JRRT's decsion with the Istari

Discussion in 'Books' started by Radagast, Oct 14, 2003.

  1. Radagast

    Radagast Art House Member

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2003
    Messages:
    3,058
    Likes Received:
    18
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Saskatchewan, Canada.
    Ratings:
    +18 / 0 / -0
    What I am wondering is why Tolkien decided to have the Istari fail so badly. Out of five sent to Middle Earth, two dissapeared almost immediately (Alatar and Pallando). Radagast became to secluded with beasts and plants, and Saruman eventually became corrupted fought against the forces of good. Only Gandalf succeded in his cause, although he had a hard time doing so.

    If we look for a mathamatical relationship we see that this is a 20% rate. In other words, a very, very poor rate.

    The istari themselves didn't make good use of their time. For a good 2000+ years they meandered around Middle Earth while Sauron was still weak. They had no real knowledge on the One Ring. Imagine if Gandalf would realized (or suspected) that Bilbo's magic ring was actually Saurons Ring when he first saw it. Because Gandalf did not realize this, they were forced to finally fight Sauron when he had almost regained all his power.

    But my ultimate question is why you think Tolkien made the Istari so poor in their task?
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2003
  2. Turin

    Turin Valar Morghulis

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2003
    Messages:
    5,496
    Likes Received:
    24
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    BFE
    Ratings:
    +24 / 0 / -0
    One observation I have made throughout my reading is that the Maia are often times just as prone to make mistakes and do things for their own benefit as men and elves. I can think of several examples, Osse and the Isle of Tol Eressa, Melian staying in Middle Earth with Thingol, and so on.

    I think that even the gods had a hard time resisting the temptations of the world.
     
  3. byzantine warrior

    byzantine warrior Autokratos Konstantinou

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2003
    Messages:
    6,121
    Likes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Constantinopoli
    Ratings:
    +5 / 0 / -0
    I think the istari failed because they werent wise enough they were swayed by sauron ever so slightly
     
  4. Lady_of_Shalott

    Lady_of_Shalott Weaving the Magic Web

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2003
    Messages:
    8,237
    Likes Received:
    63
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    Ratings:
    +63 / 0 / -0
    If they had been so smart there would be no story!!!

    But seriously, I think he made them that way because it would show that they, like everything else, are not perfect. Plus, because the others failed, it made Gandalf seem all the greater. It shows, like the rest of the book, the struggle to overcome evil. Some succumbed, others did nothing. It wouldn't have fit with the rest of the story and characters if they had been any wiser or better.
     
  5. Gavaha

    Gavaha Art House Member

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2003
    Messages:
    864
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    MN, USA
    Ratings:
    +3 / 0 / -0
    I think he did this to only increase the drama... to make it a book that has the good guys almost falling off the cliff, if you get what I am saying.
     
  6. byzantine warrior

    byzantine warrior Autokratos Konstantinou

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2003
    Messages:
    6,121
    Likes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Constantinopoli
    Ratings:
    +5 / 0 / -0
    yep plus gandalf was trained by manwe who is the epitome of good
     
  7. mithrandir

    mithrandir Gentleman Scholar

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2003
    Messages:
    734
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Chicago-ish
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    Good question Radagast. :)

    Certainly, it makes for better story as has been mentioned, but I wonder if it wasn't to make a point too. Perhaps, it was important to the story that those who would continue on into the next age were responsible for its (the rings) destruction. At some level, we all must take responsibility for our world. We cannot count on some superhero to come in and save us. When you think about it, even Gandalf is barely involved. Sure, he sets things in motion and helps out here and there, but I don't think he's ever the critical factor in any of the battles - and certainly not in the rings destruction.

    Some have said (though I don't recall Tolkien himself claiming) that the LOTR is an allegory of Tolkien's faith. If so, this would certainly make sense. Sure God helps us and sets us in motion, but he rarely interceeds directly. It is our responsibility to handle the life/world entrusted to us. I don't want to derail this discussion into a religious talk, but I think it was a point worth noting.
     
  8. Radagast

    Radagast Art House Member

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2003
    Messages:
    3,058
    Likes Received:
    18
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Saskatchewan, Canada.
    Ratings:
    +18 / 0 / -0
    All very interesting points. I think I agree with what most of you said: it showed that they too were not perfect and could not easily overcome Sauron. Not only did it increase the reality of the book, but like Gavaha said, increased the Drama.

    I liked Turin's point about other Maia in Tolkiens writings making mistakes. Was this a consistant writing technique of his?

    mirthrandir:
    I believe I have read somewhere before (one of Tolkiens Letters most likely) in which Tolkien said he did not want his writings to be compared to christianity (his religion). Maybe another member has Tolkien's Letters and can post it, or maybe I will find it later, I think it was on another forum.
     
  9. mithrandir

    mithrandir Gentleman Scholar

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2003
    Messages:
    734
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Chicago-ish
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    That's basically what I recall as well.
     
  10. aule

    aule The Smithy of the Valar

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2003
    Messages:
    390
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Valinor, Aman
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    Yes, I agree that if tolkien would've made the maia any smarter/wiser/ more powerful, then there would've been no point behind LOTR (hey, keep in mind that sauron is a maia too) then, the maia would have been able to take care of everything or not have even gotten involved with any of the mortal affairs at all(dealing with evil men and creatures)
     
  11. Turin

    Turin Valar Morghulis

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2003
    Messages:
    5,496
    Likes Received:
    24
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    BFE
    Ratings:
    +24 / 0 / -0
    The Maia varied greatly in strength from one to the next. So even if the Istari would have been more powerful it might not have made a difference.
     
