Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Contradictions and Gandalf

If Gandalf has somehow grown even greater and more knowledgeable through his transformation into the White Wizard, then why does he go first to Lothlorien before meeting up with the Company? By doing so, does he allow Boromir to be sacrificed needlessly and the hobbits to be captured and subjected to physical torture? If he is so knowledgeable, why did he not know Sam had gone with Frodo? How are we as readers expected to resolve such apparaent contradictions?

6 comments:

Elladan said...

Once again, I think it is important to remember that Tolkien has a greater design in mind. While we can always look back and claim that people could've changed outcomes, it isn't always that simple and clear-cut. Another issue is the fact that in every epic struggle between Good and Evil, there are valiant souls that must be sacrificed along the way. Boromir, sadly, mad this sacrifice attempting to protect Merry and Pippin.

Fingolfin said...

I believe a large portion of it is because Gandalf is NOT all-knowing (as much as he may seem to be at times) and is not always sure of what is going on. Gandalf has an extraordinarily wide scope of how things are playing out, but he even admits that he doesn't know how things WILL play out.

Luthien said...

I was going to say what Fingolfin said - that Gandalf the White does not appear all-knowing, nor very close. Even if he had used his new power and greater wisdom in some way to, for example, prevent Merry and Pippin from being captured and Boromir from being killed, the story would've been drastically changed. Who knows if the Ents would've been woken up and stirred to destroy Isengard, or if Boromir would've taken the Ring from Frodo using force, leading to the corruption of Minas Tirith/men and the eventual triumph of Sauron? On the other hand, maybe Gandalf DID know these things concerning the hobbits and Boromir would've happened, and so he simply let them happen as they would happen, knowing what they would lead to.

Radagast said...

I was thinking along the same lines as Fingolfin and Luthien. I don't think that Gandalf is all knowing. I think he has come back more powerful (just because it seems that white is a higher level than grey in the line of wizardry). I believe he gained more power, but maybe not more wisdom. As Fingolfin mentioned, Gandalf himself says that he doesn't know what will happen. He just advises what he thinks would be best, as he did before when he was Gandalf the Grey.

Idril said...

Gandalf, Gandalf, Gandalf... While I do not believe he is "all-knowing," I do believe he demonstrates an incredible level of intuition and forethought throughout each novel. In this way, Tolkien portrays him as a character that possesses this magical foresight (other than his elemental wizardry). But Gandalf isn't powerful because he might be an all-knowing, white wizard that can change the course of fate. Rather, his power originates as a symbol of hope and courage for the remaining free and good peoples of Middle Earth.

Fingolfin said...

Even if he was "all-knowing" and would know how things played out, he would adjust his role accordingly. If he knew that his role was to do nothing then he would naturally do nothing and let events unfold; as it is, he isn't as prominent in the actions that occur in the text as one would believe he ought to be. I think that, rather than Gandalf being all-knowing, that Gandalf is aware that it's not his place to be an incredibly important change in Middle Earth during the War of the Ring. Rather, I think he believes that he needs to let the people of Middle Earth work it out for themselves and assist in smaller matters. I think Tolkien made the choice to give Gandalf a lesser role because of the theme of the significance of the seemingly insignificant.