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Old 09-07-2013, 07:54 AM   #1
Sarumian
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Sauron and Istari

I wonder how much Sauron was able to find out about Istari, their origin, nature and abilities?
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Old 09-07-2013, 09:16 AM   #2
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Anything he knew in detail, I think it likely he would have learned from Saruman when the latter began to use the Palantír of Orthanc. If Saruman did not directly tell Sauron, he could have possibly deduced some things he wanted to know anyway, owing to his domination of Saruman's will.
After all, the true nature of the Istari was only known to a select few in Middle-earth, and they were mostly in Rivendell, inaccessible for capture.

Still, Sauron may not have known the entire truth, but it seems he knew or suspected that Gandalf was the prime mover against him, and that he was not a mere Man or Elf. The Mouth of Sauron's words to Gandalf are telling.

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'Then thou art the spokesman, old greybeard? Have we not heard of thee at whiles, and of thy wanderings, ever hatching plots and mischief at a safe distance? But this time thou hast stuck out thy nose too far, Master Gandalf; and thou shalt see what comes to him who sets his foolish webs before the feet of Sauron the Great.'
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Also, Sauron in his Necromancer guise apparently encountered Gandalf personally before. In The Tale of Years, Gandalf is said to have first gone to Dol Guldur to investigate the power there in the year 2063, and Sauron "retreats and hides in the East". Maybe he felt something of Gandalf's spirit then, since both were in origin the same order of being.
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Old 09-07-2013, 09:51 AM   #3
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In "Notes on Motives in the Silmarillion" in the "Myths Transformed" section of Morgoth's Ring Professor Tolkien observes the following regarding Sauron:

"If he thought about the Istari, especially Saruman and Gandalf, he imagined them as emissaries from the Valar, seeking to establish their lost power again and 'colonize' Middle-earth, as a mere effort of defeated imperialists (without knowledge or sanction of Eru). His cynicism, which (sincerely) regarded the motives of Manwë as precisely the same as his own, seemed fully justified in Saruman. Gandalf he did not understand. But certainly he had already become evil, and therefore stupid, enough to imagine that his different behaviour was due simply to weaker intelligence and lack of firm masterful purpose. He was only a rather cleverer Radagast - cleverer, because it was more profitable (more productive of power) to become absorbed in the study of people than of animals."

I would argue from this that Sauron must have been aware of the Wizards for some time, but was not especially threatened by them, any more than he was by the Lords of the Eldar, at least, and was at least in some regard ignorant of their nature and purpose. I daresay this was part of the plan - not only did their humble shape make them readier counsellors rather than leaders for Men, but eluded the full attention of Sauron, who surely underestimated them, and Gandalf in particular.
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Old 09-07-2013, 09:54 AM   #4
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I agree with Inzil that probably whatever Sauron knew came from Saruman and also Sauron's reasoning that only sees others in his own skewed mind for power. Like as Gandalf tells the Council:

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...the only measure that he knows is desire, desire for power and so he judges all hearts~The Council of Elrond
Tolkien wrote that Sauron was not "sincere" atheist like Morgoth became, that is he never denied the existance of Eru and the Valar...his plans to dominate Middle-earth just came about from no longer fearing Eru or the Valar getting involved in Middle-earth's problems. In HOME X: Morgoth's Ring there is more explanation that is related to how Sauron viewed the Istari:

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He probably deluded himself with the notion that the Valar, (including Melkor) having failed, Eru had simply abandoned Ea, or at any rate Arda, and would not concern himself with it any more. It would appear that he interpreted 'the change of the world' at the Downfall of Numenor when Aman was removed from the physical world in this sense: Valar (and Elves) were removed from effective control, and Men under God's curse and wrath. If he thought about the Istari especially Saruman and Gandalf, he imagined them as emissaries from the Valar, seeking to establish their lost power again and 'colonize' Middle-earth. as a mere effort of defeated imperialist (without knowledge or sanction of Eru).~Morgoths Ring - Myth's Transformed Text VII
This fits with what Gandalf judges about Sauron, he can only see people through his own power-tinted goggles. If he thought about the Istari, he just saw them as some rogue emissaries sent by one of the Valar to carve out a certain sphere of influence in Middle-earth for themselves. He never appeared to think the Istari were actually sent on an Eru-sanctioned mission to bring about his defeat.

