Saruman - Creation and Development

Creation and Development

Tolkien had been writing The Lord of the Rings for several years when Saruman came into existence as the solution to a long-unresolved plot development, and his role and characteristics continued to emerge in the course of writing. Tolkien started work on the book in late 1937, but was initially unsure of how the story would develop. Unlike some of the other characters in the book, Saruman had not appeared in Tolkien's 1937 novel, The Hobbit, or in his then-unpublished Quenta Silmarillion and related mythology, which date back to 1917. When he wrote of Gandalf’s failure to meet Frodo, Tolkien did not know what had caused it and later said: "Most disquieting of all, Saruman had never been revealed to me, and I was as concerned as Frodo at Gandalf's failure to appear." Tolkien's son, Christopher, has said that the early stages of the creation of The Lord of the Rings proceeded in a series of waves, and that having produced the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien rewrote the tale from the start three times. Saruman first appeared during a fourth phase of writing in a rough narrative outline dated August 1940. Intended to account for Gandalf's absence, it describes how a wizard titled "Saramond the White" or "Saramund the Grey", who has fallen under the influence of Sauron, lures Gandalf to his stronghold and traps him. The full story of Saruman's betrayal was later added to the existing chapters.

Several of Saruman’s other appearances in the book emerged in the process of writing. Christopher Tolkien believes that the old man seen by Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli at the edge of Fangorn forest near the beginning of The Two Towers is in the original drafts intended to be Gandalf. In the finished version he is Saruman. Similarly, in the first drafts of the chapter The Scouring of the Shire, Sharkey is successively a ruffian met by the hobbits and then that man’s unseen boss. It is only in the second draft of the chapter that, as Christopher Tolkien puts it, his father “perceive” that Sharkey was in fact Saruman. The name used by Saruman's henchmen for their diminished leader is said in a footnote to the final text to be derived from an Orkish term meaning "old man". Saruman's death scene, in which his body shrivels away to skin and bones revealing "long years of death" and "a pale shrouded figure" rises over the corpse, was not added until the page proofs of the completed book were being reviewed by Tolkien. John D. Rateliff and Jared Lobdell are among those to write that the scene shows similarities to the death of the 2000-year old sorceress Ayesha in H. Rider Haggard's 1887 novel She: A History of Adventure.

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