🧙 The Tolkien Forum 🧝

Welcome to our forum! Register a free account today to become a member! Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox! Plus you won't see ads ;)

How did Saruman know that the Ring was found?

Merroe

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 14, 2016
Messages
312
Reaction score
372
Location
Luxembourg
That is in truth why I brought you here. For I have many eyes in my service, and I believe that you know where this precious thing now lies. Is it not so? Or why do the Nine ask for the Shire, and what is your business there?

Most of us will recognize this as what Saruman said to Gandalf at the moment of his capture in Orthanc.

Not only these words, but also the bold act of imprisoning Gandalf meant that Saruman was aware that:

1. the one Ring was found, and that
2. Gandalf withheld information on its whereabouts.

As regards the 2d point, since the Nazgûl had been inquiring about the Shire, a quick association with Gandalf was easy to make. But how did Saruman know about the 1st point? JRRT left that part to a vague phrase:

For I have many eyes in my service, and I believe that you know where this precious thing now lies. Is it not so?

At that point in time the finding of the Ring was known only to Gandalf, Frodo, Bilbo, Gollum and Sauron. None of them either had contact with Saruman or had informed him. IAFAIK the source of his knowledge is explained nowhere.

Some reflections from Megan N. Fontenot on various versions of that part of the story seem relevant (quoting):

Christopher also points out that in version C, Saruman knows of the dream that visited Faramir and Boromir, and of Boromir’s journey to Rivendell. He also guesses, based on the words of the dream, that the Ring itself is on the way thither in the hands of a Halfling (UT 362). It’s not clear how or why Saruman had this private knowledge, though it is said later, in The Treason of Isengard, that Saruman and Denethor had likely been in some contact via the palantíri (462).

It is risky to search for explanations in earlier versions dismissed by the very author, of course. Yet, a contact Saruman-Denethor via the palantiri might potentially explain Saruman's suspicions. Saruman would be better placed than Denethor to understand the meaning of these words:

Seek for the Sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur’s Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand.

Any thoughts on this to share: very welcome.
 

Olorgando

not from 'Straya
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Messages
1,442
Reaction score
760
Location
Franconia
I would think that the fact that The Nine had been sent out by Sauron - all of them - made it certain to Saruman that they were looking for something of paramount importance to Sauron, which could only be the One Ring. Sauron being sure it had been found, as Saruman would deduce from this, would have made him certain that this was the case. Sauron would not have sent The Nine out on a wild-goose chase.
 
Last edited:

Squint-eyed Southerner

Pawing through the trash behind the Pony
Joined
Apr 9, 2018
Messages
1,831
Reaction score
1,671
Location
Virginia, USA
Also, Saruman likely discovered the Orthanc stone fairly early after his occupation there, and would no doubt have used it to search for any signs of the Ring. He was eventually "caught" by Sauron, as Tolkien put it, but Tolkien also acknowledged that Sauron was not able to monitor the stone in Barad-dur constantly. Would Saruman be able to use his stone more or less freely, during times when Sauron was "away"? I don't recall a statement about that. If so, his suspicions about, and jealousy of, Gandalf would lead him to try to monitor his movements.

The palantir could well have been one of the "many eyes", and one which he would certainly want to conceal from Gandalf.

In any case, I think his obsession with the Ring, combined with Gandalf's (to him) otherwise inexplicable interest in the Shire, would have caused an inevitable connection in his mind.
 
Last edited:

Squint-eyed Southerner

Pawing through the trash behind the Pony
Joined
Apr 9, 2018
Messages
1,831
Reaction score
1,671
Location
Virginia, USA
The reference to Saruman's knowledge of the dream reminds me again of the untold story of Boromir's great journey to Rivendell, of which Tolkien acknowledged "the courage and hardihood required is not fully recognized in the narrative". In the regrettable absence of a description by the author, I've speculated elsewhere about this, and his possible interactions with Saruman's agents.

