The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
Immortal; arrived in Middle-earth c. III 1000; their fate is unknown
Origins
Emissaries sent by the Valar to work against Sauron in Middle-earth
Race
Division
Order
Pronunciation
ee'throon loo'een
Meaning
Other names

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  • Updated 28 December 2019
  • This entry is complete

Of the Wizards who came from the West to aid the people of Middle-earth, three were well known in the Westlands: Saruman the White, Gandalf the Grey and Radagast the Brown. There were at least two1 others, who travelled into the East of Middle-earth and were almost unknown by the peoples of the northwestern lands. These two were collectively known as Ithryn Luin, a Sindarin phrase that translates as the 'Blue Wizards'.

There are several accounts of these two Blue Wizards, and while these vary in detail they broadly tell the same story. After landing at Mithlond, they set out into the distant East of Middle-earth in the company of Saruman. Saruman later returned into the western lands, but the Ithryn Luin remained in the East, and for this reason they remained little known in the western parts of Middle-earth. This lack of knowledge perhaps accounts, at least in part, for the conflicting tales of their names and fates.

The Early Tradition: Alatar and Pallando

According to one tradition,2 the Ithryn Luin had the names Alatar and Pallando, or at least they were known by those names in Valinor. According to this tradition, Alatar was a follower of Oromë, and one of the first of the Wizards to be chosen by the Valar. He chose his friend Pallando to accompany him on the journey to Middle-earth.

The connection to Oromë perhaps makes sense in this context, as he was the Vala who had paid most attention to the distant parts of Middle-earth, and so it would be natural for his emissaries to be sent there. In a 1958 letter,3 Tolkien described these emissaries as travelling into the 'East and South', so perhaps Alatar and Pallando divided their efforts after leaving the western lands (or perhaps they remained together, travelling first into the East, and then into the South). Whatever their course, according to this tradition they did not succeed in their mission. The same letter explicitly describes them as failing in their task, and instead founding mystical cults and traditions.

The Later Tradition: Morinehtar and Rómestámo

An alternative tradition appears in Tolkien's later writings.4 Here, the two Blue Wizards are named Morinehtar ('Darkness-slayer') and Rómestámo ('East-helper'), and they arrived in Middle-earth earlier than the other Wizards, at some point during the Second Age. As with the earlier tradition, the Ithryn Luin travelled into the East of Middle-earth, where their purpose was to stir Sauron's followers into rebellion.

The most significant difference between the two traditions is that, where the Ithryn Luin failed in the earlier version, in the later tradition they evidently succeeded. Through their influence, the eastern lands under Sauron's dominion were thrown into chaos and revolt. Because of this, the armies that Sauron was able to field against Minas Tirith were far smaller than they would otherwise have been. So, the defeat of Sauron in the War of the Ring was in some part due to the hidden hand of the Blue Wizards, the Ithryn Luin far away in the distant and unknown East.


Notes

1

In The Lord of the Rings, Saruman speaks of the 'rods of the Five Wizards' (in The Two Towers, III 10, The Voice of Saruman), which seems to imply that there were five Wizards in total. Tolkien, however, seems to have been less certain on this point than Saruman's words might suggest. In an essay dedicated to the Istari or Wizards (given in Unfinished Tales), he says that the '...number is unknown; but of those that came to the North of middle-earth ... the chiefs were five.' By this account there may have been lesser companions of the Wizards beyond the five known, and perhaps others who travelled to more distant parts of Middle-earth.

2

The 'early tradition' described here comes from a variety of Tolkien's notes and letters dating from the 1950s, notably around 1954 and including a letter written in 1958. Most of this material is reproduced in Unfinished Tales, and thus following the conventions of this site is the more 'canonical' of the two accounts. However, in this case this convention of canonicity might be misleading. This is clearly the earlier of the two accounts, and if the story of the Ithryn Luin had ever been published in Tolkien's lifetime, this 'first tradition' is likely the one that would have been abandoned.

3

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, No. 211 to Rhona Beare, dated 14 October 1958.

4

The 'later tradition' comes from a group of manuscripts collectively titled as Last Writings in volume XII of The History of Middle-earth. This material probably dates from 1972, and thus post-dates the early tradition by nearly twenty years. Attached to this material was a mention of a '...note made on their names and functions...' which '...now seems lost...' (The History of Middle-earth XII, Part Two XIII, Last Writings). This seems to be a reference to the earlier tradition, which Tolkien evidently did not have to hand when he wrote his later version. Though clearly written later, it should be noted that this material is in draft form, and that the name Rómestámo also appears as Rómenstar or Rómestar.

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 28 December 2019
  • This entry is complete

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