🧙 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 ;)

Why couldn't Gandalf take on Sauron directly?

H

Harad

Guest
Neither.

Gandalf was forbidden by the Wizards's Charter from fighting Sauron himself, but was allowed to help everybody else that was fighting him, a slight, but meaningless distinction.

Gandalf states the the only 2 ways to destroy the Ring is by fire: either the Cracks of Doom, or some Senior Dragon, the latter having been inconveniently exed out.
 
H

Harad

Guest
Its just one of the Rules of Tolkien's Universe. The Rule was not STRICTLY adhered to since Gandalf strove with Sauron when Frodo wore the Ring on Amon Hen. Also Gandalf broke into Sauron's fortress in Dol Guldor to gather intelligence. Of course some will say these were not real confrontations, but that is just sophistry.
 

Snaga

The Usual Suspect
Joined
Feb 11, 2002
Messages
2,261
Reaction score
5
Harad

do you think he was forbidden by the Valar who sent him, or that he thought he was better off not confronting Sauron, for whatever reason? I've always thought the latter.

dgoof, Gandalf dared not bear the ring because he feared it would corrupt him. Therefore he did not dare to take it to Mt. Doom to destroy it. For definite he could not waved his staff at an melted it with some wizardry.:)
 
H

Harad

Guest
VofK,
I remember--memory going--disk offline--some statement somewhere that the Wizards could not take "direct" action. That rule must have come from their bosses, the Valar.
 
H

Harad

Guest
I still can not find anything in LOTR about this "rule." Perhaps it was in supplemental material?

Its hard to accept thats its just a matter of Number 2 being afraid to fight Number 1.

Number 2's always want a chance at Number 1. How else to win the championship? Furthermore, Number 2 and Number 3 and Number 4, if they band together...
 

Rian

Registered User
Joined
Dec 14, 2001
Messages
32
Reaction score
0
Location
OhiO
In the ROTK, appendix B - under the heading "The Third Age", there is mention of this.

"It was afterwards said that they came out of the far west and were messengers sent to contest the power of Sauron, and to unite all those who had the will to resist him; but they were forbbidden to match his power with power, or to seek to dominate Elves or Men by force or fear."
 
H

Harad

Guest
Thanks Rian..wonder if that is the entire evidence of this concept?

if so "power with power" is very ambiguous. It would allow Gandalf to attack and destroy any servant of Sauron, and to deceive Sauron. If Sauron were on the other side of a door, could Gandalf hold the door? If Sauron were trying to take over the mind of Frodo on Amon Hen, could Gandalf oppose him?

As far as finding things I have found the passage wherein Gandalf takes credit for Amon Hen (Gandalf speaking in TTT, The White Rider Chapter:

Very nearly it was revealed to the Enemy, but it escaped. I had some part in that; for I sat in a high place and strove with the Dark Tower; and the Shadow passed.
Doesnt this seem inconsistent with the Appendix. Hooray!! another nit.

Let me anticipate the answer: "Well you see, Gandalf was striving with the Dark Tower, not Sauron himself....Very different...Harrummphh."
 

aragil

Just another loremaster
Joined
Aug 27, 2001
Messages
1,852
Reaction score
4
Location
Secondarily Beautiful State of Washington
Much of the info is in Unfinished Tales, in the chapter The Istari (appropriately enough). I've used it in some threads in the movie forum to say that Gandalf could bump his head in a hobbit hole. I can't remember any exact quotes, but it basically said that they had to take the form of men, yada yada. Off hand I can't recall if it was more or less ambiguous than the passage from the appendix, but it definitely expounds on the limitations of their powers.
 

Beleg Strongbow

Superior Elf
Joined
Jan 18, 2002
Messages
698
Reaction score
0
Location
Doriath AND Sydney Australia and where ever "SHE"
Originally posted by Ragnarok
I thought Sauron was the most powerful of the Maia? Therefore, I thought Gandalf could fight him, but would lose.

It is said in the Sil that gandalf was the most wisest of the maiar and Sauron was a maia od Aule! I personally think that Gandalf if he couldn't beat him with force or skill of hand he would have found some other way as he is wisest.
 

