Who exactly were the Blue Wizards

Five Istari were sent to Middle-earth – Olórin, known also as Gandalf, Curunir / Curumo, known also as Saruman, Radagast, and then two others – the mysterious Blue Wizards. So who were they? And what did they do in Middle-earth?

Canon

In canon, the Blue Wizards are hardly mentioned, being known from a single sentence – “the rods of the five wizards” in “The Two Towers” (“The Voice of Saruman”). But in other writings, particularly from “Unfinished Tales” and “The Peoples of Middle-earth”, much more information can be learnt.

The Blue Wizards in Valinor

An account of the Council of the Valar, during which it was resolved to send emissaries to Middle-earth, is discussed in “Unfinished Tales”. In this, the names of the Blue Wizards were given as Alatar and Pallando, and both were tentatively associated with Oromë (though Pallando’s alliance was changed to Oromë from Mandos and Nienna).

“Alatar … [is] associated with Oromë, though no hint is given of the reason for this relationship. It might be (though this is the merest guess) that Oromë of all the Valar had the greatest knowledge of the furthest parts of Middle-earth, and that the Blue Wizards were destined to journey in those regions and to remain there.” (Christopher Tolkien’s speculation in “Unfinished Tales”)

A particular connection between Alatar and Pallando is also suggested in “Unfinished Tales”, with Alatar taking Pallando to Middle-earth with him, as a friend.

The Blue Wizards in Middle-earth

It would seem, from information in “Unfinished Tales”, that the Blue Wizards came to Middle-earth around TA 1050, at the same time as the other Istari.

Tolkien originally suggested that when in Middle-earth, the Blue Wizards went east with Saruman:

“…But there were others, two dressed in sea-blue…of the Blue little was known in the west [of Middle-earth], and they had no names save Ithryn Luin ‘the Blue Wizards’; for they travelled to the east with Curunír, but they never returned; and whether they remained in the East, pursuing there the purposes for which they sent; or perished; or as some hold were ensnared by Sauron and became his servants it is not now known. But none of these chances were impossible to be.” (“Unfinished Tales”)

And while no particular end was ever explicitly mentioned, it is possible to suggest that Tolkien meant for them to fail, because at a similar time, he wrote that Gandalf was the only successful Istar.

His uncertainty about the matter was also showed in Letter #211:

“I really do not know anything clearly about the other two – since they do not concern the history of the N.W. I think that they went as emissaries to distant regions, East and South, far out of Númenórean range: missionaries to ‘enemy-occupied’ lands, as it were. What success they had I do not know; but I fear that they failed, as Saruman did, though doubtless in different ways; and I suspect they were founders or beginners of secret cults and ‘magic’ traditions that outlasted the fall of Sauron.”

However, when “The Peoples of Middle-earth” (HoME XII) was published, it contained a lot of material originally considered indecipherable when “Unfinished Tales” was edited, and this new material gave a whole new perspective to the Blue Wizards:

“No names are recorded for the two wizards. They were never seen or known in lands west of Mordor. The wizards did not come at the same time. Possibly Saruman, Gandalf, Radagast did, but more likely Saruman the chief (and already over mindful of this) came first and alone. Probably Gandalf and Radagast came together, though this has not yet been said. … The other two are only known to (have) exist(ed)

by Saruman, Gandalf, and Radagast, and Saruman in his wrath mentioning five was letting out a piece of private information.

“The ‘other two’ came much earlier, at the same time probably as Glorfindel, when matters became very dangerous in the Second Age. Glorfindel was sent to aid Elrond and was (though not yet said) pre-eminent in the war in Eriador. But the other two Istari were sent for a different purpose. Morinehtar and Romestamo [which name corresponds to Alatar and which to Pallando is not know]. Darkness-slayer and East-helper. Their task was to circumvent Sauron: to bring help to the few tribes of Men that had rebelled from Melkor-worship, to stir-up rebellion … and after his first fall to search out his hiding (in which they failed) and to cause dissension and disarray among the dark East … They must have had very great influence on the history of the Second Age and Third Age in weakening and disarraying the forces of the East … who would both in the Second and Third Age otherwise have … outnumbered the West.”

So from starting out as a couple of Istari who ended up almost managing to aid the forces of evil, they gained a late redemption and ended up an essential – but little known – part of the victory of the forces of good.

But why Blue?

Whatever their final, behind-the-scenes roles in the Third Age and Fourth Age, these wizards are still known mainly for their sky-blue (or sea-blue) clothing.

Both of these describe fairly bright mid-range blues, which would a) look quite horrid on cloaks and clothing, and b) seem to have little to do with anything we know about the Blue Wizards. But as we know nothing more, unfortunately, this blue-ness has to remain a mystery.

References

– “The Lord of the Rings”, “The Two Towers”
– “Unfinished Tales”
– “The Peoples of Middle-earth”

Written by Atalante