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  • Updated 22 October 2009
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White Council

The Council formed to challenge Dol Guldur

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The Council formed in the Third Age by the chief among the Eldar and the Istari to combat the growing power of Dol Guldur. The Council was led by Saruman, until Gandalf discovered his treachery at the beginning of the War of the Ring.

Members of the White Council

Only five members of the White Council are explicitly identified as such, but there is some strong circumstantial evidence favouring several other members as well. In the list below, those who are known to be members of the Council are shown in bold text, while those whose membership is merely inferred are shown in a plain typeface.

As well as those shown here, there are others who might have a more tenuous claim to membership. All of these belonged to Elrond's household: his chief counsellor Erestor, and his sons Elladan and Elrohir (and possibly also his daughter Arwen). All of these seem to have been privy to many of the Council's secrets, though it is unclear whether any of them actually served on the Council itself.

Celeborn Though he is never specifically named as a member of the Council, Celeborn was the consort of its founder Galadriel, and considered by her to be the wisest of the Elves in Middle-earth. Given those facts, it would seem extremely peculiar if he were to be excluded from the Council.
Círdan Círdan was one of the most venerable lords of the Eldar in Middle-earth, and so it is unsurprising to find him listed among the founding members of the Council.
Elrond The son of Eärendil and thus heir to noble houses among both the Eldar and Edain, Elrond was called to the Council by Galadriel, and he remained an active member throughout its history.
Galadriel It was Galadriel who first conceived of a Council to challenge the growing danger of the Shadow. She was responsible for summoning its first meeting in III 2463, and also for selecting Saruman as the Council's leader (after her natural preference for Gandalf, who refused the role).
Gandalf It was Galadriel's hope when she formed the Council that Gandalf would become its leader, but he refused that office and Saruman became its head in his place. Nonetheless Gandalf remained active on the Council's behalf, carrying out courageous acts and giving wise advice while the Council existed, and eventually bringing about its goal of Sauron's defeat.
Glorfindel It's never stated explicitly that Glorfindel was a member of the Council, but his rank would seem to imply that he warranted membership. At the very least, he had knowledge of many of the Council's secrets, and was ready to aid it in its policies.
Radagast With both Saruman and Gandalf as prominent members of the White Council, it seems hardly plausible that Radagast, the third of the remaining Wizards in the west of Middle-earth, would have been omitted. The fact that Elrond sent his sons to consult with Radagast shows that the Wizard's counsel was considered valuable.
Saruman After Gandalf's refusal of the post, Saruman was made head of the White Council. He came to envy and covet the power of Sauron, and subverted the Council towards his private goal of finding the One Ring for himself. Gandalf was suspicious of Saruman's motives, and wisely withheld his own knowledge of the Ring. Ultimately, Gandalf cast Saruman out of the Council, as well as the Order of Wizards.
Thranduil Thranduil aided members of the Council at the end of the Third Age by holding the captured Gollum, and allowing Gandalf to interrogate the prisoner. As one of the most important Elf-lords of Middle-earth, it would seem surprising for Thranduil to have been omitted from the White Council.2

Notes

1

Though the last meeting of the Council was in III 2953, it's unclear whether it was still considered to exist after that date. Tellingly, when Gandalf confronted Saruman among the ruins of Isengard in III 3019, he explicitly cast him out of the Council. That suggests that Gandalf still saw the Council as an active entity, even though (at that time) it had not met for sixty-six years.

2

Circumstantially, we might take it for granted that Thranduil belonged to the Council. As a Sindarin Elf-lord of his own domain, and a proven ally to the Council's members, it would be a natural assumption that he was a member in his own right. It must be said, however, that this idea sits slightly awkwardly with his appearance in The Hobbit, in which he seems content to enjoy woodland feasts while the White Council attack the Necromancer of Dol Guldur. One possible explanation would be to assume that Thranduil was not initially a member of the Council, but joined at a later date; indeed, his encounter with Gandalf at the Battle of Five Armies might have provided exactly that opportunity.

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