Gandalf's Staff: what happened?

Richelle Okada

New Member
I have been listening since 2007 but this is my first question ever posted online. Since the Council of Elrond is coming up and this is the fullest explanation we get of Gandalf's imprisonment by Saruman, this may be the best time to ask. How, exactly, was Gandalf taken prisoner in Isengard? Do you think it was really as shown in the movie as an old-man stick fight? Even so, Gandalf keeps his staff even after he is sucked up as in a pneumatic tube to the roof. In the text he just says, "they took me and they set me on the roof". I wonder how they did if he still had his staff. It seems that staffs are really important to wizards. Note the impressive moment when Gandalf states that Saruman's staff "is broken" when he confronts him in his defeat in Isengard and the unheaded cries of Grima Wormtongue to take away Gandalf's staff when he is overpowered by Gandalf in Theoden's Hall and how Gandalf uses his staff to light fires to say the least. Considering all this, I have been wondering whether Saruman would have really let Gandalf keep his staff. Yet he clearly has the staff to make the lightning to fight the Black Riders on Weather Top. I would like an in-world explanation. All I can think of is that he kept it, recovered it or got a new one after being rescued by Gwaihir the Windlord. What do you think?
Given they've already overpowered him, and Gandalf's proclivities toward smokes and fires for his magic, I can imagine Saruman thought there was no harm in letting him keep his staff and not enough to be gained from taking it from him. The top of Orthanc probably gets cold at night; maybe he was allowed to keep it to start campfires. Samuran may have thought that Gandalf could be swayed in time if he was treated with some courtesy.

Another thought: We know that Saruman had many servants, of both Orc and Man kind; maybe one of them brought Gandalf his staff after his imprisonment but before his escape.

There's also the question of Glamdring: We know Gandalf finds it in The Hobbit, and has it in Moria and at Meduseld. It seems unlikely that Saruman would allow him to keep Glamdring when imprisoned, and it seems unlikely that Gandalf would wear a sword in the Shire, so it may be that Glamdring was in safe keeping somewhere during the Orthanc 'visit'.

Jim Deutch

Active Member
The capture of Gandalf is pretty fully shown in the book: the wizards talk, and Gandalf refuses the bait and is imprisoned. In the stronghold of Saruman he knows there is nothing he can do to escape, so he doesn't try. I expect they simply lead him up the stairs to the roof. No fight. No tube. No gloating and no moaning.

I think many people put way too much emphasis on the Wizard's staff. It seems to me more like a symbol of his power than a tool that he needs in order to exert that power. That's why the breaking of Saruman's staff was so significant: rather than merely depriving him of a tool to focus his power, it symbolized the complete breaking of that power.

And if you want to talk about "where was it during/after...?" questions, the biggest one may be Gandalf's staff and sword after the Balrog fight. He didn't even have clothes when Gwaihir took him up and brought him to Lothlorien!