Saruman the White, aka Sharkey, Saruman of Many Colours and The White Wizard, ws an Istari wizard

Saruman atop Orthanc

The White Wizard

who came to Middle-earth during its darkest days. Saruman was the chief of the wizards and of the White Council—those who were opposed to the rule of the evil Sauron. He was also a clever and cunning strategist as well as a talented practioner of alchemy.

The first that Middle-earth saw of this mighty wizard was as Saruman of Many Colours, a young, dashing and handsome Istari who was also a cunning warrior and strategist in secret. Saruman had a natural affinity for nature, frequenting the forests of the world (including Fangorn). He would often plant trees, shrubs and herbs along the forest beds, all the while striking up conversation with the animals and the natives of Fangorn, the Ents and Huorns-folk. Saruman was also prone to fits of recklessness with his powers at times. For instance, during an encounter with a band of Melkor's forces in the plains that would later become Isengard, Saruman's dislike for the dark powers of the

Saruman of Many Colors

A younger Saruman making friendly with a bird in a forest. Then, he was called "Saruman of Many Colours"

world caused him to lash out at the orc brigades with a fervor that scared even Gandalf when he had heard of it! When it was all done, there was a great crater in the middle of the plains. Although the battle was won, Gandalf expressed a deep concern for Saruman's temper, and did his best to rein in the wizard (which Gandalf eventually did). In time, Saruman left off his youthful rage at the forces of evil, and sought more clever ways of dealing with them. In fact, he became so brilliant a military strategist, and such a huge diplomat, the other Istari were convinced that Saruman would make a great leader of their legion. It was then that Saruman of Many Colours was transformed into Saruman the White! For a time, Saruman was part of the White Council, on which also served his one-time friend and fellow wizard Gandalf the Gray, Lady Galadriel, Lord Elrond of Rivendell, the elven warrior-prince Glorfindel and Radagast the Brown, another wizard companion of Gandalf's. During one of the council's meetings, Saruman attempted to dissuade the others from taking action against the Dark Lord Sauron (whom Gandalf alleged was hiding out at Dol Guldur under another name, "The Necromancer"). At another meeting, Saruman relented and agreed that he and the others needed to attack Dol Guldur immediately. Behind this was an ulterior motive: Saruman voted for the attack because he did not want Sauron to reclaim his lost Ring. Gandalf, however, had a sneaking suspicion that Saruman wanted the Ring for himself...

Saruman accompanied Elrond to Dol Guldur to battle Sauron and his Nazgul, and aid Galadriel in rescuing Gandalf, who had been taken prisoner by the Dark Lord.

Eventually, some time after the Battle of the Five Armies, Saruman retreated to his tower fortress Orthanc in Isengard and fortified it. Soon after, sadly, Saruman was ensnared by Sauron's malevolent influence, and he began to also seek out the One Ring. It was later learned that Saruman, in his quest for power, sought to not only destroy the free peoples of Middle-earth, but also to overthrow Sauron and take rulership for himself! Gandalf had long suspected this, and upon a visit to Saruman at Orthanc, the Grey Pilgrim's suspicions were all but proven right. Saruman wanted to ally with the Dark Lord Sauron and conquer Middle-earth with Gandalf's help, with the ultimate aim of defeating Sauron and having the Wizards claim Middle-earth for themselves. Upon realizing just how far down his former friend had sunk, Gandalf defiantly rebuffed Saruman for his "madness!" Saruman, in return, attacked Gandalf, setting off a dule of wills between the two. Saruman bested Gandalf and imprisoned him atop the tower of Orthanc so that he would not interfere in his plans.

Even with his creation of the "super-soldier" creatures, the Uruk-hai, Saruman's designs were inevitably overthrown following the Battle of Helm's Deep and the Seige of Isengard. Furthermore, one of his servants, the Rohirrim Grima Wormtongue, literally stabbed him in the back and sent the wizard plummeting down from atop Orthanc.

One thing to note, though, is that although Saruman from the movies was killed by Wormtongue while both were atop Orthanc, the "book" version of Saruman managed to persuade the Ents in letting him go free once he handed over the keys to the tower. The wizard lived the rest of his days as a Shire criminal lord named "Sharkey." He led a band of rebel hobbits  and ruffians in a last ditch effort to take control of the Shire (at least). But Saruman was eventually betrayed and killed by Wormtongue after refusing one final chance of redemption given to him by Frodo Baggins. In the movies, it was Gandalf who offered Saruman redemption.'''''