- "He wore a tall pointed grey hat, a long grey cloak, and a silver scarf. He had a long white beard and bushy eyebrows that stuck out beyond the brim of his hat."
- —The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Long-expected Party"
Gandalf (Quenya; IPA: [gand:alf] - "Wand-Elf") the Grey, later known as Gandalf the White, also called Olórin (Quenya; IPA: [oˈloːrin] - "Dreamer" or "Of Dreams"), Tharkun (by the Dwarves), and Mithrandir (Sindarin IPA: [miˈθrandir] - "White Pilgrim" or "Gray Wanderer"), was a wizard, or Istar, sent by the West in the Third Age to combat the threat of Sauron. He joined Thorin and his company to reclaim Erebor from Smaug, convoked the Fellowship of the Ring to destroy the One Ring, and led the Free Peoples in the final campaign of the War of the Ring.
As wisest of the Maiar, Gandalf was originally a Maia of Manwë the Wind-King, Varda the Star-Queen, Irmo the Dream-Master and Nienna the Weeper named Olórin, meaning "dreamer". When the Valar decided to send the order of the Istari (also known as Wizards) to Middle-earth, to counsel and assist all those in Middle-earth who opposed the Dark Lord Sauron Manwë and Varda decided to include Olórin among the five who were sent.
Arrival in Middle-Earth
When he arrived to Middle Earth he received Narya, the ring of fire, from Cirdan the Shipwright. Olorin, renamed Gandalf, meaning "wand-elf", by the Noldor, spent many centuries walking among the elves as a stranger, learning from them and teaching them. He later revealed himself as one of the Istari, and eventually became known as the wisest of and most powerful of that order. He joined the White Council, which was formed to investigate a dark power in Dol Guldur, of which Galadriel wanted him to become the leader, yet Saruman came to lead the Council instead of him. Although Saruman was at first more powerful, was more knowledgeable about many matters regarding Sauron and the Rings of Power, and was head of the White Council before the War of the Ring, he later grew jealous and afraid of Gandalf,which was the reason of his betrayal.
Quest to Erebor
In The Hobbit, Gandalf appears to the Hobbits of the Shire (where he spent a great deal of time) as little more than a vain, a fussy old conjurer who entertained children with fireworks during festivals and parties in the eyes of many hobbits. He partially reveals his true nature and power to Bilbo Baggins when he arranges and partially accompanies Bilbo and a band of thirteen dwarves (i.e. "Thorin and Company") on a quest to regain the Dwarvish treasure of the Lonely Mountain, which was stolen many years before by the Dragon Smaug. It is on this quest that Gandalf finds his sword, Glamdring, and that Bilbo finds his sword, Sting, and the One Ring (though at the time it is mistaken for a lesser ring).
In 2850 Third Age, he encountered Thráin II, father of Thorin Oakenshield, dying in Dol Guldur. The Dwarf king entrusted Gandalf with a map to Erebor. As Dol Guldur had once been one of Sauron's strongholds, Gandalf feared that Sauron's agents were at large again.
Gandalf met Thorin years later and agreed to go on the quest as a way to investigate further. He insisted, however, on bringing Bilbo along as a "burglar", someone who could sneak into places Dwarves couldn't access and gather information.
Gandalf joined the quest in order to investigate what he suspected to be the resurgence of Sauron (or the "Necromancer", as he is referred to in The Hobbit) in Mirkwood. During the Dwarves' quest, Gandalf vanished twice — once to scout their path, the second time to "attend to other pressing business", the nature of which he refused to discuss. He was actually attending a meeting of the White Council. When Bilbo found the One Ring, Gandalf was immediately suspicious of the Hobbit's story of how he acquired it. He privately confronted Bilbo and forced the truth out of him, and is deeply troubled by his story of the Ring's powers as they seem eerily familiar. Perhaps even more troubling to him is that Bilbo, a proper, honorable hobbit, would uncharacteristically lie about his story.