Snaga

The Usual Suspect
Joined
Feb 11, 2002
Messages
2,261
Reaction score
5
It is said in the Sil that gandalf was the most wisest of the maiar and Sauron was a maia od Aule! I personally think that Gandalf if he couldn't beat him with force or skill of hand he would have found some other way as he is wisest.
Beleg you are right. But kinda wise after the event too. As that's exactly what Gandalf does.;)

"It was afterwards said that they came out of the far west and were messengers sent to contest the power of Sauron, and to unite all those who had the will to resist him; but they were forbbidden to match his power with power, or to seek to dominate Elves or Men by force or fear."
One interpretation of that is not that Gandalf is forbidden to try mortal combat should that be appropriate but that he can't try to set up a military force/try to rule ME.

Much of the info is in Unfinished Tales, in the chapter The Istari (appropriately enough). I've used it in some threads in the movie forum to say that Gandalf could bump his head in a hobbit hole. I can't remember any exact quotes, but it basically said that they had to take the form of men, yada yada. Off hand I can't recall if it was more or less ambiguous than the passage from the appendix, but it definitely expounds on the limitations of their powers.
Aragil - it would be splendid if you could actually tells us WHAT it says, rather than telling us that there is something somewhere that may or may not be relevant!:)
 
H

Harad

Guest
I am not Aragil, but I have a lot more free time in my real life so:

from the Istari, "Unfinished Tales"
Emissaries they were from the Lords of the West, the Valar...they sent members of their own high order {the Istari were Valar?...but see below}...whereas now their emissaries were forbidden to reveal themselves in forms of majesty, or to seek to rule the wills of Men or Elves by open display of power...

{oddly Saruman was their leader, but Cirdan knew that Gandalf was the key and gave him the Red Ring--how did Cirdan know?--this led to an under-the-surface animosity between Saruman & Gandalf that when waaay back before LOTR--I forgot about this!}

...and [Gandalf] was slain, and being sent back from death for a brief while was clothed then in white, and became a radiant flame (yet veiled still save in great need)...

{later passages imply that the Istari were "peers of Sauron" with the names Curumo (Saruman), Aiwendil (Radagast), Olorin (Gandalf), Alatar, and Pallando (the last two being the Blue Boys).}

{CT says "we must assume the Istari were all Maiar..."}

To the overthrow of Morgoth [Manwe] sent his herald Eonwe. To the defeat of Sauron would he not then send some lesser (but mighty) spirit of the angelic people, one coeval and equal, doubtless, with Sauron in their beginnings, but not more? Olorin [Gandalf] was his name...

{and just for fun my favorite quote}

The 'strange stars' apply strictly to the Harad...
 

Firiel

Registered User
Joined
Jan 27, 2002
Messages
14
Reaction score
0
Doesn't it say somewhere in UT that both the rule against direct confrontation and the rule about physical incarnation were to atone for the Valar's "ancient error" of trying to get involved too much in the choices of Elves (and later Men) early on, which led to much trouble afterwards? (A reference back to some decisions in the Silmarilion?)

I'm probably being to vauge here:confused:. Let's see if I can find the passages I think I'm remembering, so I can state things more clearly...
 

HLGStrider

All Knowing Magic Cat
Joined
Dec 17, 2001
Messages
7,803
Reaction score
33
Location
Moving on the whim of the military
I don't know if it is well supported, but it could be slightly supported by the text and the happenings in LotRs that when Gandalf returned as "the white" his restrictions were removed or at least lessened by the Valar. This could be for two possible reasons:

A. When the Valar sent the Istari (I don't know the year) the threat from Sauron was judged to be best handled by the Men and Elves who at this time had a stronger military presence and also greater leaders. When Gandalf returned the Elves were waning and the men had been without a declared king for sometime. It is only after Gandalf's return that Aragorn claims his birthright and strives to reunite mankind under his banner. Even so, his forces were pitiful when compared to those led by Elendil and Gil-Gilad. Hence the need was now greater and limitations were removed.

B. I'm not going to suggest allegory here, but I think we will all admit that Tolkien was influenced by Christian ideas and one such idea is of a perfect entity passing the ultimate test, paying the ultimate price, and returning in a more openly powerful form (not necessarily a more powerful form, but in a form with less limitations as to when and how he can reveal his power).

