LOTR question re: Gandalf

OK so I bought the LOTR trilogy this last weekend and (finally) watched it all in one go. I’m familiar with the gist of the Middle Earth universe, but I have one niggling question:

How did Gandalf the Grey become Gandalf the White? I understand that he killed the Balrog, drifted off to “death” or something, was “sent back” because his job wasn’t finished, and then all of a sudden had been the White Wizard in the forest with the Ents forever. What gives?

Pedants and fanboys, ahoy! Please.

I’m with you all the way up to this point – “and then all of a sudden had been the White Wizard in the forest with the Ents forever.”

Now I lose you.

What makes you think he has been a White Wizard in teh forest with the Ents forever? I think the idea is he kills the Balrog and levels from Grey to White. The Ents knew him a long time, presumably when he was Grey (and possibly even some other color). At least, that is what I remember from reading the trilogy. But I haven’t taken any classes and can’t speak Elf, so maybe I don’t have the big picture. :)

Ding! Gratz.


that may quite possibly be the best explanation for Gandalf’s change ever written

As I remember from the book, Saruman was originally the “white” wizard so when he becomes a bad guy there is now an opening. Gandalf takes the role. The implication was that there would always be one black, one white, and one gray wizard.

Tolkien was rather vague about the wizards, but they seemed to be some sort of immortal race, few in number, who would pop up now and then.

Radagast the Brown?

Fucking tree-hugging earth wizzie. Shoulda specced fire.

Weren’t there two blue ones also who wandered off before LotR started?

Yeah, there were a whole spectrum, with Saruman the White being the leader. But he was demoted for evilness and management replaced him with Gandalf.

Nope, sorry. There were five wizards, all of whom were supposed to be good. They were originally Maiar, lesser angels who helped the Valar (archangels often confused with gods) to build the world. The Valar sent the wizards to Middle Earth to fight Sauron’s growing power by inspiring those of good will, not by building up competing personal armies. While they had significant personal power, it was just a tiny fraction of their true might. In assuming the role of “wizard,” they gave up most of their angelic strength.

Two “blue” wizards did indeed vanish into the east and play no visible role in LoTR. Tolkien later speculated on their fate–sometimes he was pessimistic and said that they failed, but in some of his last writings he was more upbeat and said that they prevented Sauron from amassing even greater force and were critical to the survival of Gondor.

The remaining three we know better. Saruman of course falls into evil. Radagast also falls, though not so badly. By “going native” and hanging out with beasts and birds instead of men, dwarves, and elves, he pretty much abandonned his mission. Gandalf remains true. Depending on when you talked to Tolkien, he was either the only one who did so or one of three.

Anyway, when you understand that Gandalf is an embodied angel, his return from death becomes a lot less confusing. He was indeed sent back–his spirit, unlike his body, cannot be killed. He was ordered to return and allowed to use more of his original, Maiar-level power as well in order to overthrow Saruman and to lead the last defense against Sauron.

The role of Desslock in this thread is now being played by Dave Markell.

In addition, both the balrog (and all balrogs) and Sauron were also Maiar, Sauron being the strongest (or at least among the strongest) of all the Maiar. Sauron himself was only the lieutenant of the big bad cheese, Melkor, who was a Valar, and who was the origin of all evil. At the point of the history of Middle-Earth in which LotR occurs, Melkor has been banished to the Void, and the rest of the Valar have left.

This is why everyone should read the Silmarillion! It’s filled with cool stuff like that.

Maybe they should make it into a movie. I tried reading it once, but it was a bit to thick for me. I could not get into it.

I’ve been a Tolkien nerd since 1972. I’m playing myself, thanks.

This is exactly why it should never be made into a movie. The reason most people can’t get into it reads exactly the way it was written: as a history text. History texts really don’t translate well into movies.


They could make it into a documentary like what you’d see on the History Channel about the Han Dynasty or something. The special effects budget requirements would be insane and the number of people who would pay to see such a thing would be microscopic, but it would be cool in a totally geeked out kind of way.

They should make an entire series of documentaries of fictional histories. There are quite a lot to take from in fantasy.

Actually, this is a great idea, but it should actually come to frution on the History Channel. Like a three- or four-part series on the history of Middle Earth. They could use all of their normal reenactments and effects. It would be great.

I saw the Road Warrior on History Channel a while back – this would be at least as historical as that.

I have tried to read it several times. I can suffer it for about a hundred pages. And I do mean suffer.