Gandalf abandoned Thorin's company when they reached Mirkwood to participate in the White Council's assault on Dol Guldur. The attack appeared to drive out The Necromancer (Sauron), though he immediately retreated to his long-prepared stronghold of Barad-dûr. Gandalf rejoined Thorin's company at the very moment the Battle of Five Armies breaks out, bearing news of the arrival of a goblin and warg army. Gandalf fought in the battle, and helped destroy the goblin threat. Following the battle, Gandalf accompanied Bilbo back to the Shire.
Return to the Shire
Gandalf spent the years between TA 2941 - TA 3001 travelling Middle-earth in search of information on Sauron's resurgence and Bilbo's mysterious ring. He spent as much time as he could in the Shire, however, strengthening his friendship with Bilbo and befriending Bilbo's nephew, Frodo, while simultaneously becoming suspicious of Saruman and his allegiances.
In TA 3001, around the time of Bilbo's "Eleventy-First" (111th) birthday party, Gandalf returned to the Shire, bringing along many fireworks for the occasion. After seeing Frodo and visiting Bilbo again, Gandalf attended the party.
During Bilbo's speech, he put on a mysterious ring and disappeared, as a joke on his neighbours. Later as he was bidding farewell to Gandalf, who had known about his plans to leave, Bilbo began to change his mind about leaving his ring to Frodo, as he had earlier agreed. When Gandalf tried to persuade him to leave it, Bilbo became hostile and accused Gandalf of trying to steal the ring for his own benefit, which he referred to as his "precious." Horrified by Bilbo's outburst, Gandalf stood to his full height and appeared menacing, frightening the hobbit. This brought Bilbo back to his senses; he apologised, admitted that the Ring had been troubling him lately, and left the ring behind. Bilbo and Gandalf bid each other goodbye, before Bilbo left the Shire for his journey.
Troubled by this, Gandalf mulled over this. Before finally leaving the Shire, Gandalf gave the ring to Frodo, advising him to keep it safe. Over the next seventeen years, Gandalf traveled extensively, searching for answers. Having long sought for Gollum near Mordor, he met Aragorn, who had captured the creature in Mirkwood.
Gandalf interrogated Gollum and learned that Sauron had forced Gollum to tell what he knew about the ring under torture. Gandalf left Mirkwood soon after, and left Gollum with the Wood-elves of Northern Mirkwood.
Upon returning to the Shire, Gandalf immediately went to Frodo and confirmed his suspicions by throwing the Ring into Frodo's hearth fire, which revealed, in Black Speech, the inscription upon the ring.
Gandalf then told a dumbfounded Frodo about the One Ring and its history, and how Sauron would seek to regain it. Instructing Frodo to go to Rivendell with the ring, Gandalf told him to make arrangements to leave the Shire quietly.
Leaving a note for Frodo with Barliman Butterbur, an inn-keeper in Bree, Gandalf left for Isengard to speak with Saruman. Once there, however, Gandalf discovered Saruman had made his own ring of power and declared himself Saruman of Many Colours. He tried to convince Gandalf to either join with him in service to Sauron, so that they could eventually control the Dark Lord and thus achieve good ends thought through evil means, or to help him find the One Ring so they could take power from Sauron. Gandalf refused, and was held prisoner at the top of the tower Orthanc.
Journey to Rivendell
Grima Wormtongue, a spy of Saruman, allowed Gandalf to take any horse he desired, but only to do so quickly. There, Gandalf chose the horse Shadowfax. Riding for the Shire, Gandalf arrived too late for Frodo; he had already set out.
Knowing that Frodo would be heading for Rivendell, Gandalf began to make his own way there. Shortly after arriving in Bree, Gandalf learned that the Hobbits had already began travelling to Rivendell with his ally and old friend: Aragorn. Subsequently, Gandalf was confronted one night by Sauron's Nazgûl at Weathertop. After an all-night battle with the Ringwraiths, Gandalf was able to eventually escape, though four of the nine Nazgûl pursued him.
