush and bank, made shaggy caves where small beasts housed. No trees grew there; but among the rank grasses could still be seen the burned and axe-hewn stumps of ancient groves. It was a sad country, silent now but for the stony noise of quick waters. Smokes and steams drifted in sullen clouds and lurked in the hollows.
While these might have been destroyed by the Ents by the time of their arrival there's no particular suggestion of it. The Ring of Isengard itself, however, is described thus:
Quote:
The plain, too, was bored and delved. Shafts were driven deep into the ground; their upper ends were covered by low mounds and domes of stone, so that in the moonlight the Ring of Isengard looked like a graveyard of unquiet dead. For the ground trembled. The shafts ran down by many slopes and spiral stairs to caverns far under; there Saruman had treasuries, store-houses, armouries, smithies, and great furnaces. Iron wheels revolved there endlessly, and hammers thudded. At night plumes of vapour steamed from the vents, lit from beneath with red light, or blue, or venomous green.
Perhaps the work began in the valley outside the walls, hidden from public view beside and behind the fortress itself, and the inner "plain" of the Ring of Isengard was only exploited later; perhaps then the work began while Gandalf was present.
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Old 03-21-2017, 03:59 AM   #3
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For some reason I always imagined that Saruman used his powers to conceal this from Gandalf, who would not be aware of this deceit when arriving in good faith. With Gandalf locked in the tower (which btw seems like a pretty standard place for accommodation of prisoners), there would be no need make an effort to conceal the pits and whatnot.

I have absolutely no reason to assume this, it just seemed the most plausible to me.

However, I do assume that Isengard and the surrounding area are big enough for Saruman to strategically place these installments where the cannot easily be seen.
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Old 03-21-2017, 06:22 AM   #4
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For some reason I always imagined that Saruman used his powers to conceal this from Gandalf, who would not be aware of this deceit when arriving in good faith. With Gandalf locked in the tower (which btw seems like a pretty standard place for accommodation of prisoners), there would be no need make an effort to conceal the pits and whatnot.

I have absolutely no reason to assume this, it just seemed the most plausible to me.

However, I do assume that Isengard and the surrounding area are big enough for Saruman to strategically place these installments where the cannot easily be seen.
What, you thought Saruman cast a "Make Everything Look Pretty" illusion for Gandalf's benefit?
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Old 03-21-2017, 07:10 AM   #5
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What, you thought Saruman cast a "Make Everything Look Pretty" illusion for Gandalf's benefit?
Yes
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Old 03-21-2017, 08:42 AM   #6
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What, you thought Saruman cast a "Make Everything Look Pretty" illusion for Gandalf's benefit?
I pictures Isengard as already being all industrialized when Gandalf came there, but at the same time I thought that a lot of this industry happened underground, both literally and figuratively. I always pictured the pits as having some cover on top, at least partially or temporarily.
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Old 03-21-2017, 09:38 AM   #7
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I don't see it happening in just two months, even given a limitless workforce of Uruk-hai - and then the U-H themselves would have taken considerable time to breed (no, they weren't spawned in mud-cocoons, they were gestated and born and had to grow to adulthood).

Saruman had been preparing his move for years.
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Old 03-21-2017, 10:30 AM   #8
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I would put my vote here on some sort of illusion put forth by Saruman.

I would agree that the making of weapons and war machines, and breeding of Orcs, must have been going on for quite a while before it came to Gandalf's notice. We don't know the time period between his last visit to Orthanc and the time he was imprisoned there, but it could have been decades.

Whatever Saruman was up to, he'd also concealed it from Radagast, whom he'd sent to lure Gandalf to Isengard. I don't think it beyond the power of Saruman to somehow affect the minds of those from whom he wished to hide his plans in such a way to make them fail to notice things. And then, when for instance, when Gandalf was in his power and trapped on Orthanc, to draw off the illusion like a curtain to impress or frighten.
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Old 03-21-2017, 04:14 PM   #9
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That's my guess as well, perhaps part of that ring he mentioned. Saruman Ring Maker.
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Old 03-21-2017, 08:06 PM   #10
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White-Hand

Perhaps this is a matter of Saruman enveiling the reality of what had happened to Isengard through the power of his voice? By engaging with Gandalf and attempting to convince him of the rightness of his position, he distracted Gandalf from noticing what had actually happened at Isengard. Saruman's power of persuasion and the use of his voice appears to be among his greatest powers.
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Old 03-22-2017, 04:03 AM   #11
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I have nothing against the illusion idea, but I think it is perfectly unnecessary. As some have pointed out, it seems that the pits were not necessarily visible upon approach. Add to it the fact that Gandalf arrived in haste, barely passed through the gate (upon which the inexplicable sense of dread fell on him, which might have contributed to his distraction), and right after that he starts talking to Saruman, which distracts him further (plus, add the possibility of the Voice being used to shift his focus more on the talking and less on looking around).

