Disclaimer: NJs are not psychic; they do not have magical abilities that allow them to perfectly predict the future. What they do have is a far-reaching gaze that can come up with the most likely outcome based on the information at hand.
This weekend, feeling a strong need to revisit Middle-earth, I sat down and watched The Lord of the Rings. For the first time, I was struck by how many Ni-users are in this fantasy series! Introverted Intuition, or Ni, looks far into the future to think about the consequences of current actions and to form a long-term plan of action. It is, as Arwen would call it, “the gift of foresight,” and is utilized by Gandalf, Saruman, Galadriel, and Elrond. The White Council members shown in the films are all dominant intuitives, which makes sense considering the guardians of Middle-earth should have a far-reaching gaze.
Gandalf has always been my favorite; the wise but playful wizard who is good natured but also tends to lose his temper at others’ incompetence. He is, perhaps, the best example of Ni thinking both in the long and short term; he often sets things in motion because he knows something will come of it, but he isn’t quite certain of the details until he gets there: he knows Gollum has a part yet to play, for good or evil; he knows to send Sam with Frodo; he foresees the downfall of Helm’s Deep and predicts his return with Éomer and his armies; he knows every move Sauron is making, and what his tactics will be; he foresees and prepares for his own death in the Mines of Moria; he chooses Bilbo as the burglar; he knows that he is heading into a trap, etc. He is constantly derailed, distracted, and forced to deal with problems that detour him from his primary objective, but he short-term schemes to tackle each unexpected development, within a larger parameter and higher life calling– the long-term protection and defense of Middle-earth.
In the books Gandalf is more of an INTJ in his strategic approach and forthright comments, but in the films he uses a lot of Fe; he is forever choosing diplomacy ahead of battle tactics, and crossing social and racial barriers in order to unite people in a common goal. His humanitarian-based approach is sharply contrasted with Saruman’s emphasis on reason, logic, and action – traits he shares with Elrond, the other INTJ. The dynamic is shown at its best during the White Council scenes in The Hobbit, where Gandalf uses diplomacy to push his point, while Elrond and Saruman are more interested in the facts of the situation.
Saruman is an example of an INTJ gone bad in his futuristic goal of gathering power at the cost of his moral decency. He abandons the task the Creator set him to, to pursue his own agenda. From the start, he showed less interest in humanity than in maintaining the rules of the Order, and in making rational decisions — which is why he was chosen as the Head of the White Council. This, in of itself, is not bad, because it illustrates how capable an INTJ can be when he holds to his convictions. Unfortunately, Saruman let his motives slide over the years. Even so, his selective perspective shows the problems in Ni-Te: he is unwavering when he makes up his mind and refuses to consider alternate perspectives and possibilities (Ni), and allows rationality to discredit anything he cannot explain or that seems to be an emotionally-based decision (Te).
His construction of an army for Sauron shows the immediate benefits of Ni: when presented with a desired outcome, or vision of what he wants out of the future, Saruman can come up with a way to make that vision a reality – in his case, destroying half of Fangorn to feed the fires of industry and mass-breeding orcs and goblins to produce his Uruk-hai. Ni tends to develop a long-term vision or life goal (for Saruman — power; for Gandalf, Galadriel, and Elrond — protecting Middle-earth), but is capable of short-term problem-solving to help bring that goal into reality. His weakness comes when Treebeard and the Ents wreak havoc on Isengard, rendering his master plan unworkable and leaving him with limited options (another downfall of Ni – it can be caught off guard when unforeseen problems arise and struggles to recuperate, since its narrow focus has been thwarted).
This brings us to Elrond. People often dislike him and find him too “stern,” or blame him for trying to “ruin” his daughter’s relationship with Aragorn, but I fully understand his frustration and his perspective. Elrond thinks not in the moment, but in the long-term; until Aragorn accepts his responsibilities and becomes king (only after extensive prodding from Elrond, I might add), Elrond doesn’t foresee anything in his daughter’s future to vindicate her sacrifice in remaining in Middle-earth. If she stays, she will eventually lose everyone she loves and cease to exist. So, as any decent Ni-Te father would do, he tries to appeal to her on a logical foundation of this is what will happen if you stay in Middle-earth. What looks cold to an outsider – showing her a dark vision of the future – is an act of kindness on his part, because Elrond loves her enough not to want her to suffer through that pain. Genuine love is the desire to protect others from optional pain.