In Christianity Adam fails a test and suffers a loss of purity and immortality. Thousands of years later, another entity emerges, is put to even more strenuous tests culminating with the loss of his life for others, and by enduring the ultimate humiliation (execution as a blasphemer/criminal/liar) breaks the bonds upon all humanity and returns as the revealed Son of God to preform greater more obvious miracles than he had pre-death.

In Tolkien we have multiple incidences of entities failing tests. The Numenoreans fail their test. Isildur fails his test . . . but also, with the exception of Gandalf (and possibly Radaghast. He's a bit of an anomoly because while he didn't go bad, he didn't do a heck of a lot of good either.), every Istari seems to have failed their test.
The illusive blue wizards are said to have fallen, possibily they started evil cults (or possibly they did not and were martyered even as Gandalf, but we are left with an untold story there).
Radaghast was seduced by peace, I would say. He found a comfortable niche in Middle Earth and stayed there and as much as I like the idea of a Dr. Doolittle-ish Wizard talking to the animals for eternity, it really isn't what he was sent to do (I've heard otherwise theorized, but I'm going with the slacker theory for the sake of my theory.)
And Saruman was the most obvious failure. He was seduced by power. He even makes an attempt to "recruit" Gandalf and so doing provides another temptation.
Gandalf's Temptations:
1. Radaghast style: Gandalf liked comfort. He was concerned with the little folk partially because he was comfortable around them. He liked amusing people with fireworks. He had a niche he could easily have slipped into.
2. Sarumen style: Unlike Saruman who fell to ring lust through lore alone, Gandalf frequently had the ring within his grasp and was once directly offered it.
3. Blue wizard style: Gandalf's travel was as extensive as his blue-brethren. Any temptation they would have endured, he would have endured.

This is followed by a sacrifice.

Logically, it does not make sense for (arguably) the member of the fellowship with the most value to be the one who is lost first (well, from a literary point it makes a ton of sense because it provides the greatest tension. I mean, if they had lost Pippin they might've had a sad speech, but up to that point he had been more of a liability than an asset). Gandalf held the greatest power.
Four of the members of the fellowship were proven warriors. It is very possible that Boromir or Legolas could have put up enough of a fight against the Balrog to delay his advance and allow the remaining fellowship to reach the far gate unhindered (Though I don't believe any of them would have had a chance of suceeding and it is possible that the delay would have only been minimal. We don't have a lot of examples of mortal to Balrog combat). At the very least you could have lined up Merry, Pippin, and Sam on the bridge and hope he took some time to season and roast each meal in turn before continuing on after the other six.
However, Gandalf, without hesitation, faces a foe who will most likely destroy him. He experiences a mortals death and his immortal nature returns to the Valar. . . and we know what happens next.
In Christianity the purest being is sacrificed in place of sinful beings in a dramatic reversal of justice. It must've seemed to the disciples that they had suffered an irreversable loss. They had lost the only one among them with power to raise the dead, heal the sick, draw thousands to his word and then feed them with minimal supplies. Very similar again.

But I'm not trying to prove allegory here. I'm just going with suggested inspiration.

Perhaps now risen, Gandalf has proven that he is deserving of the power he had been required to hold back, the power that had seduced one (and possibly three) of his brethren. He had proven that he would not use power to dominate but rather to protect. He had proven he would sacrifice his own life and all the potential for power (I'm guessing it would be much easier for an Istari to set up a private kingdom in Middle Earth than in Valinor) to aid those weaker than himself.

So here the similarities sort of diverge. Rather than being a perfect sacrifice that redeems other imperfect beings, Gandalf would be a powerful sacrifice that is elevated to a higher level of power.

I don't know if this holds water, but I think there is some semblence to the two stories. Not allegorical, but definitely one is a weak shadow of the other.
 

