Saruman the White was chief of the Istari and the first of the five Wizards to arrive in Middle-earth at around year 1000 of the Third Age. He traveled long in the east of Middle-earth, but in 2463 he was appointed head of the Council of the Wise (The White Council) at its founding. This happened despite the desires of both Elrond and Galadriel to have Gandalf hold that position.
In 2759 Saruman took up residence at the south end of the Misty Mountains in the circular walled fortress of Isengard and its tower of Orthanc. Here he continued his study of ring-lore, and the making of mechanical devices. He often visited the libraries of Minas Tirith and read there about the One Ring. Saruman claimed to the Council that the Ring had been lost forever, though he did not believe this and secretly sought to recover it for his own purposes.
In 2851 the Council discovered proof that the Necromancer of Dol Guldur in the south of Mirkwood was indeed Sauron returning. Gandalf then urged an attack on Sauron, but Saruman persuaded the Council not to act. Only in 2941 did he finally relent and the Council, with Saruman providing crucial help, assaulted Dol Guldur. Sauron was able to escape and return to Mordor.
Saruman began to plot to become a power himself, but was snared by Sauron while using the palantír seeing stone of Orthanc. He secretly began building an army of Dunlendings, Wolves and Orcs at Isengard and through his agent Gríma “Wormtongue” he gained influence over King Théoden of nearby Rohan and weakened his resolve to fight.
In July 3018, Saruman set a trap for Gandalf, using the Brown Wizard, Radagast, to lure him to Orthanc. When Gandalf came, Saruman revealed his rebellion sporting a newly made ring of his own, and vestments of many shifting colors. When Gandalf refused to join him, Saruman made him a prisoner atop the tower. In September Gandalf was able to escape by Eagle from the tower and return to the north.
Soon after, Saruman began to attack Rohan using Orcs and Hill-men wearing the symbol of the White Hand. The last of these attacks was an all out assault on Helm’s Deep, a citadel where the people of Rohan had taken refuge under the leadership of Théoden whom Gandalf had recently restored. The attack on Helm’s Deep was thwarted and the defenses of Isengard were compromised by the intervention of a group of ancient tree-like beings called Ents and their wild and dangerous Huorns. This dual attack was led by the eldest Ent, Treebeard, who had found and befriended Pippin and Merry after they escaped from a troop of Orcs that had captured them as prisoners at Nen Hithoel and were taking them to Isengard.
After the battle at Helms Deep ended Gandalf, Aragorn, Théoden, Éomer, Gimli and Legolas found the wall of Isengard breached and Saruman with his agent Wormtongue isolated in the Tower of Orthanc. After Saruman refused an offer to come down and join the side of good, Gandalf broke his staff and cast him out of the order of Wizards. The two were held as prisoners of the Ents until out of pity Treebeard released them. They travelled to the Shire where Saruman had financed the rise to power of Lotho Sackville-Baggins. After the Hobbits returned from Gondor and organized a revolt to overthrow Saruman’s henchmen, Frodo ordered him from the Shire, but he died at the hand of Gríma. His spirit was dissipated by a west wind.
- “Radagast the Brown! … Radagast the Bird-tamer! Radagast the Simple! Radagast the Fool! Yet he had just the wit to play the part that I set him. For you have come, and that was all the purpose of my message. And here you will stay, Gandalf the Grey, and rest from journeys. For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman Ring-maker, Saruman of Many Colours!” (to Gandalf)
- “The Elder Days are gone. The Middle Days are passing. The Younger Days are beginning. The time of the Elves is over, but our time is at hand; the world of Men, which we must rule. But we must have power, power to order all things as we will, for that good which only the Wise can see.” (to Gandalf)
- “Gibbets and crows! … Dotard! What is the house of Eorl but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek, and their brats roll on the floor among the dogs? Too long have they escaped the gibbet themselves. But the noose comes, slow in the drawing, tight and hard in the end. Hang if you will!” (to Theoden)