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The Thain's Book
An encyclopedia of Middle-earth and Numenor


Important Dates
Names & Titles

Vital Statistics:

Race: Wizards
Arrived in Middle-earth: Around the year 1000 of the Third Age
Left Middle-earth: September 29, 3021 of the Third Age
Residence: No fixed dwelling
Parents: Not applicable
Siblings: None
Spouse: None
Children: None
Hair color: White
Ring: Narya
Sword: Glamdring
Horse: Shadowfax

Ian McKellen as Gandalf
Ian McKellen as Gandalf
in the New Line film
Gandalf by John Howe
Gandalf by John Howe


Gandalf was one of the Order of Wizards sent to Middle-earth to oppose Sauron. During his 2,000 years in Middle-earth, Gandalf came to understand and love the land and its peoples, particularly Hobbits. Gandalf worked ceaselessly to counter Sauron's plans to dominate Middle-earth, and he set in motion a chain of events that ultimately resulted in the Dark Lord's downfall.

Gandalf was one of the Maiar, spirits who helped and served the Valar. When he lived in the Undying Lands he was known as Olorin, and he was the wisest of the Maiar. He sometimes walked among the Elves unseen or as one of them and shared wisdom and fair visions with them. For much of the time, Olorin dwelled in Lorien, the gardens of the Vala Irmo for which the woods of Lothlorien in Middle-earth were named.

Olorin also frequently visited Nienna in her home in the far west near the walls of the world. It was said that Olorin learned pity and patience from Nienna. But Olorin seems to have been most closely associated with the Valar Manwe and Varda, and it was they who sent Olorin to Middle-earth around the year 1000 of the Third Age.

The Maiar who were sent by the Valar to Middle-earth were given the bodies of old men and were known as Istari, or Wizards. Their mission was to help the free peoples of Middle-earth oppose Sauron without seeking domination or power for themselves. Olorin was the last of the Five Wizards to arrive at the Grey Havens in northwestern Middle-earth. There Cirdan the Shipwright gave him Narya, one of the Three Rings of the Elves, saying:

"Take this ring, Master, for your labours will be heavy; but it will support you in the weariness that you have taken upon yourself. For this is the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill. But as for me, my heart is with the Sea, and I will dwell by the grey shores until the last ship sails. I will await you."
Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings: "The Tale of Years," p. 366
Among Men Olorin became known as Gandalf the Grey and the Elves called him Mithrandir, the Grey Pilgrim. He wandered far and wide throughout Middle-earth and had no fixed abode. He had a long white beard and bushy eyebrows and he wore a blue pointed hat, a silver scarf, and a long grey cloak.

Around the year 1100, the Wizards and the chief Elves discovered that an evil power had built a stronghold at Dol Guldur in Mirkwood. At the time, they thought it was one of the Nazgul. But the shadow that fell on the forest grew, and by 2060 the Wise feared it might be the return of Sauron, who had been overthrown at the end of the Second Age. Gandalf went to Dol Guldur in 2063 to investigate, and Sauron fled and went into hiding in the East.

The Watchful Peace lasted until 2460, when Sauron returned with increased strength to Dol Guldur. Three years later the White Council was formed, made up of the chief Wizards and Elves. The leader of the White Council was Saruman, who was the head of the order of Wizards. Galadriel had suggested that Gandalf lead the Council, but Gandalf had refused for he did not want to be beholden to anyone or anything except his true mission in Middle-earth.

Gandalf returned to Dol Guldur in disguise in 2850 and found Thrain, father of Thorin Oakenshield, in the dungeon. Thrain gave Gandalf a map of the Lonely Mountain and a key to its secret door before he died. Gandalf learned that the evil presence in Dol Guldur was indeed Sauron and he urged the White Council to take action but Saruman overruled him.

Despite the ruling of the head of his order, Gandalf was troubled by the presence of Sauron. He feared that the Dragon Smaug, who had taken the Lonely Mountain from the Dwarves, might be used as a tool by Sauron to wreak havoc in the north and allow Sauron to attack Rivendell and Lothlorien.

By chance one day in March of 2941, Gandalf met Thrain's son Thorin Oakenshield in Bree. Thorin wanted to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from Smaug and Gandalf saw an opportunity to rid the north of the threat of the Dragon, so together they devised a plan. Thorin gathered a company of twelve other Dwarves while Gandalf selected a Hobbit to be the fourteenth member of the party. This turned out to be one of the key decisions that led to Sauron's downfall.

Gandalf was unique among the Wise for his interest in Hobbits. It is not known when he first went to the Shire, but he appeared there from time to time and was famous among Hobbits especially for his fireworks. He was also held responsible for causing several Hobbit lads and lasses to embark on adventures. Gandalf came to the aid of the Hobbits during the Long Winter of 2758-59 and was impressed by their courage and pity for one another in the face of dreadful hardship. He also knew Hobbits to be stealthy, a quality he deemed useful for sneaking into a Dragon's lair.

The particular Hobbit he selected for the quest was Bilbo Baggins. Gandalf had known and admired Bilbo's mother Belladonna Took and he recalled Bilbo as an eager and curious young Hobbit. But when the Wizard arrived at Bag End one morning in late April of 2941 he found that Bilbo had settled into a comfortable existence and claimed to have no interest in adventures.