The bridge at Tharbad was in ruins, leaving only a "dangerous ford", and in fact Boromir says that is where he lost his horse. It would also be the most probable place for traffic to and from the Shire to cross. So the question arises: did Boromir have any conversations with agents of Saruman? He would, perhaps, because of his friendship with the Rohirrim, share their antipathy towards the Dunlanders, but maybe not, if they weren't openly hostile, and on encountering "locals" seemingly going about normal trading enterprise, might even ask for directions. A clever and friendly-seeming agent, engaging him in conversation, could well be able to elicit information from him, possibly even a recitation of the dream, if Boromir thought that doing so would aid his search. This would of course be reported to Saruman.

As I said, pure speculation, but it would answer one question I've always wondered about: why Boromir went so far out of his way, when the direct route to Rivendell was not west from Dunland, but north. A wily agent would guess Saruman would want to delay any mission from Gondor to the Elves, and seek to misdirect it.

Another bit of the story we'll never know.
 

Merroe

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 14, 2016
Messages
312
Reaction score
372
Location
Luxembourg
A clever and friendly-seeming agent, engaging him in conversation, could well be able to elicit information from him, possibly even a recitation of the dream, if Boromir thought that doing so would aid his search. This would of course be reported to Saruman.
A speculation, of course, but an interesting one. That would fit with Saruman's statement: "For I have many eyes in my service ...".
 

Aldarion

Active Member
Joined
May 30, 2019
Messages
111
Reaction score
113
Location
Split, Croatia
Saruman had spies in Shire itself, ever since he realized Gandalf is interested in it. Remember those weird-looking folks (half-orcs) in Bree? And some others as well.
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

Pawing through the trash behind the Pony
Joined
Apr 9, 2018
Messages
1,831
Reaction score
1,671
Location
Virginia, USA
Indeed. From The Tale of Years:

2953 Last meeting of the White Council. They debate the Rings. Saruman feigns that he has discovered that the One Ring has passed down Anduin to the Sea. Saruman withdraws to Isengard, which he takes as his own, and fortifies it. Being jealous of Gandalf he sets spies to watch all his movements; and notes his interest in the Shire. He soon begins to keep agents in Bree and the South-farthing.

I note also that, according to the chronology, not until c. 3000 does he "dare to use the palantir of Orthanc", so maybe not so "early" as I thought.
 

Olorgando

not from 'Straya
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Messages
1,442
Reaction score
760
Location
Franconia
Indeed. From The Tale of Years:
2953 ... [Saruman] soon begins to keep agents in Bree and the South-farthing.
Bree would be a lot easier, as it had a mixed population of Hobbits and Big Folk.
How "soon" Saruman managed to have "agents" in the South-farthing seems to me quite a different matter (of conjecture).

It was Lotho Sackville-Baggins who was Saruman's "contact" into the Shire, but that would appear to have been at the earliest when he became head of the Sackville-Baggins clan on his father's death in TA 3012. Now Lobelia was from Hardbottle in the South-farthing (née Bracegirdle), and Karen Wynn Fonstad shows a village Sackville, roughly 35 miles a bit south of due east from Hardbottle and connected by one of the minor roads of the Shire. Longbottom is a bit east of due north of Sackville, about 9 miles as the crow flies, but only reachable by road by a detour more than twice that length. But Otho's mother had been a Sackville, and he had apparently become head of the Sackville clan due to being the oldest male grandson of his maternal grandfather, as his mother does not appear to have had brothers who would otherwise have inherited the headship. So through his paternal grandmother, Lotho had inherited tobacco-growing land in the South-farthing as well as the headship of the Sackvilles. Unlikely from his mother Lobelia, as she must be assumed to have had a brother who became head of the notable (and so probably large) clan of the Bracegirdles.

Tyler does not name dates as to when Lotho then started buying more land in the South-farthing, but by his description it would appear to have a while before Frodo's departure from Hobbiton. Foster explicitly states that he only began this after he and his mother Lobelia had moved into Bag End in September 3018 TA, on what authority I do not know. But he also states that the money Lotho used for these (grasping) purchases did not come exclusively from Isengard and thus Saruman, but also from sale of pipe-weed elsewhere. And Foster also states that Lotho actively hired men - Big Folk - as support, while according to Tyler it appears that Lotho was less active in this respect, rather having these men, to become known as the ruffians, forced on him by Saruman through being hopelessly indebted to him (though he also states that "much", so not all of the money came from Isengard).