Also, correct me if I don't recall properly, but I believe Gandalf says that he arrived at dusk, or maybe even after dark. That would severely limit his powers of observation. I mean, riding up the road rimmed by some newly-raised iron columns and whatnot, in a large area encircled by a wall, in twilight or even at night, you don't necessary see any pits which are, say, couple of hundred meters away from you.

So I think it is the combination of all of the above (except the illusion). Strategic placement of the pits that they are not right under everybody's nose when they arrive. Limited visibility after dark. Gandalf's mind preoccuppied by "what are we going to do about the Ring?", "the Nine are abroad!!! We're doomed!!!", "I hope Frodo is still alive", "oh no what if that fool of an innkeep didn't send my letter? I'm gonna fry him" and "oh no, I have to make this arrogant colleague listen to me and endure his wannabe-intellectual condescending comments before we get to the heart of the matter". Saruman's Voice as a bonus. I don't think we need more than this to explain that no pits with Orcs were visible when Gandalf arrived.

And yes, Saruman had to be at the breeding for decades, basically it would be sometime after he had locked himself up in Isengard after looking into the Stone. That still gives him a plenty of time, plus we could think about some accelerated growth for the Orcs (I don't mean cocoons, but since these were basically meant to be killing machines, and Orcs breed fast anyway, I am pretty sure you could have them reach physical maturity in several years instead of two decades).
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Old 03-22-2017, 06:41 AM   #12
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So I think it is the combination of all of the above (except the illusion). Strategic placement of the pits that they are not right under everybody's nose when they arrive. Limited visibility after dark. Gandalf's mind preoccuppied by "what are we going to do about the Ring?", "the Nine are abroad!!! We're doomed!!!", "I hope Frodo is still alive", "oh no what if that fool of an innkeep didn't send my letter? I'm gonna fry him" and "oh no, I have to make this arrogant colleague listen to me and endure his wannabe-intellectual condescending comments before we get to the heart of the matter". Saruman's Voice as a bonus. I don't think we need more than this to explain that no pits with Orcs were visible when Gandalf arrived.
Good points. I think my main opposition to the camouflage theory leading to the "strategic placement" of the pits is the question of exactly who Saruman would have had in mind when planning how to hide them.
Who went to Isengard? Really no one, apart from Wormtongue. I get the impression that Gandalf and Radagast had not been there for quite a while before the event in question, and they only went because they were summoned. I don't think Saruman would have been worried about the Eagles seeing what he was up to, because before imprisoning Gandalf he was a known ally, and no one would have been watching him.
So, how much trouble would Saruman have been inclined to take to conceal his pits and forges? In his pride, too, he may have thought he was naturally smarter than the rest of the Wise, and have not thought them a source of worry.
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Old 03-22-2017, 07:47 AM   #13
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no one would have been watching him.
Sauron perhaps?

I'm inclined to agree more with mundane disguises being used personally, to connect with his "mind of metal and wheels".

Legate is correct as well; Gandalf arrived after dark:
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'Late one evening I came to the gate, like a great arch in the wall of rock; and it was strongly guarded. But the keepers of the gate were on the watch for me and told me that Saruman awaited me. I rode under the arch, and the gate closed silently behind me, and suddenly I was afraid, though I knew no reason for it.'
It would have saved me a lot of time thinking about this if I'd checked slightly further back in the text. Happens to me all the time I feel.
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Old 03-22-2017, 05:36 PM   #14
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Moreover, it's in the nature of pits that they're hard to see unless you're close to them or on an elevation. Even minor declivities-- just ask William Prince of Orange.
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Old 03-22-2017, 07:24 PM   #15
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So, how much trouble would Saruman have been inclined to take to conceal his pits and forges? In his pride, too, he may have thought he was naturally smarter than the rest of the Wise, and have not thought them a source of worry.
That is one thing, I agree with that. As for whom he would have in mind, if he actually had anyone, when thinking about concealing the pits, then in the earlier stages (few decades back, when he started), he would perhaps still think about envoys from Gondor or Rohan. Not that any had been to Isengard in decades, from what we are told. And Saruman had "sealed himself" in Isengard after the Ithil-stone incident, whatever is that supposed to mean exactly; in any case, it probably means cutting off contact with the outside world. "Iron Curtain", if you will.

