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Timeline Event

Gandalf's Imprisonment in Isengard: Overview

Event Type: Military/Strategic

Age: 3rd Age - Ring War

Dates: July 10, 3018 ~ September 18, 3018


An event in the prelude to the Invasion of Westfold by Saruman; see that entry for an overview:
Saruman entices Gandalf to Isengard, and, after attempting and failing to corrupt him, imprisons him atop the tower of Orthanc.

Table of Contents:
The Adversaries
— Saruman
— Gandalf
The Timeline
The Prelude
The Imprisonment
The Aftermath

The Adversaries

The Adversaries: Saruman
[In] that time [after the Watchful Peace] was first made the... White Council, and therein were... lords of the Eldar, and with them were Mithrandir and Curunír. And Curunír (that was Saruman the White) was chosen to be their chief, for he had most studied the devices of Sauron of old. Galadriel indeed had wished that Mithrandir should be the Lead of the Council, and Saruman begrudged them that, for his pride and desire of mastery was grown great.... But Saruman now began to study the lore of the Rings of Power, their making and their history.

The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

Saruman soon became jealous of Gandalf, and this rivalry turned at last to a hatred... Saruman... grew to fear him, being ever uncertain how much Gandalf perceived of his inner mind.... So it was that openly he treated Gandalf with less respect than did others of the Wise... while secretly he noted and pondered all that he said, setting a watch, so far as he was able, upon all his movements.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Concerning Gandalf, Saruman, and the Shire

[Saruman] was himself so far fallen that he believed all others of the Council had each their deep and far-reaching policies for their own enhancement.... So when long after he learned something of the finding of Gollum's Ring by the Halfling, he could believe only that Gandalf had known of this all the time; and this was his greatest grievance, since all that concerned the Rings he deemed his especial province. That Gandalf's mistrust of him was merited and just in no way lessened his anger.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Concerning Gandalf, Saruman, and the Shire

The Adversaries: Gandalf
[The] Grey Wanderer had the greater strength [compared to Saruman], and the greater influence upon the dwellers in Middle-earth, even though he hid his power and desired neither fear nor reverence.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Concerning Gandalf, Saruman, and the Shire

Mithrandir refused the office [of Lead of the White Council], since he would have no ties and no allegiance, save to those who sent him, and he would abide in no place nor be subject to any summons.

The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

The Timeline
Last meeting of the White Council.... Saruman withdraws to Isengard, which he takes as his own, and fortifies it. Being jealous and afraid of Gandalf he sets spies to watch all his movements; and notes his interest in the Shire. He soon begins to keep agents in Bree and the Southfarthing....

[See: Saruman sends agents to the Shire and Bree]

circa 3000
... Saruman dares to use the palantír of Orthanc, but becomes ensnared by Sauron, who has the Ithil Stone. He becomes a traitor to the Council. His spies report that the Shire is being closely guarded by the Rangers.

[See: Saruman ensnared by Sauron via the Palantír]

Bilbo's farewell feast. Gandalf suspects his ring to be the One Ring. The guard on the Shire is doubled. Gandalf seeks for news of Gollum and calls on the help of Aragorn....

[See: Saruman sends more spies to the Shire]
[See: Rangers double the guard on the Shire]

Mid-year's Day
Gandalf meets Radagast.

[See: Radagast delivers Saruman's summons to Gandalf]
[See: Gandalf spends the night in Bree]
[See: Gandalf leaves a letter for Frodo with Barliman Butterbur]

Gandalf imprisoned in Orthanc....

[See: Gandalf arrives in Isengard to consult Saruman]
[See: Saruman tries to corrupt Gandalf]
[See: Saruman imprisons Gandalf in Orthanc]

Gandalf escapes from Orthanc in the early hours. The Black Riders cross the Fords of Isen.

[See: Gwaihir rescues Gandalf from Orthanc]
[See: Saruman closes the Gap of Rohan after Gandalf's escape]

Gandalf comes to Edoras as a beggar, and is refused admittance.

[See: Gwaihir bears Gandalf to Edoras]

Gandalf gains entrance to Edoras. Théoden commands him to go: 'Take any horse, only be gone ere tomorrow is old!'

[See: Théoden rejects Gandalf's warnings about Saruman]
[See: Théodred takes command of Rohan's defences]

Gandalf meets Shadowfax, but the horse will not allow him to come near. He follows Shadowfax far over the fields.

The Black Riders reach Sarn Ford at evening; they drive off the guard of Rangers. Gandalf overtakes Shadowfax.

[See: Gandalf tames Shadowfax]

... Gandalf having tamed Shadowfax rides from Rohan.

[See: Gandalf rides from Rohan for the Shire]

The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, The Tale of Years: The Third Age

The Prelude
[It] is said that Sauron had at this time, by means of the palantíri, at last begun to daunt Saruman....

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Notes, Note 14

Saruman's integrity "had been undermined by purely personal pride and lust for the domination of his own will. His study of the Rings had caused this, for his pride believed that he could use them, or It, in defiance of any other will. He, having lost any devotion to other persons or causes, was open to the domination of a superior will, to its threats, and to its display of power."

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri: Notes, Note 14

[Said Gandalf,] 'I might perhaps have consulted Saruman the White [about Bilbo's ring], but something always held me back.'

'Who is he?' asked Frodo....

'He is the chief of my order and the head of the Council. His knowledge is deep, but his pride has grown with it, and he takes ill any meddling. The lore of the Elven-rings, great and small, is his province. He has long studied it, seeking the lost secrets of their making; but when the Rings were debated in the Council, all that he would reveal to us of his ring-lore told against my fears. So my doubt slept — but uneasily.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 2, The Shadow of the Past

Though (warned by Gandalf) the Council may have begun to doubt Saruman's designs as regarded the Rings, not even Gandalf knew that he had become an ally, or servant, of Sauron.

Unfinished Tales, Part 4, Ch 3, The Palantíri

[Saruman] had begun to feel certain that in some way the Shire was connected with the Ring in Gandalf's mind. Why this strong guard upon it? He therefore began to collect detailed information about the Shire.... For this he used Hobbits within the Shire,... but his agents were Men, of Dunlendish origin. When Gandalf had refused to treat with him Saruman had redoubled his efforts. The Rangers were suspicious, but did not actually refuse entry to the servants of Saruman — for Gandalf was not at liberty to warn them, and when he had gone off to Isengard Saruman was still recognised as an ally.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Other Versions of the Story

The Imprisonment
Saruman the traitor decoys Gandalf and takes him prisoner in Isengard (shortly after midsummer).

The Peoples of Middle-Earth, HoME Vol 12, Part 1, Ch 8, The Tale of Years of the Third Age

'"I have an urgent errand," [Radagast] said. "My news is evil."... "Nazgûl," he whispered. "The Nine are abroad again."....

'[My] heart sank.... "Who told you, and who sent you?" I asked.

'"Saruman the White," answered Radagast. "And he told me to say that if you feel the need, he will help; but you must seek his aid at once, or it will be too late."'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 2, Ch 2, The Council of Elrond

'[Saruman] was cold now and perilous. "Yes," he said. "I did not expect you to show wisdom, even in your own behalf; but I gave you the chance of aiding me willingly, and so saving yourself much trouble and pain. The [other] choice is to stay here, until the end."

'They took me and they set me alone on the pinnacle of Orthanc.... There is no descent save by a narrow stair of many thousand steps, and the valley below seems far away. I looked on it and saw that, whereas it had once been green and fair, it was now filled with pits and forges. Wolves and orcs were housed in Isengard, for Saruman was mustering a great force on his own account, in rivalry of Sauron and not in his service yet.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 2, Ch 2, The Council of Elrond

Strider looked grave.... 'We last met on the first of May: at Sarn Ford down the Brandywine. [Gandalf] told me that... you would be starting for Rivendell in the last week of September. As I knew he was at your side, I went away.... And that has proved ill; for plainly some news reached him, and I was not at hand to help.

'I am troubled, for the first time since I have known him. We should have had messages, even if he could not come himself. When I returned, many days ago, I heard the ill news. The tidings had gone far and wide that Gandalf was missing and the horsemen had been seen.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 1, Ch 10, Strider

'And the Eagles of the Mountains went far and wide, and they saw many things.... And they sent a messenger to bring these tidings to me.

