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The name Gandalf refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Gandalf (disambiguation).
Matt Stewart - Gandalf - A Light in the Dark.jpg
Biographical Information
Other namesThe Grey, The White, Olórin, Mithrandir, Incánus, Tharkûn, The White Rider, Gandalf Greyhame, Stormcrow, Wand-elf, Láthspell
DeathDied/Reborn T.A. 3019, sailed back to Aman T.A. 3021
Physical Description
Hair colorLong white, silver beard[1]
GalleryImages of Gandalf
"Gandalf was shorter in stature than the other two; but his long white hair, his sweeping silver beard, and his broad shoulders, made him look like some wise king of ancient legend. In his aged face under great snowy brows his eyes were set like coals that could suddenly burst into fire."
― "Many Meetings"[1]

Gandalf was one of the five Istari sent to Middle-earth by the Valar in the Third Age. In Valinor he was known as Olórin. Gandalf was instrumental in bringing about the demise of Sauron in T.A. 3019, chiefly by encouraging others and dispensing his wisdom at pivotal times. Gandalf was originally robed in grey, and second to Saruman in the Order of wizards. After his fall in Moria, Gandalf returned to Middle-earth as head of the Order, robed in white. Gandalf was noteworthy for his keen interest in Hobbits.




Gandalf loves to poo

Powers and abilities

Gandalf the Grey by Roger Thomasson

Gandalf was servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor,[2] and bearer of Narya.

He demonstrated extensive knowledge of the land and an assortment of magical abilities from trivial to essential. For example he would use his powers for entertainment, by blowing glowing smoke rings that moved around a room at his direction, and Bilbo Baggins remembered him for his fantastic fireworks displays. He created blinding flashes and other pyrotechnics to distract the goblins of the Misty Mountains, aiding the dwarves in their escape from Goblin-town. On the eastern slopes, he turned pine cones into flaming projectiles that threw hot sparks and started fires that would not easily go out. He was also able to come and go from the presence of Thorin and Company without being noticed.

He again displayed his proficiency with pyrotechnics at Bilbo's Farewell Party. When the Fellowship is attacked by Wargs in Hollin Gandalf speaks words of power to inflame the trees on the hillock where the company had camped. He was also able to start fires under blizzard conditions, create light of varying intensity for the journey through Moria, magically secure doors, and break the Bridge of Khazad-dûm. When angered or aroused for battle, he seemed to grow in height and assume a terrifying aspect. He fought the Balrog of Moria and killed his opponent, although he did not himself survive the battle.

Sent back to Middle-earth as Gandalf the White, he possessed greater charisma and a limited degree of clairvoyance, although he was unable to peer into the land of Mordor to see the progress of Frodo and Sam. His power and authority had increased so that he could break Saruman's staff with a spoken command, showing his authority to throw the treacherous wizard out of the order.

Most times Gandalf displayed his power, this had to do with fire. It is not known whether his possession of Narya, the Ring of Fire, had any merit to his abilities.[3]

Special equipment

It is unknown whether Gandalf required his staff to exercise certain powers. At times it appeared to focus or extend his powers, such as when it emanated light. Exactly how much it aided him in the use of magic is unknown, but Gríma Wormtongue tried to forbid Gandalf from bringing it into Edoras, clearly under the impression that without it Gandalf's power would be limited.

When he arrived in Middle-earth, Gandalf received the Elven ring Narya from Círdan. It is clear that Gandalf wore this ring from that time to the end of the Third Age but how he used its powers is not known.

In T.A. 2941, Gandalf acquired the Elven sword Glamdring from the treasure hoard of a band of trolls.[4] He continued to wield this weapon throughout The Lord of the Rings, in particular during his fight with the Balrog in Moria.

Throughout his time in Middle-earth Gandalf often was seen with a pipe, the use of which clearly brought him immense enjoyment.

