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Appears in:

The Hobbit, Fellowship of the Ring, Two Towers, Return of the King, The Silmarillion

Other names

Gandalf The Grey, Mithrandir, Grey Pilgrim, Tharkûn, Olórin, Incánus, Greyhame


Gandalf was one of the Istari. For more information about the Istari and Gandalf's origins, refer to Istari in the glossary section.

Gandalf was one of the most significant characters in Tolkien's stories. In appearance, he looked like an old man dressed in worn grey clothing with a wide-brimmed pointed hat. He had a pointed nose, a long grey beard and usually carried a staff. This humble appearance concealed a being of great power. One of the Ainur. An emissary of the Valar sent to contest the powers of evil that threatened Middle Earth. Gandalf was a kind hearted individual who always used his power and wisdom to help others. He was entrusted with Narya, one of the three great elven rings.

Frodo offering the ring to GandalfGandalf was sent along with the other Istari to assist the people of Middle Earth in their struggle against the dark power of Sauron. He travelled extensively in the Western lands of Middle Earth and became known by many names, though he never settled in one location. Most of his time was spent among the more humble people of Middle Earth and by many he was regarded highly for his wisdom.

Gandalf first appeared in Tolkien's stories in The Hobbit. He turned up quite unexpected with a group of 13 dwarves at the home of Bilbo Baggins - a respectable hobbit of The Shire. They were travelling far in to the east to take their ancestors' home from the dragon Smaug the Magnificent. They wanted Bilbo to go with them since Hobbits were known for their ability to move with stealth. Gandalf's key reason for assisting the dwarves in reclaiming their old home was so that there would be a strong group of dwarves to hold the sparsely defended lands of Rhovanion against the forces of evil gathering in the east. Taking Bilbo however, changed the course of history since Bilbo found the one ring that was able to either end or enhance the power of the Dark Lord Sauron.

Gandalf visiting Bag EndGandalf had long been fond of visiting the Hobbits in The Shire and was one of the few people from outside the shire that took notice of them. He suspected that they may have an important role to play in the future of those lands and he was correct. After Bilbo returned to The Shire, Gandalf often visited. In the years that followed, he learned the true nature of the ring and began planning what to do about it.

Gandalf again played a major role in The Lord of the Rings. He assisted Frodo before and after he left The Shire and became the leader of the Fellowship of the Ring (the group chosen to take Sauron's ring and destroy it in the place it was made). Along their journey, they encountered a Balrog in Moria. Gandalf confronted the Balrog and protected the rest of the fellowship before he and the Balrog both fell from the bridge of Khazad-Dûm. The rest of the group assumed he was dead but he survived the fall. They fought for a long time until the Balrog fled. Gandalf pursued the Balrog upward to the peak of Celebdil and there the fight continued. Eventually, Gandalf defeated the Balrog, though he himself suffered. Gandalf the whiteHe went though something similar to death as his spirit passed back into the west for a time. He soon returned, greater than he had been before and clothed in white.

In the last stages of the war against Sauron, Gandalf was one of the most powerful and formidable of Sauron's opponents. He healed the king of Rohan, which led to his people becoming a great force in the war against evil. He ended the power of the traitor Saruman. He led the defence of the city of Minas Tirith.

After Sauron was defeated, Gandalf's task was done. Of all the Istari, he was the only one to fulfil the task he was sent to do. Along with the other ringbearers, he boarded a ship and sailed west in to the lands he came from.

Ian McKellenIn the Peter Jackson Film, Gandalf was played by Sir Ian McKellen.

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