The Mysterious Gandalf: Five (Un)known Facts About the Powerful Wizard of Middle-earth

The Mysterious Gandalf: Five (Un)known Facts About the Powerful Wizard of Middle-earth

He is often considered the wisest wizard, but he still knew nothing about Durin's Bane. He wielded a ring of power. In Middle-earth, his life and actions were preserved mainly in memories and stories, but in New Zealand, he has an actual life-size statue. What else do we (not) know about Gandalf? Read on to explore five interesting facts about one of the legendary wizards of Middle-earth.

1. The most powerful wizard

Gandalf was not an original inhabitant of Middle-earth. He was one of the five Istari (wizards), sometimes called Maiar, a group of wizards sent to Middle-earth to help the elves and Dúnedain fight against the growing evil forces. The wizards arrived in Middle-earth around the year 1000 in the Third Age.

Along with Gandalf, who was also called Olórin, the five Istar also included Saruman (Curumo), Radagast (Aiwendil), and two Blue Wizards, Alatar and Pallando, but we know very little about the lives of the Blue Wizards, as they did not play a role in The Lord of the Rings story.

These five Istari were part of the same ‘order’, but their journeys and missions were different. After arriving in Middle-earth, the Istari never reunited again, and apart from the Blue Wizards, who (perhaps) travelled together to the far eastern regions, the remaining wizards each had a very unique journey.

DID YOU KNOW... Saruman, Gandalf and Radagast were supposedly so powerful that they were a match for Sauron, the Dark Lord? But unlike Sauron, the Istari were supposed to only use their powers in times of emergency.

Although Saruman was the head of the Order of the Istari, Gandalf was the most powerful of them all. After Saruman's betrayal, Gandalf, originally nicknamed “the Grey”, was renamed “Gandalf the White”.

2. There were several rings of power

Everyone is familiar with the “One Ring”. But not everyone knows that there were many rings of power, and some of them played an important role in the story.

Gandalf himself possessed the ring of power called Narya (Ring of Fire), given to him by Círdan (“shipbuilder”), one of the most respected elves in Middle-earth. Narya was described as having the power to help its bearer against the forces of evil, and to inspire others to resist tyranny and despair, among other things.

The ring was, however, not the only powerful item in the wizard’s gear. Gandalf's sword, called Glamdring, was greatly feared by the Orcs - they referred to the sword as “ Beater”.

Glamdring originally belonged to Turgon, the Elven King of Gondolin from the First Age. We can learn more about him in the Silmarillion. Gandalf found it in the trolls' cave during Thorin's quest and kept it.

The two-handed sword Glamdring was effective in man-to-man combat, but it could also detect enemies from a distance. When the Orcs were nearby, the sword glowed with a blue light, alerting its bearer about impending danger.

DID YOU KNOW... despite the success of The Hobbit book, the publisher refused to publish the manuscript of The Silmarillion? This rejection motivated Tolkien to begin his work on an entirely different story, The Lord of the Rings, that would later become enormously popular.

The staff of Gandalf was not a mere walking stick, but also helped him cast spells. However, Gandalf rarely resorted to using magic. We know he used his powers to cure King Théoden, or to drive away the Wargs on his return from the pass of Caradhras in the Misty Mountains.

3. Nobody knows everything, not even Gandalf

Although Gandalf was known in Middle-earth as a wise and powerful wizard (and sometimes as the “bearer of bad news”), even he was not all-knowing.

One of the most passionate discussions among fans of the Lord of the Rings has been sparked by a seemingly simple, but very interesting, question: Why didn't Gandalf know about Balrog, one of the oldest and most fearsome demons in Middle-earth, hiding in Moria?

Peter Jackson's film series doesn't provide an answer to that question. It even suggests that Gandalf knew: His warning that the dwarves ‘awakened the great evil in Khazad-dûm‘ indeed suggests that the wizard suspected that the ancient monster was lurking in the darkness. At least in the film.

In the books, however, Gandalf has no idea of Balrog's whereabouts. The reason might have been the fact that Balrogs were the oldest creatures ever known to reside in Middle-earth and had been mostly dormant throughout the Second Age. The great wizard knew about the existence of the ancient demons, but he probably did not imagine that the Fellowship might ever encounter them.

DID YOU KNOW... Tolkien described long, detailed and captivating history of not only various creatures and beings, but also items and weapons. Explore (other) legendary weapons from Lord of the Rings!

4. Gandalf's most famous quote was a blooper

"You shall not pass!" is the popular catchphrase that has been adopted by various film makers, as well as students, who like to use the phrase as a warning about what happens when you don't revise properly.

It may surprise a lot of people that this now iconic phrase was actually a blooper.

The actor Ian McKellen, who represented Gandalf, admitted in an interview that he had forgotten the script. The original line was supposed to be “You cannot pass!”. But his improvised line became one of the most memorable lines in film industry and even the most die-hard LOTR fans did not notice it was different from the books.

5. There is a Gandalf sculpture at Wellington Airport

All fans of LOTR know that The Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand. In the Waikato region, you can still see the beauty of Middle-earth, as depicted in the films, with your own eyes.

New Zealanders know very well that Tolkien's stories are popular - they saw it when The Hobbit was being filmed, and after the premiere of the Lord of the Rings films - and they decided to make the most of it. Today, you can find statues of various Tolkien’s characters in different places around the country.

Perhaps the most popular is the statue of Gandalf flying an eagle, displayed at Wellington Airport a few years ago:

Attentive visitors to the Wellington Airport may also notice a statue of Smaug the dragon, the main antagonist of The Hobbit.

You, too, can become a feared wizard!

Do you love Tolkien’s lore and Middle-earth? Do you want to get a new LOTR collectible?

You can have a look at the staff of Gandalf, his legendary sword Glamdring, or another LOTR replica. Our weapons are masterpieces made by expert craftsmen and they will look great in your collection!

You can also easily make a Gandalf costume for a costume party or similar event. However, don’t forget to come slightly later to the party, as was the great wizard's custom!

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