Other versions of the legendarium

In early manuscripts of The Hobbit, the name Bladorthin was used by Tolkien for the character who later would be named Gandalf. The name Gandalf was instead used for the character known as Thorin in the published works.[5]


Oden som vandringsman (Odin the Wanderer) by Georg von Rosen

Gandalfr appears in the list of dwarves in the Völuspá of the Elder Edda, the name means "Cane-elf". Tolkien took the name along with the other dwarves' names when he wrote The Hobbit in the 1930s. He came to regret the creation of this "rabble of eddaic-named dwarves [...] invented in an idle hour",[6] since it forced him to come up with an explanation of why Old Norse names should be used in Third Age Middle-earth. He solved the dilemma in 1942 by the explanation that Old Norse was a translation of the language of Dale. The figure of Gandalf has other influences from Germanic mythology, particularly Odin in his incarnation as "the Wanderer", an old man with one eye, a long white beard, a wide brimmed hat, and a staff: Tolkien states that he thinks of Gandalf as an "Odinic wanderer" in a letter of 1946.[7]

Tolkien had a postcard labeled Der Berggeist ("the mountain spirit"), and on the paper cover in which he kept it, he wrote "the origin of Gandalf" at some point. The postcard reproduces a painting of a bearded figure, sitting on a rock under a pine tree in a mountainous setting. He wears a wide-brimmed round hat and a long cloak and white fawn is nuzzling his upturned hands. Humphrey Carpenter in his 1977 biography said that Tolkien had bought the postcard during his 1911 holiday in Switzerland. However, Manfred Zimmerman discovered that the painting was by German artist Josef Madlener and dates to the late 1920s.[8] Carpenter concluded that Tolkien was probably mistaken about the origin of the postcard himself. Tolkien must have acquired the card at some time in the early 1930s, at a time when The Hobbit had already begun to take shape.


Main article: Gandalf/Names


Within the legendarium, Gandalf translates an unknown name of the meaning "Elf-of-the-wand (or cane/staff)", or more literary "Wand-elf", in old northern Mannish. Most denizens of Middle-earth incorrectly assumed Gandalf was a Man, although he was really a Maia spirit (approximately equivalent to an angel). However, a less common misconception that occurred during the beginning of his career in Middle-earth was that for someone to be immortal and use as much magic as he did, he must have been an Elf. Although it soon became apparent to all that he could not be an Elf, as he was old and Elves do not generally age, the nickname stuck with him. He later gave it as his name to others he met who did not know its original meaning.

Portrayals in adaptations

Gandalf in adaptations
Gandalf the White in The Lord of the Rings Online  
Gandalf the Grey as a Lego mini figure  
Gandalf the Grey in Guardians of Middle-earth  
Gandalf the Grey in The Hobbit (film series)  


1966: The Hobbit (1966 film):

Gandalf's role is drastically reduced. He lives in a tower, where Thorin, the princess and the guard meet him to discuss the killing of Slag. He introduces them to Bilbo, but does not go on the quest.[9]

1977: The Hobbit (1977 film):

The voice of Gandalf was provided by John Huston.

1978: The Lord of the Rings (1978 film):

Gandalf was voiced by William Squire. John A. Neris played him in the live-action filming used for rotoscoping.[10]

1980: The Return of the King (1980 film):

John Huston reprised his role as Gandalf. In this adaptation, the tale is told by a minstrel of Gondor, yet in the story, Gandalf serves as the narrator. Gandalf the White is portrayed without difference from Gandalf the Grey, in The Hobbit.

1985: The Fairytale Adventures of Mr. Baggins, the Hobbit (1985 film):

Ivan Krasko played Gandalf.

2001: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:

Ian McKellen was cast as Gandalf. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal.

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:

Perhaps the most striking difference from all other adaptations is the difference between Gandalf the Grey and Gandalf the White. Where earlier no visible or audible difference was made, Gandalf the White is portrayed as much more virile, and with a shorter (and whiter) beard.

2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King:

Because Imrahil had been cut from the film, it was up to Gandalf to lead the troops after the madness and death of Denethor.

