28 June 2013

THE ISTARI

by Britta Siemen

EMISSARIES OF THE WEST

When Greenwood the Great fell under shadow at the beginning of the Third Age, the Valar sensed that Sauron had returned and was beginning to grow in power. However, they had long decided not to directly interfere in the lives of the denizens of Middle-earth, having been met with war and bloodshed when they had tried to lead the Eldar into the West during the Years of the Trees. Instead they sent messengers to Middle-earth to inspire Men and Elves to noble deeds, thus indirectly helping to ensure that they fulfilled their destinies. 

With the consent of Eru, the Valar sent several Maiar – members of their own order “but of less degree” – known as the Istari (21). (Though they are more commonly referred to as “wizards,” Tolkien is careful to point out that his wizards are not the magicians we usually associate with the term; instead they are wise men or messengers.)

The Istari appeared in the forms of Men, “old but vigorous” (360), and although they were Maiar, in their human bodies they were “subject to the fears and pains and weariness of earth, able to hunger and thirst and be slain; though because of their noble spirits they did not die, and aged only by the cares and labours of many long years” (406). Likewise, their human bodies did not protect them from the temptations and corruptions which plagued the other denizens of Middle-earth: they “might even as Men and Elves fall away from their purposes, and do evil, forgetting the good in the search for the power to effect it” (407).

The exact number of the Order of the Istari was unknown, “but of those that came to the North of Middle-earth” during the Third Age “the chiefs were five” (406), and they were: Curúnir (Saruman the White), the two Blue Wizards, Aiwendil (Radagast the Brown), and Olórin (Gandalf the Grey).


WHO WERE THE ISTARI?

Curúnir (Q. ‘skillful one’; also called Curumo) was the first and eldest, and as such was named Chief of the Order (denoted by his white robes). “Great skill he had in works of hand” (406), having been the servant and helper of Aulë; in Middle-earth he was called Saruman (Rohirric, ‘man of skill’). He travelled East for a millennia and a half before returning to the West and settling in Orthanc. He became knowledgeable in the lore of the Rings of Power, and sought the One Ring for himself, so that he might bend all of Middle-earth to his will. His pride, arrogance, and jealousy made him easily malleable by Sauron, and the White Wizard was ultimately corrupted and failed in his task.

Following Saruman were the two Blue Wizards, whose names are not given, aside from Ithryn Luin (‘Blue Wizards’); occasionally the names Alatar and Pallando, or Morinehtar and Rómestámo, are attributed to them.  Neither are their fates in Middle-earth known. In Unfinished Tales, Tolkien wrote that these two journeyed East with Saruman but did not return; “whether they remained in the East, pursuing there the purposes for which they were sent; or perished; or as some hold were ensnared by Sauron and became his evil servants, is not known” (407). In a letter dated 1958, Tolkien reiterated this belief, adding of their fall: “I suspect they were founders or beginners of secret cults and ‘magic’ traditions that outlasted the fall of Sauron” (418). 

The fourth to arrive in Middle-earth, Radagast the Brown had been a servant of Yavanna, and was fond of all things Kelvar (fauna) and Olvar (flora), though his name Aiwendil suggests he was perhaps most fond of birds. In Unfinished Tales, it is noted that Yavanna forced Saruman to take Radagast with him, which was perhaps the reason the White Wizard was so scornful of him – openly referring to him as “simple” and “a fool.” Like the Blue Wizards, Radagast, too fell away from his purpose, becoming “enamoured of the many beasts and birds that dwelt in Middle-earth, and forsook Elves and Men, and spent his days among the wild creatures” (407).

Indeed, “one only remained faithful, and he was the last-comer” (407), Tolkien wrote of Gandalf (known in Valinor as Olórin). Associated with Nienna, who taught him pity, Gandalf was fond of the Gardens of Lórien (Irmo), and in this way learned much about the dreams of Men and Elves. He also had a fondness for the Hobbits of the Shire, but unlike Radagast and Saruman, he did not stray from his mission.