Being an INTJ means he tells her the truth without sugar-coating it; INFJs wobble, beat around the bush, and fear losing relationships by warning people against things — they lack directness, and, as a result, often fail to stop people from making bad choices. Elrond goes straight for the heart of the problem, without fear of upsetting her, because he loves her enough not to care if she hates him for being honest. It is no fun to force someone to consider the negative future consequences of a desire they have in the present. Most of the time, the person doesn’t think the NJ’s prediction or caution is valid, so they make that choice regardless – leaving the NJ to watch helplessly as their life goes down the negative path they predicted, ultimately placing them in the emotionally devastating position they warned them about six months ago. In hindsight, they know the NJ was right… but often when hindsight arrives, it’s wrapped up in a layer of pain, so it is not appreciated. That, in a way, is the hardest thing about being a Ni-dominant: knowing what is coming, but being unable to stop it because few people ever listen to you. Perhaps that is why I have always adored Elrond; I know his actions are not out of selfishness or cruelty, but out of love.
It is Elrond’s “cold,” rationally-driven Te that allows him to do everything in his power to change the future, and to help Aragorn “become the man [he was] born to be.” Elrond takes rational action when confronted with problems: he convenes a Council to determine what to do with the Ring; he sends the elves to Helm’s Deep; he tries to change his daughter’s mind; he re-forges Narsil and sends Aragorn into the paths of the dead. His foresight makes him wise, and his rationality helps him plan and execute moves that save Middle-earth. He is what Saruman could, and ought to, have been. Elrond shows the both the weakness of Ni in his initial convictions, and the strength of it, in that when Arwen presents him with a different perspective, he reconsiders his conclusion and changes it to embrace a more hopeful vision of the future.
Because Ni is a subjective function, or open to personalized impressions and experiences, and based wholly on personal opinion, it can change its opinion. Ni itself is the process of taking in enormous amounts of data, studying it from every possible angle, and reaching one conclusion, plan of action, or outcome. The NJ instinct, like Elrond, is to stick with an initial conclusion… but the NJ has the power to re-examine initial conclusions and change them. That is what Elrond does. He sees that Arwen will not change her mind or abandon Aragorn, so he decides that if he cannot stop her decision, he will do everything in his power to make her happiness, however short-lived, complete. Elrond uses his futuristic focus to encourage Aragorn to embrace his destiny and become everything he was intended to be. That, in a sense, is what Ni-users should strive to do in their relationships. Foresee, anticipate, and assist in the fulfillment of others’ dreams.
Finally, we have Galadriel, the most elusive and mysterious of the NJs in Middle-earth, the elfin-queen whose sight reaches further than Elrond’s and who has more grace and dignity than Gandalf. Her Ni is intensely focused and private in a sense that it reflects primarily her own future (as so often, introspective Ni does); Galadriel chooses not to accept the Ring because she envisions what she might become (a dark queen, beautiful and terrible as the dawn, stronger than the foundations of the earth, feared and adored by all who behold her). She foresees Aragorn’s future with Arwen, the fate of the men at Helm’s Deep if they do not intervene, and the approaching dominion of men. She “reads” the fates of each member of the Fellowship, and rewards (or warns) them accordingly, with things they will need on their journey. Like Gandalf, her Ni is paired with Fe, which makes her a diplomatic but keen scrutinizer of men and hobbits’ motivations.
INFJs are known for having “instincts” about people and sensing their true intentions and trustworthiness; they often know what is hidden under the surface, as Galadriel does – she knows Boromir will try to steal the Ring, that Sam is the most faithful of all Frodo’s companions, that Gandalf deliberately distracted them at the Council so the dwarves could slip away, and that his “death” was temporary. She shows the deeply mystical side of the INFJs and their tendency to be harsh critics of those they deem to be untrustworthy. That deep, emotional warmth that certain members of the Fellowship felt upon meeting her was not shared by Boromir! In a sense, she embodies the first impression of an INFJ — a distant, mysterious, externally cold but internally warm presence. She shows compassion to those who need it, and is a loyal friend to those who have earned her trust, but is not at first glance warm.
NJs are often misunderstood, often vilified, and rarely portrayed well… except, it seems, in Middle-earth.