2012-14: The Hobbit (film series):

Sir Ian McKellen will reprise his role as Gandalf the Grey.[11] A description of Gandalf in The Hobbit films was released by the studio:
One of the most powerful Wizards in all Middle-earth, Gandalf the Grey joins the quest to reclaim the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor and the great treasure that lies within its stone halls from a fire-breating dragon, Smaug the Terrible. Along the way, Gandalf finds evidence that an ancient evil may have found its way back into the world. In order to uncover the truth, Gandalf must leave his companions to fend for themselves – a journey that will take him into the darkest corners of Middle-earth where his worst suspicions are confirmed.
Warner Bros.[12]

Radio series

1955: The Lord of the Rings (1955 radio series):

The voice of Gandalf was provided by Norman Shelley.[13]

1968: The Hobbit (1968 radio series):

The voice of Gandalf was provided by Heron Carvic.

1979: The Hobbit (1979 radio series):

The voice of Gandalf was provided Bernard Mayes.

1979: The Lord of the Rings (1979 radio series):

Bernard Mayes reprised his role as Gandalf.

1981: The Lord of the Rings (1981 radio series):

Michael Hordern read the part of Gandalf. He had not read the book, and thought his agent made a mistake in telling him how many episodes he had to do. He did not know Gandalf's early death would prove only temporarily.[14]


1982: The Hobbit (1982 video game):

Gandalf can be met on several moments of the game's story line.[15]

1990: J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Vol. I (1990 video game):

Gandalf can be "recruited" by Frodo Baggins as a playable character.

1990: J.R.R. Tolkien's Riders of Rohan:

Gandalf is one of the main characters of the game and one of the several heroes of the Rohan faction.

1994: J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Vol. I (SNES):

Gandalf can be acquired as a playable characters.

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game):

Tom Kane provided the voice of Gandalf. He is a playable character in several levels, including the fight with Durin's Bane.

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (video game):

The voice of Gandalf is provided by Ian McKellen. Gandalf the Grey appears at the campsite of the fellowship in The Gates of Moria and during the fight of Balin's Tomb in Balin's Tomb. He latter reappears in the game as Gandalf the White at the start of the mission The Plains of Rohan, where he leaves Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli to search Éomer and his army. He also appears in some cutscenes.

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Game Boy Advance):

In the Game Boy Advance version of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Gandalf is a playable character. Gandalf's story starts with a conservation between Gandalf and Théoden, after which the story goes back to the Caradhras, where the Fellowship tries to travel over the Misty Mountains. When that road fails, the Fellowship goes back and travels through Moria. In Moria Gandalf and the other member of the Fellowship are seperated. After finding Frodo, Aragorn and Gimli the fellowship is attacked by a Cave-troll and Goblins. After Gandalf defeats the Cave-troll the Fellowship has to flee for the Balrog. When they reach the Bridge of Khazad-dûm a cutscene is shown, in which Gandalf destroys the bridge and falls with the Balrog in the depths. After the fall Gandalf has to follow the footsteps of the Balrog through the depths of Moria and the Endless Stair untill he reaches Durin's Tower, where he has to defeat the Balrog.
After being revived he returns as Gandalf the White in Fangorn, where he defeats several Forrest trolls and Crebain. After defeating a stronger Forrest troll, named Fangorn troll, Gandalf meets Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. After a cutscene, the game moves to Edoras. Gandalf heals the corrupted Théoden in Edoras, and then travels through Rohan in search of Éomer. Gandalf convinces Éomer to lead his army to Helm's Deep.
The game ends with the Battle of Helm's Deep, in which Gandalf and Éomer fight alongside Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Éowyn while protecting the wall, the Hornburg and the Glittering Caves. In the final level Gandalf has to destroy the siege weapons that bombard the Hornburg. The game ends with a conservation between Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli and Théoden.

2003: The Hobbit (2003 video game):

Jim Ward provided the voice of Gandalf. He is shown with actual magic: he can shoot blue bolts of lightning from his staff.