THE WHITE COUNCIL

It was Gandalf who sensed that the growing darkness in Mirkwood was more sinister than Ringwraiths; and in the year 2463 of the Third Age, the White Council was formed, consisting of Galadriel, Elrond, Círdan, Gandalf, and Saruman. Galadriel had hoped that Gandalf would serve as their leader (an offer which angered Saruman), “but Mithrandir refused the office, since he would have no ties and no allegiance, save to those who sent him” (361). And so Saruman was named as their leader.

When Gandalf visited Dol Guldur and learned that the Necromancer was, in fact, Sauron, he urged the Council to make a swift attack; but Saruman, hoping the One Ring would reveal itself as the Dark Lord rose back to power, counselled them to wait. But the more they waited, the more Saruman fell to temptation and plotted not only against his Order, but against the Enemy as well, seeking the One Ring for his own purpose. In the last meeting of the White Council (TA 2953), he asserted that the One Ring had been lost forever in the Belegaer. Soon after he took control of Isengard, which he fortified, and began to aid the enemies of his neighbours in Rohan.


THE FATE OF THE TWO WHITE WIZARDS

By now, Saruman had grown to fear and hate Gandalf, whom he suspected knew all about his traitorous plans. Making note of everything the Grey wizard said to him, he became aware of the Shire – a place which Gandalf frequently visited. The ever-suspicious White wizard assumed Gandalf was there for other purposes (when in fact, Gandalf as yet knew nothing of the location of the One Ring), and so sent spies to learn all they could about the Shire and its inhabitants. When Gandalf did learn that the One had been found, Saruman was the next to know (and given that ring-lore was his speciality, he begrudged Gandalf even more for knowing something he did not).  

So he deceived Radagast, and sent him as his messenger to lure Gandalf to Isengard in TA 3018 with the promise of counsel; “he sought me in good faith, and so persuaded me,” Gandalf later recounted to Frodo upon their meeting in Rivendell (313). But it was this good faith that also turned Radagast into an unwitting rescuer of Gandalf, who was imprisoned atop the pinnacle of Orthanc after refusing to join forces with Saruman and the Enemy. Having called upon his friends, the Eagles of the Mountains, to send word of the Enemy’s movements, Gwaihir the Windlord found Gandalf and carried him away from Saruman, whose treachery was now fully known. 

While Saruman busied himself with the fortification of Isengard and the breeding of an army to rival that of Sauron, Gandalf never strayed from his mission – even at great personal sacrifice. As the Company of the Ring made their way through the Mines of Moria, they were faced with a most fearsome enemy: a Balrog of Morgoth.

Although he was Maia in origin, in his Middle-earth body, a sacrifice was a sacrifice:

“[I]n his condition it was for him a sacrifice to perish on the Bridge in defence of his companions, less perhaps than a mortal Man or Hobbit, since he had a far greater inner power than they; but also more, since it was a humbling and abnegation of himself in conformity to 'the Rules' […] He was handing over to the Authority that ordained the Rules, and giving up personal hope of success” (Letters, #156).

Because of this sacrifice, he was sent back to fulfil his mission. Tolkien goes on to remind us that the Valar did not have the authority to send him back (thereby directly intervening): “He was sent by a mere prudent plan of the angelic Valar or governors; but Authority had taken up this plan and enlarged it, at the moment of its failure” (Letters, #156), which indicates that Gandalf was sent back by Eru Ilúvatar himself.

"Naked I was sent back – for a brief time, until my task is done. And naked I lay upon the mountain-top. … There I lay staring upward, while the stars wheeled over, and each day was as long as a life-age of the earth." (125)

He was taken to Lothlórien, where he was healed by Galadriel and clothed in white; and he was now called “Gandalf the White,” for he was the wizard Saruman should have been.  It was in this new body that Gandalf was able to fully carry out his task, and ultimately influence all races – Men, Hobbits, Elves, and Dwarves – to play an important role in the Downfall of Sauron. Upon completion of his mission, he was granted access back to Valinor.

While Gandalf was rewarded for his faithfulness, Saruman met an ignominious fate. His plans at Isengard had been foiled by the neighbouring Ents, which had caused him to flee to the one place he still had power to control: the Shire. And yet, to his surprise, the Hobbits revolted and cast him out, and his cruel ways finally caught up with him. He was slain at the hand of his own miserable servant, Gríma Wormtongue, “and his spirit went whithersoever it was doomed to go, and to Middle-earth, whether naked or embodied, came never back” (408). 