Nevertheless, Gandalf marked Bilbo's door with a sign indicating that Bilbo was a burglar seeking employment, for that is what he had told the Dwarves. The thirteen Dwarves arrived at Bag End the next day in time for tea. Thorin was not pleased with Gandalf's choice of burglar and told the Wizard so later that night. But Gandalf had a strong feeling that Bilbo must go on this quest and he stood by his decision until Thorin reluctantly relented. The next morning, April 27, Gandalf sent Bilbo running out the door of his home to embark on the quest of the Lonely Mountain.

When Bilbo and the Dwarves were captured by Tom, Bert, and William, Gandalf tricked the three Trolls into arguing over how to cook their prey until the sun came up and turned the Trolls into stone. In the Troll-hoard, Gandalf found the sword Glamdring the Foe-Hammer that had once belonged to the King of Gondolin.

Gandalf led the company to Rivendell, where Elrond interpreted the runes on the map of the Lonely Mountain. After a short rest, the company set out over the Misty Mountains. They took shelter from a storm in a cave called the Front Porch in the High Pass and the Dwarves and Bilbo were captured by Orcs. Gandalf had heard the Orcs coming and evaded capture. He came to the rescue of his companions and beheaded the Great Goblin with Glamdring. Gandalf led the company through the tunnels to the exit on the eastern side of the Misty Mountains, but there they discovered that Bilbo was no longer with them.

To their relief, Bilbo appeared shortly afterwards. Bilbo was evasive about how he had managed to escape and Gandalf suspected there was more to his story and he later tried to learn the truth. When Bilbo first mentioned the magic Ring he had found, he said that that Gollum had intended to give the Ring to him as a present if he won the Riddle Game. Gandalf eventually got the true story out of Bilbo and it disturbed him that the Hobbit had lied contrary to his nature. It was not until many years later that the Wizard learned just how serious a matter Bilbo's magic Ring was.

When Thorin and Company continued on their journey they were attacked by Wargs. Gandalf urged them to climb into the trees and they were rescued by the Eagles whose lord Gandalf had once healed from an arrow wound. Gandalf then led the company to the house of Beorn and on to the edge of Mirkwood. There the Wizard told his companions that he had an urgent errand in the South and that they must proceed to the Lonely Mountain without him.

In the late summer of 2941, the White Council convened and Gandalf once again urged them to take action against Sauron. This time Saruman agreed, and the Council attacked Dol Guldur and Sauron fled before them.

Gandalf returned north and arrived at the Lonely Mountain to find that Smaug was dead but the Dwarves were barricaded in the mountain while armies of Lake-Men and Wood-Elves were camped outside. One night Bilbo emerged from the mountain bearing the Arkenstone which he presented to the leaders of the Men and Elves as a bargaining tool to end the stand-off. Gandalf was impressed by the Hobbit's effort at diplomacy, but the conflict was not resolved until an army of Orcs and Wargs appeared and Gandalf convinced the Dwarves, Men, and Elves to join forces against them.

After the Battle of the Five Armies, Gandalf travelled with Bilbo to the Shire. On the way they stopped at Rivendell, where Gandalf and Elrond discussed the the attack on Sauron's stronghold in Mirkwood.

"Ere long now," Gandalf was saying, "The Forest will grow somewhat more wholesome. The North will be freed from that horror for many long years, I hope. Yet I wish he were banished from the world!"
The Hobbit: "The Last Stage," p. 310
Unbeknownst to Gandalf and the White Council, Sauron had been prepared for the assault and had retreated to Mordor where the Nine Nazgul awaited him. In 2951, Sauron declared himself openly and began to rebuild the Dark Tower of Barad-dur. The White Council met once more and discussed Sauron's attempts to find the One Ring that he had made and that held much of his power. Saruman, who was knowledgeable about the Rings of Power, assured the Council that the One Ring had long ago fallen into the Anduin and had been carried out to Sea where Sauron would never find it.

Gandalf accepted the wisdom of his superior but he remained uneasy. He continued to visit Bilbo in the Shire and found it odd that the Hobbit did not appear to age as the years passed. That coupled with the discovery that Bilbo had lied about his encounter with Gollum made Gandalf wonder whether the magic Ring was more powerful than he had thought.

Hoping to learn how Gollum had acquired the Ring, Gandalf set a watch for the creature. Gollum emerged from the Misty Mountains, and his path eventually took him through Mirkwood to Lake-town and back again. The Wood-Elves tracked Gollum but lost his trail when he turned southward. Gandalf then decided to give up the hunt for Gollum, much to his regret when he later learned that the creature had been drawn to Mordor.

In September of 3001, Gandalf returned to the Shire for Bilbo's 111th birthday party. September 22 was also the birthday of Bilbo's heir Frodo Baggins, who was coming of age that year. Gandalf had come to provide fireworks for the party and also to see off his old friend Bilbo who was planning to leave the Shire after the party.

Gandalf was not happy with Bilbo's use of his magic Ring to disappear before his guests' eyes, but he was even more disturbed by Bilbo's behavior afterwards. The Hobbit told Gandalf that he was beginning to feel thin and stretched. When it came time to leave the Ring behind for Frodo, Bilbo became strangely reluctant to do so. He became angry with Gandalf and called the Ring his Precious as Gollum had once done. At length, Gandalf was able to help his old friend give up the Ring and Bilbo immediately felt as if a burden had been lifted from him.

