Gandalf the Gray and Gandalf the White. Explanations needed.

Ok, just to reiterate from before, I HAVE NOT read the Tolkein trilogy. I can only go on the movies.

In Two Towers when Gandalf comes back, there’s a part where Aragorn calls his by his name and he seems momentarily confused. Then he says. “Gandalf, that’s what they used to call me. Gandalf the Gray. I am Gandalf the White.”
So I’m wondering exactly what the difference is between the two.

The only analogy I can think of that comes close to explaining this to me is to think of the two Gandalfs as computers. Gandalf the Gray beams back to the Mother Ship after defeating the Shadow Flame, them comes back as Gandalf the White. So the Old Gandalf is gone, the new one comes back, with the information he had before, but Gray and White are NOT the same, like if you were to transfer data from one computer to another one; a computer than can parry arrows and axes with his staff and has nice straight white hair…

Anyway, I was wondering if someone knew the differences and similarities between Gray and White. Similarities: same knowledge. Difference: White has his badass factor upped a notch. Are there more?

Sanscour

Same person, just a fairly big upgrade–thinks lots more RAM and lots faster Motherboard-but the harddrive and files are just the same

For most Tolkien Geeks here are the important differences :stuck_out_tongue:
Gandalf The Grey
Gandalf the White

Sanscour writes:

> Ok, just to reiterate from before, I HAVE NOT read the Tolkein
> trilogy. I can only go on the movies.

This should be obvious, but just so that someone says it: You’re never going to really understand the story unless you read the book. The movies are, at most, a confused trivialization of the book.

I don’t think I agree too much WW. It’s been years and years since I first read the series, in fact I don’t remember much about it at all, although I don’t think I liked it much. But I still enjoy the movies immensily. And can follow the storyline of the movie without any trouble. Sure there are probably things that I’m missing, but in the overall scheme of things, those points I’m missing don’t detract from my enjoyment of the movie , whereas they might detract from my enjoyment of the movie version of the book. If that distinction makes any sense.

If it has been years and years since you read the book, and you can’t even remember clearly if you like it or not, then I don’t think your opinion counts for much. At least in regard to to what WW posted.

Never, ever admit this around hardcore fans of any work of literature turned into a movie. No matter how well-justified or well-argued your opinion, True Believers will interpret it as follows

Not chiding, just passing along a hard-learned life lesson. I have seen this hold true for everything from The Ten Commandments to Gone with the Wind to Fight Club.

Minor hijack, but that particular scene bugged me just a little tiny bit in the movie. Gandalf’s already reunited with Merry and Pippin as Gandalf the White, so why, shortly after this, would he almost not remember that he used to be Grey, when he’s surely just had to explain his ‘death’ and ‘rebirth’ to the hobbits?

The computer analogy is probably not bad.

The trilogy does not make this clear – it’s something mystic or magic or other-worldly. When the wizards first arrived, Saruman was the White, Gandalf was the Grey, Radagast was the Brown, and we’re not sure about any others although there probably at least two more. Over time, as Saruman studied too deeply into dark lore, he became perverted. In the books, when Gandalf goes to visit and is imprisoned by Saruman, he notes that Saruman’s robes are no longer white, but many-colored. Saruman says something about this being a major step up, and Gandalf says simply, “I preferred white.”

So when Gandalf dies and is reborn (or “sent back” or whatever it is that happens), he is now the White wizard, and describes himself as “Saruman as he might have been.” And Saruman, as the many-colored, is “cast from the order.”

So, while your computer analogy is probably apt, there’s also a mystic sense that the wizards are all facets of the same jewel, in some way.

In short, it’s symbolically clear that Gandalf coming back as the White has more power, and replaces Saruman as the leader of the Wizards and the Council. Like most of Tolkien, it’s not clear what this means in practical every-day terms, and it doesn’t matter much. The symbolism and ambiguity help add depth.

The wizards (Istari) are angelic emissaries from the “Powers that be”. They took the form of old men and are subject to the trial and tribulations of the world. By the time of the books, I believe, they’ve wandered Middle Earth for about 2000 years.

One by one the other wizards succumbed to worldly attractions. Sauruman to power, Radagast to solitude and comfort of the wild.

Now after defeating the Balrog Gandalf’s spirit flies back to the west. He takes council and is “purified” of the burdens of flesh. He returns, refocused and with fewer restriction on his power. The grey has been cleaned away to a white.