'So it was that when summer waned, there came a night of moon, and Gwaihir the Windlord... came unlooked-for to Orthanc; and he found me standing on the pinnacle. Then I spoke to him and he bore me away, before Saruman was aware. I was far from Isengard, ere the wolves and orcs issued from the gate to pursue me.'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 2, Ch 2, The Council of Elrond

In [manuscript] C... the Black Riders arrived at the Gate of Isengard while Gandalf was still a prisoner in the tower. In this account, Saruman, in fear and despair, and perceiving the full horror of service to Mordor, resolved suddenly to yield to Gandalf, and to beg for his pardon and help. Temporizing at the Gate, he admitted that he had Gandalf within, and said that he would go and try to discover what he knew; if that were unavailing, he would deliver Gandalf up to them. Then Saruman hastened to the summit of Orthanc — and found Gandalf gone. Away south against the setting moon he saw a great Eagle flying towards Edoras.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Other Versions of the Story

'"I must have a steed on land," I said, "and a steed surpassingly swift, for I have never had such need of haste before."

'"Then I will bear you to Edoras...," [Gwaihir] said; "for that is not very far off." And I was glad, for... there are no horses like those that are bred in [Rohan].

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 2, Ch 2, The Council of Elrond

The Aftermath
'He set me down... ere dawn.... In Rohan I found evil already at work: the lies of Saruman; and the king of the land would not listen to my warnings. He bade me take a horse and be gone; and I chose one much to my liking, but little to his. I took the best horse in his land....'

The Fellowship of the Ring, LoTR Book 2, Ch 2, The Council of Elrond

Then Saruman... perceived the peril of standing between enemies, a known traitor to both. His dread was great, for his hope of deceiving Sauron, or at the least of receiving his favour in victory, was utterly lost. Now either he himself must gain the Ring or come to ruin and torment.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Of the Journey of the Black Riders

But now [Saruman] was left alone to deal with the Nine. His... pride reasserted itself in anger at Gandalf's escape... and in a fury of jealousy. He went back to the Gate, and he lied, saying that he had made Gandalf confess.... "But all that you need to know on the mission... is where 'the Shire' lies.... Go with speed, and I will report to your Master that you have done so."

This skilful speech convinced even the Witch-king... that Saruman was a faithful ally.... At once the Riders left the Gate and rode in haste to the Fords of Isen. Behind them Saruman sent out wolves and Orcs in vain pursuit of Gandalf; but in this he had other purposes also, to impress his power upon the Nazgûl, perhaps also to prevent them from lingering near, and in his anger he wished to do some injury to Rohan, and to increase the fear of him which his agent Wormtongue was building up in Théoden's heart....

When he was rid of the Riders Saruman... sat in earnest and dreadful thought. It seems that he resolved still to temporize, and still to hope to get the Ring for himself. He... believed... that the Ring... was already on the way to Rivendell. At once he marshalled and sent out into Eriador all the spies, spy-birds, and agents that he could muster.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 4, The Hunt for the Ring: Other Versions of the Story

'Gandalf!' Éomer exclaimed. 'Gandalf Greyhame is known in the Mark; but his name, I warn you, is no longer a password to the king's favour. He has been a guest in the land many times in the memory of men.... He is ever the herald of strange events: a bringer of evil, some now say.

'Indeed since his last coming in the summer all things have gone amiss. At that time our trouble with Saruman began. Until then we counted Saruman our friend, but Gandalf came then and warned us that sudden war was preparing in Isengard. He said that he himself had been a prisoner in Orthanc and had hardly escaped and he begged for help. But Théoden would not listen to him and he went away. Speak not the name of Gandalf loudly in Théoden's ears! He is wroth. For Gandalf took the horse that is called Shadowfax, the most precious of all the king's steeds, chief of the Mearas, which only the Lord of the Mark may ride.... Seven nights ago Shadowfax returned; but the king's anger is not less, for now the horse is wild and will let no man handle him.'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 2, The Riders of Rohan

Elena Tiriel 8May05, 30Sep05, 12Jul07

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