Saruman - Characterization


His voice was "low and melodious, its very sound an enchantment it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire woke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves ... for those whom it conquered the spell endured while they were far away and ever they heard that soft voice whispering and urging them."

The Two Towers Book III Chapter X p.222

Tolkien described Saruman at the time of The Lord of the Rings as having a long face and a high forehead, "...he had deep darkling eyes ... His hair and beard were white, but strands of black still showed around his lips and ears." His hair is elsewhere described as having been black when he first arrived in Middle-earth. He is referred to as 'Saruman the White' and is said to have originally worn white robes, but on his first entry in The Fellowship of the Ring they instead appear to be "woven from all colours shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered" and he names himself 'Saruman of Many Colours'.

The power of Saruman's voice is noted throughout the book. Jonathan Evans calls the characterization of Saruman in the chapter The Voice of Saruman a "tour de force". Roger Sale says of the same chapter that "Tolkien valiantly tried to do something worth doing which he simply cannot bring off." Tom Shippey writes that "Saruman talks like a politician ... No other character in Middle-earth has Saruman's trick of balancing phrases against each other so that incompatibles are resolved, and none comes out with words as empty as 'deploring', 'ultimate', worst of all, 'real'. What is 'real change'?" Shippey contrasts this modern speech pattern with the archaic stoicism and directness that Tolkien employs for other characters such as the Dwarven King Dáin, which Shippey believes represent Tolkien's view of heroism in the mould of Beowulf.

After the defeat of his armies, having been caught in the betrayal of Sauron, Saruman is offered refuge by Gandalf, in return for his aid, but having chosen his path, is unable to turn from it. Evans has compared the character of Saruman to that of Satan in John Milton's Paradise Lost in his use of rhetoric and in this final refusal of redemption, "conquered by pride and hatred".

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