Saruman fell away from the mission to his own designs and lust for power, and this is where Tolkien gives as the reason that Sauron was always able to understand Saruman more, while Gandalf had always eluded him:

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Sauron had, in fact, been very like Saruman, and so could understand him quickly and could guess what he would be likley to think and do, even without the aid of the palantiri or of any spies, whereas Gandalf elduded him~ibid
Sauron understood Saruman almost right away, because Saruman is essentially a Sauron-lite version. If Sauron drank whole milk, Saruman would be drinking skim. Gandalf was the one that eluded him, because Sauron was incapable of viewing the world without his lust-for-power goggles.
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Old 09-07-2013, 10:23 AM   #5
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Were not Saruman and Sauron both maia of Aule, originally which may have been a factor in their affinity- literally kindred spirits.
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Old 09-07-2013, 10:38 AM   #6
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Were not Saruman and Sauron both maia of Aule, originally which may have been a factor in their affinity- literally kindred spirits.
Indeed. That may have been what led both to consider the use of the palantír at his disposal to further his own ends as well.
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Old 09-07-2013, 11:01 AM   #7
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I think too that it's interesting to note a passage from the section The History of Galadriel and Celeborn from Unfinished Tales.
When first making contact with Celebrimbor and the Elves of Eregion in the Second Age, Sauron

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posed as an emissary of the Valar, sent by them to Middle-earth ("thus anticipating the Istari") or ordered by them to remain there to give aid to the Elves.
Footnote 7 there goes on to add:

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When [Sauron] came among the Noldor he adopted a specious fair form (a kind of simulated anticipation of the later Istari), and a fair name: Artano "high-smith," or Aulendil, meaning one who is devoted to the service of the Vala Aulë.
If indeed Sauron considered even then that the Valar had not forgotten Middle-earth, and might send someone to oppose him, it's notable that he chose for himself an attractive form rather than one appearing weak and old, supporting what Zigûr said about Sauron's underestimation of the Istari.
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Old 09-08-2013, 12:43 PM   #8
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I think the most important points have been stated - especially in the light of Zigur's quote, later reposted by Boro.

Maybe the only thing I would disagree on is that Saruman would have necessarily spilled everything out to Sauron. Yes, he would have, in the sense that Sauron had definitely strong will enough to pull the information about Istari from him, had he wanted to do so. I actually believe, in the light of everything we know about Sauron - and also in the light of the thing quoted by Zigur and Boro - that Sauron actually wasn't as interested in the Istari. There were a gazillion other, more important things to concern himself with (such as: can I attack Gondor now? Will its allies come? Does Saruman have the Ring? Who does have it, then? Any news from the North? Where are my Nazgul? Where are the Halflings? Where is the Shire? - going sort of retrospectively here...) than to learn who were the Istari.

I think Sauron would not engage in the debate "who are the Istari?" any more than he would in the debate "who is Tom Bombadil?". It probably wouldn't change anything for him. Either an enemy is a concern, or not. If some Maiar are stupid enough to go "cloaked" into Middle-Earth, they are probably not worth the attention, or: Isildur's heir, for instance, is much worse.

The only interesting thing that remains unanswered is actually what Mith has mentioned, regarding Sauron's and Saruman's original part in Aulë's "flock". Of course, for both of them, it had been a long time (for Sauron, a really long time), so maybe the connection to them was already quite hazy and clouded by the ages (literally) of experience in Arda. But it would be interesting if Sauron at some point wondered "hey, I wonder if that guy played during the first part of the Music next to me..." Then again, exactly those things had long time ago ceased to be of any importance to both of them...
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Old 09-08-2013, 01:43 PM   #9
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Pipe

I really grateful for this deep and witty answers. I also thought about Mouth Of Sauron's words to Gandalf but could not remember all these passages from other literature.

As Istari did not disclose their nature, it definitely took some time for Sauron to start considering their connection to the West. At some point upon arrival Istari had to reveal some extraordinary capacities - otherwise no-one would have paid any attention to old men; they had to demonstrate that they were wizards. At least worthy for fireworks and other special effects.

Although they could have come to Sauron's (or Nazguls') attention quite early, it was not before they had made some considerable headache to Sauron and his forces, he started connecting them to the West.