Gandalf, however, became increasingly concerned. He feared that Bilbo's Ring was the One Ring wrought by the Dark Lord Sauron, and he decided that he needed to learn more about the Ring's origins. Gandalf called upon Aragorn, a Ranger of the North and the Heir of Isildur and the Kings of old. He had first met Aragorn in 2956, and the Wizard and the Ranger had become friends and allies. Aragorn suggested that they should resume the hunt for Gollum, and over the next several years they did so without success.

Gandalf visited Minas Tirith upon occasion, seeking information about the fall of Sauron and of Isildur, who had cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand. Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, reluctantly gave Gandalf access to the archives, though he distrusted the Wizard. Denethor's son Faramir, however, was eager to learn from Gandalf. In 3017, Gandalf returned to Minas Tirith, having recalled that Saruman had once mentioned that there were markings on the One Ring. He found a scroll written by Isildur describing an inscription that appeared when the Ring was heated: "One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the Darkness bind them."

Gandalf received word that Aragorn had captured Gollum so he went to Mirkwood to question the creature. He learned that the Ring had been found in the Anduin near the Gladden Fields where Isildur had fallen. He also learned that Gollum had once been a Hobbit-like person named Smeagol who had killed his friend Deagol to obtain the Ring and that he had been hiding in the Misty Mountains for 500 years before Bilbo encountered him.

In April of 3018, Gandalf returned to the Shire and told Frodo of his suspicions. He then performed the final test and cast the Ring into the fireplace, revealing the inscription that proved that it was in fact the One Ring. Frodo offered to give the Ring to Gandalf, but the Wizard refused.

"No!" cried Gandalf, springing to his feet. "With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly." His eyes flashed and his face was lit as by a fire within. "Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe, unused. The wish to wield it would be too great for my strength. I shall have such need of it. Great perils lie before me."
The Fellowship of the Ring: "The Shadow of the Past," p. 70-71
Gandalf told Frodo that he would help him as best he could but that it was up to Frodo to decide what to do. When Frodo volunteered to carry the Ring out of the Shire in order to save his home from Sauron's wrath, Gandalf was pleased and somewhat surprised at his friend's response.

It was decided that Frodo would leave the Shire after his birthday on September 22 and head for Rivendell with Samwise Gamgee. On May 1, Gandalf met Aragorn at Sarn Ford and informed him of this plan. At the end of June he made another reconnaissance trip to the southern border, intending to return in a few days. But he heard rumors of war and of the Black Shadow, so he went northeast along the Greenway towards Bree, where he encountered a fellow Wizard, Radagast the Brown.

Radagast told Gandalf that Saruman had sent him with the news that the Nine Nazgul were seeking the Shire. Gandalf decided to go see Saruman at once. He told Radagast to alert the birds and the beasts to gather news of the Nazgul and bring it to Isengard. Gandalf then spent the night in at the Prancing Pony and gave the innkeeper Barliman Butterbur a message to be delivered to Frodo urging him to leave the Shire at once. Unbeknownst to Gandalf, the message was forgotten and never delivered.

When Gandalf arrived at Isengard, he discovered that Saruman had become corrupted by the desire for power. Saruman suggested to Gandalf that they join forces with Sauron or take the One Ring for themselves. When Gandalf refused, Saruman imprisoned him on the pinnacle of Orthanc. From there Gandalf could see that Saruman had destroyed the gardens of Isengard and replaced them with machinery and an army of Orcs and Wargs.

On September 18, Gwaihir the Windlord came to Isengard bringing news of Gollum's escape from Mirkwood. The Great Eagle rescued Gandalf and brought him to Edoras in Rohan. There Gandalf found that King Theoden had fallen under the influence of Saruman. Theoden would not listen to Gandalf's warnings but bade him to take a horse and be gone. Gandalf tamed the magnificent Shadowfax and rode north with all speed.

In Hobbiton on September 29, Gandalf learned from the Gaffer that Frodo had left Bag End less than a week earlier. The next day he found Frodo's house at Crickhollow had been ransacked and he despaired. But when he arrived in Bree he was overjoyed to learn that Frodo had just left the town in the company of Aragorn.

At Weathertop on October 3, Gandalf found the Nazgul waiting for him and he was besieged in the ruins of the Tower of Amon Sul. The flashes of light and fire from their battle could be seen for miles around. At dawn the next day, Gandalf escaped. Hoping to draw the Nazgul away from Frodo, Gandalf took a circuitous route through the Ettenmoors to Rivendell.

Gandalf arrived at Rivendell on October 18 and learned that the Elf-lord Glorfindel had already set out in search of Frodo. Frodo reached the Ford of Bruinen on October 20 and was confronted by the Nazgul. Elrond commanded the river to rise against the Nazgul, and Gandalf added a few touches to the waves in the form of white horses and rolling boulders.

Gandalf sat by Frodo's bedside while the Hobbit recovered from the wound he had received from the Lord of the Nazgul at Weathertop. On October 25, the Council of Elrond was held to determine what to do with the Ring. Gandalf told the Council how he had discovered that the One Ring had been found and of Saruman's treachery. It was decided that the Ring had to be taken to Mordor and destroyed, and Gandalf said that this was the last thing Sauron would suspect.

