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Old 03-19-2020, 11:42 PM
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LOTR: Are the Istari (wizards) fundamentally different than any other of the Maiar?


We know there were five Istari...aka wizards...sent to Middle Earth.

- Sauruman the White
- Gandalf the Grey
- Radagast the Brown
- Alatar the Blue
- Pallando the Blue

They are all Maiar.

Also Maiar are things like Balrogs.

I know when Maia come to Middle Earth they can choose their own form and I know that each may have a different goal and/or task and/or restrictions placed on them. Clearly those corrupted by Morgoth felt pretty free of any restrictions whereas Gandalf hewed closely to his mission parameters.

Still, are any of them fundamentally different from the others? I know they vary in power and willingness to flout the rules but at the end of the day is a Balrog any different than, say, Radagast?

Think of it like this...pretend they are all humans. Humans come in many different shapes and sizes and ethical flexibility. But at the root of it all they are all still humans.

Are Maiar any different or is there a deeper difference here?
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Old 03-20-2020, 07:35 AM
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The Maiar who became Istari are different; they are not divine beings who become incarnate, they are divine beings who accepted the limits of having a physical body (like that of men and elves). They feel pain, hunger, despair, weariness the way us lesser beings do. They have limited access to their divine powers and memories.

Lots more can be said, and recently was, in a thread about the nature of Gandalf.

Last edited by Qadgop the Mercotan; 03-20-2020 at 07:36 AM.
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Old 03-20-2020, 08:09 AM
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Olorin was not qualitatively different from any other Maia (though there were of course quantitative differences; he was said to be the wisest of all of them). But when Olorin voluntarily became Gandalf, he accepted certain qualitative limitations.
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Old 03-20-2020, 08:31 AM
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They're acolytes to the Valar, who are the gods, so the Maiar are basically demigods. They're not all the same. Each Maia partakes of the nature of the Vala he's associated with, so that particular association limits and empowers each of them in particular ways. What makes the Istari special is the mission they're charged with by the Valar, combined with their taking on human form. The mission gives them direction and certain powers, while the human limitation means they need a learning curve to grow into functioning effectively in Middle-earth. This way they have built-in brakes on their exercise of power, unlike Sauron, whose connection with Melkor having been cut off, can self-aggrandize without checks or balances.

Saruman's case, being an attempt to self-aggrandize ŕ la Sauron, makes for interesting tensions in the character. Saruman worked for Aulë the Smith, which puts him into the closest competition with Sauron, who had been originally attached to Aulë too, before taking up with Melkor. Aulë was the guy who had screwed up long ago by creating and animating the Dwarves on his own without authorization from Eru. Aulë repented and got back in line, but Tolkien must have intuited some erratic tendency running through cosmic smithcraft that came out in Sauron and Saruman.

Olórin (Gandalf) worked for Varda the Star-Kindler, which put him into closest alignment with the Elves, but for the Middle-earth mission he was seconded to Lórien the dream guy, which gave him insight into human dreams as well as elven. Radagast worked for Yavanna. The Balrogs were Melkorian, i.e. pure violence.
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Old 03-22-2020, 01:56 AM
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Wasn't Gwaihir also a Maia incarnate (or the descendent of one)?
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Old 03-22-2020, 07:47 AM
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It's commonly speculated that the Eagles were Maiar, but Tolkien never actually says so, and I don't think the argument is very strong. The primary argument is that they were sapient and language-using, and therefore people, but weren't accounted in Treebeard's List of People. But wargs, also, are language-using beasts, and I don't think that anyone ever considered them to be Maiar.

See also dragons. There's one reference to "the evil spirit within" one of the old dragons (Ancalagon, IIRC), but I think that can be taken as just a reference to the dragon's own anima.
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Old 03-22-2020, 07:20 PM
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FWIW, here's my entry in the February 2012 SDMB Poetry Sweatshop:

Olórin

Not for me a quiet life of hearth and home!
No, though I warned them I was not worthy
of the burden they placed on my frail shoulders,
it was decreed that I must take ship far away,
leaving those fair shores, that ineffable light,
and give my all to the cause of defeating the enemy:
my time, my passion, my spirit, indeed my very life.

I had no gift of prophecy, no talent for battle then;
what I acquired came to me only with difficulty.
Neither king nor master was I, but rather a counsellor,
wandering wherever I might, a sage, a friend in grey,
kindling fires of hope and courage and resolution
in those of great hearts and sinewy arms; and
thus, through the lonely, hopeful strivings of long years,
did I prepare the way for the dark foe's downfall.

