After confirming the terrible truth: that Frodo’s ring is none other than the One Ring that Sauron has been desperately seeking all these years, Gandalf rides as quick as he can to Isengard, to consult with Saruman the White (Christopher Lee), the head of the order of wizards and one who has studied Sauron and his works for several ages of history.
If there was one actor born to play Saruman, it was Christopher Lee. Years ago, he actually met and talked with Professor Tolkien himself. And according to the story I heard, Lee had Tolkien’s blessing to play Gandalf should a film adaptation ever be made and that (I think) is why he auditioned for at first for the role of Gandalf. However, Peter Jackson already had Ian McKellen in mind for the part and offered Lee the role of Saruman instead. I think it worked out just fine the way it did.
Saruman is a very complex character, one that can wear many masks. He’s had everyone believing for years that he still has the best interests of Middle Earth at heart, but in truth, he was corrupted a long time ago. The music we first hear as Gandalf rides into Isengard is already rather martial, full of trumpets and brass (perhaps a very early hint of the army Saruman is going to build and let loose in The Two Towers).
Now that he knows (from Gandalf) that the Ring of Power has been found, Saruman can spring his plans into motion. There has already been one big red flag: Gandalf learns that Saruman has been using the Palantir (a magical seeing stone) in the Tower of Isengard to spy on Sauron’s movements. This is very dangerous because not all of the seven Palantirs are accounted for, and when Gandalf’s hand brushing against the stone reveals an echo of Sauron, it confirms that the Dark Lord has at least one stone in his possession. But it gets worse…
Saruman casually lets Gandalf know that the Nine Ringwraiths (initially known to us as the Black Riders) are on the move, and by this time have surely reached the Shire. A panicked Gandalf heads for the door, but Saruman blocks his way by commanding all the doors to shut. It then comes out that Saruman already knows of Gandalf’s plans to have Frodo take the Ring to a place of relative safety, and that he *knows* it cannot work. Just how far Saruman has fallen is demonstrated by this exchange:
“Against the power of Mordor, there can be no victory. We must join him him. We must join with Sauron, Gandalf. It would be wise, my friend.”
“Tell me, “friend,” when did Saruman the Wise abandon reason for madness??”
As expected, Gandalf completely rejects this despicable offer to turn traitor and join the forces of evil (did Saruman really think anything else would happen?) and the enraged wizard attacks with his magic staff. What follows is a brief battle between the two elderly wizards (a phenomenal fight considering the age of the actors at the time), but Saruman is able to wrest Gandalf’s staff away and uses both to pin the wizard to the ground. This is one scene where the music does not particularly stand out (as it does in “The Wood Elves” for instance). Rather, it functions more to highlight certain moments, like the fight between Gandalf and Saruman, or Gandalf’s initial approach to Isengard.
The music does becomes rather ominous at this point though, highlighting Gandalf’s dire situation, powerless in Saruman’s grasp:
“I gave you the chance to aid me willingly, but you have elected the way of PAIN!!”
With this, Gandalf is thrown up into the air, straight up the tower, and the music explodes upward with him. It is implied that Gandalf is being smashed against the high ceiling of the tower (given that the screen cuts to black immediately), but I suspect Saruman used a magic trick or spell to send Gandalf straight through the ceiling to the roof platform above, where we find him later.
“The Treason of Isengard” is a good introduction to Saruman the White, but this is only a preview of the larger role he will play in the next film. I hope you enjoyed it, have a great weekend! -Becky
*all images are the property of New Line Cinema