Most people would not come to Isengard anyway, even if we imagine e.g. a bunch of Rohanian envoys who managed to get ambushed by Dunlendings, got lost in the wilderness, are in the middle of the storm and looking for shelter somewhere in that area: given common folks' general superstition, they would think "oh no, that is 'sorcerous valley', let's not go there, my aunt used to say you might turn into frog if you only drink water from one of the springs around it! Let's rather find shelter somewhere else."

But, I mean, Saruman could still keep "strategic placement" of the pits in some way. In the latter stages, however, he probably didn't care and would think himself so powerful that he would rather intimidate his enemies. But Gandalf was basically about the only person in Middle-Earth he would want to fool (and okay, Radagast. But we don't even know whether they met in Isengard personally or whatever).
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Old 03-23-2017, 05:48 AM   #16
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Look, I believe some people are over-complicating this. Surely Saruman's pits and things could just happen to be out of the line-of-sight of Orthanc's "front path" without him having taken any great pains with strategic placement, let alone magical concealment?
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Old 03-23-2017, 09:15 AM   #17
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Anyway I, at least, try to keep my pits hidden... hidden in bigger pits if I can find them! It's a good thing.
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Old 03-26-2017, 03:48 PM   #18
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To be honest the mundane argument is probably the core one. I will add two thoughts that are circumstantial,

Saruman made his own ring of power. And was experimenting with light. Together could be possibly working in illusion.
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Old 04-24-2017, 01:19 PM   #19
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I pictures Isengard as already being all industrialized when Gandalf came there, but at the same time I thought that a lot of this industry happened underground, both literally and figuratively. I always pictured the pits as having some cover on top, at least partially or temporarily.
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Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
I don't see it happening in just two months, even given a limitless workforce of Uruk-hai - and then the U-H themselves would have taken considerable time to breed (no, they weren't spawned in mud-cocoons, they were gestated and born and had to grow to adulthood).

Saruman had been preparing his move for years.
I must admit that I never articulated a very detailed idea about the pits, and to which extend the different installations were covered or not. However like the above quotations, I am sure that the creation of Isengards military power, would require a lot of resources and means of production.


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Perhaps this is a matter of Saruman enveiling the reality of what had happened to Isengard through the power of his voice? By engaging with Gandalf and attempting to convince him of the rightness of his position, he distracted Gandalf from noticing what had actually happened at Isengard. Saruman's power of persuasion and the use of his voice appears to be among his greatest powers.
I think this comes somewhat close to what I imagined, a distraction, something subtle.

I never thought that the main road in Isengard was lined with massive pits or forges, but Isengard is not that big a place, and as I mentioned before a significant industrial capacity would be needed.

Just the simple fact that housing would be needed for a large number of men and orcs, would have considerable impact on the landscape of Isengard.
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Old 04-24-2017, 05:03 PM   #20
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Saruman's pits were the worst, and the stains on both his white and many-colored robes went down to the bottom of his ribcage. Definitely a severe case of bromhidrosis.

He should have bathed in the Silverlode and used an antiperspirant with powdered athelas.
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Old 04-25-2017, 04:29 AM   #21
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I still say that it wasn't so much a deception on Saruman's part as simply an everyday - or perhaps slightly more than that - covering of the mines and forges, while not at work. Mines can have a relatively small entrance but span underground for long. Pits and forges can have makeshift roofs, to keep the rain out or just for propriety (though who knows how much of that was going around). And we know from the Ent invasion that there were many shafts that were hidden - probably just by their physical location and nature than by any art of Saruman's. I think Saruman gave his Uruks a state holiday on the day of Gandalf's coming to not make it obvious, but I think Gandalf did not notice too many pits just because those that were on his way were not physically very visible, or only partially so, so you couldn't guess what's really there. Then, safely on top of Orthanc, state holiday was over and Gandalf could see all of it open up for the working day/night. The pits would be more visible from atop, and they'd be open and in use, making their presence more obvious.
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