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I was having a chat with a friend about who is the stronger wizard Saruman or Gandalf. I said it was Saruman cause he was sent as the leader of the 5 wizards while my friend said that it was Gandalf cause he had a ring of power and was a maiar of Manwe? So if someone would kindly enlighten me. I personally think that if Saruman had not turned to evil ways he would have been stronger than Gandalf.

Well technically his argument is irrelevant (no offense) because Saruman was a maiar as well. However the question is kind of unfair since Saruman was originally sent as the leader of the Istari, so theoretically he would be more "powerful." Saruman the White would defeat Gandalf the Grey, as he did in Orthanc. However Gandalf the White would probably defeat Saruman the White because he was sent back to replace Saruman who had become corrupt, so I'm sure the Valar who created the Istari would want to make sure he was capable of doing so.

@ Eru illivatar,

you answered your own question.

It is Gandalf because he was strong enough to NOT to turn evil as did Saruman

Gandalf was sent as the white wizard cause Saruman wasn't the white wizard he was supposed to be. So Saruman the white vs. Gandalf the white would've been impossible. Cause there would've been only one white wizard at time.

Saruman was White, but after that time of corruption, he was 'Of Many Colours', probably because of greed and want of power, including his lust for knowledge, hence his title of 'Many', to prove him powerful from all.  His corruption was from Sauron, but what Gandalf did have was Narya, which was given him by Círdan for help in contesting the will of Sauron.

When Gandalf returned, it seemed like the proper order of the Istar and The White Council, as I seem to remember that a Vala, suggested that he become the Leader of the Istar for his wisdom and knowledge, but Saruman was given the title and power when they entered Middle Earth in the Third Age era.  Galadriel wanted Gandalf to become the Leader of the White Council but Saruman was given again the title of Leader.  I would think that two White Wizards could co-exist if a joint Leadership was established, as there were two Blue Wizards.  Gandalf as the traveller and Saruman as the lore master gaining experience as Leaders separately.

With Gandalf in full knowledge and power, including him being White as he should have been, I would choose Gandalf being the victor over Saruman, if Saruman was White also, even without corruption.  I find that the Vala would have of course made the ones lower than the Leader less powerful to prevent mutiny within the Council for Leadership, which would make Gandalf as the Grey seem less powerful, but as for what Gandalf should have been, Gandalf would be very much more the victor.

@ Eru's second post,

I'm not sure if that was directed towards me or not. I know it would be impossible, but that's why I said the question was unfair. I do agree with Loss though that, assuming no corruption had happened and both were equally powerful, Gandalf the White would win, simply from a broader knowledge of the outside world. Saruman used the palantir to learn what was going on, while Gandalf actually travelled to-and-fro. He made connections and read the actual manuscripts of past events, whereas Saruman generally just picked up knowledge from others. (Still assuming theres no corruption) That's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just to me, it seems like that experience and first-hand knowledge of the world would give Gandalf an advantage.

Again though, it's a very tough question since Tolkien himself explicitly said he avoids the use of conventional "magic" and whenever the word "power" is mentioned in his books, it generally represents evil. So the two White wizards facing eachother are technically just as "powerful" as one another, the advantage would go to whichever better understands the laws of Middle-earth.

@Balrog R us- Well i kind of agree with you that Gandalf the white would've won over Saruman the white. But the point i make is that had Istari not been corrupted then Saruman would've been the white wizard and Gandalf would've remained grey thus Saruman would have been stronger than him(Not that they'll have a fight to prove my point).

@Loss- I don't think that two white wizards would co-exist cause the last thing the Valar would want is a fight between the leader of Istari. As far as the blue wizards are concerned they were most likely corrupted or on some secret mission by Orome. Also Alatar chose pallando as his companion so i think the blue wizards could co-exist whereas Saruman was already proud and wanted to go alone to middle earth. It was only when Yavanna pleaded that he decided to take Radagast with him. So i think there would've been no chance that Saruman would've willingly shared power with Gandalf. 