"... let folly be our cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy! For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice. But the only measure that he knows is desire, desire for power; and so he judges all hearts. Into his heart the thought will not enter that any will refuse it, that having the Ring we may seek to destroy it. If we seek this, we shall put him out of reckoning."
The Fellowship of the Ring: "The Council of Elrond," p. 282-83
Frodo volunteered to be the Ring-bearer and Gandalf told his friend that he intended to accompany him. Elrond agreed, saying, "Gandalf will go; for this shall be his great task, and maybe the end of his labours." (FotR, p. 289) Gandalf persuaded Elrond that Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took should be part of the Fellowship, for he thought that friendship and loyalty should be given consideration over wisdom and power. The nine members of the Fellowship left Rivendell on December 25.

The Fellowship was prevented from crossing the Misty Mountains over the Redhorn Gate by a blizzard. Gandalf suggested an alternate route under the mountains through the Mines of Moria. Aragorn advised against it, for he had a premonition that danger awaited Gandalf in Moria, but he agreed to accept the Wizard's guidance. The others were also reluctant, but an attack by Wargs persuaded them to seek shelter in the Mines.

At the West-gate of Moria on January 13, Gandalf tried a number of spells to open the Doors of Durin before realizing from a hint of Merry's that the password was given in the inscription, "Speak, friend, and enter." Gandalf had entered Moria once before through the East-gate, so he was able to lead the Fellowship through the tunnels. During a rest stop while Gandalf tried to determine the right passage to take, Pippin dropped a stone down a well and drums began to sound in the deep. Gandalf rebuked Pippin, calling him "Fool of a Took," but then he took pity on the young Hobbit and relieved him of guard duty.

In the Chamber of Mazarbul on January 15, Gandalf found the Book of Mazarbul, a record of Balin's ill-fated attempt to reclaim Moria. Just as he read the closing line, "They are coming," drums began to sound once more and the Fellowship was attacked. They fought the Orcs and then fled through the east door. Gandalf attempted to seal the door with a spell, but he sensed an opposing presence in the chamber beyond and the effort to counter it cost him much strength.

At the Bridge of Khazad-dum, Gandalf came face to face with the evil presence. It was a Balrog, a terrible creature of shadow and flame. Gandalf told his companions to run and he stood on the bridge and confronted the Balrog.

"You cannot pass... I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass."
The Fellowship of the Ring: "The Bridge of Khazad-dum," p. 344
Gandalf shattered the Balrog's sword with Glamdring and the Balrog leaped onto the bridge. Aragorn and Boromir started to come to his aid, but Gandalf smote the bridge with his staff and shattered the rock under the Balrog's feet. The Balrog's fiery whip dragged Gandalf to the edge of the abyss, and with a cry of "Fly, you fools!" Gandalf fell into shadow as his friends looked on helplessly.

The abyss was deep and Gandalf fell a long way with the Balrog, burned by his fire, until they landed in a subterranean lake. The Balrog's fire was quenched but still he fought Gandalf in the caverns deep under the roots of the mountains. Then they climbed the Endless Stair to the pinnacle of the Silvertine where they fought the Battle of the Peak, until at last Gandalf smote the Balrog down upon the mountainside.

Gandalf passed into darkness out of thought and time. As Gandalf the Grey, he died. But because Gandalf had willingly sacrificed himself and in so doing had placed his fate in the hands of a higher power, Eru sent him back to Middle-earth to complete his task. He became Gandalf the White, greater in wisdom and power.

Gandalf awoke lying naked on the peak of the Silvertine. Once again Gwaihir came to his aid and bore him to Lothlorien, where he was clothed in white by Galadriel.

Gandalf sensed Frodo's struggle to resist revealing himself to the Eye of Sauron on the Seat of Seeing. The Wizard vied with the Dark Lord until Frodo was able to master himself and take off the Ring. Weary from his confrontation with Sauron, Gandalf wandered long deep in thought.

On March 1 he was reunited with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli at the edge of Fangorn Forest. He reassured the Three Hunters that Merry and Pippin were safe with Treebeard and told them that they must now turn their attention to Saruman's plan to attack Rohan. Gandalf summoned Shadowfax and they rode to Meduseld, the hall of King Theoden.

Theoden was deeply under the influence of his counselor Grima Wormtongue, who was an agent of Saruman. Gandalf confronted Grima and revealed himself as Gandalf the White. He urged Theoden to free himself from treachery and despair and Theoden responded, taking up his sword and the rule of his land once more.

Theoden accepted Gandalf's counsel that they should ride to war against Saruman immediately. On the way to Isengard they met a scout who told them that Saruman's army had crossed the Isen. Gandalf told Theoden to lead the Rohirrim to Helm's Deep and that he would meet them there.

Gandalf rode swiftly away. He gathered the survivors of the Battles of the Fords of Isen. He sent some of the men to join Erkenbrand and others he told to bury the dead and then follow Elfhelm to Edoras. Gandalf then rode on to Isengard where the Ents had imprisoned Saruman. Pippin was amazed to see his old friend, but Gandalf was in a hurry because 10,000 Orcs were closing in on Helm's Deep. Gandalf learned from Treebeard that many Huorns were already in pursuit of Saruman's army, and Treebeard agreed to send more to help. Gandalf then departed in search of Erkenbrand.