Several days later, Frodo, Aragorn and company stayed at Weathertop and were confronted by the remaining five Nazgûl. Despite their escape, Frodo was stabbed in the process by the Ringwraith leader, who used the Morgul-blade. Gandalf was able to evade the four Nazgûl and successfully reach Rivendell. However, several days later, an injured Frodo arrived at the Ford of Bruinen, though the Nazgûl pursued him all the way there. Gandalf, along with Elrond, saved Frodo from the Nazgûl by enchanting the water and sweeping them away.
Forming of the Fellowship
At Rivendell, Gandalf, along with Frodo, Bilbo and many others, attended the secret Council of Elrond. There Gandalf explained to the others how Saruman had imprisoned him and how the White Wizard was creating his own army of orcs to rival Sauron's.
As everyone at the Council debated over the ring, Frodo offered to be the ring-bearer and take it to Mount Doom to be destroyed. Gandalf volunteered to help and protect Frodo on his quest, along with Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas, and; Gimli. Sam snuck in and was allowed to go because of this.
With this the Fellowship of the Ring was formed, with Gandalf as its leader. Gandalf later convinced Elrond to allow Frodo's cousins, Merry and Pippin, to join the Fellowship. Subsequently, after preparing for the journey, the Fellowship left Rivendell.
Gandalf took leadership of the Fellowship, leading the group south after leaving Rivendell. He and Aragorn led the hobbits and their companions on an unsuccessful effort to cross Mount Caradhras.
War of the Ring
Mines of Moria
They then took the "dark and secret way" through the Mines of Moria, much to Aragorn's discomfort, though he had passed through the Mines once before, he had no desire to go through them again, and he feared for Gandalf if they did so. As they tried to leave the mines, at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, Gandalf faced a Balrog, known commonly as Durin's Bane. This was one of the Maiar corrupted by Melkor in the early days of Arda.
- "You cannot pass," he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. "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 Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass."
- —The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter 5: "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm"
Gandalf stopped on the Bridge, standing in the middle of the span, allowing the others to escape. He leaned on the staff in his left hand and held the sword Glamdring, gleaming cold and white, in his right. The Balrog stepped onto the Bridge, facing Gandalf, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings. It raised its whip, and the thongs whined and cracked. Fire came from its nostrils. But Gandalf stood firm and declared that the Balrog could not pass. They fought, and the Balrog's sword was destroyed. Then the Balrog leaped full upon the Bridge, and Gandalf lifted his staff and smote it upon the bridge. His staff shattered, but the Bridge cracked at the Balrog's feet. The stone beneath the Balrog broke and fell, taking the Balrog with it into the abyss, but the thongs of its whip snared Gandalf about his knees, and Wizard and Balrog plummeted together into the depths of the mountain. Galdalf cried, "Fly, you fools!" and was gone.
Gandalf and the Balrog fell for a long time, and Gandalf was burned by the Balrog's fire. Then they plunged into water at the bottom, which Gandalf later said was cold as the tide of death and almost froze his heart. There they fought until the Balrog fled into dark tunnels, where the world is gnawed by nameless things, older even than Sauron. Gandalf pursued the creature until it led him to the spiraling Endless Stair, and they climbed it until they reached Durin's Tower in the living rock of Zirakzigil, the pinnacle of the Silvertine above the clouds. There they fought until at last Gandalf threw down his enemy, and Balrog broke the mountain-side as it fell. Then darkness took Gandalf, and he passed away. His body lay on the peak. The entire battle, from the confrontation on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm to the mutual demise of the Balrog and Gandalf, had taken ten days.
- "Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell."
- —Gandalf the White.
Twenty days later Gandalf returned to life, and lay in a trance.
- "Naked I was sent back – for a brief time, until my task is done. And naked I lay upon the mountain-top. … There I lay staring upward, while the stars wheeled over, and each day was as long as a life-age of the earth."
- —The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Book Three, Chapter V: "The White Rider"
Three days later he was found by the windlord Gwaihir, the Lord of the Eagles, who had been sent by Galadriel to find him. Gandalf was carried to Caras Galadhon in Lothlórien, where he was healed, and clothed in white, and thus became Gandalf the White.
In Fangorn forest he encountered Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas, who were tracking Pippin and Merry, who had been captured by Orcs in Gandalf's absence.
