The Voice of Saruman: Questions?

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3RingsforEGG 11/Dec/2006 at 10:51 AM
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From what I understood, this is some kind of spell casting.  Is it only him who is capable of doing this?

How about Gandalf?  If so, could he have used it against the Orcs?

Also, it was suggested in the books somehwere the even Treebeard was coerced into releasing him.  Are the Elves affected by this?  Like Elrond and Galadriel?

Thank you.

First Age 11/Dec/2006 at 12:43 PM
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Well don’t forget in The Hobbit, Gandalf does do something similar. He keeps the trolls arguing with eachother by mimicing them. I realise this isn’t the same as spell in Saruman’s voice but it is along the same lines. Sorry about the lack of a quote but I don’ have TH with me.
Boromir88 11/Dec/2006 at 01:01 PM
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I would call Saruman’s power a bit of a ’spell’ as that’s the impression you get from reading about the Voice of Saruman:

Mostly they remembered only that it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable...When other’s spoke they seemed harsh and uncouth by contrast and if they gainsaid the voice, anger was kindled in the hearts of those under the spell...

The Riders gazed up at Theoden like men startled out of a dream. Harsh as an old raven’s their master’s voice sounded in their ears after the music of Saruman..~Voice of Saruman

Saruman was able to distort people’s perceptions and hold make them hear things that necessarily weren’t true.  I like the last bit in the comparison of those under Saruman’s ’influence’ of how they perceive Theoden’s words (or anyone that contradicted the voice) compared to Saruman’s.  Problem is this seems to contradict what Tolkien thought said in one of his Letters:

Saruman’s voice was not hypnotic but persuasive. Those who listened to him were not in danger of falling into a trance, but of agreeing with his arguments, while fully awake. It was always open to one to reject, by free will and reason, both his voice while speaking and its after-impressions.  Saruman corrupted the reasoning powers.~Letter 210

It appears here that it wasn’t a spell, per se, but that Saruman simply had great persuasive skills and was able to use a common and natural ability...logical argument.  He uses argumentation skills to try and pull people to his side and fill them with Pity.  There seems to be some contradiction as the impression I get from reading The Voice of Saruman is that Saruman was effectively able to put those he could ’lull’ under a spell.

I think others had this ability of Saruman’s (certainly Galadriel and Gandalf seem to do this as well - allbeit for different purposes than Saruman’s), as it appears to be under the skill of sanwe....or the mind-to-mind transferation (telepathy perhaps) of thoughts between people.  As Saruman seems to be able to get inside the heads of usually Men and alter their perceptions of reality.  Some elves seemed to have mastered this ability of Sanwe, and other Maiar as well.  Hence why they would be more likely to shake off Saruman’s ’telepathy’ and realize he’s trying to trick them.

The best example is in the Voice of Saruman where Gandalf and Saruman go into a ’battle of minds.’  This wasn’t some staring contest, they were most likely striving between eachother using telepathy, and Gandalf is able to shake off Saruman.  Much like what happens between Gandalf and Denethor as well:
And then his musings broke off, and he saw that Denethor and Gandalf still looked at each other in the eye, as if reading the other’s mind.  But it was Denethor who first withdrew his gaze.~Minas Tirith

If you would like, read through the Mirror of Galadriel where the Fellowship offer their insight as to Galadriel ’getting in their heads.’  I believe it is Sam saying it felt like he was completely ’naked.’  Boromir felt like Galadriel was ’testing him.’  And so on.  Galadriel definitely mastered the skill of sanwe.

If you would like I can point out other examples of Gandalf using this skill to try and get people to do what he felt was best...as he also had some good persuasion skills.  Ever wonder why he was so good at getting people to do what he wanted?  But right now I’m pressed for time.