Well then your question was already answered in The Fellowship of the Ring when Saruman defeats and imprisons Gandalf in Orthanc. The "Istari" were not corrupted, only Saruman. However, what I was referring to with the whole "connections thing" is that even though he was imprisoned, Gandalf was able to use his frienship with the eagles to escape. So it's a classic "hero imprisoned by evil villain" scenario where the villain was strong enough to capture the hero, yet the hero still manages to escape...who is greater is really at your own discretion.

Again, not trying to come off as a dick or anything, but you're kind of contradicting yourself here my friend. The question now is if Gandalf HADN'T died in Moria, would he still become more powerful? Or did he still die in Moria and come back as Gandalf the Grey again? So the whole thing is really kind of misleading. There is no definitive answer since there isn't much about the Istari at all. Basic facts are Saruman was the leader because he was the most "wise," then became corrupt, then Gandalf died, and was brought back to replace him as the new white wizard, making him more "powerful" than he was before. And again, power is a really vague word in the world of Tolkien, as it has many possible connotations.

So I guess you should specify which "color" of wizard/timeframe you are comparing.

When the Istari were being chosen Curumo was picked first by Aule, and came to Middle Earth first as Saruman. Alatar was chosen as second by Orome. Manwe then asked Olorin (Gandalf) to join them. Olorin, however, stated he was too weak for the task and that he feared Sauron. Manwe told him that was even more reason why he should go, and commanded him to do so as the third. At that point Varda looked up and stated, "not as the third", which Curumo always remembered.

To me, this text indicates that Curumo and Alatar were both maybe more powerful than Olorin, but that Manwe recognised something within Olorin's spirit that would help him prevail through the long tasks ahead. None of the Istari could hope to defeat Sauron in a one to one fight. Indeed, that was not their purpose. They were being sent to assist and guide the free peoples of Middle Earth, not to fight themselves directly. That is why they were given the guises of old men, so they could better understand the limitations of mortals and in turn be trusted by them.

In terms of "power", Saruman the White demonstrated that he could defeat Gandalf the Grey, as he did at Orthanc. However, what did that strength enable Saruman to achieve? It gave him an arrogance that he could defeat Sauron alone, and through the battle of wills with Sauron through the Palantir he was defeated and became corrupted. Gandalf, however, fearing Sauron from the beginning and doubting his own strengths knew he could not defeat Sauron alone and never attempted to try (although mysteriously when he is talking to Aragorn as Gandalf the White, he does say something like he was not sure whether he could yet match the power of Sauron. That single statement always made me feel that Gandalf the White was almost on par with Sauron).

It does not surprise me that Saruman failed. No disrespect to Aule, his master, but both of his servants (Sauron and Saruman) became corrupted by material items. Sauron put most of his strength into the Ring of Power, while Saruman spent a great deal of time researching the same lore, either to find the One Ring or to make his own. This short sightedness was also apparent in Aule, who impatiently created the Dwarves rather than waiting for Eru's children to be born. Olorin, however, was chosen by Manwe for different qualities, and these were also recognised by Varda who saw his wisdom.

Gandalf the White demonstrated that he could defeat Saruman the many coloured. By then Saruman was corrupted and probably mentally weakened by Sauron's lies. In my opinion, however, even had Saruman not been corrupted, Gandalf the White would still have been able to defeat him (not that he would have needed to under those circumstances). The reason I say this, is that in my opinion Gandalf the White was not sent back to Middle Earth as an Istari (with their weakenesses of the flesh). I believe he was sent back as Olorin the Maiar, in order to complete the task he had tirelessly strived to achieve for all those years. As such Gandalf the White would have been far more powerful than any of the Istari had ever been, because he did not have the same limitations placed upon his powers that the Istari had been encumbered with.