Gandalf and Erkenbrand arrived at the Battle of Helm's Deep at dawn on March 4 leading 1,000 men. As the White Rider led the charge, the wild men surrendered and the Orcs fled into the forest of Huorns that arisen in the night and were never seen again.

The next day, Gandalf and Theoden went to Orthanc to parley with Saruman. Saruman tried to use his voice to persuade those gathered that he was being unjustly treated, but they were not fooled. Gandalf revealed that he was now Gandalf the White, and he broke Saruman's staff and cast him out of the order of Wizards and the White Council. Then Grima threw the palantirdown from Orthanc and Pippin picked it up, but Gandalf snatched it away from the Hobbit.

Later that night while they camped at Dol Baran, Pippin took the palantir from Gandalf as the Wizard slept. The young Hobbit looked into the palantir and was confronted by Sauron, who demanded to know who he was. Gandalf awoke when Pippin cried out and he revived the Hobbit from a trance. When Pippin explained what he had seen, Gandalf realized that Sauron thought that the Ring-bearer was Saruman's prisoner. Then a Winged Nazgul flew overhead, and Gandalf took Pippin up on Shadowfax and rode with all speed to Minas Tirith.

Gandalf and Pippin arrived in Minas Tirith on March 9 and had an audience with Denethor, the Steward of Gondor. Denethor questioned Pippin closely about the death of his son Boromir. Gandalf discerned that Denethor was especially interested in the Fellowship's mission and the fact that a Man of higher rank than his son had led the company from Moria.

The next day, Denethor's surviving son Faramir returned to Minas Tirith pursued by five Winged Nazgul. Gandalf rode out to meet him and drove off the Nazgul with a flash of light from his staff. Faramir explained that he had seen Frodo and Sam and that they were heading for the Pass of Cirith Ungol guided by Gollum. Gandalf was troubled and afraid, but he also felt a faint hope that the Ring-bearer still had a chance to succeed, especially since Sauron's attention was now turned to Gondor. And though he feared treachery from Gollum, he sensed that the creature had an important role to play in Frodo's quest.

Denethor was angered that his son seemed to heed Gandalf's counsel more than his own, and he sent Faramir out once more to defend the river crossing. But Sauron's forces were too great and they were led by the Lord of the Nazgul who struck terror in the hearts of the defenders. Faramir was forced to retreat. Gandalf rode out to his aid, but Faramir chose to remain with the rear-guard. The next day, Gandalf accompanied the sortie that rode to the aid of the retreating forces and Faramir was brought back to Minas Tirith wounded and sickened by the Black Breath.

Denethor despaired and remained at his son's sickbed while the city was besieged and Gandalf took charge of the defense of Minas Tirith. The enemy forces smashed the city gates. The Lord of the Nazgul tried to enter and the defenders fled before him, but Gandalf remained and denied entrance to the fell king. At that moment a cock crowed as dawn came and horns sounded in the distance. The Rohirrim had come to Gondor's aid, and the Lord of the Nazgul turned and left to lead his forces into battle.

Then Pippin told Gandalf that Denethor was building a funeral pyre for his son though Faramir still lived. Gandalf was forced to choose between pursuing the Lord of the Nazgul and saving Faramir. He followed Pippin to Rath Dinen and leapt onto the pyre and carried the unconscious Faramir to safety. But he could not save Denethor from despair, for the Steward had looked into his palantir and had seen the doom of Gondor in the images Sauron had shown him. Denethor set the pyre ablaze and killed himself. The Lord of the Nazgul was vanquished by Eowyn and Merry, but Gandalf was saddened that many, including King Theoden, might have died needlessly because he had been distracted by Denethor's madness.

After the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, the leaders met to discuss their next move. Gandalf advised them that victory could not be achieved by arms and that their best course was to try to distract Sauron's attention to give the Ring-bearer time to complete his task.

"We must walk open-eyed into that trap, with courage, but small hope for ourselves. For, my lords, it may well prove that we ourselves shall perish utterly in a black battle far from the living lands; so that even if Barad-dur be thrown down, we shall not live to see a new age. But this, I deem, is our duty. And better so than to perish nonetheless - as we surely shall, if we sit here - and know as we die that no new age shall be."
The Return of the King: "The Last Debate," p. 156
The Host of the West marched to the Black Gate, where they were met by Sauron's emissary on March 25. The Mouth of Sauron showed them Frodo's mithril shirt and demanded that they surrender if they wanted to see their friend alive again. Despite his anguish, Gandalf refused, and the Host of the West engaged in the Battle of the Morannon with the forces of Sauron. Then there was a terrible cry from the Dark Tower and the Men of the West wavered, but Gandalf urged them to stand fast. The Towers of Teeth and the Black Gate fell and Gandalf cried, "The realm of Sauron is ended! The Ring-bearer has fulfilled his Quest." (RotK, p. 227)

Gandalf summoned Gwaihir and his kin and went to rescue Frodo and Sam from the ruin of Mordor. He was at the Hobbits' bedside when they awoke. Aragorn requested that Gandalf be the one to crown him King, for he said the Wizard had been "the mover of all that has been accomplished, and this is his victory." (RotK, p. 246)

Gandalf accompanied the Hobbits much of the way home. He sensed that Frodo was in pain, but when Frodo wondered where he might find rest Gandalf did not answer. Gandalf parted from the Hobbits at Bree to go visit Tom Bombadil. He told them that trouble awaited them in the Shire but that they must deal with it alone.

