Oct 27 2017, 6:33pm
Following Tolkien's early plot ideas, which did not include the existence of Saruman, we can imagine any number of reasons for the hobbits to travel to Rivendell without Gandalf (he was originally held prisoner by a hostile giant, i.e. Treebeard); for the Company to traverse Moria rather than the Gap (it's a tunnel under the mountains, an irresistible lure for all Tolkien heroes); and for the Fellowship to split as they did during their river journey.
I am Saruman the White, but Black is mightier still.
But without the distraction to the West due to Saruman's treachery (the Treason of Isengard, so-called), the Mordor contingent would have its adventure with spiders, Gollum, etc., and the others would all continue to Gondor (with, perhaps, Gimli and Legolas departing to help their own people back North).
Saruman, should he still prove to exist and be a helpful sort, would presumably lead and guide Theoden's forces, reinforced by the Ents (unless they're still evil as when they detained Gandalf), in a mission of rescue and reinforcement to Gondor. Plenty of threats would remain: the Black Ships from the South, a huge attack from across Anduin by the full might of Mordor and the Easterlings, and of course the treason of Boromir and Denethor, forcing Aragorn, Gandalf, Theoden and Saruman to overcome a near-civil war in Minas Tirith while under attack by Mordor and Morgul.
Or not. But there's plenty of story here, as we all know -- too much story, some have carped. But is there plenty of room for a second wizard - who, by the way, would have no orc-army or Dunland forces, because he's not that kind of an evil wizard, remember? So his help to the forces of Good would be more moral and/or magical, and much less military. The problem would really be to differentiate him from Gandalf - meaning he might not be necessary to the story at all.
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