^^I pretty much agree 300% with everything you said except that he wasn't sent as an Istari. I see your logic, and though I find it intriguing, I always felt like the Istari represented another classic storyline of the group of heroes, in which the leader becomes corrupted. Also I wouldn't necessarily say Saruman and Alatar were "chosen" first, as they were simply the first two to volunteer, and then Olorin WAS sought by Manwe. From what I gather, you imply more that at least some of the Valar were expecting Saruman to be corrupted eventually and thus singled out Gandalf as a "when the time comes," whereas I feel like the Valar made yet ANOTHER mistake in judgement (as I'm sure you know it's far from the first) and genuinely wanted to help the free peoples by sending aid...unfortunately the aid became very powerful/greedy/short sighted/corrupted by the palantir and switched sides. To compensate, they "promoted" Olorin to the top and this gave him the strength needed to fight. Is it so far fetched that the Valar intended Gandalf to fight/kill/die from the balrog in order to bring him back? I don't see why not...

I'm not ENTIRELY discounting your theory, as it does fit and sounds more than reasonable, I just feel like the Valar are definitely not perfect but have the best intentions and thought this was the right thing to do. It's also interesting what you said about Aule being short-sighted, which I definitely agree with, which sort of reinforces my point in that he simply didn't expect it to happen, which played a role in the collective consensus of sending of the Istari; granted, they were fully aware of the possibility it could happen to any of the Istari, but they didn't think it would. It is possible that the Valar didn't fully know what would happen when sending over the Istari also, as they were warned it would diminish every talent they had by entering the mortal world. And it turned out something went wrong and it was dealt with accordingly.

Otherwise everything you said sounds about right and I would absolutely love to see this duel take place. So epic.

At your earlier post Eru.  The last thing the Valar would indeed want is a fight between the Leaders of the Istarí.  But it happened anyway.  True he was proud but, I was merely suggesting a situation where it could have happened.  Gandalf, in my own oppinion would be the more suitable a choice for the Leader as the signs were already present with Saruman wanting to go ahead alone to guide Middle-Earth, wanting power to himself, whereas Gandalf is open to other council and more wise to me for the Leadership.

I realize this may sound silly, but 'listening' to all of your very intriguing explanations, I seem to get the feeling that , in the end, it was the one, from whatever lineage or elder status or whatever, it was the one that 'obeyed', in other wards was careful to fulfill the exact reason he or she was 'created' that ultimately brought victory. It was like an unspoken law between the created and Illuvatar, that as long as they used all that was given them to blend into the music and make it as unique as they wanted as long as it was within the lines allowed, well then no matter how hard the quest it would ultimately work out for the common good. But whenever one of them would strike out on his or her own in a prideful or lustful manner, darkness would in the end cloud the judgement and failure would be the very end result.

It is just a feeling I began to have after a while. And, having read the 'Letters' and JRR's advice he gave his children, well the boys-I could find nothing about Priscilla, I noticed that he often referred to solving their griefs and confusions in life with a simple 'obedience' to God. He firmly believed himself, that if all the world was falling apart including his private life_loss of friends, family, health, if he would just draw close to God and do what was expected of him, things would ultimately be alright.

well something like that.

^^Another way you could look at it across the same lines is that maybe it's not so much if they set out to do the task that was meant for them, but the ability to resist the corruption of power. Which is basically the what you said, it's just that it seems like it wasn't so much Saruman's fault for straying as how he was taken over by an inherent and extremely difficult to resist trait.

Taken over by a trait he could not resist?  I think Tolkien would have said that it was more like a bad habit that he had failed to break of his own accord when it would have been easier in the early stages.  Once a bad habit takes hold, it is harder than (insert nether region) to break.  This, I think, would be doubly true for the Istari.

Gandalf

I don't know if succumbing to the temptations of power can be considered a bad habit though...especially since once he turned to evil he stayed evil, seems like more of a transformation than a habit.