Starbrow

Tolkien Fan
Joined
Aug 14, 2003
Messages
1,615
Reaction score
177
Location
Wootton Major
When it says the Istari were forbidden to match Sauron's power with power, I assume it is referring to military power. Saruman broke this ban when he decided to become a power and dominate the men of Rohan, and surrounding areas. I don't see any evidence that Gandalf planned to challenge Sauron directly. He usually seems to have a supporting role. For instance, when the army goes to the Black Gate, Gandalf is the herald, not the king.
 

Thorondor_

Registered User
Joined
Apr 27, 2005
Messages
1,126
Reaction score
0
Doesn't it say somewhere in UT that both the rule against direct confrontation and the rule about physical incarnation were to atone for the Valar's "ancient error" of trying to get involved too much in the choices of Elves (and later Men) early on, which led to much trouble afterwards?
Indeed:
The Istari said:
And this the Valar did, desiring to amend the errors of old, especially that they had attempted to guard and seclude the Eldar by their own might and glory fully revealed; whereas now their emissaries were forbidden to reveal themselves in forms of majesty, or to seek to rule the wills of Men and Elves by open display of power, but coming in shapes weak and humble were bidden to advise and persuade Men and Elves to good, and to seek to unite in love and understanding all those whom Sauron, should he come again, would endeavour to dominate and corrupt.
HLGStrider said:
When the Valar sent the Istari (I don't know the year) the threat from Sauron was judged to be best handled by the Men and Elves who at this time had a stronger military presence and also greater leaders.
I agree:
Notes on motives in the Silmarillion said:
Manwe knew of Sauron, of course. He had commanded Sauron to come before him for judgement, but had left room for repentance and ultimate rehabilitation. Sauron had refused and had fled into hiding. Sauron, however, was a problem that Men had to deal with finally: the first of the many concentrations of Evil into definite power-points that they would have to combat, as it was also the last of those in 'mythological' personalized (but non-human) form.
HLGStrider said:
... when Gandalf returned as "the white" his restrictions were removed or at least lessened by the Valar.
True, but not by the valar:
=Letter #156 said:
He was sent by a mere prudent plan of the angelic Valar or governors; but Authority had taken up this plan and enlarged it, at the moment of its failure. 'Naked I was sent back – for a brief time, until my task is done'. Sent back by whom, and whence? Not by the 'gods' whose business is only with this embodied world and its time; for he passed 'out of thought and time'.
HLGStrider said:
with the exception of Gandalf (and possibly Radaghast. He's a bit of an anomoly because while he didn't go bad, he didn't do a heck of a lot of good either.), every Istari seems to have failed their test.
Well, they all practically failed the test, Gandalf passing it on a moral level:
Letter #156 said:
The 'wizards', as such, had failed; or if you like: the crisis had become too grave and needed an enhancement of power.
...
The 'wizards' were not exempt, indeed being incarnate were more likely to stray, or err. Gandalf alone fully passes the tests, on a moral plane anyway (he makes mistakes of judgement).
Insofar as the comparison to Christ, Tolkien said:
Letter #181 said:
Thus Gandalf faced and suffered death; and came back or was sent back, as he says, with enhanced power. But though one may be in this reminded of the Gospels, it is not really the same thing at all. The Incarnation of God is an infinitely greater thing than anything I would dare to write. Here I am only concerned with Death as part of the nature, physical and spiritual, of Man, and with Hope without guarantees.
 

Bucky

Registered User
Joined
Dec 20, 2001
Messages
1,623
Reaction score
12
Location
Near New Haven
There is no question that 'rule' or no 'rule', to stay true to their mission, The Istari were banned from facing Sauron directly with power.....

As far as Gandalf being able to defeat Sauron one on one, I doubt it.
Dosen't Gandalf say that sauron is the mightiest being in Middle Earth?
Also that Saruman is the mightiest wisard & 'head of my order'?
Also that in a confrontation with The Witch-king (Lord of the Nazgul) before the Gates of Minas Tirith he 'may be overmatched'?

All these statements may be false humility or they may be Tolkien's way of telling us the truth......

Knowing Tolkien's use of the Christian parable, strength is made perfect in weakness, so most likely Gandalf is not the strongest being in Middle Earth, but the most pure of heart - and from there his power comes.
Gandalf himself states this to Frodo when offered The One ring as a freely given gift:

"The way of the ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good."
 

Thread suggestions

Top