I wonder if Sauron was ever able to establish he was facing other Maiar. Don't think, Saruman was eager to let Sauron know, even when he came under Sauron's control. This control was not a kind of domination like Sauron enjoyed over Nazgul, for instance, and Saruman (in the book) continued his search for the Ring, his own game.

But if Sauron had known, would he have done something in a different way? For example, knowing there is a Maya in Gondor (who had just managed to have a Balrog killed), would Sauron have sent the host under Witch King to Minas Tirith? Or would he have rather waited for more reinforcements? Or the situation with the Ring seemed so pressing that Sauron, in fact, had little choice?

And if Sauron knew or suspected Gandalf was a Maia, what should he have thought on the fact that Gandalf did not claim the Ring that was in his proximity for so long, especially when he was safely beyond Sauron's reach?
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Old 09-08-2013, 03:45 PM   #10
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But if Sauron had known, would he have done something in a different way? For example, knowing there is a Maya in Gondor (who had just managed to have a Balrog killed), would Sauron have sent the host under Witch King to Minas Tirith? Or would he have rather waited for more reinforcements? Or the situation with the Ring seemed so pressing that Sauron, in fact, had little choice?

And if Sauron knew or suspected Gandalf was a Maia, what should he have thought on the fact that Gandalf did not claim the Ring that was in his proximity for so long, especially when he was safely beyond Sauron's reach?
First - I am actually not sure if he would have done something different. And second - maybe he even knew. But exactly the fact you are referring to (that Gandalf did not claim the Ring, even though he had had plenty of time for that) would perhaps have further convinced Sauron that whether the guys he is facing are Maiar or not, they are just weak fools. For example (this is pure speculation, but it is one possible way Sauron could have looked at the thing), Sauron could have told himself: okay, Gandalf is a Maia. However, he did not take the Ring. Instead, he possibly wants to give it to Isildur's heir. Why? Answer: obviously, because he feels himself too weak to claim it for himself! Ergo, he must be SO limited by his body, that he's somehow totally weak! Therefore, useless and not dangerous. End of debate, for Sauron. I think such kind of thinking is exactly what we know Sauron to be prone to.

So in general, I could imagine the fact of the Istari being Maiar not really having as much impact. Sauron was "weighing all things to a nicety on the scale of his malice", and what mattered was not what one was, but what one could have represented.
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Old 09-08-2013, 05:52 PM   #11
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...the fact you are referring to (that Gandalf did not claim the Ring, even though he had had plenty of time for that) would perhaps have further convinced Sauron that whether the guys he is facing are Maiar or not, they are just weak fools. For example (this is pure speculation, but it is one possible way Sauron could have looked at the thing), Sauron could have told himself: okay, Gandalf is a Maia. However, he did not take the Ring. Instead, he possibly wants to give it to Isildur's heir. Why? Answer: obviously, because he feels himself too weak to claim it for himself! Ergo, he must be SO limited by his body, that he's somehow totally weak! Therefore, useless and not dangerous. End of debate, for Sauron. I think such kind of thinking is exactly what we know Sauron to be prone to.
Well, I would argue that Maiar post a grave threat due to this particular reason - they have more potential to master The Ring than anyone else apart from, possibly, Galadriel. Sauron had already had an experience of what an embodied Maia could do - Melian. Even foolish and somewhat weak they could get an understanding of The Ring's potential quicker than anyone else and highly likely to find shortcuts to mastering it as they had dealt with that enormous power potentials back in Aman.

Sauron could hardly consider Gandalf weak after him killing a Balrog (or the Balrog was also weak and there was some contagious weakness that pursued Maiar in Middle Earth). He probably was very happy to find out that The Ring slipped between two Maiar killing each other (may be instigating the fight), and then Galadriel was (he might have thought this) deceived by Aragorn and Frodo. But later Gandalf The White, as we remember, struggled with Sauron (so they had a personal encounter!) sitting at Amon Hen. As I can remember, Gandalf was distracting Sauron from Frodo, thus he should have employed a formidable power to attract Sauron's attention and keep struggling for a long time.

It could, however, happened that Sauron was able to pull all confusing bits together only after Gandalf had appeared in Minas Tirith repelling Nazgul from Faramir's troops and it was really too late to make amendments.

