Saruman the White is the head of Gandalf’s order of Wizards. Although Saruman does not appear as a character until The Two Towers, his presence and influence is keenly felt in The Fellowship of the Ring. As the head of Gandalf’s order, Gandalf is accustomed to seeking Saruman’s advice on important issues. However, he becomes suspicious of Saruman when he urges the other Wizards not to interfere with Sauron’s forces. Gandalf’s suspicions are proven correct when Saruman imprisons Gandalf after telling him that he has aligned himself with Sauron because he wants to use the power of the Ring to rule over the world of Men. After escaping Saruman’s clutches, Gandalf recounts Saruman’s betrayal to the horror of the Council of Elrond. 

Saruman’s character is thematically significant to The Fellowship of the Ring because he represents the corrupting influence of power. Readers are meant to assume that Saruman was good once but his desire for power slowly corrupted him until he became the twisted man that we hear about from Gandalf. His desire for the Ring is different from someone like Boromir because at the very least Boromir wanted to use the Ring to defend the people of Gondor and to defeat Sauron; Saruman, on the other hand, wishes to wield the Ring for his own personal benefit. Tolkien condemns Saruman with a conviction that he does not extend to Boromir because of Saruman’s selfish desires.