Why didn't the LOTR movies explain Gandalf's backstory?

I have never read the trilogy so I don’t know how well Gandalf and Saruman were explained therein, but in the film trilogy viewers get no real sense that these characters are not human and immortal and essentially “angels” working for the god of the universe. And Sauron as a “fallen angel”.

Even when Gandalf returns from certain death I don’t think it is really explained, it just happens. I’ve talked to several film only viewers and they just pegged them as wizards, and Sauron as just your average evil overlord.

I just find it kind of essential info for even understanding what is going on, but granted it would ruin the cliffhanger of FOTR and Gandalf reappearing in TTT.

EDIT:It also explains some odd things in the film if you know Gandalf can’t directly intervene but only guide the mortals to victory.

I haven’t read the Trilogy for a while, so I may be wrong, but I don’t think the books really explain it either. I think the back stories come from another Tolkien work called The Simarillion. But I have not read it.

They’re wizards. That’s all you need to know.

The filmmakers own the rights to the information in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and nothing else. They can’t use information from The Silmarillion. The Tolkien Estate owns that and isn’t allowing the filmmakers to use it or any other Tolkien work that the filmmakers don’t own.

Good! :slight_smile:

Gandalf does make some vague references to his past. When Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli meet up with him in the Old Forest, he says “Olorin I was in the West that is no more.” Certainly Aragorn knew his nature, probably Legolas too. And it’s probably clear to anyone who spends time with him that he and his fellow Wizards have been in Middle Earth for hundreds/thousands (about 2000) of years.

But yeah, take the Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales and the HoME series out of the picture, and little else is “known” to the reader. And it wouldn’t have helped move PJ’s very loose adaptation along.

You mean the incident with the dragon? He was hardly involved…

I thought the scene where Thorin first meets Gandalf in Bree and Gandalf convinces Thorin to take a burglar into the party came from Unfinished Tales? (It’s on the first Hobbit Extended Edition dvd). I know the White Council wasn’t in the Hobbit either but my memory of this particular source material is very hazy, and I can’t remember right now whether it came from the LOTR appendices or UT.

In any case I am pretty sure in the LOTR books it was clear that Gandalf and the other wizards weren’t mortal. Why PJ didn’t spell it out? Maybe because a lot of people would be confused by the concept of an insanely powerful being who wasn’t allowed to use that power. It’s the Eagles all over again.

It’s funny because I didn’t know any of that stuff until I saw this video a few days ago. My guess is making them just powerful wizards is the safer bet with the public. Especially considering how risky it was releasing the original Lord of The Rings films were. They were expensive, long and Fantasy had almost always failed at the box office. Especially fantasy not aimed at children.

It’s in the appendices to LotR.

@Coriolanus: This, again, is Jackson lifting dialogue from a completely different place in the story, and out of another mouth. In the book, Frodo and Faramir are discussing the Grey Pilgrim, and Faramir explains that he has many names; that’s where Gandalf is quoted as saying “Olorin I was in my youth in the West that is forgotten”. But what either Aragorn or Legolas know about him is unclear - he is not given to telling many tales of where he came from or what he is.

Unfinished Tales is another book that the Tolkien Estate won’t allow the filmmakers to use. Incidentally, when I say that the filmmakers can use information in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I mean that they have movie and TV rights to these books only. Nothing of Tolkien’s can be made into a movie or TV show except material from those two books.

Ultimately, you need to piece things together, and no single source (aside from Unfinished Tales) comes out and says anything outright. But we know from the trilogy that Gandalf was once known as “Olorin”. Then, the Silmarillion tells its tale of the Olden Days, two full Ages and more before the events of the trilogy: At that time, the angelic beings were more directly active and take a larger part in the story. We’re told of two orders of beings: The Valar, the dozen or so most powerful of the angelic beings who entered into Creation, and the Maiar, their assistants. In talking about the Maiar, it says that the wisest among them was Olorin.

Except that Tolkien wrote long before Harry Potter came along and made everyone think of “wizards” as human beings who had studied the craft of magic.

Doesn’t the appendix of LotR also have more detail about Gandalf and the wizards? That is, more than in the body of the book or shown in the PJ’s movie.

The reason I say that is that I’ve never read The Silmarillion or other Tolkien books, and I know more about wizards than what was in the movie.

I always liked this passage (from Pippin’s point of view):

I’m just going to assume that’s sarcasm…

Not that much. Here’s what the Appendices say about 'em:

That’s about it for the description of their origins.

I wasn’t aware of that.

I remember wondering exactly why the ring was so powerful, and what the characters even human characters wanted it for, claiming they could end the war with it. So I went online and looked it up, and also found the info on Gandalf and I was like wow this adds a whole new layer to the story you don’t even get in the films.

I think that’s what wizards usually are in most tales that have wizards.

Exposition about what Tolkien wizards really are would be a distraction that would take people out of the movie. Better to be mysterious and let the curious find out for themselves.

And why in the LOTR movies if he is such a badass powerful wizard who can even come back from the dead, why is he wasting his time womping orcs with his staff when he could be doing firestorm lvl 9 and roasting every orc in a half mile radius.

Like someone said it is the eagle issue all over again.

As I said in post # 16 above,