Transformation into someone whose habits are evil--yes.  Transformation into some other kind of being--no.  He was still Istari, still the wizard he was when he came to ME.  But to get from point A to point B, he had to practice evil.  This is what Saruman did.  He studied too well the arts of the Enemy and became enamored of them.  He desired to have power to control others, which is a warping of the mission on which he had been sent.  He wanted the Ring and set up his own fortress in rivalry of Sauron's.  And in the end, when the Ring was destroyed, he was offered the final grace to turn back and he refused it.  Hence his soul was dispatched away from Valinor by the "wind."  This was only just since Saruman had chosen to be identified with evil, he had to abide by the consequences of that choice.

Gandalf

Right......someone who transformed into someone who practices evil habits and paid for it in the end. But not someone who simply picked up a bad habit and became an evil wizard. I never said he transformed into another being, transform was just the word I used...maybe transitioned would have been better.

All I was saying is that the characteristic that makes Gandalf stronger is how he was able to resist the temptation of power, a trait, whereas Saruman was not and it led to his demise. Simple as that.

That was wonderfully spoken Gandalf. A lot to think on.

Gulp...

Here I go.  So far I haven't really taken a stand on anything in my posts to date, but I'm about to jump in the pool head first.  (Not that it really matters or that this disclaimer was necessary or desirable.)    ; )

I am well aware that the early drafts in the History of LotR books are just that: early drafts.  They are not cannon.  For instance Frodo is not named Bingo.  "Trotter" is not a hobbit.  And it is dangerous for outsiders to guess what parts of the early draft remained (if left untold) in the "History" of ME.  Nevertheless (don't you just love that), in the fifth version of The Council of Elrond, Galndalf says, "...for Saruman the White is, as some of you know, the greatest of my craft..." (The Treason of Isengard, pg. 149).  Obviously, within this quote lies proof that the story was still undergoing development: Saruman the White, when at this point in LotR, Gandalf perhaps would have called him "of many colors," (or perhaps not, that's neither here nor there.) 

The point is, albeit Apocrypha, here is Gandalf himself explicitly stating that Saruman is the greatest wizard.  I'm almost positive that it is not phrased this way in the final text of FotR (I tried my best to find it, couldn't).  I'm pretty sure that not even in the Istari chapter of Unfinished Tales does it say that Saruman is the greatest in the craft. 

I'm not terribly familiar with The Silm and other works at the moment, but I do believe that even if Saruman came from a more powerful Valar than Gandalf or visa versa, that doesn't make the difference per se.  What matters is their length of time on ME and the amount of time spent perfecting magical arts.  The amount of time and energy (good or bad) focusing on developing their power in this mortal coil. 

It boils down to semantics for me.  If by "who's the better wizard" we mean the more typical, special effects type stuff, no question its Saruman.  If "better" is defined in a more Tolkien-esque fashion, with WISDOM as perhaps the primary consideration, then its Gandalf.

Saruman, IMO, was better at "being a wizard" (by most lay-people's understanding) than Gandalf.  BUT, Gandalf was far wiser. 

Saruman does the more "typically cool" and flashy wizard stuff.  And don't get me wrong, its sweet.  He has a b*tchin' lair that's a huge Numenorean black spire-tower, he uses the Palantiri, he puts a fell voice on the air and causes a snow storm, he manipulates with his voice, etc.  (And I know I'm leaving stuff out, I'm doing so to illustrate this point...) Meanwhile Gandalf breaks a bridge, makes his staff glow.  The first time I read it, I was like whoever it was in The Ring Goes South  that says "Hey, ummm Gandalf, how's about busting out with a wall of fire and getting us through this snow all ready?"  He makes cool fireworks.  Great.  You're a wizard, how about just making something like that happen, why the need for gunpowder?