The biggest difference I think between say Saruman and Gandalf...is Saruman forces his victims to do what he wants.  Or at least attempts to force it upon them.  In the instances with Gandalf he always leaves the final decision up to the individual.

halfir 11/Dec/2006 at 02:36 PM
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In Letter # 210 Tolkien makes it very clear that Sarumanís voice ícorrupted the reasoning powersí. It in no way hypnotized or used ímagicí, but persuasion:

íSarumanís voice was not hypnotic butpersuasive. Those who listened to  him were not in danger of falling into a trance, but of agreeing with his aguments while fully awake. It was always open to reject, by free will and reason, both his voice while speaking and its after impressions.Saruman corrupted the reasoning powers."

Many years ago, while a university undergraduate I heard  Oswald Mosley speaking in Manchesterís Moss side.

"The greatest comet of British politics in the twentieth century . . . an orator of the highest rank"Professor A J P Taylor.

This once gifted politician had fallen from grace in the 1930ís when he moved form the Labour Party to the British Fascist movement and had gone into exile in France or Monaco (I canít remember which). He came back in the late 50ís to address rallies of the British National Party - which , of course, got nowhere quickly politically. BUT his voice was like the lute of Orpheus- beautiful, mellifluous, and the words - when he spoke them- seemed so reasonable- though they were tainted words. Mosley was, I suspect, very much like Saruman, and it would be interesting to know if Tolkien had ever heard him speak.

Boromir88 11/Dec/2006 at 02:41 PM
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halfir, aye, but doesn’t Letter 210 seem to contradict what is said about Saruman’s voice in the Voice of Saruman?  Mainly...When other’s spoke they seemed harsh and uncouth by contrast and if they gainsaid the voice, anger was kindled in the hearts of those under the spell
halfir 11/Dec/2006 at 02:46 PM
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I don’t think so - Saruman’s vopice ’Corrupted the reasoning powers".If your powers of reasoning are corrupted you are likely to act in the way that you have described in bold.

Boromir88 11/Dec/2006 at 03:57 PM
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Maybe I’m completely wrong here...that’s certainly a possibility.    But a long time ago I was complimented in the fact that I’m not afraid to speculate and throw things at the fan...So I’m just going with it here.  Anyway:

I don’t think Letter 210 completely rules out the use of magic in Saruman’s voice.  Yes, he calls it persuasive, and it definitely wasn’t hypnotic, but in no way does that go to rule out magic.  Is it possible Saruman used a spell to enhance the effectiveness of his ’persuasive abilities?’

There is a different between hypnotism and persuasion, and Tolkien remarked upon this difference.  If someone is under hypnosis they have no control over their actions at all.  In fact, they have no free will at all, they are completely controlled by the person doing the hypnotizing.  With persuasion there is free will involved...you can either accept and listen to the persuader, or you can reject him/her.  Basically, by Tolkien calling Saruman’s voice persuasive...and not hypnotic I don’t think this rules out the possibility of a spell involved.  Especially when Tolkien directly refers to the voice as a spell several times through out the Voice of Saruman:

-Suddenly another voice spoke, low and melodious, its very sound an enchantment
-When others spoke they seemed harsh and uncouth by contrast; and if they gainsaid the voice, anger was kindled in the hearts of those under the spell.
-For some the spell lasted only while the voice spoke to them, and when it spoke to another they smiled, as men do who see through a juggler’s trick while others gape at it.
-but for those whom it conquered the spell endured when they were far away, and ever they heard that soft voice whispering and urging them.
-Harsh as an old raven’s their master’s voice sounded in their ears after the
music of Saruman
-So great was the power that Saruman exerted in this last effort that none that stood within hearing were unmoved.  But the spell was wholly different.

