Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gandalf: Grey vs. White

Today in class, a slight comparison/contrast was brought up concerning Gandalf the White and Gandalf the Grey. For instance, when those who wrote a different scenario for the scene when Gandalf leaves the host of Rohirrim to fight the battle at Helm's Deep for themselves, some proposed that had Gandalf stayed with them, he would have still been, in a way, "Gandalf the Grey" - the one who sticks around and saves the day. (that rhymed! :) He does return at the last minute during the battle to block the escape of the remaining orcs, but I think there's something to explore there between the "old" and "new" Gandalf.

With the addition of Shadowfax (a.k.a. the best horse in Middle-earth) and possibly even the symbolism surrounding his new, shiny WHITE robes, I think that Gandalf the White is a much more powerful force for those on the "good side," but also - possibly - more sparing in his supernatural aid. What do you all think?

6 comments:

Radagast said...

As I was reading the first part of this, I was thinking the same thing you said at the end! I think that Gandalf does come back more powerful than before, but also seems to not help quite as much. He was always more of an advisor, but after he comes back, Tolkien seems to have written his parts as doing something kind of off to the side. He's not quite as prevalent I would say, like when he leaves Theoden on their way to Isengard/Helm's Deep. However, this is not to say he is not as helpful! He rides and goes to bring back Erkenbrand which helps to save the day. But I do agree that Gandalf is more sparing in what he does to help when is more powerful.

Elwing said...

I think Merry observes Gandalf's change very astutely on the ride back from Isengard. "He has grown or something. He can be both kinder and more alarming, merrier and more solemn than before, I think. He has changed; but we have not had a chance to see how much, yet," (Book Three Ch. XI). I think this is in part to the mistakes that he has made concerning the Ring. He admits that he shouldn't have trusted Saruman and waited so long to take action. I think this is reflected in his actions throughout the rest of the tale.

Miriel said...

Yes, there is a very interesting change in Gandalf. I wonder if he consciously changed some aspects about him, or if it just happened when he became Gandalf the White? And my other question is, do you like Gandalf the Grey, or Gandalf the White better?
In a way I like him Grey more, because he appears more human due to his mistakes and all the things he was learning about the ring. But he is more funny when he is White...

Theodred said...

I would have to agree that while Gandalf is a stronger force for the "good side" as Gandalf the White, he does seem to be more hesitant in giving supernatural aid. While this may be a cliche, I suppose the phrase "With great power comes great responsibility" may have some relevance here. While Gandalf is more powerful, he cannot use his power recklessly because he might then restrict the other characters from growing and developing as they do throughout the books. While I do like Gandalf the White, I prefer Gandalf the Grey because, as Miriel said, he seems more human.

Idril said...

I've always interpreted Gandalf's return as "Gandalf the White" as an elevation from physical to metaphysical. While "Gandalf the Grey," Gandalf actively participated and intervened during the adventures of The Hobbit and LOTR: FOTR. Also, Gandalf's many "mistakes" provide evidence of his tie to the physical world of Middle Earth. As "Gandalf the White," Gandalf still provides assistance and advice for the Fellowship's cause, but does so in an impressively "all-knowing" way. His appearance at the end of the Battle of Helms Deep displays a more "divine intervention" rather than a physical one such as his bout with the Troll's in The Hobbit. His rebirth also shows that his destiny/prophecy was not intended to end with the Balrog, but rather to stand as a "spiritual opposition" to Sauron, and a symbol of hope and courage for the peoples of Middle Earth. I too prefer Gandalf the Grey because of his closer connections with humans (and hobbits!)

Diamond Took said...

Right, Gandalf the Grey is more human. It seems to me that Tolkien has something to say about the relationship between power/greatness and humanness. And not just that, also there is something about the average, hardworking person that Tolkien seems to promote. Consider Tom Bombadil and Gandalf the Grey. They are distinctly blue-collar but also very abnormal, which seems odd to me. On the other hand, Mordor is filled with power but very inhuman. It's filled with dark mystery that we can't relate to or understand. But I don't know exactly what he might be saying by this because people like Elrond and Gandalf the White are both good and mysterious.