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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Is there a Link to "The Power within Wizard's Staffs"?


Dec 22 2013, 3:05am

Post #1 of 14 (333 views)
Is there a Link to "The Power within Wizard's Staffs"? Can't Post

In light of Gandalf getting his Fryed by Sauron
in DoS..

Bomby has a Re-Newed interest
in what people have written
about them

Maybe DanLb would know.
Maybe Tom Shippy has written something?
Would love to study this since at times
they display Incredible & Unlimited Powers
sometimes not.


Grey Havens

Dec 22 2013, 5:54pm

Post #2 of 14 (227 views)
Always thought the staff was more a channeling device [In reply to] Can't Post

Something to help direct and focus the innate power of the Wizard, though I guess considering the importance of the breaking of Saruman's staff I might have to rethink.

A Wizard has power with or without his staff, especially Gandalf who also has Narya and its power.
In the Third Age, Círdan, recognizing Gandalf's true nature as one of the Maiar from Valinor, gave him the ring to aid him in his labours. It is described as having the power to inspire others to resist tyranny, domination, and despair (in other words, evoking hope in others around the wielder), as well as giving resistance to the weariness of time: "Take now this Ring," he said; "for thy labours and thy cares will be heavy, but in all it will support thee and defend thee from weariness. For this is the Ring of Fire, and herewith, maybe, thou shalt rekindle hearts to the valour of old in a world that grows chill" (Círdan the Shipwright to Gandalf).

So I suppose like the rings, a staff might also have its own power... maybe it acts like an amplifier of the power of its "owner"

Fourth Age Adventures at the Inn of the Burping Troll http://burpingtroll.com

Fredeghar Wayfarer

Dec 22 2013, 6:29pm

Post #3 of 14 (218 views)
I agree about the channeling device [In reply to] Can't Post

The Wizards were Maiar in human form so they possessed innate power themselves. Theoretically, they didn't need the staffs but they likely used them to channel their power, something tangible through which to direct their spiritual energy. As far as the significance of breaking Saruman's staff, I saw that as symbolic. Breaking his staff represented his demotion from head of the order and expulsion from the Istari. Sort of like a suspended police office being forced to turn in his badge and gun.

book Gandalf

Dec 22 2013, 8:01pm

Post #4 of 14 (216 views)
no [In reply to] Can't Post

i think this is mainly a film thing, in the books i think the staffs are just walking aids, a weapon (big stick club thing) and a ceremonial type thing , like a queens crown. of course they can be an extension of their powers, convenient place to place a 'light spell' etc

staffs as a power aids are a peter jackson invention. but i could be wrong

This is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking-party.

Grey Havens

Dec 23 2013, 2:00am

Post #5 of 14 (214 views)
Michael Martinez brings up a good point [In reply to] Can't Post

However, Gandalf also destroyed his staff when he broke the bridge of Khazad-dum and he was still able to engage in a multi-day battle with the Balrog, in which one or both of them unleashed great power against the other.


Fourth Age Adventures at the Inn of the Burping Troll http://burpingtroll.com


Dec 23 2013, 5:35pm

Post #6 of 14 (201 views)
Thanx sev...Micheal's other quote is very Smart.. [In reply to] Can't Post

Love a Tolkien Scholar's opinion ever time.

"In my opinion a wizard’s staff was a symbol of his office —
that is, of his role as an emissary from the Valar.

Wormtongue’s insistence that Gandalf be forced
to leave his staff at Theoden’s door may thus
have been a naive attempt to deprive Gandalf
of his power because Wormtongue did not
understand the true nature of the Istari."

Mystery solved


Tol Eressea

Dec 23 2013, 6:31pm

Post #7 of 14 (187 views)
...Gandalf lifted his staff, [In reply to] Can't Post

and crying aloud he smote the bridge before him. The staff broke asunder and fell from his hand. A blinding sheet of white flame sprang up. The bridge cracked.

I've always interpreted that passage as Gandalf breaking his staff to explosively release the innate power inside it. But I'm willing to read other interpretations...

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.


Dec 23 2013, 7:40pm

Post #8 of 14 (187 views)
An alternate idea [In reply to] Can't Post

Instead of the staff having power it could be interpreted that the staff was the focus of Gandalf's power and was broken by its strength.

Tol Eressea

Dec 24 2013, 5:19am

Post #9 of 14 (165 views)
So you're saying [In reply to] Can't Post

Gandalf channeled so much of his power through his staff that it overheated and blew up? Hmmm... Could be.

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.

Tol Eressea

Dec 24 2013, 5:30am

Post #10 of 14 (166 views)
Perhaps [In reply to] Can't Post

When Saruman's staff was broken, he did not lose all of his power. Just most of it. Maybe the staff is the link to the divine power resovoir that they can tap into? Maybe the staff is the link, and their body is the conduit, and the only limitation of their power expressed?

