Istari

The five wizards of Middle-earth -- commonly known as the Istari -- were Maiar sent by Valar to assist the peoples of Middle-earth.

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“Even as the first shadows were felt in Mirkwood there appeared in the west of Middle-earth the Istari, whom Men called the Wizards. None knew at that time whence they were, save Círdan of the Havens, and only to Elrond and to Galadriel did he reveal that they came over the Sea.” ~ The Silmarillion

Gandalf And The Balrog - John Howe

Gandalf and the Balrog - John Howe

The Order of Wizards, or Istari, were Maiar spirits sent by the Valar to help Middle-earth’s inhabitants resist Sauron. Appearing as elderly men, their role was to offer guidance and wisdom, not to lead wars or rule. Originally known as the Five Guardians, and were part of a  Guardians around Cuiviénen. Their mission began in the Third Age, possibly towards the end of the Second Age.

History

The wizards, known as the Istari, were initially thought to be wise men or Elves due to their long lives and profound knowledge. Over time, it was revealed they were actually Maiar, spirits sent by the Valar to aid Middle-earth against Sauron.

The five Istari were

  • Curumo (Saruman)
  • Olórin (Gandalf)
  • Aiwendil (Radagast)
  • The Blue Wizards, Alatar and Pallando

They each had a unique role and color associated with their mission – Saruman in white, Gandalf in grey, Radagast in brown, and the Blue Wizards in sea-blue.

Formed in Valinor, the Order of Wizards was a response to the growing threat of Sauron. Initially, only Curumo and Alatar stepped forward, followed by Olórin at the command of Manwë. Aiwendil joined due to Yavanna’s request, and Pallando accompanied his friend Alatar.

Their mission in Middle-earth, which began around  1000 (Third Age), was to guide and advise, not to overpower. Taking the form of old men, they were immortal but subject to human weaknesses and emotions. This limitation was to ensure they would guide, not dominate.

Each wizard had a different journey and fate.

Saruman, once the leader, fell to his desire for power.

Gandalf, initially underestimated, rose to prominence, especially after Saruman’s downfall.

Radagast remained focused on nature, and his ultimate fate is unclear.

The Blue Wizards’ roles are the most mysterious; they might have failed or succeeded in their mission in the East and South.

The Order ended with Sauron’s defeat. Saruman met a tragic end (pierced by Hobbit arrows), while Gandalf left Middle-earth after fulfilling his mission.

Videos Discussing the Istari

Etymology

Istari is Quenya for “ones who know” or “those who know”.

The Sindarin name Ithryn means “wizards”.