2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (video game):

Gandalf is the narrator, and a playable character. The game is built around him; the cut scene narration shows how he planned for the War of the Ring. He has several missions, collectively called the "Path of the Wizard". The first is the the Battle of Helm's Deep, which serves as a training mission. He has to fight Uruk-Hai in the forest of Huorns and Ents in "The Road to Isengard". After that, the missions move to Minas Tirith: the first mission, "Top of the Wall", has Gandalf warding off ladders and siege towers. In the second, "Courtyard", he has to protect civilians from the invading Orcs. His last playing mission is the Battle of the Black Gate.

2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Game Boy Advance):

Just like on the consule version of the game, Gandalf is a playable characte. He has many missions, collectively called the "The Journey of the Wizard". He starts in a flooded Isengard, where he has to kill several Uruk-hai and Crebain before he confronts Saruman. After the defeat of Saruman he travels to Minas Tirith through Rohan and the Misty Mountains. At the Pelennor Fields Gandalf has to protect the beacons, so Rohan can be warned. During the Battle of Minas Tirith he has to protect the gate, before making his way to the Steward's Tomb. Here Gandalf has to kill Denethor, before he burns Faramir. After the battle Gandalf travels through Ithilien to the Black Gate, where he confronts a Nazgûl.

2004: The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age:

Gandalf, voiced by Ian McKellen, is a character in EA's "alternative fellowship" game. In his battle against Durin's Bane, he is aided by the main characters.

2004: The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring:

Gandalf is voiced by Steven M. Kramer, renowned for playing older mentor types.

2004: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth:

In non-storyline skirmishes Gandalf is the hero of the Gondor faction, who possesses several magical abilities. At first, he appears as Gandalf "the Grey", and becomes "Gandalf the White" after reaching level 5 (out of 10). Gandalf also narrates the prologue scene, repeating almost word for word the lines said by Galadriel in the The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
His involvement in the storyline is notable for major differences from the original tale. First of all, Gandalf survives his encounter with Balrog, defeating him at the Bridge of Khazad-dum and continues the journey with the Fellowship - by the time of arrival in Lothlorien he already appears as Gandalf the White. He is present during the ambush at Amon Hen, where thanks to his involvement Boromir is saved from certain death. Merry and Pippin are captured regardless and Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Boromir give chase, while Gandalf departs them to see to dealings in Rohan, including freeing of King Théoden from the spell. Following the Battle of Helm's Deep he travels to Minas Tirith along with both Pippin and Boromir, where they participate in the Siege of the city.

2006: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II:

Gandalf is a hero for the "Men of the West" faction. Similar to the first game, he appears as Gandalf the Grey initially and Gandalf the White after level 5. He plays no part in the main storyline, but appears in the alternate "evil" campaign: after Sauron reclaims the Ring and lays waste to southern lands, Gandalf and few other survivors meet their end during a last stand in Rivendell.

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Gandalf is a non-playable character voiced by Harry Chase, who narrates cutscenes and instances throughout the original game, before the first expansion. He first meets the Dwarven characters in Ered Luin in T.A. 2941, shortly before the Quest for Erebor. Later, characters of all races meet him in Bree in October of T.A. 3018, but he is too busy with concerns for Frodo and the Ring and merely sends them away to find Radagast. Finally, the players have a chance to have a proper conversation with him in Rivendell, following the Council of Elrond. During that time, Gandalf is involved in several quests, including helping the player wreck havoc among the Goblins stirring at the High Pass. After the Fellowship leaves Rivendell, players are able to retrace many of their steps, including the marks left by Gandalf such as the Burnt Top in Eregion and the remains of his fire at the pass of Caradhras. Later, Lady Galadriel bids the player to find the sings of Gandalf following his fall from the Bridge of Khazad-dum - said signs include his burnt hat at the Foundations of Stone in Moria and the sings of his struggle with the Balrog at the Endless Stair - those allow Galadriel to discern that Mithrandir is not truly dead. Players later meet him as Gandalf the White in Caras Galadhon shortly after the Fellowship has departed Lothlorien. During that time, he engages into a spiritual battle with a Gaunt-Lord Gortheron the Doom-Caller; his display of his new abilities encourages the band of Free People players and allows them to defeat the servant of Sauron.
Gandalf is also present in several historic "session plays", during which players witness the important events their characters were not present for. Such events include Gandalf infiltrating Dol Guldur with the help of an Elf named Raddir, first meeting between Gandalf and Aragorn on the outskirts of Lothlorien and Gandalf's imprisonment atop Orthanc by Saruman.