By Saruman’s voice being called persuasive, that doesn’t rule out an use of magic.  Saruman definitely I would say used great persuasive and argumentary skills to his advantage.  But I think it’s entirely possible that he also used some sort of spell to enhance its effectiveness amongst people.  For many they became ’enthralled’ to the spell and were under it.  While some were able to reject it and ’shake it off,’...This is what makes Saruman’s voice persuasive and not hypnotic.  I think since such descriptions like ’enchantment,’ music’ and it directly being called ’the spell’ at least on four occasions would say that Saruman did use a spell to enhance his Voice’s effectiveness and try to ’corrupt [more people’s] reasoning powers.’

halfir 11/Dec/2006 at 04:20 PM
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Having heard Oswald Mosley sepak and being enchanted by the ’spell’ of his voice I can well believe that many of those who listened to Saruman acted in the way described by Tolkien to Mosley and Saruman. But I doubt that the latter used magic, and the former most certainly didn’t- the power of the voice and the mind that went with it alone was sufficient to corrupt reason and cast a ’spell’.
Boromir88 11/Dec/2006 at 04:29 PM
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So, all the references to ’the spell’ was not so much in the literal sense of being a spell.  But in the figurative sense that Saruman’s voice was like a spell?  It had the power as a spell would.  The power to enthrall and manipulate as if those effected were under a spell.  I can understand that.

I definitely know Mosely didn’t use magic, as there are several politicians I’ve heard whom have a gifted voice.  I worked a longside with one of Ken Carano, who certainly has a gifted and powerful voice.  Though luckily like Mosely his words are more truthful, having been working alongside him on several occasions. 

halfir 11/Dec/2006 at 04:49 PM
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Boromir 88: Well that’s the gloss I would put on it, rather than the one of ’magic’.

Moerover, Gandalf (TT-The Voice of Saruman) obsreves that:

’First Saruman was shown that the power of his voice was waning.’ (Much like Mosley at Moss Side- by no means all were enthralled)

And this is before Gandalf strips him of his powers, breaks his staff, and casts him form the Order and the Council. Surely, if ’magic’ were the source of the voice , as at the point in time he spoke Saruman was in full possessionof his magical powers, all would be under his spell -other than perhaps Gandalf? So I think this comment also argues for a non-magical explanation.

Battlehamster 11/Dec/2006 at 06:01 PM
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I agree with halfir and Boromir 88.  I never thought of it as some sort of special Maiar or Istari power that they have.  Other people, like Feanor and Curufin and Celegorm are also described as being very persuasive.

it says in the Lay of Leithan that

...So now dark fear and brooding ire

he (Celegorm) cast on them, forboding war

and a few lines down:

This Curufin

when his brother ceased did then begin

more to impress upon their minds

and such a spell he on them binds...

So it’s certainly used to refer to persuasion done by people who probably wouldn’t have some sort of special power.

 

Valas 11/Dec/2006 at 08:46 PM
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I don’t think it’s a stretch by any means to say that Saruman’s voice had a magical quality. He was one of the Istari after all and head of his order. Being one of the Maiar, it was probably a native ability and not one that could be properly described as "spell casting" though to onlookers it might have seemed so.

Consider the description of the Istari from the Silmarillion:

In the likeness of Men they appeared, old but vigorous, and they changed little with the years, and aged but slowly, though great cares lay on them; great wisdom they had, and many powers of mind and hand.

Note in the above that wisdom, which governs the ability to reason, has been distinguished from the other powers they held at their command.

A bit further down in the Silmarillion text, Saruman is also described as being "subtle of speech." While this might seem to bolster the argument that it was in fact, nothing more than heightened powers of reasoning and logic, I must ask then why he would be singled out for this trait if it were not in some way special beyond the norm for a Maia, and therefore, magical.

halfir 11/Dec/2006 at 10:08 PM
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Saruman is also described as being "subtle of speech

Precisely, and that is not ’magical’ but a heightened natural power that some people have, both in LOTR The Silmarillion and RL.

Moreover, if Saruman had been using ’magical powers’, why would Gandalf have observed - as I point out in my most recent post prior to this:

’First Saruman was shown that the power of his voice was waning’?

3RingsforEGG 11/Dec/2006 at 10:38 PM
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Did not Saruman use his voice allow Treebeard to let him free?  Or did Treebeard allow him to leave of his own accord?  I can’t possibly imagine anyone allowing him just to go free?

I also remember reading a passage that Galadriel, Elrond and Gandalf are not influenced by it, or would it be all the Elves?

halfir 12/Dec/2006 at 02:02 AM
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Did not Saruman use his voice allow Treebeard to let him free? 

