The Presistant Voice: Symbolism in Lord of the Rings

The Shaytan is a clever being. His voice is soothing and full of song. To the faint hearted, one whisper is enticing and all that is needed. But to those who show restraint and their hearts are hard to the attack, he constantly and patiently lingers at the corner of his victims heart, speaking softly and in a genial tone until the voice of a friend and the voice of a sworn enemy cannot be distinguished.
His face is fair but his heart foul
Such is Saruman
Such is Satan

The Lord of the Rings is filled with this exact symbolism in the shape of Saruman. Here in an excerpt from Book 2: The Voice of Saruman:

Suddenly another voice spoke, low and melodious, its very sound an enchantment. Those who listened unwarily to that voice could seldom report the words that they heard; and if they did, they wondered, for little power remained in them. Mostly they remembered only that it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire awoke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves. When others spoke they seemed harsh and uncouth by contrast; and if they gainsaid the voice, anger was kindled in the hearts of those under the spell. For some the spell lasted only while the voice spoke to them, and when it spoke to another they smiled, as men do who see through a juggler’s trick while others gape at it. For many the sound of the voice alone was enough to hold them enthralled; but for those whom it conquered the spell endured when they were far away, and ever they heard that soft voice whispering and urging them. But none were unmoved; none rejected its pleas and its commands without an effort of mind and will, so long as its master had control of it.

The Lord of the Rings: Upon encountering Saruman

Saruman is the villain for a better part of Toliken’s epic. Yet his nature is not that of a villain. He is not uncouth and murderous, nor dirty and hideous. Rather his voice is sweeter than honey and softer than silk and it captures all those who listen. He commands and stands proud, always refusing to serve and always eager to control. Nothing is satisfactory until it is in Saruman’s own design. Such is one of the great wizards now turned foe.

I have no doubt Tolkien was characterizing Satan through Saruman. Both are haughty. Satan is not ugly. Rather, he approaches in the way that would captivate his observer. He is like the ripe, sweet banana that attracts a multitude of flies. Such is the voice of Saruman and in turn Satan, the greatest enemy of mankind; whose words are soft and whispers softer.

Many “… see through [the] juggler’s trick while others gape at it.”

Let us not be the latter.


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