I'd say that thinking someone weak would not take the Ring to himself is (in my opinion) going to contradict everything Sauron implied about the nature of the Ring and people. NO-ONE who sees it can resist its charm, that's how he designed it...

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Old 09-08-2013, 06:44 PM   #12
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Sauron could hardly consider Gandalf weak after him killing a Balrog (or the Balrog was also weak and there was some contagious weakness that pursued Maiar in Middle Earth).
I think it's doubtful Sauron knew anything of the contest between Gandalf and the Balrog. The community of Orcs in Moria seems to be a pretty self-contained unit, not having much to do with outside events. There is no evidence the Balrog ever left Moria after it entered, and Sauron apparently never went into the Mines. From that, Sauron could have had only a passing knowledge of the Balrog, and maybe not even that; for if he knew it was there, would he not at some point tried to reach out to it?

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But later Gandalf The White, as we remember, struggled with Sauron (so they had a personal encounter!) sitting at Amon Hen. As I can remember, Gandalf was distracting Sauron from Frodo, thus he should have employed a formidable power to attract Sauron's attention and keep struggling for a long time.
Gandalf tells Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli that he "sat in a high place, and I strove with the Dark Tower; and the Shadow passed".

But he later says, when discussing the recovered Palantír of Orthanc

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'Maybe, I have been saved by this hobbit from a grave blunder. I had considered whether or not to probe this Stone myself to find its uses. Had I done so, I should have been revealed to him myself. I am not ready for such a trial, if indeed I shall ever be so. But even if I found the power to withdraw myself, it would be disastrous for him to see me yet--until the hour comes, when secrecy will avail no longer.'
TT The Palantír

That shows a clear difference between Gandalf's action in distracting Sauron from Frodo, and outright revealing himself. Sauron seemingly did not know Gandalf was behind the turning of his Eye from Frodo.
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Old 09-08-2013, 07:54 PM   #13
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Sauron had already had an experience of what an embodied Maia could do - Melian. Even foolish and somewhat weak they could get an understanding of The Ring's potential quicker than anyone else and highly likely to find shortcuts to mastering it as they had dealt with that enormous power potentials back in Aman.
But an incarnate Maia was an altogether different proposition to one of the Istari, who purposely had the weaknesses and frailties of Men, and whose power was confined. Even Gandalf the White had very limited power compared to a normal incarnate Maia.

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I'd say that thinking someone weak would not take the Ring to himself is (in my opinion) going to contradict everything Sauron implied about the nature of the Ring and people. NO-ONE who sees it can resist its charm, that's how he designed it...
I think Sauron would have dismissed anyone who denied the Ring as a fool, not as someone of high moral stature. He was no longer capable of understanding the difference; he believed that everything everyone did was, in the same way as himself, for the sake of power.

We've already observed that Sauron believed (or had convinced himself) that Eru no longer cared about Arda, so he surely couldn't have recognised that Gandalf was by that stage present through the direct intervention of Eru himself. Surely he must not even have known that Gandalf had died and been resurrected.
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Old 09-09-2013, 06:13 PM   #14
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Zigûr,

I really like your commentaries but am going to question this one. I did not come across any place where Tolkien states that Istari's powers were limited in any other way than via prohibition to exercise them freely. I tend to think they retained there power as Maiar but were ordered to hide it and use only in the situation of emergency. Incarnation does not necessarily limit supernatural powers and we can find an example in Christian theology.

I do not think Sauron would imagine a Maia who would reject the Ring.
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Old 09-09-2013, 06:21 PM   #15
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I think it's doubtful Sauron knew anything of the contest between Gandalf and the Balrog. The community of Orcs in Moria seems to be a pretty self-contained unit, not having much to do with outside events. There is no evidence the Balrog ever left Moria after it entered, and Sauron apparently never went into the Mines. From that, Sauron could have had only a passing knowledge of the Balrog, and maybe not even that; for if he knew it was there, would he not at some point tried to reach out to it?
I think Sauron paid a lot of attention to any great power that was around. Durin's Bane destroyed the mightiest dwarfs' kingdom and that said for itself. I think Sauron kept his Eye on Moria as that was a power that could impose a serious threat.