- "Keep well the Lord of the Mark, till I return. Await me at Helm's Gate. Farewell!"
- —Gandalf to Aragorn and Éomer and the men of the king's household.
Revealing himself to the three, he explained how he had survived and returned. There, Gandalf tried to persuade Aragorn to go to Rohan instead, insisting there are other pressing matters, such as the War coming to Rohan and the impending attack on Edoras by Saruman.
Arriving in Rohan with Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas, Gandalf discovered King Théoden, weakened by Saruman's agent, Grima Wormtongue. However, Gandalf quickly broke Wormtongue and Saruman's hold over Théoden.
While Théoden and the Rohirrim rode to Helm's Deep and battle with the hordes of Isengard, Gandalf rode to Orthanc and asked Treebeard to encourage the Huorns to Assist him in defeating Saruman and his Uruk-hai. He also rode to find Erkenbrand and his Men to and persuaded them to ride to Helm's Deep.
Siege of Gondor
After overthrowing Saruman, Gandalf broke his rival's staff and banished him from the Order of Wizards. Then, against his counsel, Pippin glanced into the Palantír of Orthanc that he recovered from Saruman and made contact with Sauron. He then took Pippin with him to Gondor to aid in the defense of the city. Along the way, Gandalf gave Pippin a brief history of Palantír, mentioning Feanor, and how it was fortunate that Pippin made contact with Sauron instead of himself, since he was not yet ready for a meeting with Sauron. Arriving at Minas Tirith, he met with Denethor II and tried to give him counsel.
After Faramir's charge, the Morgul host assaulted the city. Gandalf provided valuable aid to the White City and bought precious time allowing the Rohirrim to save Gondor during The Battle of the Pelennor Fields. When the battering ram Grond, breached the gates of the city, numerous trolls rushed through, attacking the defenders, however Gandalf rode in and helped kill a few. Gandalf alone stood in defiance of the Witch-King, however Gandalf's power was never tested, with the timely arrival of Rohan the Witch-king left to deal with the new threat. With the arrival of Rohan, and the pleas of Pippin concerning Denethor's intention to kill Faramir and himself, Gandalf rushed to Faramir's aid. Gandalf took Faramir from the pyre and tried counseling Denethor to not commit suicide. However, driven mad by his grief and Sauron's messages via the Palantír of Minas Tirith, Denethor set the pyre aflame while looking into said Palantír. In grief, Gandalf closed the doors of the chamber. Denethor later gave out a cry and said no more. Soon afterward, Gandalf delegated the control of the city to the Prince of Dol Amroth.
The Fall of Sauron
Gandalf, alongside Aragorn, led the final battle against Sauron's forces at the Black Gate, waging an all-out battle to distract the Dark Lord's attention away from Frodo and Sam, who were at the very same moment scaling Mount Doom to destroy the Ring. Though the forces of good were heavily outnumbered, they were able to hold back the enemy until the hobbits reached the peak of Mount Doom, and the ring was destroyed when Gollum bit off Frodo's finger which had the ring on it, and Gollum, with the ring, fell into the fiery volcano. Without Gandalf's efforts, Sauron might have learned where the two hobbits were and killed them before they could have completed their task.
Four years after the ring was destroyed, Gandalf spent some time with the "moss gatherer" Tom Bombadil, then, after having spent over 2,000 years in Middle-earth, departed with Frodo, Galadriel, Celeborn, Bilbo, Elrond, (and presumably Shadowfax) across the sea to the Undying Lands, and was never seen again in Middle-earth.
Gandalf primarily uses his staff but also carries a sword in combat. Sometimes during combat, Gandalf can be seen dual-wielding both weapons against his enemies.
- Main article: Wizard Staff
Gandalf utilises his staff for various spells and abilities against his enemies. He didn't use it just as a weapon; he also utilised a staff as if it were a walking stick. He initially had an old wooden staff which he lost in the Mines of Moria while fighting the Balrog. He used a new one upon becoming Gandalf the White. In the extended film adaptation the Witch-king of Angmar seemed to know the 'activation word' for the staff - shattering it and leaving Gandalf exposed for a moment - during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, in Minas Tirith.