"You must settle its affairs yourselves; that is what you have been trained for. Do you not yet understand? My time is over: it is no longer my task to set things to rights, nor to help folk to do so. And as for you, my dear friends, you will need no help. You are grown up now. Grown indeed very high; among the great you are, and I have no longer any fear at all for any of you."
The Return of the King: "Homeward Bound," p. 275
Gandalf's task in Middle-earth was at last complete. Of all the Istari sent to Middle-earth, he alone had succeeded in his mission to encourage and assist the free peoples in their struggle against Sauron without using coercion or seeking power for himself. It was time for him to return to the Undying Lands, and on September 29, 3021, he went to the Grey Havens where he met Elrond and Galadriel.

Frodo was also there, for he had been given a place on the ship into the West where he might find healing from his wounds and memories. It is thought that Gandalf, as an emissary of the Valar, may have granted this favor at the request of Arwen. Gandalf had arranged for Merry and Pippin to come and see their friend off, and Sam was there as well. As the Ring-bearers boarded the ship, Gandalf said:

"Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil."
The Return of the King: "The Grey Havens," p. 310
Then the ship set sail and Gandalf returned into the West from whence he had come and was not seen in Middle-earth again.

Additional Sources:

The Silmarillion:"Valaquenta: Of the Maiar," p. 30-31, provides information on Olorin's time in Arda.
Unfinished Tales: "The Istari" is an account of the order of Wizards including Gandalf. It gives details on the meanings of his many names.
"The Quest of Erebor" found in Unfinished Tales
and in a somewhat different form in The Annotated Hobbit gives a more detailed account of Gandalf's reasons for selecting Bilbo for the quest to the Lonely Mountain.
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: Letter #156 discusses Gandalf's sacrifice and return as Gandalf the White and Letter #246 mentions the roles of Arwen and Gandalf in allowing Frodo to sail into the West.

Important Dates:

Third Age:

Gandalf arrives in Middle-earth and receives Narya around this time.

The Wise discover that an evil power has built a stronghold at Dol Guldur in Mirkwood.

Gandalf may have visited Gondor for the first time during the reign of Atanatar II.

The Wise fear the power at Dol Guldur may be Sauron.

Gandalf goes to Dol Guldur to investigate and Sauron flees to the East.

Sauron returns with increased strength to Dol Guldur

The White Council is formed. Gandalf is a member.

Gandalf comes to the aid of the Hobbits during the Long Winter.

Gandalf returns to Dol Guldur and learns that the evil presence is Sauron. Gandalf finds Thrain in the dungeon and receives the map and key of the Lonely Mountain from him.

The White Council meets. Gandalf reports that Sauron is at Dol Guldur and urges an attack, but Saruman overrules him.

March 15: Gandalf meets Thorin Oakenshield in Bree and they devise a plan to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from Smaug.

Early April: Gandalf visits the Shire but is told that Bilbo is away by his gardener Holman.
April 25: Gandalf visits Bag End and finds Bilbo uninterested in adventure.
April 26: An unexpected party at Bag End with thirteen Dwarves and one Wizard.
April 27: Gandalf gives Bilbo a nudge out the door and the Hobbit sets out for the Lonely Mountain with Thorin and Company.

Late May: Gandalf tricks the the Trolls Tom, Bert and William into arguing until dawn, when they turn to stone. Gandalf acquires Glamdring from their hoard.

June: Gandalf leads Thorin and Company to the home of Elrond in Rivendell.

Summer: Gandalf rescues Bilbo and the Dwarves from Orcs in the Misty Mountains and beheads the Great Goblin. Bilbo becomes separated from his companions. He finds the One Ring and meets Gollum. Bilbo escapes and is reunited with Gandalf and the Dwarves.

Late Summer - Early Autumn: Gandalf parts company with Thorin and Company and heads south to a meeting of the White Council. He convinces the Council to attack Dol Guldur and Sauron flees.

Late Autumn - Early Winter: Gandalf arrives at the Lonely Mountain to find that Men and Elves have come for a share of the dragon's hoard. Thorin refuses. Bilbo tries to break the stalemate by taking the Arkenstone to Bard and King Thranduil. Orcs and Wargs from the Misty Mountains attack and the Dwarves, Elves and Men unite to fight the Battle of the Five Armies.

Mid-winter to Yule: On the return journey, Gandalf and Bilbo visit Beorn.

Sauron returns to Mordor.

May 1: Gandalf and Bilbo come to Rivendell.

June 22: Bilbo and Gandalf arrive in the Shire.

Gollum emerges from the Misty Mountains.

Gandalf and Balin visit Bilbo in the Shire.

Sauron declares himself openly in Mordor and begins to rebuild Barad-dur. Gollum's trail is lost when he turns toward Mordor and Gandalf does not continue to pursue him.

The White Council meets to discuss Sauron. Saruman convinces the Council that the One Ring is lost forever.