Actually, I think my opinion counts just as much as anyone else’s here.

WW said:

I (as someone that can barely remember the books) can state that I understand the story as it’s portrayed in the movie. Evil ring, must be destroyed or big bad guy comes back. Humans weak, elves wise, hobbits mischievous, orcs bad. Group tries to take ring to place where it can be destroyed. Various encounters along the way, many bad things (and some good things) happen. Group breaks up with different goals, some to still take ring to destroy, some to save others. Blah blah blah…ect. ect.

So saying that if you haven’t read the book, you can’t understand the story is a load of bunk. While a person that hasn’t read the books might not get all the ‘inside’ references, they will most certainly be able to understand the story.

Atrael and sanscour: Don’t worry about the snarky putdowns. It’s been days & days since I’ve read the books (for the 6th time) and I’m enjoying the movies immensely, and your opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s.

That said: all the analogies as to what happened to Gandalf are pretty apt. Another one: he’s like a video game character who gets killed but comes back, and with more hit points. Metaphors aside, though – he literally dies, and is literally reincarnated with enhanced power. In the book, he says that he’s forgotten much that he once knew, and remembered much that he had forgotten.

I put less import in the color change than CKDH does, but his analysis is nicely done.

The data, as you say, is not exactly the same.

As has been mentioned, Gandalf is an angelic being. But he’s chosen to stuff himself into a tiny, semi-mortal (he can be killed, and slowly suffer the ravages of age, but he IS still walking around after many centuries…) shell. So, really, he can only fit so much info. in there at once. Thus, when he comes back (from visiting the powers that be … his bosses in the Undying Lands), he (a) has been granted greater authority to exercise his power against the growing threats of Mordor and Saruman (b) has downloaded different info. into his skull–he remembers lots of things that are “far away” (presumably, whatever lofty things angels and gods discuss when we’re not around), but cannot remember a lot of things that are close at hand (the name these mortals call him by, what they’ve all been up to lately, etc.).

Thanks for the info everyone. Though I must admit one thing that does confuse me:

The rabid snarling of fanbois who cry foul that the movies are not at the height of pinpoint accuracy, which to a degree I can understand. You go to see a movie based on a book you’ve enjoyed forever, you want to see what was in the book. When I think of books and/or short stories that have been turned to movies which were completely and utterly violated to the point of FUBAR by Hollywood are Starship Troopers, Johnny Nmemonic and The Running Man.

Maybe if I get an opportunity I’ll try and read the books, but right now I’m finishing a Star Wars book and then it’s off to try and read Frankenstein.

Sanscour

What’s your question?

Don’t worry about it Munch, I thought better of it and took the question out but forgot to take out the confusion bit.

And not to worry. The movies need to stand on their own, and they do. You get more depth and more explanation and more poetry (and more songs) if you read the books, but the movies are a well-integrated, stand-alone art form.

Saying that you have to read the books to understand the movies is like saying you have to know about Napoleon to appreciate Beethoven’s Eroica. Bah, I say, bah and hambourg.

You only posted to use that atrocious pun, didn’t you? You should feel sheepish, 'cause that was ba… oh, never mind.

Not to the west, but out of Arda and Ea completely (at least according to Tolkien*). He wandered “out of time” and was given the power up and new mission by Eru/Illuvitar/God.

*"[Gandalf] was sent by a mere prudent plan of the angelic Valar or govenors; but Authority had taken up this plan and enlarged it, at the moment of its failure. ‘Naked I was sent back for a brief time, until my task is done’. Sent back by whom, and whence? Not by the Gods’ whose business is only with this embodied world and its time; for he ‘passed out of thought and time’."

Letter #156

Atrael writes:

> I (as someone that can barely remember the books) can state
> that I understand the story as it’s portrayed in the movie. Evil
> ring, must be destroyed or big bad guy comes back. Humans
> weak, elves wise, hobbits mischievous, orcs bad. Group tries to
> take ring to place where it can be destroyed. Various
> encounters along the way, many bad things (and some good
> things) happen. Group breaks up with different goals, some to
> still take ring to destroy, some to save others. Blah blah
> blah…ect. ect.

If that’s all you remember, you have a pretty superficial memory of the book. I consider the question asked in the OP fairly hopeless to answer except by saying, “First, read the book.” Within the context of just the movie, there’s no good explanation for the color change.