Episode 164 Summary

Tony Meade

Active Member
SESSION 164

Alone on the pinnacle of Orthanc:
  • How was Gandalf unaware of the change in the valley when he first arrived? Partly because it was dark when he arrived, but also because Saruman is likely employing deception.
  • Note: In the film version, the timeline is compressed so that the change takes place after Gandalf’s arrival, and highlights the struggle between the orcs and the trees themselves.
  • While Saruman can have hidden the changes from sight, the smells and sounds of the forges and the activities of the orcs would not has easily been hidden, and so would require more effort.
  • Note: In early versions of the Silmarillion stories, armies of Orcs were called the Glamhoth, which translates to “noisy horde”, due to the racket and destruction that they emitted.
  • It’s likely that Saruman has prepared a plan for Gandalf’s arrival, including lookouts and an elaborate series of actions ordered to hide the presence of the orcs from Gandalf.
  • Saruman could have also maneuvered the landscaping, using hedges and other screens to hide his activities while maintaining the garden-like appearance for which Isengard was known.
  • This would also reflect Saruman’s desire for “Rule” and “Order” in the design of his screens.
  • The arrival of Gandalf is a very large gamble that Saruman making, considering that there is a possibility in his mind that Gandalf is bringing the One Ring with him to Isengard.
  • Since Isengard has always been a fortress, there would have been smithying facilities in it, and given who Saruman is, an increase in that activity might be expected.
  • The presence of guards would also not necessarily be suspicious, as Saruman isn’t living as a recluse, and they would serve a practical purpose necessary at any large establishment.
  • However, the presence of an army would be a new and alarming phenomenon, but once Gandalf is inside the walls of Isengard, there would no reason to hide his troops’ activities.
  • It’s possible that Saruman is using magical means, such as an enchantment or glamour, to conceal these activities from Gandalf, and it may be related to the use of his new ring.
  • Gandalf does feel inexplicitly afraid when he enters Isengard, though he gives the benefit of the doubt to Saruman, given his need and the possible help that Saruman could provide.
  • Saruman could have easily watched Gandalf’s journey in the palantir to know of his arrival, and he had given the deadline of midsummer to Radagast, which would allow him more precision.
  • Saruman could have also used Radagast as a test to see if his deceits would work on Gandalf.
Where Saruman was accustomed to watch the stars:
  • Why does Saruman watch the stars? Is his interest scientific, or more esoteric and spiritual?
  • This doesn’t seem to be referring to astrology, as when the old men of Gondor are cited as “asking questions of the stars”, it is done as an example of their decline and loss of wisdom.
  • Note: We are told that Varda does put signs of the future in the stars, but not in the sense where the Gondorians begin to forget about the Valar and fall back on superstition unrelated to them. There is also a sense of attempting to take power of the future by their own learning, alone and separate from the Valar in a cold and logical way.
  • Saruman may be looking at the stars to determine what signs are coming from the Valar regarding the situation in Middle-earth, and their view of him with regards to that.
  • Since he has set himself up in opposition to the West, he needs to know if they know that yet.
  • Saruman seems unlikely to engage in purely academic or theoretical research, as he is more inclined to practical use and application of knowledge, such as in engineering.
  • Aside from reading in the Gondorian archives, what are Saruman’s research methods?
  • In Middle-earth, stars are signs of the higher hope and larger plan of Ilúvatar through the Valar.
  • While Gandalf doesn’t explain it, he does highlight its importance by mentioning the stargazing.
In rivalry of Sauron, and not in his service, yet:
  • Note: In the film, Saruman is clearly doing all this in service to Sauron, while in the book, it’s clear that Gandalf perceives Saruman’s forces as in opposition to Sauron, at least for right now. Saruman has not become a follower of Sauron, but he has simply fallen in the same way.
  • The use of “yet” points to the complicated relationship between Saruman and Sauron, and what Saruman’s plans are based on how the war turns out, or if Sauron regains the One Ring.
  • There is plausible deniability to Sauron regarding his loyalty, and if Sauron wins, he can simply point to his attacks on the Free Peoples as proof of his service if he needs to temporize.
  • He has certainly not deceived Gandalf, who sees objectively the path that Saruman is walking.
  • It’s not anything about these particular orcs and wolves that lead Gandalf to believe that Saruman is opposing Sauron, but as a combination of his speeches and attitudes.
  • The use of the terms “rivalry” and “service” implies a kind of personal relationship with Sauron.
  • Saruman’s secondary plan is to act as treacherous adviser to Sauron, as he proposed to Gandalf.
(continued below)
 

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Tony Meade

Active Member
(continued)