I am also sure that Sauron was informed about a three days of unprecedented fireworks on the very top of the Misty Mountains and would rather send someone to check what happened there.
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Old 09-09-2013, 07:26 PM   #16
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I really like your commentaries but am going to question this one. I did not come across any place where Tolkien states that Istari's powers were limited in any other way than via prohibition to exercise them freely. I tend to think they retained there power as Maiar but were ordered to hide it and use only in the situation of emergency. Incarnation does not necessarily limit supernatural powers and we can find an example in Christian theology.
Perhaps not. I am not convinced, however, that their power was purely down to obligation, because it seems logical to me that had this been the case the fallen Saruman would have been far more personally dangerous than he actually was.

In lieu of a definitive answer as to what Sauron thought about Gandalf denying the Ring I can only give you speculation, but that is all that is possible. We already have established that Sauron did not understand Gandalf. He must have assumed that his apparent failure to seize the Ring was either stupidity or part of some wider bid for power. What other answer is there?

EDIT: It might also be worth recalling the remarks in Unfinished Tales that the bodies of the Wizards were "real and not feigned" and that "being embodied the Istari had need to learn much anew by slow experience, and though they knew whence they came the memory of the Blessed Realm was to them a vision from afar off, for which (so long as they remained true to their mission) they yearned exceedingly." This sounds altogether different to me than the way in which the Ainur conventionally became incarnate. The bodies of the Wizards seem less like mere clothing than the they were among the Ainur when regularly incarnate.
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Old 09-29-2013, 07:02 PM   #17
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I am not convinced, however, that their power was purely down to obligation, because it seems logical to me that had this been the case the fallen Saruman would have been far more personally dangerous than he actually was.
I thought, Saruman suffered a loss similar to Melkor in the War of Wrath - he spent himself on "dark arts", created a big army invested his will into it and lost it - thus he has lost his powers. As Valar's representative, Gandalf only fixed this, preventing Saruman from regaining his powers even slowly.

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In lieu of a definitive answer as to what Sauron thought about Gandalf denying the Ring I can only give you speculation, but that is all that is possible. We already have established that Sauron did not understand Gandalf. He must have assumed that his apparent failure to seize the Ring was either stupidity or part of some wider bid for power. What other answer is there?.
Think, Sauron might have suspected an intrigue. He might have thought, Gandalf wanted The Ring but after he had established it was The One, he had no chance to do it decently. Isildur's heir had more right to keep it. Sauron might have thought Gandalf is around as a scavenger who is going to wait till Aragorn is dead and pick up The Ring for himself.

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EDIT: It might also be worth recalling the remarks in Unfinished Tales that the bodies of the Wizards were "real and not feigned" and that "being embodied the Istari had need to learn much anew by slow experience, and though they knew whence they came the memory of the Blessed Realm was to them a vision from afar off, for which (so long as they remained true to their mission) they yearned exceedingly." This sounds altogether different to me than the way in which the Ainur conventionally became incarnate. The bodies of the Wizards seem less like mere clothing than the they were among the Ainur when regularly incarnate.
I agree with that and suffering limits the ability to act. However, this is rather the limitation not on power itself but on the way it manifests itself and can be used.
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Old 09-29-2013, 07:13 PM   #18
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I thought, Saruman suffered a loss similar to Melkor in the War of Wrath - he spent himself on "dark arts", created a big army invested his will into it and lost it - thus he has lost his powers. As Valar's representative, Gandalf only fixed this, preventing Saruman from regaining his powers even slowly.
I think what Gandalf did was strip Saruman of all authority to act as a representative of the Valar in Middle-earth: hence the symbolic breaking of Saruman's "badge", his staff, and the head of the staff falling at Gandalf's feet making him the new "head" of the Istari. That had the effect of greatly limiting Saruman's power to affect his environment. Gandalf said his one remaining "tooth" was his voice, and that might have been less a part of his "powers", and more akin to an innate gift with which he had been created.
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Old 09-29-2013, 08:57 PM   #19
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No doubt there will be people here who will point out that I'm in error, but I've always felt that, since they were all Maiar, Sauron and the Istari knew each other from their days before coming to Middle Earth.

