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Know Your LotRO Lore: The story of Gandalf

Know Your LotRO Lore: The story of Gandalf
Shawn Schuster
Shawn Schuster|November 11, 2008 4:00 PM

Welcome to Know Your LotRO Lore, a new weekly column here at Massively showcasing the lore of J.R.R. Tolkien's world as it intersects with Turbine's Lord of the Rings Online.

In this inaugural edition of Know Your LotRO Lore, we thought we'd kick it off with one of the most lore-tastic characters of all time: Gandalf. If you don't know Gandalf, you don't know Lord of the Rings. He's been an iconic figure throughout Tolkien's books, Jackson's movies, countless songs, works of art and prose.

Originally, the name "Gandalf" was to be used for another of Tolkien's characters: a Dwarf who we now know as Thorin. Can you imagine Galdalf's Gate or Gandalf's Hall? What changed Tolkien's mind is the actual Old Norse meaning behind the name Gandalfr, which incorporates the words "gandr", meaning both "wand" and "magic", and "alfr", meaning "elf" or "mythical being". So quite literally, his name means "Elf of the Wand", although he technically resembles that of a Man, instead of an Elf. Gandalf's original name of "Bladorthin" was not entirely lost though, as Tolkien eventually used it to name an ancient king, later in the books.

Although Gandalf is his most commonly-used moniker, he went by several other names as well. In his origins as a Maiar spirit in Valinor, he was known as Olorin. In Gondor, he was known as Mithrandir, meaning Grey Pilgrim. The White Rider was his name to those who saw him on his great white horse, Shadowfax. In the south, he was called Incanus, meaning grey-haired. The Dwarves called him Tharkun, meaning Staff-man, while the peoples of Sauron knew him only as Greybeard. He also garned the quirky surname of Stormcrow, mostly from the Hobbits who saw him as a troublesome meddler in the affairs of others.

"This is where many lore-buffs get upset with Turbine's interpretation of Tolkien's lore, allowing the Lore-master and Rune-keeper to wield powers that could arguably cross that line into Istari territory."

Gandalf was one of only five wizards in Middle-earth, also known by the Elves as the Istari. The Istari were "angelic spirits" sent by the Valar (almost like gods) in the Third-age to aid Men and Elves in their struggle against Sauron. These Istari were given the appearance and emotions of Men, not only to act as a familiar face, but also to have the ability to relate to them. These empathetic emotions were very important to Gandalf's development, as his affection for Hobbits plays a major role in the grand scheme of the story.

The four other Istari sent to Middle-earth were Saruman, Radagast, Alatar and Pallando. This is where many lore-buffs get upset with Turbine's interpretation of Tolkien's lore, allowing the Lore-master and Rune-keeper to wield powers that could arguably cross that line into Istari territory.

Once Saruman was appointed head of The White Council (after Gandalf refused Galadriel's initial recommendation to hold that position) because of his vast knowledge of Sauron and the Rings of Power, Saruman's power and leadership soon went to his head. This is when Saruman eventually became consumed with Sauron's evil and created the armies of Orc-kind that plagued the Free Peoples for many, many years. This part is important to note because it defines Gandalf's eternal struggle with the idea of losing one of his own, and ultimately recanting his original refusal to lead The White Council by taking Saruman's place.

After bumping into Thorin Oakenshield at Bree's Prancing Pony one day, the two discussed the very real possibility of the great dragon Smaug devastating the lands near the Misty Mountains; most notably: the Elven metropolis of Rivendell. Thorin agreed to help, as his interest mainly lied in regaining the lost Dwarven territory of the area, as well as ancient forgotten treasures in Erebor. Gandalf's appreciation of Hobbits led him to recruit one reluctant Bilbo Baggins for the task of stealing the treasure from the great dragon, and the Quest of Erebor -- and ultimately The Hobbit -- was born.

Gandalf spent much of his time after this event researching the threat of Sauron's resurgence and the origins of the mysterious ring that Bilbo had said was a "present" from Gollum. Gandalf was always suspicious that Bilbo's ring was the one True Ring, as Gandalf himself possessed Narya, the Ring of Fire. Once the Ring's true power was revealed to him, he once-again found himself assembling a party of adventurers to set forth and destroy it once and for all. At one point, Saruman had attempted to win over his old friend Gandalf, by asking for an alliance with Sauron. When Gandalf refused, he was imprisoned, yet eventually was rescued by the Great Eagle Gwaihir.

Quite possibly one of the most famous confrontations in Gandalf's story comes with his Balrog battle. At the Bridge of Khazad-dum, Gandalf was dragged down into the abyss just after uttering one of his most famous lines, "Fly, you fools!" Although neither Gandalf nor the Balrog died during the fall, a forthcoming battle between the two eventually killed them both.

Luckily, Gandalf was given another chance by Galadriel, but this time he became much more powerful. No longer was he Gandalf the Grey, as he was now known as Gandalf the White: true successor to Saruman. He continued on to lead many great battles against the forces of Saruman and Sauron, and eventually saw to the downfall of Sauron once the Ring was destroyed in Mount Doom.

Living roughly 2,000 years in Middle-earth, Gandalf then retired across the sea to the Undying Lands with Frodo, Bilbo, Galadriel and Elrond. It was after this time that the rest of Middle-earth finally learned that he possessed a Ring of Power.

In Lord of the Rings Online, you can find Gandalf in Bilbo's Room of the Last Homely House in Rivendell. He was previously found standing next to Elrond, in Elrond's Library, but was moved with Book 14 in preparation for the Fellowship's journey into the Mines of Moria.

We hope you've enjoyed this first installment of our brand new weekly Know Your LotRO Lore column. Let us know what you think in the comments below, as we plan on releasing many more of these for LotRO and possibly other MMOs in the near future.%Gallery-39552%
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