Saruman the White or Saruman of Many Colors was an Istari, or wizard, who lived in Middle-earth. He was the head of the White Council in his time and lived in Orthanc. He is also known as Curunir or Curumo. He is master of twelve different languages. Saruman had originally studied the strategies of Sauron to have a better idea of how the White Council could counter Sauron's attacks. But when he studied too deep in the Dark Arts he was corrupted by Sauron. Sauron had promised him wealth and power and he ends up abandoning the mission he was given by the Valar to help the people of Middle-Earth oppose and fight against Sauron. Instead he joined with the Enemy. However he had a different way of looking at it, he saw Sauron as his Enemy and wanted to take the Ring and become the new Lord of the Rings and that he would use the Ring against Sauron. Saruman does betray the White Council but he also betrays Sauron.
Saruman the White
Saruman was a Maia, a servant of the Valar, the Powers of the world, and of Ilúvatar. In Valinor, the land of the Valar, a council was called by Manwë, leader of the Valar, shortly after Sauron's defeat by the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. Though Sauron was overthrown, it would later turn out that he had not been effectively vanquished and his shadow began to fall upon Middle-earth a second time. It was decided to send five emissaries to Middle-earth. These should be "mighty, peers of Sauron, yet forgo might, and clothe themselves in flesh", as they were intended to help men and elves unite against Sauron, but the wizards were forbidden from matching the Dark Lord in power and fear.
One of those who went was Curumo (Saruman), a powerful Maia of Aulë, just as Sauron once was. Maia were angelic beings "of the same order as the Valar but of less degree", as stated by The Silmarillion. Both the Maia and the Valar were Ainur, the first created beings, and they existed before Arda (the world) was made. The other four who were chosen were Aiwendil (Radagast), Alatar and Pallando (the Blue Wizards), and Olórin (Gandalf)
Arrival in Middle-earth
The five wizards arrived at the Grey Havens in the west of Eriador around the year 1000 of the Third Age. Only the keeper of the havens, Círdan the Shipwright, knew Saruman's identity and origin. Saruman would later discover that Círdan had given Narya the Red Ring to Gandalf upon their first landing in Middle-earth. Even though Saruman was immediately considered the head of the order while Gandalf was not, Círdan had divined Gandalf as the wisest and greatest of the wizards. Saruman's jealousy of Gandalf grew from these events, perhaps because he feared that he would eventually supplant him.
Saruman and the two Blue Wizards went into the east of Middle-earth. After one and a half millennia, he returned to the west, just as Sauron's power was growing again in Dol Guldur.
The White Council
When the White Council was formed in order to counter Sauron, Saruman was appointed its leader, though Galadriel wanted Gandalf in this position. Saruman refused to step down due to his pride, while Gandalf had declined. At this point Saruman had begun to sense the resurgence of Sauron and to envy and desire his power, and especially the One Ring. This was also the same year that the One Ring was taken by the halfling Sméagol (later called Gollum), who disappeared with it into the Misty Mountains for hundreds of years.
It was during the meetings of the Council that Saruman first noted Gandalf's interest in Hobbits and The Shire, and believing that all his deeds related to some as yet undisclosed plan of his for self-enhancement, Saruman himself began keeping a greater watch on Gandalf and sent spies to The Shire. At first, he himself visited it secretly but stopped when he realized that its inhabitants had noticed him. Amongst the purposes of his visits was to procure some of the halfling's leaf, since in secret imitation of Gandalf he had begun to smoke.
Saruman settled in Isengard with the permission of the Steward of Gondor, Beren. The stronghold was by then abandoned by Gondor, although he settled only as Warden of the Tower and representative of the Steward. There he became important in the informal alliance defending the west of Middle-earth. In the tower of Isengard, Orthanc, he also found one of the remaining palantíri.
Gandalf entered Dol Guldur and confirmed that the evil presence was indeed Sauron. By Saruman's advice, the White Council decided against attacking Dol Guldur. Gandalf would later remark that it was at this council meeting that he first began to suspect that Saruman desired to possess the One Ring. Saruman's real intention was to permit Sauron to build up his strength, so that the One Ring would reveal itself. He later found that Sauron had more knowledge of the possible location of the One Ring than he expected, he finally agreed to attack Dol Guldur.
Ten years after Sauron abandoned Dol Guldur; he returned to Mordor and declared himself openly. He established contact with Saruman through the Palantír captured from Minas Ithil, now Minas Morgul. In this year, Saruman also took Isengard for his own and began to fortify it.
When Gandalf presented Saruman with the discovery and the location of the One Ring, Saruman revealed his desire for it and his secret alliance with Sauron. He also shed the title of Saruman the White, and donned a robe of many colors. Gandalf said, "I liked white better", and Saruman replied "White! It serves as a beginning. The white page can be overwritten. The white cloth can be dyed, and the white light may be broken." Saruman no longer had any loyalty to the White Council, or the Ring Bearer. He tried unsuccessfully to gain Gandalf's allegiance. When Gandalf refused to join with him, Saruman held him captive in Isengard. Gandalf later escaped with help from Gwaihir the Windlord, one of Middle-earth's large eagles, and made Saruman's treachery known to the rest of the White Council.
