If backed into a corner, could Gandalf throw fireballs?

It’s been a long long time since I read the books so I apologize if my memory is fuzzy. But given the importance of the quest Gandalf was sent to do (and he was sent because otherwise he wouldn’t have returned from the battle with Durin’s Bane), if there was absolutely no hope left for the hobbits or the humans being able to accomplish their quest to destroy the ring, could Gandalf have rolled up his sleeves and threw some fireballs, caused blizzards, and opened up cracks in the earth to fight against Sauron’s forces?

I recall from discussions on this board that the Istari voluntarily did not use their powers, unless absolutely necessary, because they wanted the race of Man to do the deed through their own power. Gandalf only once use some typical wizardy powers when, in the books, he froze a wall or something and prevented the balrog from chasing them for a few moments (unfortunately this wasn’t in the film).

But their powers weren’t sealed. Saruman clearly caused the blizzard at Caradhras to prevent the Fellowship from crossing over the mountains. Gandalf removed Saruman’s influence from Theoden and lit the way through Moria. Could he have done more had he been so inclined?

He throws fireballs (or rather, changes pine-cones into fireballs) against some Wargs and ‘zaps’ some Orcs (in a cave in the Misty Mountains) in The Hobbit.

The full extent of their powers WAS externally limited by the shapes they took. The blizzard at Caradhras was never definitely shown to be Saruman’s doing…the book suggests a certain malevolence on the part of the mountain itself, animistic as that is for Tolkien. The freeing of Theoden was accomplished more in the book by what might be called a primitive psychology and persuasion than by casting a spell.

When Gandalf was returned after the fight with the Ballhog…er, Balrog, it was in a brand new body, with looser limitations than the ones that the Istari were originally sent in. That’s why he was more powerful in TT and ROTK than in Fellowship. He was literally a new man (but an old maia…).

The differences between tH and LotR are almost unbridgable without a great deal of disbelief suspension. They were written for different purposes, at different times, with different goals in mind. The whole WORLD of tH is different than that of LotR…it’s much smaller and shallower. For all intents and purposes, it consists of only the Blue Mountains, Eriador, Rivendell, the northern Misty Mountains, the northern Anduin, the northern third of Mirkwood, and the area around Erebor. There’s no real hint of a larger world, or a history that goes back 10,000 years or more, or several classes of angelic beings overseeing the world for God. Hell, there are no noble, immortal elves…the elves of Mirkwood are comic figures, capering and dancing like brownies or something.

So what Gandalf does in the Hobbit is difficult to extrapolate to the Gandalf of LotR.

Sorry…kind of stepped off the path and went wandering around the spiders there…

He handled himself pretty well at Weathertop against the Black Riders, evidently by lobbing lightning bolts at them.

As mentioned in the OP, Gandalf told the Balrog–a Maia (an angelic being similar to Gandalf, himself), a demon of the ancient world–that it would not pass, and it did not pass.

And all this before he became Gandalf the White.

Depends. Is it one of those early-edition Fireballs that expands to fill a set volume of space? How big is the corner?

I thought Gandalf was able to throw fireballs, start a fire with magic in the snow on Caradhras, craft killer fireworks, zap Wargs and Goblins and “rekindle” Theoden’s valor because he bore Narya, one of the Three Elven Rings, the Ring of Fire, given to him by Cirdan as he stepped ashore at the Havens in the Second Age, saying: “Take now this Ring, for thy labours and thy cares will be heavy, but in all it will support thee and defend thee from weariness. For this is the Ring of Fire, and herewith, maybe, thou shalt rekindle hearts to the valour of old in a world that grows chill”. [“And make fireworks and throw fireballs?” “Yes… I suppose so.”]

Oh, there’s hints of it at least. The swords Glamdring and Orcrist, for instance, come from Gondolin of old.

You’re right. I forgot about them.

I dunno about that - certainly the tone of the books was different (the Hobbit opens like a kiddie book with an omnisent narrator), but the content wasn’t impossible to square with the later LoTR.

In any event, “in universe” the things that happened in the Hobbit were supposed to have actually happened in LoTR, so the magic Gandalf displayed in that book was clearly magic he was capable of.

Not really. The world of the Silmarillion was already fully conceived, complete with the Three Ages, Numenor, etc. The Hobbit was a children’s book set in this world. Only what Bilbo personally experiences is detailed, in exactly the same way as a realistic juvenile novel shows the kids’ school, their homes, the park, the abandoned ‘haunted’ house, may have the Mayor or the Chief of Police for the city make a cameo, but is unlikely to deal with the sorts of things that would fill the front page of the kids’ fathers’ newspapers.

IMO, at least. I think it’s demonstrable from the Letters and HOMES, but I’d hate to try to document it in a thesis.

I’m probably being unduly influenced by a recent re-reading of “Master of Middle-Earth”. Kocher elevates the differences in tone and scope a bit and I think I absorbed that.

I saw what you did there. :wink:

Why throw fireballs when you have a magic flashlight?

Well there used to be a tunnel, but Gandalf found a more or less decent giant to stop it up again. :smiley:

For whatever its worth, Gandalf did mention that he couldn’t just melt the snow when they were trapped on Caradhras- he said he needed something to work the flame on.

Read the two-volume “History of ‘The Hobbit’” and then come on back to this discussion. As has already been aptly said here by Polycarp and others, the world was there in the background, but as TH was written by Bilbo (within JRRT’s secondary creation, which requires not suspension of disbelief, but rather secondary belief), he didn’t note much of it. It was a mortal perspective, unlike SIL’s Elven perspective.

In the first drafts of TH, Beren and Luthien are mentioned, and more references to Gondolin are made. Also, more differentiation between the ‘High Elves’ and the more Sylvan variety, some of which makes it into TH. References to the wars between the elves of Doriath and the Dwarves of Belegost are made.

JRRT’s mind was never real far from his secondary creation, in all his writings.