In the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, the Wizards of Middle-earth are a group of beings outwardly resembling Men but possessing much greater physical and mental power. They are also called the Istari (Quenya for "Wise Ones") by the Elves. The Sindarin word is Ithryn (sing. Ithron). They were sent by the Valar to help and assist the peoples of Middle-earth to contest Sauron.
The wizards were Maiar, spirits of the same order as the Valar, but lesser in power. The first three were known in the Mannish tongue of Westron as Saruman ("man of skill"), Gandalf ("elf of the staff"), and Radagast ("tender of beasts"). Tolkien never gave Westron names for the other two; one tradition gives their names in Valinor as Alatar and Pallando. Each wizard had robes of a characteristic colour: white for Saruman (the chief and the most powerful of the five), grey for Gandalf, brown for Radagast, and sea-blue for Alatar and Pallando (known consequently as the Blue Wizards). Gandalf and Saruman both play important roles in The Lord of the Rings, while Radagast appears only briefly. Alatar and Pallando do not feature in the story, as they journeyed far into the east after their arrival in Middle-earth.
Tolkien gives multiple names for all of them. In Quenya Saruman was Curumo ("skillful one"), Gandalf was Olórin ("dreaming" or "dreamer"); and Radagast was Aiwendil ("friend of birds"). The Quenya names Morinehtar ("darkness-slayer") and Rómestámo ("east-helper") are given for Alatar and Pallando, though it is not clear which name goes with which wizard. Other names are noted in individual articles.
History and background
They came to Middle-earth around the year 1050 of the Third Age, when the forest of 'Greenwood the Great' fell under shadow and became known as Mirkwood. The wizards already appeared old when they entered Middle-earth. They were "clothed" in the bodies of old Men, as the Valar wished them to guide the inhabitants of Middle-earth by persuasion and encouragement, not by force or fear. However, they aged very slowly and were in fact immortal. Physically they were "real" Men, and felt all the urges, pleasures and fears of flesh and blood. Therefore, in spite of their specific and unambiguous goal, the Wizards were capable of human feelings; Gandalf, for example, felt great affection for the Hobbits. They could also feel negative human emotions such as greed, jealousy, and lust for power. It is hinted in the essay in Unfinished Tales that the Blue Wizards may have fallen prey to these temptations, though information published in The Peoples of Middle-earth seems to contradict this version of their history.
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