Now both Gandalf and Aragorn are explicitly stated as smoking a pipe, though I don't recall that any of the others of the Fellowship - perhaps Gimli? - were stated a doing so, or any of the people they meet on their several, separate journeys. Merry had planned to tell Théoden about pipe-weed (and perhaps other herbs of the Sire - he is said to have compiled a book on "The herb-lore of the Shire" years later), so it would seem to have been unknown to the Rohirrim. So the question arises if there had been any trading of pipe-weed to outside of the Shire before Lotho's connection to Saruman in any organized form, if there had been enough of an external market for pipe-weed. This might have been the opening for Saruman to have (Big Folk) "agents" in the South-farthing before establishing the connection with Lotho, otherwise I would assume that the Hobbits were mostly too shy of the Big Folk to be comfortable with anyone routinely entering the Shire (Gandalf was an exception, but then he was (seen as) a wizard, and he had come to the aid of the Hobbits as far back as the Long Winter of 2758-9 TA, so 260 years before the quest of the Ring). If the connection of Saruman with the South-farthing only dates at the earliest from Lotho's becoming head of the Sackville-Baggins clan, the the stretch of 59 years between the last meeting of the White Council in 2953 TA and 3012 TA seems to stretch the term "soon" a bit much!
 

Merroe

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 14, 2016
Messages
312
Reaction score
372
Location
Luxembourg
I think that the presence of spies in Bree or in the Shire does not matter in this context because in that region the existence of the Ring was know only to Bilbo and Frodo (and later Sam, Merry and Pippin) and they shared that secret with none: the book is quite explicit on this. Therefore it would seem to me that this spying can be ruled out as a potential source for Saruman's knowledge that the one Ring was found.
 

Olorgando

not from 'Straya
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Messages
1,442
Reaction score
760
Location
Franconia
I think that the presence of spies in Bree or in the Shire does not matter in this context because in that region the existence of the Ring was know only to Bilbo and Frodo (and later Sam, Merry and Pippin) and they shared that secret with none: the book is quite explicit on this. Therefore it would seem to me that this spying can be ruled out as a potential source for Saruman's knowledge that the one Ring was found.
Before the appearance of The Nine west of the Anduin, without a doubt. Appendix B states "[TA] 3017 - Gollum released from Mordor. He is taken by Aragorn in the Dead Marshes, and brought to Thranduil in Mirkwood. ..." - escaping only in June 3018, about the same time that Sauron attacked Osgiliath to mask the crossing of The Nine across the Anduin.

Saruman's interest in the Shire earlier on had other motives, as S-eS mentioned above:
... Saruman withdraws to Isengard, which he takes as his own, and fortifies it. Being jealous of Gandalf he sets spies to watch all his movements; and notes his interest in the Shire. He soon begins to keep agents in Bree and the South-farthing. ...
Gandalf was far more mobile in the later TA, as Saruman had been given the keys of Orthanc in TA 2759 after the disaster of the Long Winter, by the then Ruling Steward of Gondor Beren (TA 2743-2763). Saruman probably (rightly) suspected that Gandalf no longer trusted him (rightly so) and was withholding information from him, say at meetings of the White Council (as Saruman had been withholding far more information from it for a far longer time). This distrust of Saruman by Gandalf would probably date, I would think, at the latest from TA 2851 (90 years before the quest to Erebor described in TH), when at a White Council meeting Gandalf (having entered Dol Guldur the previous year, discovering its master to be Sauron himself and not one or more Nazgûl, finding Thráin there just before the latter's death, and receiving the key of Erebor and Thrór's map from him) urged an attack on Dol Guldur, but was overruled by Saruman. Saruman had been "ensnared" by then, not by any given ring (Cirdan giving Narya to Gandalf rather than to himself must have been one of the major causes of his jealousy of Gandalf), but by his fascination, being an "Aulëan" like Sauron (the latter in origin, before transferring allegiance to Melkor) of "ring-lore".
 

Thread suggestions

Top