The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power finally revealed the concept of the Istari into the storyline, as that was what happened in the finale when the Stranger was revealed to be an Istar instead of Sauron, who the Dweller and her companions thought he was. Of course, the Stranger isn’t the only member of the Istari, as Tolkien wrote that there are actually five of them that existed in Middle-Earth. So, who are the members of the Istari?
Saruman the Wise is the leader of the Istari or the Order of Wizards. Under him were Gandalf the Grey, Radagast the Brown, and the two Blue Wizards Alatar and Pallando. Only Saruman, Gandalf, and Radagast remained in the northwest of Middle-Earth, as Alatar and Pallando went east and stayed there the entire time.
The Order of Wizards is a powerful order composed of the Istari that were on Middle-Earth. As such, they were supposed to be great enough to repel Sauron and help the people of Middle-Earth defeat him, but only one of them was truly faithful to his task. So, with that said, let’s talk more about the Istari and the individual members of this group.
What Are The Istari?
One of the terms that were finally introduced in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is “Istar,” which was first used by one of the white-robed figures that were looking for the Stranger. Initially, these figures (the Dweller, the Nomad, and the Ascetic) believed that the Stranger was actually Sauron in the opening moments of the season 1 finale.
However, as the episode progressed, we saw that the Stranger was actually good and was willing to fight for his Harfoot friends. That was when he took the Dweller’s staff and used his divine powers against her and her companions. One of them realized that he was not Sauron but was an Istar, as the Stranger finished them off and sent them back to the shadows. But what exactly is an Istar?
The Istari are actually called the Wise Ones or the Wizards, as the Stranger himself said. While it is yet to be discussed in the series, the Istari were once Ainur, specifically Maiar, that were sent by Manwë and the Valar to Middle-Earth so that they could aid the people in their fight against Sauron’s darkness on the land. There were five of these Maiar, as they immediately took the form of old men when they arrived on Middle-Earth.
The mission of the Istari was simple. They needed to guide the people of Middle-Earth in their fight against Sauron and the Orcs. However, they were not allowed to match Sauron’s power or try to obtain power on their own. On top of that, they were only supposed to help the people instead of actually leading them or even fighting Sauron on their own.
As such, they were sent as guides instead of reinforcements. These five Istari had colors that were associated with their clothes. Together, the five of them made up the Order of Wizards. But because the Blue Wizards were basically missing in action, the three other Istari formed an alliance with the Elves to create the White Council, which is a group composed of the Wizards and some Elven leaders so that they could collaborate in relation to their different tasks related to Sauron.
Who Are The Members Of The Istari?
As mentioned, there are five members of the Istari. And we will go over them one by one so that you would get to know them individually.
Saruman the Wise
Initially named Curomo when he was still a Maia working under Aulë, Saruman was the first to heed the call of Manwë and was considered the greatest and strongest of all of the Istar that were sent to Middle-Earth. He was named Saruman the Wise due to his innate wisdom and leadership abilities. And that was the reason why he became the leader of the Order of Wizards and even the White Council.
Saruman initially traveled east with the Blue Wizards but returned to the northwest area of Middle-Earth. Unlike Gandalf, he didn’t travel a lot, as he established a base of operations in Isengard. However, Saruman was corrupted by Sauron, who showed him through the Palantír that they had no hope of winning. As such, he became the dark lord’s servant when he fell from grace.
After failing to corrupt Gandalf, Saruman became one of the biggest enemies of Middle-Earth and was essentially replaced by Gandalf the White. He was defeated and lost all of his powers after Isengard fell. Saruman’s physical body was destroyed when he was stabbed in the back by Gríma. As such, his form as a Maia became useless, as he could no longer return to Valinor or even assume a physical form on Middle-Earth.
Gandalf the Grey
Gandalf the Grey was the most well-traveled among the Five Wizards as he mostly roamed the northwest area of Middle-Earth while making friends in the process of doing so. As such, he had no permanent residence or base of operations. Initially, he was actually a Maia under Manwë. Olórin was his name before he became a wizard. He was actually reluctant to go to Middle-Earth because he feared Sauron, but he still became a wizard when Manwë told him that fearing Sauron was the best reason for him to take the job.
He was often considered the least of all of the Istari, but he was actually the wisest out of all of them because Olórin was often considered the wisest of the Maiar. As such, he was often counseling some of the leaders of Middle-Earth during his travels. But he was also a very simple and humble old man that loved to spend his free days in the Shire so that he could spend time with the free-spirited Hobbits.
Gandalf the Grey died in a fight against Durin’s Bane and eventually returned to life in the form of Gandalf the White to replace Saruman because his task was yet to be completed. In this form, Gandalf became more powerful and was now greater than Saruman. It was through his newfound power that he was able to defeat Saruman and eventually help the people of Middle-Earth in the War of the Ring. Gandalf, after the war, sailed west to Valinor as he was the only one to complete the task that all five of the Wizards should have worked on together.
Radagast the Brown
Radagast was the Maia named Aiwendil. He was the servant of Yavanna, who was one of the Valar and was called the queen of earth. Due to his nature as an earth Maia, Aiwendil was the one closest to nature when he became Radagast. He was called Radagast the Brown due to his clothes and his natural tendency to focus more on nature rather than the people of Middle-Earth.
While on Middle-Earth, he didn’t travel as much as Gandalf did, but he did spend time watching over the forest of Mirkwood when it was being engulfed by the darkness coming from Dol Guldur. He did so while spending time on Rhosgobel and tending to the needs of the animals and the other living beings in the forest. Radagast took part in the efforts against the Necromancer of Dol Guldur, who happened to be Sauron, as he was regaining his strength.
After Sauron retreated to Mordor, Radagast left Rhosgobel. He was not in the movie version of The Lord of the Rings, but he was the one who sent the Eagle to help Gandalf escape his imprisonment in Isengard. After that, Radagast was never seen or heard of again.
Alatar and Pallando
Alatar and Pallando were the Maiar names of the Blue Wizards that went east after they were sent to Middle-Earth. However, some of Tolkien’s writings indicate that they were probably sent to Middle-Earth far earlier than the other Wizards (and that could explain why the Dweller and her companions were familiar with the Istari).
They were also named Morinehtar and Rómestámo, Darkness-slayer and East-helper, respectively, during their time in the east. However, there weren’t a lot of things that were written about them during their time in the east, but it is possible that they will appear in The Rings of Power when the Stranger travels east to the lands of Rhûn to see the constellation that he was supposed to go to.
In Tolkien’s writings, they didn’t do a lot of things to contribute to the efforts against Sauron, but it is said that they helped in the War of the Ring by ensuring that the forces of the east and south did not outnumber the forces of the Free people that went up against Sauron and his army of Orcs and Easterlings.