Gandalf certainly thought so:

’...this snake still had one tooth left. He had the poison of his voice, and I guess that he persuaded you,even you  Treebeard, knowing  the soft spot in your heart.’ {ROTK- Many Partings}

Treebeard, however claimed Saruman to be a  ’snake without fangs’ , moreover he, Treebeard, hated ’the caging of living things, and I will not keep even such creatures as these caged beyond great need.’ {ibid)

As to your second point, while I can believe that the three indivudals you mention could be  unmoved by Saruman’s voice  I can’t recall a passage that actually states that as a fact. Can you recall which passage you mean?

Valas 12/Dec/2006 at 02:28 AM
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halfir- I don’t dispute that it is a heightened natural power. As I said, it was probably a native (Maiar) ability as each of them were gifted in different areas according to their associations with the Valar. What I implied was that it had no sorcerous origin.

By Tolkien’s own standards however, I do believe Saruman’s voice must be classified as being magical in nature regardless of argument to the contrary, as he writes in a portion of one his letters (#155):

Anyway, a difference in the use of magic in this story is that it is not to be come by lore or spells; but it is an inherent power not possessed or attainable by Men as such.
halfir 12/Dec/2006 at 04:15 AM
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Valas: Firstly, welcome to the Plaza. X( I am afraid I might be being obtuse but your quote from Letter # 155 seems to be something of a non-sequitur. If we are stating- for arguments sake- that Saruman is not using magic,however defined,  that his voice is, say,  a heightened natural facility, then why should a quote saying that ’Anyway, a difference in the use of magic in this story is that it is not to be come by lore or spells; but it is an inherent power not possessed or attainable by Men as such’ be relevant?
Boromir88 12/Dec/2006 at 06:23 AM
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halfir,  not only Gandalf but Theoden also notices it as well: ’Turn elsewhither.  But I fear your voice has lost its charm.’

I think this is actually stronger than Gandalf’s statement.  As this is before Saruman gets his staff broken.  And of course somebody who is a skilled talker is going to have a ’charm’ to get people on his/her side.  As Theoden remarks Saruman has lost the charm of his voice.

halfir 12/Dec/2006 at 02:26 PM
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X( Thanks- I had forgotten that, and it does indeed carry more weight than the Gandalf comment.

Given the ’voice of Saruman’ I am reminded of the lines from Coleridge’s Kublai Khan- albeit with a different meaning:

’For he on honeydew has fed’

The image of a ’spell-binding’ speaker feeding on ’honeydew ’ seems to me to be a perfect one!

3RingsforEGG 13/Dec/2006 at 02:59 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by halfir on Tuesday, December 12, 2006

As to your second point, while I can believe that the three indivudals you mention could be  unmoved by Sarumanís voice  I canít recall a passage that actually states that as a fact. Can you recall which passage you mean?


I knew I read this somewhere, but I’ll try to find it; it was mentioned by the one who was mentioning it, and I don’t think it was a narrative but in passing conversation.

I have to get my book copy back!

Qtpie 13/Dec/2006 at 10:10 PM
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halfir: I think this may be what 3Rings was mentioning.

’There are not many in Middle-earth that I should say were safe, if they were left alone to talk with him, even now when he has suffered a defeat. Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel, perhaps, now that his wickedness has been laid bare, but very few others.’ The Two Towers: Flotsam and Jetsam

But this doesn’t really seem like a fact to me, merely what Aragorn was thinking if this should ever happen.
halfir 14/Dec/2006 at 03:42 PM
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X( Yes, that’s the one- many thanks. I had  forgotten that line.
Kaulargorn 15/Dec/2006 at 11:46 AM
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I think that the effect of Saruman’s voice and tricks on someone,either he is a human or an elf or a dwarf has to do not so much with the race but mainly with the strength of the personality and the character of the persons to whom Saruman’s speaks. As for Gandalf, before the War of the Ring we see him as an inferior to Saruman but then Gandalf the White is more powerful while Saruman’s strength appears to shrink