- Main article: Glamdring
This was the sword of Gandalf which he found in a troll cave. From then, he used this as a weapon to complement his staff. He wielded the sword using the same skill as he employed with his staff. In many cases, he dual-wields both weapons in combat.
- Olórin, his name in Valinor and in very ancient times. "Olórin was my name in my youth in the West that is forgotten". It was Quenya, and its meaning is associated with dreams (perhaps "dreamer" or "of dreams"), from the root ÓLOS-.
- Mithrandir, his Sindarin name, used in Gondor and by the elves, meaning White Pilgrim or Grey Wanderer.
- Old Greybeard, by the Mouth of Sauron when they meet at the Morannon.
- The White Rider (when mounted on the great horse Shadowfax)
- Stormcrow (a reference to his arrival being associated with times of trouble), often used by his detractors to mean he is a troublesome meddler in the affairs of others.
- Incánus (in the south), of unclear language and meaning. Tolkien several times changed his mind about it, varying between the Latin word Incanus (meaning Grey and a possible Westron invention meaning "Greymantle"), a word Ind-cano (meaning Cruel Ruler), or even a form of Southron meaning "Spy of the North".
- Lathspell, by Grima Wormtongue who said "Lathspell I name you, Ill-news; and ill news is an ill guest they say." (in The Two Towers, "The King of the Golden Hall", pg. 117.)
- Tharkûn (to the Dwarves), probably meaning Staff-man.
- Gandalf Greyhame
- Gandalf the Grey, and later Gandalf the White after he was reborn as the successor to Saruman.
Within the Tolkien Legendarim, "Gandalf" translates an unknown name of the meaning "Wand-Elf" (alternatively cane/staff) in old northern Mannish. Most denizens of Middle-earth incorrectly assumed Gandalf was a Man (human), although he was really a Maia spirit (approximately equivalent to an angel). However, a less common misconception that occurred during the beginning of his career in Middle-earth was that for someone to be immortal and use as much magic as he did, he must have been an elf, although it soon became apparent to all that he couldn't be an elf, as he was old and elves don't generally age. Even because of this, the nickname stuck with him. He later gave it as his name to others he met who didn't know its original meaning.
- "Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends."
- —The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter 2: "The Shadow of the Past"
The Old Norse name "Gandalfr" appears in the list of dwarves in the Völuspá of the Elder Edda; the name means "cane-elf," or "wand-elf." Tolkien took the name along with the dwarves names when he wrote The Hobbit in the 1930s. He came to regret the creation of this "rabble of eddaic-named dwarves, [...] invented in an idle hour" (The Return of the Shadow:452), since it forced him to come up with an explanation of why Old Norse names should be used in Third Age of Middle-earth. He solved the dilemma in 1942 by the explanation that Old Norse was a translation of the language of Dale. The figure of Gandalf has other influences from Germanic mythology, particularly Odin in his incarnation as "the Wanderer", an old man with one eye, a long white beard, a wide brimmed hat, and a staff. Tolkien states that he thinks of Gandalf as an "Odinic wanderer" in a letter of 1946. Gandalf is also similar to Väinämöinen, a Bard in Finnish mythology.
Tolkien had a postcard labelled Der Berggeist ("the mountain spirit"), and on the paper cover in which he kept it, he wrote "origin of Gandalf" at some point. The postcard reproduces a painting of a bearded figure, sitting on a rock under a pine tree in a mountainous setting. He wears a wide-brimmed round hat, and a long cloak and a white fawn is nuzzling his upturned hands.
Humphrey Carpenter in his 1977 biography said that Tolkien had bought the postcard during his 1911 holiday in Switzerland. However, Manfred Zimmerman (1983) discovered that the painting was by German artist Josef Madlener and dates to the late 1920s. Humphrey Carpenter concluded that Tolkien was probably mistaken about the origin of the postcard himself. Tolkien must have acquired the card at some time in the early 1930s, at a time when The Hobbit had already begun to take shape.
