This article is about the fictional character from J.R.R. Tolkien's books. For other meanings of Gandalf see: Gandalf (disambiguation)

Gandalf is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien's universe, Middle-earth. Along with Merlin, he is often considered the prototypical wizard in Western fiction.



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Gandalf is the best-known of the Maiar of the people of Valinor. He was known as Olrin who dwelt in the gardens of Irmo and was the pupil of Nienna. When the Valar decided to send the order of the Wizards to Middle-earth, Olrin was proposed by Manwe, in order to counsel and assist all those in Middle-earth who opposed Sauron. He is said to be one of the wisest of that order, rivalling Saruman

In reality, Tolkien conceived him from a greeting card with the painting Der Berggeist of Josef Madlener. The image depicted a mountain-spirit in the fashion of an old bearded man with a stag.

Role in The Hobbit

In The Hobbit, Gandalf arranges and partially accompanies the adventurous quest of Bilbo Baggins and the thirteen Dwarves to regain the Dwarvish treasure of the Lonely Mountain that was stolen many years before by the dragon, Smaug. It is on this quest that Gandalf finds his sword, Glamdring, and that Bilbo finds the One Ring (though at the time it is mistaken for a lesser ring).

Role in The Lord of the Rings

In The Lord of the Rings, he urges Bilbo to give the Ring to Frodo, seeing how it is beginning to corrupt the mind of the aging hobbit. He then urges Frodo to leave with the ring and make for Rivendell, the home of the elves, knowing he is in grave danger if he stays in the Shire. Gandalf is initially unable to accompany Frodo and his companion Sam, because he goes to seek counsel from the head of his order, Saruman the White, but he rejoins them in Rivendell as the second half of The Fellowship of the Ring begins. Taking leadership of the fellowship (nine representatives of the free peoples of Middle-earth "set against the Nine Riders"), he and Aragorn lead the hobbits and their companions on an unsuccessful effort to cross Mount Caradhras in winter. Then they take the "dark and secret way" through the Mines of Moria, where they meet an ancient demon, a Balrog, one of the Maiar corrupted by Melkor.

Since Gandalf and the Balrog were both Maiar, they were beings of the same order. As they faced each other, Gandalf broke the Bridge in front of him, but as the Balrog fell it wrapped its whip around Gandalf's ankle, which dragged him down to hanging onto the edge. As the Company looked in horror, Gandalf said, "Fly, you fools!" and let go. Neither he nor the Balrog was killed by the fall, and Gandalf pursued the creature for eight days until they climbed to the peak of Zirakzigil. Here they fought for two days and nights. In the end, the Balrog was cast down and it broke the mountain-side as it fell. Gandalf himself died following this ordeal.

Gandalf is "brought back" (either resurrected or reincarnated), returning as a more imposing white-clad figure, Gandalf the White. In Fangorn forest he encounters the Three Walkers (Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas) who were tracking Merry and Pippin. They then go on to prosecute the war against Isengard and Barad-Dur (the Two Towers).

At the end, aged over 37,000 years, he departs with Frodo, Galadriel, Bilbo, and Elrond across the sea to the Undying Lands.


Gandalf initially appears as an old man with a grey beard, a grey cloak (probably responsible for the name Gandalf the Grey) and a large, pointed blue hat. Although some of the Wise know his true nature, others mistake him for a simple conjuror. After he is resurrected the change of his signature colour from grey to white is significant, for he has been sent back to replace the corrupt Saruman as the chief of the Wizards. In the book he says that he has himself become what Saruman should have been.

Crdan the Shipwright seemed to have foreseen this, for he entrusted the care of Narya, the ring of Fire, one of the Three Rings of the Elves to Gandalf rather than Saruman.

Gandalf's names

  • Olrin, his name in Valinor and in very ancient times. "Olrin was my name in my youth in the West that is forgotten". It is Quenya, and its meaning is associated with dreams (perhaps "dreamer" or "of dreams"), from the root LOS-.
  • Mithrandir, his Sindarin name, used in Gondor, and meaning Grey Pilgrim.
  • The White Rider (when mounted on the great horse Shadowfax)
  • Stormcrow
  • Incnus (in the south), of unclear language and meaning. Tolkien several times changed his mind about it, varying between the Latin word Incanus meaning Grey, a possible Westron invention meaning Greymantle, or even an Elvish word Ind-cano meaning Mind Ruler.
  • Tharkn (to the Dwarves), meaning probably Staff-man.
  • Gandalf Greyhame

Tolkien borrowed the name Gandalf from the "Catalogue of Dwarves" section of the poem Vlusp contained within the Elder Edda. The name means "cane-elf". Many of Gandalf's attributes seem to be derived from the Norse god Odin's incarnation as "the Wanderer", an old man with one eye, a long white beard, a wide brimmed hat, and a staff. Tolkien himself when writing about how Gandalf should be portrayed in a potential film adaptation stressed that he was an "Odin-like wanderer".

Within the Middle-earth mythos itself, "Gandalf" translates as "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 (human), 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 using as much magic as he was, he must have been an Elf. Although fairly soon after that it became apparent to all that he couldn't be an Elf (he didn't look like an Elf, he was old and Elves don't generally age), the nickname stuck with him. He later gave it as his name to others he met, who didn't know its original meaning.

Actors playing Gandalf

John Huston provided the voice of Gandalf in two animated television features by Rankin-Bass. In the BBC radio dramatizations, Heron Carvic played him in The Hobbit and Sir Michael Hordern played him in The Lord of the Rings. Sir Ian McKellen was Gandalf in The Lord of The Ring movie trilogy directed by Peter Jackson ( He was also nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Ainur of Middle-earth
Ainulindal (Music of the Ainur)
Lords of the ValarManw | Aul | Orom | Irmo (Lrien) | Nmo (Mandos) | Tulkas | Ulmo
Queens of the ValarVarda | Yavanna | Vna | Est | Vair | Nessa | Nienna
The Enemy:  Morgoth (a.k.a. Melkor)
MaiarEnw | Ilmar | Oss | Uinen | Salmar | Sauron | Melian | Arien | Tilion | Gothmog
Curumo (Saruman) | Olrin (Gandalf) | Aiwendil (Radagast) | Alatar and Pallando | Durin's Bane

da:Gandalf es:Gandalf eo:Gandalf fr:Gandalf it:Gandalf nl:Gandalf ja:ガンダルフ pl:Gandalf (czarodziej) pt:Gandalf ru:Гэндальф sl:Gandalf sv:Gandalf (litterr figur) th:แกนดัล์ฟ zh:甘道夫


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