Gandalf meets Aragorn and they become friends and allies.

Gandalf attends Bilbo's Farewell Party and becomes suspicious about the nature of Bilbo's Ring. He seeks the help of Aragorn and together they begin to hunt for Gollum.

Gandalf visits Frodo in the Shire several times over the next four years.

Gandalf visits Frodo for the last time for many years.

Gandalf and Aragorn renew the hunt for Gollum.

Gandalf finds a scroll written by Isildur describing the One Ring in Minas Tirith.

March 23: Gandalf arrives in Mirkwood and begins to question Gollum.
March 29: Gandalf leaves Mirkwood and sets out for the Shire.

April 12: Gandalf arrives at Bag End.
April 13: Gandalf determines that Bilbo's Ring is the One Ring from its inscription and tells Frodo its history. Frodo volunteers to leave the Shire with the Ring.

May 1: Gandalf meets Aragorn at Sarn Ford and tells him of Frodo's plan to leave the Shire in September.

Mid-year's Day: Gandalf meets Radagast near Bree and learns that the Nine Nazgul are abroad. Gandalf spends the night at the Prancing Pony in Bree. He leaves a message for Frodo with Barliman Butterbur.
2 Lithe: Gandalf sets out for Isengard to consult with Saruman.

July 10: Gandalf is imprisoned by Saruman in Isengard.

September 18: Gandalf is rescued from the pinnacle of Orthanc by Gwaihir.
September 19: Gandalf arrives at Edoras and is refused admittance.
September 20: Gandalf is granted an audience with King Theoden who tells him to take any horse and go.
September 21: Gandalf sees Shadowfax but the horse does not allow him to approach.
September 22: Gandalf follows Shadowfax and overtakes him.
September 23: Gandalf succeeds in taming Shadowfax and sets out from Rohan.
September 24: Gandalf crosses the Isen.
September 27: Gandalf crosses the Greyflood.
September 28: Gandalf reaches Sarn Ford.
September 29: Gandalf visits the Gaffer and learns that Frodo left Bag End on September 23.
September 30: Gandalf finds the house at Crickhollow ransacked and learns that Frodo left Bree with Aragorn.

October 1: Gandalf leaves Bree.
October 3: Gandalf battles the Nazgul at Weathertop.
October 4: Gandalf escapes Weathertop at dawn.
October 18: Gandalf arrives at Rivendell.
October 20: Frodo reaches the Ford of Bruinen pursued by the Nazgul. Elrond commands the Bruinen to rise against them with Gandalf's assistance.
October 24: Frodo awakes.
October 25: The Council of Elrond.

December 18: Gandalf convinces Elrond to include Merry and Pippin in the Fellowship.
December 25: The Fellowship leaves Rivendell.

January 13: The Fellowship enters Moria.
January 15: Gandalf faces the Balrog on the Bridge of Khazad-dum and falls into the abyss.
January 23: Gandalf and the Balrog climb the Endless Stair to the peak of the Silvertine.
January 25: Gandalf casts down the Balrog. Gandalf dies and his body lies on the peak.

February 14: Gandalf returns to life and lies on the peak in a trance.
February 17: Gwaihir carries Gandalf to Lothlorien.
February 20: Gandalf leaves Lothlorien and is flown south by Gwaihir.
February 25: Gandalf comes to Fangorn and sends Gwaihir to gather news.
February 26: Gandalf strives in thought with Sauron to prevent him from finding Frodo at Amon Hen.
February 27: Gandalf sees Treebeard in Fangorn but does not speak to him.

March 1: Gandalf is reunited with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli in Fangorn. They set out for Edoras in Rohan.
March 2: Gandalf arrives at Edoras. He heals King Theoden and advises him to ride to war against Saruman.
March 3: Gandalf tells Theoden to head for Helm's Deep. The Wizard rides to the Fords of Isen to rally the surviving Rohirrim and goes to Isengard to seek help from Treebeard.
March 4: Gandalf and Erkenbrand arrive at Helm's Deep with 1,000 Men and the enemy is routed.
March 5: Parley with Saruman. Gandalf casts Saruman out of the order of Wizards and breaks his staff. Later that night Pippin looks into the palantir and is confronted by Sauron. Gandalf sets out with Pippin to Minas Tirith.
March 9: Gandalf reaches Minas Tirith and meets with Denethor.
March 10: Gandalf rides out to rescue Faramir from the Winged Nazgul. He learns that Frodo and Sam are being led into Mordor by Gollum.
March 12: Gandalf rides to Faramir's aid as he retreats from Osgiliath, but returns when Faramir chooses to remain with the rear-guard.
March 13: Gandalf accompanies the sortie that rides to the aid of the retreating forces. Faramir is brought back wounded and Denethor falls into despair.
March 14: Minas Tirith is besieged. Gandalf takes charge of the City's defenses.
March 15: Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Gandalf confronts the Lord of the Nazgul at the gates of Minas Tirith. He saves Faramir from his father's funeral pyre but Denethor dies.
March 16: Gandalf advises the leaders to march to Mordor to give the Ring-bearer time to complete his quest.
March 18: The Host of the West marches from Minas Tirith.
March 25: Gandalf refuses Sauron's terms of surrender. The Host of the West fights until the Ring is destroyed and Sauron is defeated. Gandalf rides Gwaihir to rescue Frodo and Sam from the destruction of Mordor.