The Beginning of the End
"He has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for growing things, except as far as they serve him for the moment. And now it is clear that he is a black traitor."
- Treebeard to Merry and Pippin as they walk on the southern side of Fangorn Forest.
There are different accounts of this visit. By one account, the Nazgul came two days after Gandalf's escape and Saruman used his Voice to persuade the Lord of the Nazgul that he did not know the Ring's location but that Gandalf did and they should seek him nearby. After the Nazgul heard this they went back on the main road rode along and instead found Grima Wormtoungue (who went to tell Saruman that Gandalf had been to Edoras)who revealed that Saruman was hiding his knowledge of the Shire from them. According to another account, Saruman only discovered that Gandalf had escaped when the Nazgul arrived, but he pretended that Gandalf was still there and had just told him the location of the Shire. The Nazgul later learned from the squint-eyed Southerner that Saruman knew far more than he had revealed.
Along that Road, they met one of his Shire spies from whom they got detailed maps of the Shire made by Saruman. They sent the spy back to the Shire after warning him that he was now in the service of Mordor the Orc-like man in the Inn of the Prancing Pony. Believing that he would find no pity from either quarter (a false assumption, since he was later offered pardon by Gandalf); Saruman now put all efforts into obtaining the One Ring for himself. Not all of these efforts ever became clear, but they included sending spies to waylay Frodo Baggins on his flight from the Shire (Bill Ferny in Bree), attacking Rohan outright with Uruk-hai, and dispatching raiding parties of Uruk-hai accompanied by Moria Orcs on likely routes the Fellowship of the Ring might take through Rohan to go towards Gondor. One of those parties captured Peregrin Took and Meriadoc Brandybuck after orcs had shot Boromir with twenty arrows (Note: In the book he is shot by no specified orc, just orc archers, in Peter Jackson's movie an orc general Lurtz shoots him but with three arrows.)as he tried to defend Pippin and Merry, which led Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli on a search which eventually led to The Battle of Helms Deep as well as the Destruction of Isengard by the Ents under Treebeard leading to the end of Saruman's reign of power in the north.
"You have become a fool, Saruman, and yet pitiable. You might still have turned away from folly and evil, and have been of service. But you choose to stay and gnaw the ends of your old plots. Stay then! But I warn you, you will not easily come out again. Not unless the dark hands of the east stretch out to take you!"
- Gandalf the White
His plans failed, and Saruman suffered a series of setbacks. Saruman's Shire network did not capture Frodo Baggins; and Éomer destroyed his only partially successful raiding party. His invasion of Rohan ended in disaster, with the utter defeat of his army at the Battle of the Hornburg. Leaving Isengard undefended resulted in its destruction at the hands of the Ents (Saruman had underestimated the Ents' anger and strength).
Confined to the Orthanc and with his servants scattered or killed, Saruman made one final unsuccessful attempt to turn Théoden and Gandalf over to the darkside. The latter then offered Saruman a chance for redemption, which involved surrendering his staff and the keys to Orthanc as a pledge. Saruman had a moment of doubt but in the end pride, anger and hate won over and he refused the chance of redemption. Gandalf, who had returned from death to supplant Saruman, as the White and the head of the Istari, expelled Saruman from the order and broke his staff. Saruman also lost the palantír of Orthanc when Gríma Wormtongue threw it off a balcony of Orthanc, undecided about which he hated more, Saruman or Gandalf, and hitting neither.
Left out of the final stages of the War of the Ring, Curunir eventually managed to persuade the Ents who kept him captive into letting him leave Isengard after he met the conditions of handing over the keys of Orthanc. He then went to the Shire, which his agent Lotho Sackville-Baggins had brought under control. Spending his final days as a small-time criminal master in Hobbiton known as Sharkey, where he enslaved the Hobbits, he was eventually betrayed and killed by his own servant Gríma Wormtongue on November 3, 3019, after the Battle of Bywater, where the Hobbits had Saruman's thugs surrounded with many Took bowmen led by Frodo Baggins. Frodo offered one last chance to Saruman and Wormtongue to surrender. When Wormtongue decided to accept it, Saruman beat him to the ground. Wormtongue unexpectedly brought a knife up and stabbed him. In a cruel twist of fate, the great traitor of Middle-Earth was betrayed himself by a pathetic mortal man, ending the life of Curunir the White.
After his departure from Orthanc, King Elessar entered the tower with the intent of re-ordering that realm. Inside, Elessar's men found many treasures that Saruman had conned off of King Théoden. There was a secret closet that could only be found with the aid of Gimli the dwarf; it contained the original Elendilmir, which had presumed to be lost forever when Isildur perished in the Gladden Fields, as well as a golden chain which was presumed to have once borne the One Ring.
Saruman, being a Maia, did not truly die. His spirit separated from his body much like Sauron's after the Downfall of Númenor. As an incorporeal spirit, he should have been called to Mandos but the tale implies that he was barred from returning. Tolkien indicated that his spirit was left naked, powerless and wandering, never to return to Middle-earth:
"Whereas Curunir was cast down, and utterly humbled, and perished at last by the hand of an oppressed slave; and his spirit went whithersoever it was doomed to go, and to Middle-earth, whether naked or embodied, came never back"