Call me Rem, and remember, not all who ramble are lost...Uh...where was I?


Dec 24 2013, 5:57am

Post #11 of 14 (177 views)
There seems to be at least two different aspects to consider. [In reply to] Can't Post

One is the power of the staff. What he does. I have no idea about what they do and how they do it, and I'm unsure if they are really needed to accomplish magical feats at all. Probably they are, but the principle behind it eludes me.

The other is what they represent. I agree with the idea that it is a symbol of office, but I disagree that it is a symbol of their role as emissary of the Valar. I think instead that each Istari spirit puts a particular meaning in his staff, and the meaning would change according to his changing views about himself.

Saruman appears to make an association between a wizard's staff and a king's crown. That, I think, would be his personal understanding of its meaning. His staff being his crown, without it he lost his powers to keep a state, his many colours no longer glimmered and he became a lost wanderer. In his words, he became "adrift."

But in the beginning Saruman was a high loremaster and at that time, perhaps his staff was meant to represent knowledge, a powerful mind. Had it been broken at that time, I suppose the consequences would be far different. Perhaps he would lose the memory of a critical part of his learnings. The loss would be of his unrivalled subtle mind.

Gandalf, on the other hand, considered himself to be a steward. So, accordingly, his staff was a symbol of his service and the breaking of it meant that his guardianship of Middle-earth was ended (in fire, like Denethor's.) Specifically it meant that the leading of the Company of the Ring was passed to Aragorn and that the Balrog had become his sole task.

Radagast is an altogether different case because he was a caretaker of living beings. I don't know what he thought about himself (so to me the secret of his staff remains hidden,) but if I had to guess, I would say that the breaking of his staff would affect not himself directly, but the objects of his care. That alone would put Radagast on a very difficult position, perhaps even leading him to fear situations of combat. Not because he is powerless, but because to a meaningful extent he became what he cared for, literally.

It is telling that in the two known instances where a staff was in fact broken, both his holders eventually died. It seems to be also a seal of fate related to the mental disposition of its holder. Self-sacrifice in the case of Gandalf (which I think was not voluntary, I think his staff broke against his will,) and a soul consuming desire to rule in someone fated to destituteness, in the case of Saruman.


Dec 24 2013, 5:11pm

Post #12 of 14 (158 views)
The Reverend had the interesting idea that the staff was the repository for the bits of a Maiar that were inconsistent with human form [In reply to] Can't Post

He put it rather better- sadly I've not managed to search up his original post.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Dec 24 2013, 9:27pm

Post #13 of 14 (149 views)
Or is there breaking, and then there's breaking? [In reply to] Can't Post

The mechanics of wizard staffs are never clear to me given the little info we have on them. It really does seem that Gandalf put all his power into breaking the bridge at Khazad-dum and should have been left at a disadvantage in fighting the Balrog, but it seems that's when the fight *really* began. I know he had Narya, but even though it was a ring of fire, it wasn't meant for war. (Or so Elrond says. But Galadriel contradicts that by saying that Nenya protects Lorien. Another mystery.)

Anyway, I wonder if it's the manner of breaking that matters. Gandalf broke Saruman's staff in a ceremonial removal of him from the Istari ranks, and he did so as an enhanced Istari. I don't think Gandalf the Grey could have had the same effect on Saruman and his staff; G. the White was empowered by the Valar and/or Eru to do a lot more than the Grey did. Breaking Saruman's staff was an act of divine authority.

When Gandalf's staff broke, he was invoking magic in a duel. Was it that different from the duel they had over the chamber door, which was so great a strain that it shattered it? There was no divine emissary revoking Gandalf's credentials.

Then again, Gandalf the White needed his staff to play his tricks, as he made clear at Edoras, so even with his overhaul, he needed it. It remains unclear and probably belongs in the same mystery category of what happens to Nazgul when their undead bodies that can't be killed are somehow killed in a Rivendell flood, or rendered unusable somehow, but it doesn't kill them.

Tol Eressea

Dec 24 2013, 9:36pm

Post #14 of 14 (163 views)
Rings and staves [In reply to] Can't Post

Kenya mag have defended Lorien in a passive way. Making the way confusing and hiding the Galadhrim. I can't help but compare the Girdle of Melian to Galadriel's protective webs. It might be wrong, but that is where my thought goes.

Naryna was to keep off weariness and kindle hope. Perhaps it helped support Gandalf's the Grey and his physical body. So when he tried to use its power to channel the power into breaking the bridge, he overloaded his body's capability, numbed to fatigue by Naryna and insensible to how much power he could control. His ring might have been adrenaline to his system, providing a false and fleeting sense of strength.

Let's not forget that it made a dramatic scene!!!

In the after battle, Naryna could have given Gandalf's that same adrenaline kick, so he won, but he still died, let us not forget that.

Call me Rem, and remember, not all who ramble are lost...Uh...where was I?


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