Undoubtedly one of J. R. R. Tolkien’s most iconic creations, Gandalf is a beloved character in both the novels and live-action adaptation of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. In one of the opening scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf appears in the Shire as Gandalf the Grey. From that point onwards, his character helps guide, instruct, and protect the hobbits in their task to destroy the One Ring.
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy did their best to gradually reveal the identity of Gandalf as detailed in Tolkien’s books. However, with Amazon’s Rings of Power Stranger appearing in Middle-earth in the Second Age, Gandalf’s origin and true nature can easily become questionable to viewers of only the live-action films. With Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema’s deal to produce new LOTR movies, viewers may finally get a detailed explanation of who Gandalf really is, as explained in Tolkien’s fictional realm.
How Old Gandalf Really Is In The Lord Of The Rings
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings begins with Gandalf already in Middle-earth on his way to the Shire. LOTR viewers quickly understand that he is a powerful Wizard with great wisdom and intelligence and is on a mission to defeat the Dark Lord Sauron. Watching the LOTR trilogy and The Hobbit gives a better understanding that Gandalf had been around for a really long time.
Before delving into his age as detailed in Tolkien’s books, Gandalf himself gives an estimate of his age in the live-action The Two Towers. In a conversation with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli as he prepares to seek out the Rohirrim, Gandalf the White states, “300 lives of men I’ve walked this earth, and now I have no time.” His reference to men here is a bit hard to determine since Middle-earth has a fair collection of normal men, Númenóreans, and Dúnedain men. Going by the standard of normal men, with an average age of 70–90, Gandalf’s statement puts his age at around 21,000 to 24,000 years.
In Tolkien’s novels and appendices, Gandalf is sent to Middle-earth around 1,000 years into the Third Age. The events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings occurred between 2941 and 3018 in the Third Age. This puts Gandalf’s age in his human form (after being sent to Middle-earth) at about 2,000 years at the time of LOTR. Understanding Gandalf’s true age in his true form means knowing what he is and where he’s from.
What Gandalf Really Is And His Real Name Explained
Before Gandalf the Grey’s appearance and Gandalf the White’s resurrection, Gandalf had already existed for a long time. A better way to understand who he is and what he represents is to understand J. R. R. Tolkien’s timeline and realm, detailed in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit novels, as well as the appendices and The Silmarillion.
Eru Ilúvatar is the supreme deity in Tolkien’s realm. Eru Ilúvatar created spirit-like beings named Ainur. Eru Ilúvatar created a universe and called it Eä. In Eä, Eru Ilúvatar created an Earth-like planet called Arda. The first Ainur that descended into Arda were called Valar and are regarded as the most powerful beings on the planet. The less powerful Ainur that came into Arda were known as Maiar. When Arda’s surface symmetry was spoiled, it created three distinct continents—Aman in the West, Middle-earth in the middle, and the Land of the Sun in the East. Although the Valar once inhabited Middle-earth, certain events moved them to Aman, where they created the Kingdom of Valinor.
Gandalf is a Maiar and was known as Olórin in Valinor. When Sauron’s darkness was beginning to rise in Middle-earth, the Valar sent five Maiar to assist the people of Middle-earth. These five Maiar are Saruman the White (leader and most powerful of the five), Gandalf the Grey, Radagast the Brown, Alatar, and Pallando (both known as Blue Wizards). These Maiar came into Middle-earth as Wizards and older men. Maiar is called Istari (Wise Ones) by the Elves. Although powerful, these Maiar can be killed in their physical form. This is seen with Gandalf’s death by the Balrog from Moria. However, the Valar sends him back to Middle-earth as Gandalf, the White leader of the Istari (since Saruman had become corrupted).
How Gandalf’s True Identity Could Make A Great Movie (Or Trilogy)
With Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings set towards the end of the Third Age, not many details are put into Gandalf’s true identity. There were times during LOTR when viewers questioned the strength and abilities of Gandalf. However, Gandalf’s mission in Middle-earth (to guide and instruct the people to defeat Sauron) made him use less of his powers.
Since Peter Jackson’s LOTR is set in the Third Age, there are still over 1,000 years of Gandalf’s existence yet to be captured. This is the period during his time in Middle-earth, before the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Although Gandalf the White gives a better understanding of his Maiar powers, it would be interesting to see future films focus on his character. There are a lot of story plots that can be created from his time as Maiar, Gandalf the Grey, to being resurrected as Gandalf the White in a new Lord of the Rings movie.
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