The original painting was auctioned at Sotheby's in London on July 12, 2005 for 84,000. The previous owner had been given the painting by Madlener in the 1940s and recalled that he had stated the mountains in the background of the painting were the Dolomites.
Gandalf is described as an old man with a pointed grey hat, a long grey cloak, and a silver scarf. He had a long white beard and bushy eyebrows that stuck out beyond the brim of the hat.
After he is resurrected, the change of his signature colour from grey to white is significant, for he was sent back to replace the corrupted head of the Order of Wizards and leader of the White Council Saruman as the Chief of the Order of Wizards. In the book, he says that he has himself become what Saruman should have been.
Appearances in the Books and Films
In the books
- The Hobbit
- The Fellowship of the Ring
- The Two Towers
- The Return of the King
- The Silmarillion: Valaquenta (as Olórin)
- The Silmarillion: Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
- Unfinished Tales: The Istari
- Unfinished Tales: The Battles of the Fords of Isen
- Unfinished Tales: The History of Galadriel and Celeborn
- Unfinished Tales: The Palantíri
- Unfinished Tales: The Quest of Erebor
In the films
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
- The Fellowship of the Ring
- The Two Towers
- The Return of the King
Portrayal in adaptations
Hobbit and Lord of the Rings film trilogies
- "I gave you the chance of aiding me willingly, but you have elected the way of pain!"
- —Saruman to Gandalf.
Sean Connery was originally considered for the role of Gandalf, but turned it down because he didn't want to spend so long in New Zealand, where the film was shot. McKellen's interpretation of the role was widely praised. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, making him the only individual cast member to be nominated for his performance. Christopher Lee, a lifelong fan of the books, had hoped to be cast as Gandalf, but due to his advancing age, he instead opted for the role of Saruman, as Gandalf required more horse riding and more sword work.
Ian McKellen reprised his role of Gandalf the Grey for the three-part adaptation of The Hobbit, noting in early interviews that he preferred portraying Gandalf the Grey to Gandalf the White, as Gandalf the Grey required a more nuanced performance. He maintains, however, that he enjoyed playing both Gandalf's, but felt Gandalf the Grey was easier and calmer to portray.
Voice Dubbing actors
|Foreign Language||Voice dubbing artist|
|Spanish (Latin America)||José Lavat|
|Spanish (Spain)||Pepe Mediavilla|
|Czech (Czech Republic)||Petr Pelzer|
|Portuguese (Brazil) (Television/DVD)||Hélio Vaccari / Luiz Carlos Persy (The Hobbit trilogy)|
|German||Joachim Höppner † / Eckart Dux (The Hobbit trilogy)|
|Italian (Italy)||Gianni Musy † / Gigi Proietti (The Hobbit trilogy)|
|French (France)||Jean Piat|
|Polish||Wiktor Zborowski (The Hobbit trilogy)|
Translations around the World
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Chinese (Hong Kong)||甘道夫|
Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings
In the 1978 animated film of The Lord of the Rings by Ralph Bakshi, Gandalf was voiced by William Squire. (It is not known whether Squire played him in the live-action recordings used for rotoscoping.)
In the BBC radio dramatisations, Heron Carvic played him in The Hobbit (1968), Norman Shelley played him in The Lord of the Rings (1956 radio series), and Sir Michael Hordern played him in The Lord of the Rings (1981).
- It is unclear whether Gandalf, as being a Maia, did or did not participate in War of Wrath in the First Age since he knew about Ancalagon the Black.
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|Sauron (Mairon) • Gothmog • Durin's Bane • Ungoliant • Shelob • Curumo (Saruman)|
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- ↑ Unfinished Tales, Introduction, Part Four, II: "The Istari"
- ↑ The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B: The Tale of Years (Chronology of the Westlands), "The Third Age"
- ↑ Unfinished Tales, Introduction, Part Three, III: "The Quest of Erebor"
- ↑ The Hobbit, Chapter XIX: "The Last Stage"
- ↑ The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Letter 107
- ↑ Manfred Zimmerman, The Origin of Gandalf and Josef Madlener, Mythlore 34 (1983)