The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
The earliest use was probably of Nerdanel the wife of Fëanor during the Years of the Trees; the latest recorded use was a reference to Gandalf from the early Fourth Age
Races
Used of various Elves and Wizards (Maiar)
Title of
Three Elves (Celeborn, Nerdanel and Turgon) and two Wizards (Gandalf and Saruman)
Note
The term 'Wise' was also used collectively for the Elves as a people (see Nómin) and also for the wisest of the Elves and Wizards (see the separate entry for The Wise)

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  • Updated 1 February 2016
  • Updates planned: 1

The Wise

Title of the most far-sighted of Elves and Wizards

Encyclopedia of Arda Timeline
Years of the Trees First Age Second Age Third Age Fourth Age and Beyond

A title used for various individuals across the Ages, denoting particular knowledge, understanding and insight. Among the Elves it was first used of Nerdanel the wife of Fëanor, but later also for King Turgon and Lord Celeborn. It was especially associated with the Wizard Saruman, but was also used for his fellow Wizard Gandalf the Grey.

Celeborn The Lord of Lórien was famed for his great wisdom, and indeed he was described by Galadriel as 'the wisest of the Elves of Middle-earth'.1 It must be said that this seems a rather curious claim, given the existence of Elves such as Galadriel or Elrond in Middle-earth. Perhaps the qualifier 'of the Elves of Middle-earth' implies that he was the wisest among the Sindar, while not approaching the High Elves, whose time in Aman would have given them a different order of wisdom altogether. Nonetheless, Celeborn remains the only Elf of the Third Age to receive the title of 'the Wise'.
Gandalf It is perhaps surprising that Gandalf is only described as 'Gandalf the Wise' on a single occasion, and that in The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen written long after he had left Middle-earth. Perhaps Gandalf discouraged the title (unlike his fellow Wizard Saruman, who used it of himself) but by the second century after his departure it had become at least somewhat established among the Gondorians.
Nerdanel The strong-willed but patient daughter of Mahtan, a great smith of Valinor, Nerdanel wedded Fëanor in his youth. It was from Nerdanel's father that Fëanor learned much of his smithcraft. At least for a time, she was able to temper Fëanor's fierce spirit, though in his later life her husband paid little attention to her wisdom, following his own counsel down a path that would lead to exile and destruction.
Turgon A prince of the Noldor and second son of High King Fingolfin, Turgon the Wise at first settled in Nevrast on the shores of the Great Sea. Following the guidance of the Vala Ulmo, he discovered the hidden vale of Tumladen, and there built an extraordinary city that became known as Gondolin. Turgon's Hidden City remained concealed from Morgoth throughout most of the First Age, and was the last of the realms of the Noldor to fall to the Dark Lord.
Saruman Saruman the White was accounted foremost of the Wizards and the head of the White Council, and was studied in the lore of many things, especially of the Rings of Power. His great knowledge meant that he was known as Saruman the Wise even among his fellow Wizards, and he was proud enough to use the title of himself. In the end his pride overcame his wisdom: he betrayed the White Council and became enmeshed in the schemes of the Dark Lord Sauron.

Notes

1

The Fellowship of the Ring II 7, The Mirror of Galadriel

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