Now filled with pits and forges:
  • Why are there pits? Do they serve a practical purpose like the forges? For housing or storage?
  • It’s possible that mining is going on in Isengard, but it would be more likely in the mountains.
  • The orcs may have delved into the ground for their homes, as they infest Isengard as a kind of insect-like plague. The orcs of Mordor are later described as “maggot-folk” in a similar way.
  • Gandalf’s emphasis is on the defacing of the land by the orcs, not their exact purpose.
  • There is always a sense of malicious and pointless destruction by orcs, and they may use these for refuse and waste without any thought of the impact on the land around them.
  • Building downwards rather than upwards would also allow the orcs to conceal their activities.
  • The dark smoke suggests coal fires, though we know that the orcs also cut down trees for fuel.
  • Much of the forest destruction was also wanton, but they would also need to make charcoal.
  • Note: The way that the smoke hangs and wraps itself around Orthanc recalls the industrial factories of Victorian London, which Tolkien remembered from his youth as a desolation.
  • The fact that the smoke conceals and envelops Isengard is an outward manifestation of Saruman’s attitudes at this time, as he hunkers down in the seat of his power.
  • Gandalf’s own magic involves fire and smoke, so it is not inherently evil unless used that way.
Alone on an island in the clouds:
  • While Gandalf emphasizes his isolation here, there is also a reversal of the images of Sauron’s use of cloud cover in Mordor. While Sauron uses it offensively, Saruman is defensive and hiding.
  • Saruman has blinded himself, aside from the palantir, cutting himself off from the stars and sky.
  • Gandalf alone, from above the turmoil and deception, can see the situation for what it really is.
  • The palantir has also been twisted by Sauron, so if Saruman thinks that he can see clearly through it without any other ways of seeing, he is deceiving himself that he is still the master.
  • While the palantir of Orthanc seems to default to viewing Sauron, it’s likely that it can still be used to view other things with Sauron’s permission, though he will manipulate what is seen.
  • Note: The writings that Tolkien made about the palantiri much later are not definitive, which is why they were included in Unfinished Tales, as he hadn’t settled on the authoritative versions.
  • The word “bitter” is used in both the physical sense of his exposure to cold and the elements, but also in the emotional sense of his betrayal and regret, though not all the way to despair.
  • Gandalf probably feels foolish for not seeing Saruman’s treachery sooner, and for making the mistake of coming all the way to Isengard rather than going to the Shire to warn Frodo first.
  • Note: While the scene in which Gandalf leaves Frodo and Sam on the road in the film is illogical in the story, it also highlights Gandalf’s actual mistake of consulting with Saruman rather than making protecting Frodo on his way to Rivendell the top priority over getting other help.
  • Would they have left Gandalf his staff? The actual purpose of the staffs of the Wizards isn’t entirely clear, whether they are a badge of office or a necessary magical device, or both.
  • Note: In Rohan, it seems to be lore that wizards’ staffs are actual magic wands, but they also have lore about the power within Lothlorien which is not entirely accurate. Gandalf breaks Saruman’s staff not just to hamper his magical ability, but more like stripping him of his titles and authority. This is like the defrocking of a priest or military officer, though there is more to it.
  • While he must have kept his staff, as it will appear later, it is notable that he doesn’t mention it.
  • If Gandalf still had Glamdring with him at the time, the sword is also not taken. Saruman must not feel threatened by having Gandalf armed, and may be showing him his true powerlessness.
  • This may be an outgrown of Saruman’s contempt for Gandalf, and his own self-confidence.
  • What of Gandalf’s ring? All the Elven Rings have the power to conceal themselves from others.
  • Note: At this point in the writing, that Gandalf had a Ring of Power hadn’t yet been invented.
  • While the fact that Saruman’s ring doesn’t allow him to see Gandalf’s ring doesn’t prove Saruman’s ring is inert, it may show that they aren’t in accord or that Saruman is overconfident.
  • Does Saruman intend to break Gandalf’s mind and will with this imprisonment? Saruman doesn’t want to have to fight Gandalf and is content to let him simply be imprisoned until later.
  • Saruman may think that he can eventually bring Gandalf around to his side, whether by threats, suffering, or if he eventually sees the wisdom of revealing the location of the Ring to him.
  • For all of Saruman’s words, he and Gandalf are peers, and it would be a hard fight to defeat him.
  • Note: We know that Lotho Sackville-Baggins has been in touch with Saruman’s agents, so Saruman has means with which to interact with the Shire and even to search for the Ring.
  • Part of the torture that Saruman has in store for Gandalf is to allow him to see but not be able to see what he needs to see, or able to act on what he believes might be happening.
  • He may also be trying to prove to Gandalf that power is necessary to do good, and he has none.
  • The threat of the approaching Riders may also be something that Saruman could use to force Gandalf to compromise, whether turning Gandalf over to them, or sending them to the Shire.
  • This would also allow Saruman to show good faith to the Riders, and by extension to Sauron.
  • If the Riders obtain the Ring, Saruman could use that as a bargaining chip to turn Gandalf into an ally in order to fight Sauron, though this shows his arrogance and narcissism.
END OF SESSION
 

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