Middle Earth: the Wizards Guide

Last Modified: 1/29/96

Who's this for?

This article is intended for people who would like more background on the world in which the METW card game is set. It assumes the reader has read The Lord of the Rings, but has not read The Silmarillion or Unfinished Tales

SPOILER ALERT: If you are planning on reading these works and do not want the ending revealed, do not read further.

The Middle Earth: The Wizards (METW) card game is set in the northwest corner of a continent called Middle Earth in a world known as Arda. Arda was created by being known as Eru as an embodiment of the music made by his servants, beings known as Ainur. A number of the most powerful of the Ainur were so moved by this creation that they petitoned and were granted leave by Eru to take corporeal form and actually go to Arda to live there and care for the world that they envisioned in song. These Ainur became known as the Valar, or the Powers of the World. They dwelt on the westernmost continent of Arda in a land called Valinor, along with their servants, a race of beings similar to the Valar, but slightly less powerful, known as the Maiar. One example of a Maiar is Osse, a servant of Ulmo, who in his wrath creates the storms that bear his name.

Who are the Valar?

The Valar were fourteen in number, and each took to caring for that portion of Arda that embodied their own song. Manwe, whom all the Valar save one took for their ruler, was the lord of the air and the wind; the Great Eagles are his beloved servants. His mate Varda, whom the elves call Elbereth, was the mistress of the stars. Aule was the lord of the earth and the mountains; he also created the race of dwarves in his impatience for the arrival of the Children of Eru (elves and men). Ulmo was the lord of the waters of Arda. And the mightiest of the Valar, who took to no one portion of Arda but hand a hand in the creation of each, was named Melkor.

While the other Valar came to Arda with the intent of caring for the land and its inhabitants, Melkor was of a mind to rule it and name it as his own (gross oversimplification, but close enough). The Silmarillion is the story of the struggle between Melkor, whom the elves christened Morgoth (black enemy), and the rest of the Valar for the mastery of Arda, and more specifically the mastery of Middle Earth. For the Valar had driven Morgoth from Valinor and built a great fortress in the north of Middle Earth, under the belief that the Valar would not pursue him there. And for the entire First Age of Middle Earth they did not.

But at the end of the first age, Earendil the Mariner (who was the father of both Elrond and Elros, the first king of Numenor) made a journey to Valinor and pleaded for the Valar to rescue Middle Earth from the clutches of Morgoth. His plea was heard, and at the end of the First Age, the Valar came to Middle Earth. Morgoth was defeated, put in chains, and imprisoned in the void beyond the world of Arda. The Noldor, a race of very powerful elves who had lived in exile within Middle Earth (the reason is to complicated to go into here), and who had struggled with Morgoth throughout the First Age, were allowed to return.

Did all of the elves return?

But some of the most powerful of the Noldor had too deep a love of Middle Earth and were too proud to accept the pardon of the Valar, and chose not to return to Valinor (Elrond, Cirdan, and Galadriel were amongst these). And while most all of Morgoth's servants were found and brought to justice, his most powerful servant, who ranked high among the Maiar, could not be found. This servant's name was Sauron.

As is told in the Lord of the Rings, Sauron eventually returned to Middle Earth, declared himself openly, and attempted to establish himself as its ruler. The Valar had vowed never again to directly interfere with the doings of Middle Earth, but they were not unmindful of the plight of its people.

To contest Sauron's mastery, they sent five other Maiar to Middle Earth. Their charter was not to forcibly remove Sauron, but to work with the free people of Middle Earth, enabling them to liberate themselves. Because of this, they came not in their natural state, but clothed in mortal flesh. These five were known as the Istari, or Wizards, and only the mightiest of the Noldor knew their true identity or whence they came (actually, Sauron probably knew as well). Each had many names, given to them by the many peoples of Middle Earth.

So what were the wizard's names?

Here are the names and colors of the five wizards, given in three languages where these are known; Quenya, the language spoken by the elves of Valinor, Sindarin, the language spoken by the elves native to Middle Earth (eg. Celeborn or Thranduil), and common, the language spoken by most men and hobbits. Also listed is the name of the Vala each was associated with.
Quenya	  Sindarin     Common	  Color   Vala
--------  -----------  --------   ------  --------
Curumo    Curunir      Saruman	  White	  Aule
Olorin    Mithrandir   Gandalf	  Grey    Manwe
Aiwendil  unknown      Radagast	  Brown   Yavanna
Alatar    unknown      unknown    Blue	  Orome
Pallando  unknown      unknown    Blue    Orome
Very little has been written about Alatar and Pallando. We know that Pallando was not actually bidden to go to Middle Earth by the Valar, but went with Alatar out of friendship (maybe this is why ICE made him the weakest of the five in METW). We also know that in the story, they went into the eastern portion of Middle Earth and hence did not enter into the story told in the Lord of the Rings, which centers around the west.

Finally, it was Tolkien's opinion that all of the wizards except Gandalf were ultimately corrupted. While not turning to evil, Radagast 'went native', tending the birds and beasts of the wilderness, but doing very little to bring about the downfall of Sauron. Alatar and Pallando went into the eastern and southern regions of Middle Earth and did not return. If you want to find out what happened to Saruman, ask the Gaffer, who can be found in the third hole at Sharkey's End.

Was Radagast corrupted?

Tim Kurtz writes:

Just an addendum to Areiel's excellent Wizard piece.

I don't know why it bothers me, but for some reason I have a soft spot for Radagast. According to the Unfinished Tales [HC, Houghton Mifflin, p.393], only Saruman, Gandalf, and Alatar were chosen to oppose Sauron. Pallando was taken by Alatar out of friendship, and Radagast was taken by Saruman because Yavanna, Aule's wife, begged him to do so.

Yavanna was responsible for the creation of Middle-earth's flora and fauna and wanted someone in Middle-earth to care for them. So possibly, that WAS Radagast's true "mission." He also gave aid to the White Council and believed he was helping the fight against Sauron when duped by Saruman into luring Gandalf to Isengard. He seems like an OK guy to me!


Final Words

WARNING: In my experience, no collection of literature, except maybe the Bible, is more prone to provoke differences of opinion than the works of JRRT. The above discussion is based on my incomplete and inaccurate recollection, and more importantly, upon my personal interpretation of his writings. It by no means should be taken as anything more than one man's view.


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