I never got the impression that the Maia population was so big that Sauron, for example hadn't met, or at least heard of Curumo (Saruman) or Olórin (Gandalf) while they were in Valinor for a few thousand years.
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Old 09-30-2013, 03:37 AM   #20
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No doubt there will be people here who will point out that I'm in error, but I've always felt that, since they were all Maiar, Sauron and the Istari knew each other from their days before coming to Middle Earth.

I never got the impression that the Maia population was so big that Sauron, for example hadn't met, or at least heard of Curumo (Saruman) or Olórin (Gandalf) while they were in Valinor for a few thousand years.
I totally agree with you on the matter that Sauron knew other Istari as Maiar in Valinor and as Ainur before, in the time of Music. The issue is that Sauron never happened to meet any of them in person in ME, where they adopted a humble identity of wizards and accepted names given by people's of ME, keeping their true origin, names and identity a grave secret. They unveiled it only to few wisest and Sauron was not one of the few.

Moreover, I am sure making Sauron aware of their nature was the last thing Istari desired. Sauron, on the other hand, must have feared the situation when The Ring comes into the hands of another Maia more than anything else (as he did not believe it could be destroyed).

Something tells me if Sauron had known Gandalf was a Maia in advance, he would not have just sent the Nine to retrieve it from 'Baggins' but, perhaps, went along with them himself. But if he came to such conclusion after his most terrible servants enjoyed Elrond's swimming class at Rivendell, it seems to me now, he could hardly do anything different.
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Old 09-30-2013, 04:19 AM   #21
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The quotes we've examined here from the letters and so on, however, imply if not outright state that Sauron knew or at least accurately guessed that the Wizards had come from Aman, although he believed that they had been sent to exert Manwë's will over Middle-earth and not, as was actually the case, to assist Men and Elves in resisting him. He must surely have assumed they were Maiar; what else could they have conceivably been?

That being said, he must have observed that the Wizards were Maiar of a significantly lower stature than himself - he was one of the great among the Maiar, perhaps of comparable stature to, say, Melian, Eönwë, Ilmarë, Ossë and Uinen - albeit perhaps not quite as mighty as these particular examples, and certainly not by the end of the Third Age. In a footnote to letter 183 Professor Tolkien observes that Sauron was an angelic spirit "Of the same kind as Gandalf and Saruman, but of a far higher order." Were some Maiar scarcely more powerful than Elf-lords? Perhaps even, in some respects, weaker? This might explain why Sauron was not threatened by their presence if he understood their nature (if not their intentions or purpose).

I don't believe Sauron would have hunted the Ring personally in any event. He did almost nothing personally in the Third Age.
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Old 09-30-2013, 04:36 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Zigûr View Post
The quotes we've examined here from the letters and so on, however, imply if not outright state that Sauron knew or at least accurately guessed that the Wizards had come from Aman, although he believed that they had been sent to exert Manwë's will over Middle-earth and not, as was actually the case, to assist Men and Elves in resisting him. He must surely have assumed they were Maiar; what else could they have conceivably been?
Excellent point. Through what I can tell, there aren't any specific writings acknowledging Sauron's knowing what the Istari are. Sauron knows who the Valar are, and wouldn't be threatened by even a high elf, so it absolutely only makes sense if he assumed (even if it's not stated) that the Istari must be Maiar.


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Were some Maiar scarcely more powerful than Elf-lords? Perhaps even, in some respects, weaker? This might explain why Sauron was not threatened by their presence if he understood their nature (if not their intentions or purpose).
I wish this had been something that Tolkien capitalized on more. I would have like to have seen a more flushed out hierarchy of the Maiar. I highly doubt that any Maia would be weaker than an elf. But, I must concede, that it does not explicitly state whether or not they could be so speculation holds no true merit.


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I don't believe Sauron would have hunted the Ring personally in any event. He did almost nothing personally in the Third Age.
And that was just hilarious, that got me laughing. Mostly because I agree. He had no reason to, either. He had the power and the resources to not have to hunt on his own. When the Nazgûl for all intents and purposes are nine versions of him that can be running around hunting, there's no reason for Sauron to be a moving target running across Middle Earth. Anywhere far from his stronghold would have quickly lost him access to his allies North and South of Mordor.
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Old 09-30-2013, 05:06 AM   #23
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And that was just hilarious, that got me laughing. Mostly because I agree. He had no reason to, either. He had the power and the resources to not have to hunt on his own. When the Nazgûl for all intents and purposes are nine versions of him that can be running around hunting, there's no reason for Sauron to be a moving target running across Middle Earth. Anywhere far from his stronghold would have quickly lost him access to his allies North and South of Mordor.
I believe that there might be a combination of two main reasons for Sauron's operating through agents in the Third Age. The first was that, as you've stated, it was unnecessary most of the time, and that he needed to have central access to his entire empire - all roads ran to Mordor, as it were, from which he governed both his own realms and those of the lands of Men which he had enslaved.