REFERENCES

The Fellowship of the Ring, “The Council of Elrond”
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, (#156)
The Silmarillion, p. 21, 360
The Two Towers, “The White Rider”
Unfinished Tales, “The Hunt for the Ring,” p. 365
Unfinished Tales, “The Istari,” p. 406-408, 415, 418

24 June 2013

Tolkien Inspiration ‘The Green Knight’ Comes to Graphic Novel

Source: Official Green Knight Facebook
Eco Comics has announced that the Green Knight is joining its range of comic books and graphic novels, which include such characters as Dracula, Robin Hood, and Mr. T. The Green Knight first made his debut in a different series from the publisher, which featured legendary character the Green Man.   

In a press release earlier this month, writer Chris Bunting explained that: "The Green Knight is pure comic book fare. He is a powerful giant green knight, and seems barking mad. He makes the ideal foil for the Green Man.

"Does any association remain with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table? You will have to keep reading to find out.

"Expect a visually stunning Green Knight, yet one that is respectful to how he was originally intended. A character that clearly inspired J. R. R. Tolkien deserves nothing less."

Professor J.R.R. Tolkien was highly influenced by the 14th century Arthurian tale Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, of which he later translated an edition before writing The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

For exclusive preview art, visit the publisher’s blog and Facebook page 

You can check out The Green Man comic book (featuring the Green Knight) at www.mohawkmedia.co.uk/ecocomics

17 June 2013

My Arwen Dresses


My awesome and talented mother made these two Arwen dresses in 2004 and 2005/2006, respectively. 

Initially I had commissioned her to make the former, Arwen's Blood Red Dress, for a Halloween party; as luck would have it, I ended up with the flu and couldn't attend the party. Fortunately, I had plenty of other opportunities to wear this dress (including around town with my fellow Elves, a Connecticut Wal*Mart after the Renaissance Fair was cancelled, and to the East Coast LOTR convention, ELF 2006). 

Blurry full-length shot (taken with my old webcam)
I loved that dress so much, but wanted a second one for future conventions. My mother then kindly agreed to make me the Coronation Gown, which I was very excited about. Unfortunately, the material used was different from the first dress; it is much harder to photograph properly, and is a much tighter fit around the abdomen, but looser around the bust. I do wear this one around the house, but have not yet had the opportunity to take it to any conventions. 

Next on the list (at some point in the nearish future) is one of Éowyn's gowns. As much as I have enjoyed being an Elf, I feel more connected to the Rohirrim... Not to mention it doesn't hurt to have options! 

11 June 2013

Teaser Trailer for "The Desolation of Smaug"

At long last, here is the first trailer for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," due in theatres this December!


What do you think? Leave a comment below or Tweet me @TolkienBritta!

10 June 2013

First Look at "Desolation of Smaug" Poster; Trailer Coming Soon!

Behold the first movie poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," which was posted on the "Hobbit" films' official Twitter account yesterday!


And for those who have been waiting for what seemed like an eternity for the first trailer, good new! The wait is nearly over! The trailer will be unveiled tomorrow at 10 am PST (1 pm EST).

What are you hoping to see in this trailer? Or what are some of your predictions? Share your thoughts in the comments below or Tweet me @TolkienBritta!

03 June 2013

Beornara's New Home

I can now say that I've owned every kind of house in LOTRO (the only exception being a Kin House). I have a tendency to grow restless in one place, as my eight homes in two years track record will show. For nearly a year, however, I remained content in my deluxe home in Bree-land.

Au revoir, Bree-land!
But out of nowhere, the desire to move hit me. The only place I had left to try was a deluxe home in Falathlorn. I wasn't too keen at first, as my very first personal home had been a cramped Falathlorn standard which I had been all too eager to escape from.

After visiting several available homes, I found the perfect one waiting for me atop a small hill. Moving out of one place and into another took nearly two hours, given that half of my decorations are bound to different characters.

But at long last, Beornara settled quite nicely into her new home. All that's left is to buy another set of floral wallpaper so all of the rooms match.

I love the "stacking" of wall decorations

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