  12. Mac

    Mac New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2003
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    This is, in part anyway, something that has been bothering me a bit as I am reading through the trilogy again. Gandalf and Sauron are of the same race and division: Ainur/Maiar. Granted, they had different "sires," and granted beings of the same race can vary in strength(s). One might even argue that evil, at times, is stronger because it doesn't obey any rules - except triumph at any cost. (IMHO - the best stories have good winning in the end)

    I just finished the battle on the Pelennor. It's one of my favorite passages in the books when Eowyn throws back her helm and stands up the the Black Captain. But back up a chapter and here's one of my ???? moments. There is real doubt that Gandalf will be able to triumph over the Black Captain, even in Gandalf's mind. Now the Nazgul are men - darkly evil, completely corrupted men - but men nevertheless. They are filled with Sauron's power and directed by his evil will. BUT, they are something less than Sauron himself. I have hard time believing that they would be a match for Gandalf, ESPECIALLY the Gandalf who fought and survived the Balrog. He came back to Middle Earth changed, stronger, more powerful. Okay, maybe a contest between Gandalf and Sauron would be a cliffhanger, but the easy money would be on Gandalf in a confrontation with the Lord of the Nazgul.

    Of course, it heightens the drama and suspense. But we're here to discuss, right ;-)

    __________________________
    Mac
     
  13. Turin

    Turin Valar Morghulis

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2003
    Messages:
    5,496
    Likes Received:
    24
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    BFE
    Ratings:
    +24 / 0 / -0
    I also questioned that part of the book, I find it odd, the times he chose to use his power, and the times he chose not too. Seems like it was kinda random.
     
  14. Mac

    Mac New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2003
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    I hope you'll forgive me as I add posts while reading through the trilogy. I just read as Gandalf, Aragorn, Eomer and Imrahil are taking council together before marching to Mordor. We all know this, but I raise it again. Gandalf says that much of Sauron's power was transferred to the Ring. With it, defeat will be swift and utter. Without it, he is not at his full evil strength. His power over the forces of good is largely in fear, along with, of course, the sheer number of his armies. But as Gandalf says (paraphrased), "There are names among us that are worth a thousand swords."

    Again, the drama is heightened by a Gandalf who strives with evil minions and doesn't just wave his staff and *poof* they're gone. But it makes me go, "Hmmmmm...."

    _________________________
    Mac
     
  15. mithrandir

    mithrandir Gentleman Scholar

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2003
    Messages:
    734
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Chicago-ish
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    I still think it is because Gandalf wants to make sure that those folks remaining in middle earth take responsibility for their future. The job of is the Istari was to assist the people of middle earth - not rule them (which is what Sauron was trying to do).
     
  16. Lady_of_Shalott

    Lady_of_Shalott Weaving the Magic Web

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2003
    Messages:
    8,237
    Likes Received:
    63
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    Ratings:
    +63 / 0 / -0
    Good point Mithrandir. He can't do it all for them all the time. But still, I understand the question and it puzzles me too. It does seem strange the way Gandalf handles things sometimes....:confused:
     
  17. Aiwendil

    Aiwendil New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2003
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    the valar didnt allow them to show there full power, as if they did men elves, etc would treat them as gods and power would go to their head, ala saruman. please corect me if im wrong.
     
  18. Turin

    Turin Valar Morghulis

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2003
    Messages:
    5,496
    Likes Received:
    24
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    BFE
    Ratings:
    +24 / 0 / -0
    I think we would all agree that in their true form the Istari are considerably more powerful than what was demonstrated during their time in middle earth. However, they made decisions to use their power (what was available to them) from time to time throughout the stories. For example, Gandalf fried a group of goblins in the mountains outside of Rivendell when he and Bilbo were travelling with the dwarves in the hobbit. Why not weild a similar power in the Pelenor fields? Woulda helped a good deal I think.
     
  19. Nathan

    Nathan Wielder of the Flame

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2003
    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    But let's take a look right before the confrontation with the Balrog. Legolas wails in fear (having that in the movie would have made me glad, he's such a pretty-boy) and proclaims a Balrog is on their heels. Gandalf, remember, had already held off the Balrog before he knew what it was, and he used a Word of Command, whatever that would do, to seal a door shut. Gandalf now is filled with fear, and says he's tired. After using one spell? Magic apparently weakens him after he uses it, so a spectacular display of magic used to wipe out numbers on the Pelennor might have left him too weak to do what his greatest duty at the time was: to command when no other leader was to be found. And also remember that Gandalf did NOT come out all right after slaying the Balrog. He died. His spirit went to Valinor.

    So why do we see him running around afterwards? The grace of the Valar. He performed self-sacrifice, the ultimate act of good. Had he not done so, the Fellowship would have died in Moria, or they would have escaped but the Balrog would have alerted Sauron to their presence and who knows what might have happened after that. But Gandalf gives himself up to ensure the Ring-bearer gets out of one of the most dangerous situations up to this point. And we know how the Ring-bearer fares throughout the rest of the story.

    So my real point here basically agrees with any others who mentioned how mortals need to take responsibilities. Though not a study in theology, The Lord of the Rings was written to help people become more morally conscience. The higher powers did do quite a bit to ensure the fall of Sauron (I'd say the Wizards were their most active role) but if the mortals had nothing Sauron's power would have engulfed the world.
     
  20. Radagast

    Radagast Art House Member

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2003
    Messages:
    3,058
    Likes Received:
    18
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Saskatchewan, Canada.
    Ratings:
    +18 / 0 / -0
    Hmm. But that still gives no logical reason for the absence of work during the many years in which they did nothing.