Secondly, I would argue that Sauron never did anything in person in the Third Age out of fear for his personal safety. Every time Sauron confronted any of his enemies in a contest of arms or combat, he lost. Surely he would not risk his body, so long in the re-shaping after his death at the end of the Second Age, in personal confrontation with any of his enemies. If he did know that Gandalf was a Maia (and I would argue that he probably suspected something of the sort), he presumably considered the Nine, all together or at least several at once, to still be largely sufficient for handling the task. Perhaps the greatest mystery was who possessed Narya - I imagine he anticipated the Nine to have seized the Ring without ever having to approach Rivendell, at which point Elrond was able to put forth the power of an Elven-Ring with some assistance from Gandalf.

Incidentally, he seemingly interrogated Gollum in person, but questions of the whereabouts of the Ring would, I imagine, have been an entirely special case.
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Old 09-30-2013, 04:07 PM   #24
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Sauron knows who the Valar are, and wouldn't be threatened by even a high elf, so it absolutely only makes sense if he assumed (even if it's not stated) that the Istari must be Maiar.
I think, Sauron would be threatened by anyone who was able to master The Ring, unless Sauron believed it was totally impossible. I don't think Gandalf and Galadriel were deceived by The Ring to the extant they were incapable of estimating their own potential.

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Old 09-30-2013, 04:42 PM   #25
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The quotes we've examined here from the letters and so on, however, imply if not outright state that Sauron knew or at least accurately guessed that the Wizards had come from Aman, although he believed that they had been sent to exert Manwë's will over Middle-earth and not, as was actually the case, to assist Men and Elves in resisting him. He must surely have assumed they were Maiar; what else could they have conceivably been?

That being said, he must have observed that the Wizards were Maiar of a significantly lower stature than himself - he was one of the great among the Maiar, perhaps of comparable stature to, say, Melian, Eönwë, Ilmarë, Ossë and Uinen - albeit perhaps not quite as mighty as these particular examples, and certainly not by the end of the Third Age. In a footnote to letter 183 Professor Tolkien observes that Sauron was an angelic spirit "Of the same kind as Gandalf and Saruman, but of a far higher order." Were some Maiar scarcely more powerful than Elf-lords? Perhaps even, in some respects, weaker? This might explain why Sauron was not threatened by their presence if he understood their nature (if not their intentions or purpose).

I don't believe Sauron would have hunted the Ring personally in any event. He did almost nothing personally in the Third Age.
If I recollect it correctly, somewhere in Silmarillion Tolkien says Sauron was the most powerful of all Maiar. I agree, that Sauron have wasted quite a lot of his power by the time of the War of the Ring but still was very potent.

We do not know much neither about orders of Maiar, nor about other orders of spirits but we know from Tolkien, they do exist (a typical point in discussions on Tom Bombadil). From the fact that Istari could get weary one (may be Sauron as well) could conclude they were not elves. They, however, did not look and live like previously known incarnate Maiar.

Finally, if Sauron came to conclusion that Istari were Maiar, it seems he seriously underestimated Gandalf. Thus we can ask if he established their identities as he knew them in Valinor. If he managed to do it, it means that even in Valinor Olorin masterfully kept low profile.

