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In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, the White Council is a group of elves and wizards of Middle-earth, formed to contest the growing power of Dol Guldur (Sauron's stronghold in Mirkwood), at the request of Galadriel, the co-ruler of Lothlorien. In the narrative, it is officially the Second White Council, a successor of that of the Second Age.
First White Council
Little is known about the First White Council, the members of which were mostly the same as the Second, but led by Gil-galad and not including the Istari (wizards). It was formed after Sauron's defeat in Eriador in S.A. 1701. Its main decision was that Eregion was to be abandoned in favour of Imladris.
Second White Council
The Second White Council's membership included the Wizards Saruman the White, Radagast the Brown, Gandalf the Grey, and the chiefs and rulers of the Eldar, including Lady Galadriel of Lothlórien, Master Elrond of Imladris and Círdan the Shipwright of the Grey Havens. Saruman was the head of the White Council, against the wishes of Galadriel, who later described this as the beginning of the long defeat. Other possible members are said to be among the mightiest of Elves: the Elf-lord Glorfindel; Elrond's chief counsellor Erestor; and, Celeborn, Galadriel's husband, whom Galadriel herself called "Wise". The two Blue Wizards were not part of the Council. Tolkien does not give a list of all the members of the council; "other lords of the Eldar" is as close as The Silmarillion gives to a list. Unbeknownst to the other members of the Council, Círdan (and later Gandalf), Galadriel, and Elrond were also the bearers of the Three Rings of the Elves.
The Second White Council first met in T.A. 2463 to counter the growing threat from Dol Guldur. Gandalf travelled through Southern Mirkwood in T.A. 2850, and learned of the identity of the Necromancer, who ruled over Dol Guldur. In T.A. 2851 the White Council met to decide whether to act on Gandalf's discovery, but Saruman dissuaded the others.
When he realized that the One Ring was possibly still in the area of the Gladden Fields and that Sauron was actively seeking it, Saruman relented and in T.A. 2941 Sauron was driven out of Dol Guldur, only to re-appear in Mordor, long prepared for him. This White Council meeting, of late summer T.A. 2941, was also the reason that Gandalf was unable to accompany Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves on a portion of their trip to the Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit.
The Council last met in T.A. 2953 to discuss Sauron's attempts to find the One Ring. At this meeting Saruman insisted that the One Ring had fallen into the Anduin and had been swept out to sea. During this meeting there was much tension between Saruman and Gandalf, for Gandalf already suspected Saruman of desiring to possess the One Ring.
In July 2006, Electronic Arts announced development of an open world role-playing game called The Lord of the Rings: The White Council, due for release in late 2007, in which players would serve the Council. The game was said to include elements of Peter Jackson's film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and other Tolkien books, since Electronic Arts held licenses to both at the time. The game was set to be released for Sony's PlayStation 3, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and for personal computers, but the game was delayed and on 2 February 2007, EA announced that the game had been put on an indefinite hiatus, and to date no further information has been released.
Film version of The Hobbit
At the meeting, the topics of discussion include Gandalf's reason for supporting Thorin Oakenshield's quest: to prevent the threat of Smaug the Dragon possibly siding with Sauron, whom he fears is on the brink of returning. Although Saruman is dismissive of Gandalf's evidence of this danger, the White Wizard was at more of a loss to do the same concerning Radagast the Brown's firm evidence that a necromancer is residing at the castle of Sauron's stronghold in Mirkwood, Dol Guldur. The Extended Edition of the film added more dialogue to the White Council scene, in which Gandalf specifically points out that they do not know what became of the surviving Seven Rings of the Dwarves.
In The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies the members of the council banish Sauron (the Necromancer) and the Nazgûl from Dol Guldur. At first Galadriel saves and heals Gandalf (with Radagast escorting the Grey Wizard out of the citadel), then Elrond and Saruman fight the Ringwraiths. Finally, Galadriel stands against Sauron alone, overpowers him and he flees. Elrond wants to follow him and destroy him for good, but Saruman stops him and asks him to take care of Galadriel, weakened by her fight with Sauron. Saruman persuades them to "leave Sauron to me". This scene hints Saruman's later betrayal.
- Tolkien, J.R.R., The Lord of the Rings, 'The Council of Elrond'
- Tolkien, J.R.R., Unfinished Tales, 'Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn'