The Lord of the Rings – Book 3, Chapter 10: “The Voice of Saruman”

In the wake of copying over all of the previous chapter blogs from Booklikes to the new site, I prepared myself anew for deep diving into Tolkien’s world.  Thing is… there’s not a whole lot to say about this chapter.

Théoden, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Éomer accompany Gandalf, with Merry and Pippin in tow, to get an in-person look at Saruman.  Gandalf warns everyone about the power of his voice, and when Saruman does appear at the rail, his voice sounds like that of a sweet old man who is somehow questioning the wrongs done to his name. Gandalf lets Saruman have his say with each of those spoken to in order to demonstrate to Saruman that his power has lost its mark.  As he puts it, one cannot be both tyrant and councilor.  Théoden rejects overtures of friendship outright, and all others follow suit, much to the surprise of Théoden’s men.

Angered by rejections, Saruman’s voice changes, breaking the spell over the men.  Gandalf gives Saruman the opportunity to end his evil ways, but Saruman twists the overture and tries to persuade Gandalf to join him.  Gandalf asks once more for Saruman to come out of Orthanc, and when Saruman turns his back, Gandalf’s power is demonstrated.  He raises his hand, and Saruman finds himself compelled back to the rail long enough for his staff to break.  In desperation, Wormtongue hurls something out the window at Gandalf and misses.  Pippin retrieves it, but Gandalf orders the hobbit to bring it to him, recognizing it for what it is: a palantír, a seeing stone.  Saruman may be lost, but a palantír is a great and powerful treasure that can be used in the days ahead by one who knows how.

Before the company moves on, Gandalf asks Treebeard to flood Orthanc, preventing Saruman’s escape, to which the Ent agrees.  As a parting, Treebeard offers up a bit of rhyme of the Ent history, the place of hobbits firmly denoted for as long as their song is sung in Middle-Earth.

The thing that stands out for me in this chapter deals with the wizards and colors.  I find it akin to Star Wars and lightsaber colors, where the blade color is created by the connection between the crystal at the heart of the lightsaber and the heart of the one who forges the lightsaber.  It’s a spiritual indicator of the true heart and purpose.  Here, Saruman is demonstrated to be indeed “Saruman of Many Colors.”  His robes shimmer and oscillate so that none can tell what color it is.  Related to this point, Gandalf makes it known that when last he stood at Orthanc, he was Gandalf the Grey, and that he has passed through death and returned now as Gandalf the White.  When we were first given this distinction, the question was a little vague as to what that meant.  I don’t think it can be made any more plain than this.  Gandalf the White is the same as Gandalf the Grey, but not… and more so.  When you look at this through a Christian context that Tolkien would use, it’s similar to saying that Gandalf the Grey would be as the incarnate Jesus before the crucifixion, and Gandalf the White would be the risen Savior and all that implies.  He has ascended beyond the shackles of the world and brings with him a greater power of a more pure nature.  It’s not that Tolkien is offering a 1:1 correlation between Gandalf and Jesus by any stretch here.  The Professor has stated on multiple accounts that he abhors such direct analogy.  But there is a parallel one can draw nonetheless.  Gandalf the White is far more powerful and returns with greater purpose and assuredness as a higher incarnation of the powers of good.  Like Saruman, Gandalf’s is the power of the Word, and where Saruman’s power is corrupted, Gandalf has assumed Saruman’s previous position, and perhaps stands above it.  With a single comment, Saruman is stripped of his Many Colors and made colorless.  In demonstrating his superiority over Saruman, we see just how far Gandalf has advanced.  But is it enough to stand off against the forces of the Lord of the Rings?