But it doesn't work that way.  Look what happened to Saruman.  When you try manipulating natural forces too much you fall off the path.  You get corrupted or lose your mission like Radagast and Blue Istari.  By focusing on Lore and knowledge, and smoking the good pipe weed, and NOT trying to shoot fireballs and lighting bolts, Gandalf could accomplish his mission, the only one to do so.  Thus by that definition of "better or greater" Gandalf wins.

S = More Bad*ss and "magical"       G = More Wise and Balanced

So the answer is both, and neither.

Dang.  I  guess I didn't end up taking a stand after all.   ; ) 

Wow, that's seriously well thought out!

I've never really considered it too much, "strongest wizard" isn't a terrible exact definition, is it strength in diversity of talent, strength in one particular area? On one particlar day or paragraph? Gandalf made it through, and the winners write the history books. So in my mind it's results that count, his strength may have been different, but in the end he came out on top.  Gandalf was stronger.

I don't get it, all it takes to become more powerful is to dress in a different color?

Lol.

If only it were that simple.

Valedhelgwath the White.... just doesn't feel quite right. Shows up too many gravy stains.

I think also that Tolkien uses knowledge as a power in all of his stories. Gandalf spent many years living amongst the Children of Eru and truly knew them. Saruman, although at first true, became enamoured with power and scared of defeat, locked himself away in Orthanc to stew on his greed.

Gandalf was able to coordinate his alliance of good through the knowledge he had regarding both sides. If it wasn't for this knowledge failure would have been unavoidable.

 

 Saruman was jealous and intimidated by Gandalf because he had “great power” that he chose not to use. I think Gandalf was always as powerful as Saruman and much more loved and this ticked Saruman off. 

 

Saruman but when he joined Sauron Gandalf became the most powerfull of the Istari 

 

Did Cirdan give Gandalf the Red Ring because he perceived he was the greatest of the Istari even more so than Saruman?  

No, it was because Gandalf was the wisest.

Ainulindale you could be correct re Cirdan.  However as one of the Wise, Im sure that between Galadriel, Cirdan, Celeborn and Elrond they would have guessed anyway.

I believe that Cirdan being one of the wisest Elves left in ME realised that Gandalf perhaps needed the power of his ring.  It was a very close call in the end and perhaps if not for the Ring Of Fire, the side of the light may have faltered and Sauron would have won.

As usual with Tolkien its all down to fate and doom.

I actually always assumed Gandalf got the ring because Cirdan felt he would be one of the best candidates to resist using it for his own intents, same with Galadriel and Elrond...they seem the top 3 candidates in my opinion. Just how Gandalf resisted the ring when Frodo offered it to him....a lot of people probably couldn't have done that.

 

Good point Belrogs, I find myself wondering if Gandalf was wearing the Red Ring the whole time, it is stated that he kept it hidden.  Also if Sauron could see who was wearing the rings how could Galadriel & Gandalf use their rings after Sauron regained his power?    

I think Sauron could only see them when he put the one ring on.

Just how Gandalf resisted the ring when Frodo offered it to him....a lot of people probably couldn't have done that.

Faramir could've ,,,,, well at least the one in the book.

Well in the Order of Istari ,Saruman was stronger than every other wizard.Out of the order,gandalf With the ring of Fire was more powerful,in valinor perhaps? Gandalf became white,which kicked Saruman out of the order for good. So Gandalf was more humble but he had more hidden wisdom.Saruman was haughty

I think for wizards the only thing really matters is how wisdom they have, and of course Gandolf is wiser because he can still use his intelligence and resist the corruption of evil.

Gandalf was given the Ring of Fire on his arrival. Sauron could not see who was wearing the Rings unless he himself bore the One, but he did guess at it in the 2nd Age, that they would be held by Gil-Galad and Galadriel after he could not get a confession out of Celebrimbor of who had them. I think he'd still probably thought Galadriel at least was one of the guardians.

Most likely, some time in the third age, Sauron would've known/assumed that Elrond, Galadiel and Cirdan had the rings. After all, they were basically the most powerful of the elves and their realms were the most powerful of the elves.