Ilverai over at Wandering Paths has had some interesting afterthoughts on Saruman.  I especially like the allusion to the “turncoat” as one who changes the colors of his coat.

Apparently Saruman’s move from white to many-colored does not lack for allusion and symbolic power.  The common metaphor about “revealing one’s true colors” probably goes with the turncoat allusion.  There is also a resonance, peculiarly enough, with Newtonian physics.  Saruman says that the “white light can be broken.”  How exactly he acquired this optical knowledge is perhaps beside the point; maybe wizards in Middle Earth liked to experiment with prisms much more than they did in the actual Middle Ages.  But for an audience raised on basic optical knowledge in high school, the allusion is effective.

I wonder if Gandalf doesn’t somewhat miss the point in his response.  Saruman’s analogy of the white page and the white light presents the idea that they are good starting points, but only as a background for something greater and more interesting.  Saruman wants power and who knows what else, in addition to his initial pure state of being-whatever-he-was.  So it seems that Gandalf’s response should have had something to do with purity, not with the business of breaking things to find their essences.  Saruman had not broken his white light to find out what white light was, but to acquire powers and distinctions that he thought he could not have as long as he was “white.”

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