May 1: Gandalf crowns Aragorn King.

October 30: Gandalf parts from the Hobbits and goes to visit Tom Bombadil.

September 29: Gandalf sails away from Middle-earth and returns to the Undying Lands.

Names and Titles:

Gandalf the Grey:
Gandalf means "staff Elf." This name was given to him by Men in reference to the staff he carried and the mistaken belief that he was one of the Elves. The word gandr means "staff" especially one used for magic. (Unfinished Tales: "The Istari," p. 399)

The name Gandalf appears in the Old Norse poem Voluspa as well as in the Younger Edda of Snorri Sturluson.

The Wizards had colors associated their names. When Gandalf first came to Middle-earth, his color was grey and he wore grey robes.

Gandalf the White:
When Gandalf was sent back to Middle-earth after his fight with the Balrog, he was clad in white. He replaced the traitorous Saruman -- who had forsaken white for robes of many colors -- as the head of the order of Wizards.

"'Yes, I am white now," said Gandalf. "Indeed I am Saruman, one might almost say, Saruman as he should have been."
The Two Towers: "The White Rider," p. 98

Olorin was the name by which Gandalf was known as a Maia spirit in Aman. It is High-Elven from olor or olos meaning "vision, phantasy, construction of the mind." (Unfinished Tales: "The Istari," p. 396-97)

Grey Messenger:
When Gandalf arrived in Middle-earth he was referred to as the Grey Messenger because he was a messenger of the Valar and was clad in grey.
Unfinished Tales: "The Istari," p. 389-90

Mithrandir was the name given to Gandalf by the Elves. It means "Grey Wanderer" or "Grey Pilgrim" and refers to his color and his travels across Middle-earth.

Grey Pilgrim:
Grey Pilgrim was the Common Speech equivalent of Mithrandir (see above). The people of Gondor referred to him by both names.

"It was these records that brought the Grey Pilgrim to us. I first saw him when I was a child, and he has been twice or thrice since then."
"The Grey Pilgrim?" said Frodo. "Had he a name?"
"Mithrandir we called him in elf-fashion," said Faramir, "and he was content. Many are my names in many countries, he said. Mithrandir among the Elves, Tharkun to the Dwarves; Olorin I was in my youth in the West that is forgotten, in the South Incanus, in the North Gandalf; to the East I go not."
The Two Towers: "The Window on the West," p. 278-79

Grey Wanderer:
Grey Wanderer was another Common Speech translation of Mithrandir used in Gondor. (RotK, p. 100)

Tharkun was the name by which Gandalf was known among the Dwarves. It was said to mean "staff man." (Unfinished Tales: "The Istari," p. 397)

Gandalf was called Incanus by the peoples of the South. The origin of this name is not certain. A note in the Thain's Book indicates that it was a Quenya adaptation of a Haradrim word meaning "North spy." However, Incanus may have been a purely Quenya name given to him by the Men of Gondor meaning "mind ruler." The word in or id means "mind"; kan means "ruler" and cáno or cánu means "ruler, governor, chieftain." (Unfinished Tales: "The Istari," p. 399-400)

The word incánus in Latin means "grey-haired."

Gandalf Greyhame:
Gandalf was called this by Eomer of Rohan:

"Gandalf!" Eomer exclaimed. "Gandalf Greyhame is known in the Mark: but his name, I warn you, is no longer a password to the king's favour. He has been a guest in the land many times in the memory of men, coming as he will, after a season, or after many years. He is ever the herald of strange events: a bringer of evil, some now say."
The Two Towers: "The Riders of Rohan," p. 37
Greyhame means "greycoat" from the Old English grég or graég meaning "grey" and hama meaning "covering, garment." This is a reference to Gandalf's grey robes. ("Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings," entry for Greyhame)

The White Rider:
Gandalf was first called the White Rider by Aragorn in contrast to Sauron's Black Riders.

"Do I not say truly, Gandalf," said Aragorn at last, "that you could go whithersoever you wished quicker than I? And this I also say: you are our captain and our banner. The Dark Lord has Nine. But we have One, mightier than they: the White Rider. He has passed through the fire and the abyss, and they shall fear him. We will go where he leads."
The Two Towers: "The White Rider," p. 104

Gandalf Stormcrow:
King Theoden of Rohan called him Gandalf Stormcrow while under the spell of Grima Wormtongue.

"You have ever been a herald of woe. Troubles follow you like crows, and ever the oftener the worse ... Here you come again! And with you come evils worse than before, as might be expected. Why should I welcome you, Gandalf Stormcrow? Tell me that."
The Two Towers: "The King of the Golden Hall," p. 117

Grima Wormtongue called Gandalf Lathspell, meaning "ill news" in Old English from láð meaning "hateful, evil" and spell meaning "story."

"Lathspell I name you, Ill-news; and ill news is an ill guest they say."
The Two Towers: "The King of the Golden Hall," p. 117

Grey Fool:
Gandalf was referred to as the Grey Fool by Denethor, Steward of Gondor.

"Follow whom you will, even the Grey Fool, though his hope has failed. Here I stay."
The Return of the King: "The Siege of Gondor," p. 97

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