2009: The Lord of the Rings: Conquest:

Martin Jarvis provides the voice of Gandalf. He is a playable mage hero and has three special powers: "Healing Wisdom", "You Shall not Pass!" and "Cleansing Fire". In the good campaign he appears at the end of the Isengard mission, where he has to kill Saruman in Orthanc. In Moria he can be played to destroy the Balrog and in Minas Tirith he has to defend the gates of the second ring. He is also one of the four playable heroes in the last mission, the battle of the Black Gate. He appears aswell in the end of the last mission, the Shire, of the evil campaign, in which he is killed by Sauron.
He is also playable in the Shire, Isengard, Minas Tirith and Moria with the Conquest Mode, in Isengard and Minas Tirith in the Team Deatmatch mode, the citadel of Minas Tirith in Capture the Ring mode, and at the Black Gate, Minas Morgul, Mout Doom and the Shire during Hero Team Deatmatch mode.

2011: The Lord of the Rings: War in the North:

Gandalf is voiced by Tom Kane, who also narrates the introduction of the game. He tells that heroes like "Aragorn the King", "Frodo the Ringbearer" and "Gandalf the Wizard" are rightly honored, but that without a few heroes - Eradan, Andriel and Farin - the north of Middle-earth would have been lost.[16]
He also appears in Rivendell latter in the game. Players can interact with him and learn of various important events, yet the conversations do not unlock any side-quests and do not affect the main story in any way.

2012: Guardians of Middle-earth:

Gandalf is a mage-type "guardian" with four abilities: Narya's Power, Flame of Anor, Fireworks and Gandalf's Might.[17]

See also


  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Meetings
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named bridge
  3. FAQ of the Rings: D6. Gandalf bore the Ring of Fire. Is that how he made his fireworks?
  4. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Mutton
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, "Introduction"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Treason of Isengard, "Appendix on Runes", p. 452
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 107, (dated 7 December 1946)
  8. Manfred Zimmerman, "The Origin of Gandalf and Josef Madlener", in Mythlore 34 (Winter 1983)
  9. "The Hobbit.mp4" dated 5 January 2012, YouTube (accessed 10 January 2012)
  10. Jerry Beck, The Animated Movie Guide, page 154 (at GoogleBooks)
  11. Peter Jackson, "Production begins in New Zealand on The Hobbit" dated 20 March 2011, Facebook (accessed 23 December 2011)
  12. Warner Bros., "Hobbit Movies" dated 7 September 2012, Apple iPhone/iPad App (accessed 19 September 2012)
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 175, (dated 30 November 1955)
  14. Brian Sibley, "The Ring Goes Ever On: The Making of BBC Radio's The Lord of the Rings", at Brian Sibley:The Works
  15. ZX Computing, iss. 8304, p. 76 reproduced at World of Spectrum - Archive (retrieved at 14 August 2010)
  16. The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, Prologue
  17. {{"Guardians of Middle-earth: Gandalf", Guardians of Middle-earth official website (accessed 16 July 2012)

Members of Thorin and Company
Thorin · Balin · Dwalin · Fíli · Kíli · Dori · Nori · Ori · Óin · Glóin · Bifur · Bofur · Bombur · Gandalf · Bilbo Baggins
Members of the Fellowship of the Ring
Frodo · Sam · Merry · Pippin · Gandalf · Aragorn · Legolas · Gimli · Boromir
Preceded by:
Bearer of Narya
c. T.A. 1000 - after 3021
Presumably, still Gandalf
Position created
Leader of the Fellowship of the Ring
25 December T.A. 3018 - 15 January 3019
Followed by:
Aragorn II