And while it was smaller hands which sealed his doom,
I played my part, I think, and soon will return to the blessed West.
Tired am I, weary to my bones; old, too old in body and spirit,
though content to have done what I could to bring about
this new golden age of which I have long dreamed,
and for which I have long striven,
but which I, alas, will see not.
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Old 03-22-2020, 07:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir View Post
but which I, alas, will see not.
Swap the "not" and the "see". It works better ending with a long vowel sound.
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Old 03-23-2020, 11:58 AM
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Maybe, but "see not" has more of an archaic sound to it, I think. But thanks.
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Old 03-23-2020, 09:14 PM
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Maybe, but "see not" has more of an archaic sound to it, I think. But thanks.
You can always change the "will" to "shall" to get an older effect, too.

Yes, I know some say it changes the meaning, but it really doesn't seem to in most uses I've found.
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Old 03-24-2020, 05:40 AM
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I was always ticked at Tolkein for just dropping two more Istari into the mix, and then casually saying "but they do not come into these tales". What's the point? Plus, how can two Maiar just disappear and not have any impact at all? Pretty weak tea by the Valar, I always thought.
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Old 03-24-2020, 07:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Northern Piper View Post
I was always ticked at Tolkein for just dropping two more Istari into the mix, and then casually saying "but they do not come into these tales". What's the point? Plus, how can two Maiar just disappear and not have any impact at all? Pretty weak tea by the Valar, I always thought.
Per JRRT's later notes, he implied that the Blue wizards proved critical in stirring unrest against Sauron in their eastern regions, preventing the forces he arrayed against the west from being completely overwhelming.

JRRT was building a Universe, after all. Lots of apparent loose ends that were legendary in their own right.
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Old 03-24-2020, 08:30 AM
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Per JRRT's later notes, he implied that the Blue wizards proved critical in stirring unrest against Sauron in their eastern regions, preventing the forces he arrayed against the west from being completely overwhelming.
Yes, and where Gandalf's MO was to act through counsel, Saruman's with craft, and Radagast with beasts, and each mostly worked independently, going their separate ways in the West of Middle-Earth, the two Blue Wizards who went East worked together, through music. They were, after all, on a mission from gods.

Last edited by robardin; 03-24-2020 at 08:32 AM.
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Old 03-24-2020, 10:16 AM
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Which was Jake, and which was Elwood?
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Old 03-24-2020, 10:18 AM
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Now I'm visualizing Henry Gibson as Sauron.

Last edited by mbh; 03-24-2020 at 10:20 AM. Reason: Henry, not Fred
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Old 03-24-2020, 11:04 AM
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OK, that's now officially my headcanon.
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Old 03-24-2020, 11:31 AM
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Somewhere, the Professor is shaking his head in bemused disbelief.
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Old 03-24-2020, 11:48 AM
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Quote:
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Which was Jake, and which was Elwood?
Pallando only ate dry white lembas, while Alatar enjoyed four whole fried squabs, and a mead.
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Old 03-24-2020, 12:21 PM
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I would have liked to have learned more about Radagast. I was highly annoyed by Jackson making him so flaky in The Hobbit movies (apparently taking Saruman's description of him at face value), especially the ridiculous rabbit-sled and the bird droppings in his hair.

Last edited by Colibri; 03-24-2020 at 02:46 PM.
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Old 03-24-2020, 01:23 PM
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Yes, many things about The Hobbit were ill-advised.

Also....Cab Calloway as Aragorn.
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Old 03-24-2020, 02:25 PM
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Aretha Franklin as Galadriel.
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Old 03-24-2020, 04:19 PM
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Alatar: There's 106 miles to Rivendell, we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark out, and we're wearing sunglasses.
Pallando: Hit it!
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Old 03-24-2020, 04:40 PM
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Aretha Franklin as Galadriel.
James Brown as Elrond
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Old 03-24-2020, 05:10 PM
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I was so hoping that there were nine people in the Blues Brothers Band. But, no, there's only eight in the film (or ten, if you count Jake and Elwood).

Last edited by kenobi 65; 03-24-2020 at 05:11 PM.
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Old 03-24-2020, 05:19 PM
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So, Carrie Fisher as Gollum then?
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Old 03-24-2020, 06:47 PM
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So, Carrie Fisher as Gollum then?
My preciousssss Jake.

John Candy as Saruman?

"Orc whip? Orc whip? Three orc whips!"
  #27  
Old 03-24-2020, 11:59 PM
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I was so hoping that there were nine people in the Blues Brothers Band. But, no, there's only eight in the film (or ten, if you count Jake and Elwood).
It's 9 if you lump in Paul Shafer (or cheat and include Cab Calloway due to the final concert scenes.)
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Old 03-25-2020, 12:45 AM
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It's 9 if you lump in Paul Shafer (or cheat and include Cab Calloway due to the final concert scenes.)
I will accept that as Blues Wizards canon.
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