However, even Radagast could have become great and terrible, had he mastered The Ring. Imagine Oliphants ravaging Mordor, innumerable birds blinding orks and Radagast leading Ents and Hurns? Something from Avatar rather then Return of The King...
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Old 09-30-2013, 04:53 PM   #26
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I believe that there might be a combination of two main reasons for Sauron's operating through agents in the Third Age. The first was that, as you've stated, it was unnecessary most of the time
Once again, I agree with most of what you say. However, Sauron must have deeply regretted that he was not there that night at Weathertop when five of his most terrible servants missed their chance failing to defeat one strider and four hobbits...
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Old 09-30-2013, 06:54 PM   #27
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I think, Sauron would be threatened by anyone who was able to master The Ring, unless Sauron believed it was totally impossible. I don't think Gandalf and Galadriel were deceived by The Ring to the extant they were incapable of estimating their own potential.
Sauron wouldn't be threatened by the wearer of the ring at all. Look what it did to Gollum, Bilbo, and Frodo. He created the ring to be debilitating to the wearer, and knew that the ring would make them succumb to his darkness.

And yes, I believe you are right about Gandalf and Galadriel, as they were both put in the path of temptation and both rejected it.
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Old 09-30-2013, 07:02 PM   #28
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If I recollect it correctly, somewhere in Silmarillion Tolkien says Sauron was the most powerful of all Maiar. I agree, that Sauron have wasted quite a lot of his power by the time of the War of the Ring but still was very potent.
I do not recall this being said at all. What you may be remembering is:
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Sauron, greatest and most terrible of the servants of Morgoth
...which is from the Silmarillion, but does not imply that Sauron is the most powerful of the Maiar.

Never the less, you are correct in assuming that is powers would be diminished, especially if his powers worked in a similar way to Morgoth (the more evil he put forth, the less power was left to he himself).
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Old 11-10-2013, 08:58 AM   #29
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Thanks for replies, they are very convincing. I, however, still think there was no point for Vallar to restrict Istari's inherent powers "physically" - they were naturally limited by their human bodies and the necessity to relearn skills and attitudes in the new environment. Gandalf's battle with the Balrog and Saruman's domination over Isengard and his army are something an "unrestricted" Maya can achieve.

I also would agree now that knowing or not knowing, Sauron could hardly have other way to act - his misunderstanding of Istari's task pre-determined this. May be the fall of Saruman even contributed into Sauron's wrong take on the matter.
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Old 11-10-2013, 05:31 PM   #30
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Gandalf's battle with the Balrog and Saruman's domination over Isengard and his army are something an "unrestricted" Maya can achieve.
Actually, I think that but for the real incarnations of those two Istari, their efforts in those events could have led to greater success.

The Balrog was not in any way limited in the display of its power, but it's a recurring idea that expenditure of the spirit for evil purposes was a drain on the Valar and Maia. A "chained" Gandalf was still able to beat it, though of course at the cost of his own physical body.

Saruman was inferior to Sauron in power and will, even after the latter's eons-long wasting of his power for evil. Saruman had the limitations, and maybe he would not have fallen under Sauron's sway so easily otherwise, and perhaps could have made his own Ring of Power. Then though, he would have been much more of a threat to the West, as well as to Sauron.
Just speculation, sure, but the "imprisonment" of their spirits in actual mortal bodies was obviously a carefully considered condition when the Valar conceived of the Istari and their mission.
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Old 12-10-2014, 06:37 PM   #31
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Sauron and the Maiar that later became the Istari spent eons together before the creation of time and space and they sang together during the music of the Ainur. After the Music they labored side by side for ages during the shaping of Arda and then lived together in Almaren and even in Valinor (although Sauron sympathized and spied for him he openly joined Melkor relatively late (some time after the overthrow of the two lamps)). So it's safe to say that they "knew" each other, but that doesn't necessarily has to mean that Sauron would recognize them in Middle-Earth.
I don't know if he ever discovered their true identities but I am fairly certain that he came to the only logical conclusion: that they must be Maiar sent from Valinor. He also had direct contact with Saruman through the Palantir and it's possible that he recognized him (they served together under Aule).
But even if Sauron didn't immediately recognize Saruman, he dominated him relatively quickly and so either read his mind or forced him to tell him everything about the Istari and their quest. Would he be worried? I guess he would be, not so much because of the Istari themselves (for all intents and purposes they are just supercharged humans, Sauron was far more powerful than any of them and also not limited by his form, whereas the naturally weaker Istari where further weakened by their human Incarnation) but the simple fact that the Valar cared enough to have sent them must have worried him because it demonstrated that the Valar hadn't forgotten or given up on Middle-earth!
See also this thread: http://forum.barrowdowns.com/showthr...?t=2412&page=2

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