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Blogging J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and other aimless pursuits.


The Quest For Erebor

If there is one entry in the "Unfinished Tales" collection that most resembles the form of a "deleted scene" originally intended for inclusion in the final draft, it's most certainly "The Quest For Erebor". This is Tolkien's account of the events that led up to "The Hobbit" from Gandalf's point of view, written in a style similar to that of "Shadows of the Past" and "The Council of Elrond". This story was to be a part of the resolution chapters in "The Return of the King" that followed the destruction of the Ring at Mount Doom.

The text begins:
"He would say no more that day. But later we brought the matter up again, and he told us the whole strange story; how he came to arrange the journey to Erebor, why he thought of Bilbo, and how he persuaded the proud Thorin Oakenshield to take him into his company."
In this draft, the tale is recounted by Frodo as to what Gandalf told him, Pippin, Merry and Gimli in Minas Tirith as the New Age began in Middle-Earth.

When you consider that "The Hobbit" was created wholly from the opening line "In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit" with no prior conception of the characters and events of the saga he would later go on to write, it's particularly fascinating how Tolkien is able to develop and piece together the details of this back story.

At the time of these events, Gandalf and the White Council had given a lot of thought to the nature of the evil power manifesting itself at Dol Guldur in Mirkwood. Originally thought to be merely a dark sorcerer - possibly one of the Nazgul - he was referred to as the "necromancer" by Gandalf in "The Hobbit" (indeed, even Tolkien had not yet created the character of Sauron). Though Gandalf himself would come to believe that the necromancer was in fact Sauron, he would not say so openly until he could divine some evidence to support this. It is not clearly stated to what extent this possibility was discussed among the members of the White Council, but Gandalf became so convinced of it just prior to the year 2941 that his concerns led him to set events into motion that would ultimately have a ripple effect that would affect the outcome of the War of the Ring.

Gandalf's chief concern was the vulnerability of the northern lands of Middle-Earth. The Dunedain had been reduced to a force too small to counter Sauron's armies and the Elven realms of Rivendell and Lothlorien also lacked the strength to repel a concentrated attack by the forces of the Dark Lord. The Wizard strongly suspected that this was in fact part of Sauron's original plans being conceived at Dol Guldur. In addition, the presence of the Dragon Smaug at Erebor (also known as the Lonely Mountain) proved a threat that Sauron could use "with terrible effect".

So Gandalf's goal was twofold: he wanted to find a way to deal with the Dragon and also convince the White Council that they should move against Dol Guldur and disturb Sauron's plans before he could reach his full power. What came next was a chance meeting on the Great East-West Road, not far from the village of Bree. Thorin Oakenshield, a Dwarf in the line of Durin who had been living in exile in the northwestern corner of Eriador, passed Gandalf on the road and struck up a conversation with the Wizard. Thorin was troubled and in need of counsel. He invited Gandalf to his halls in the Blue Mountains and there he told him about his designs to seek revenge upon Smaug for killing so many of his brethren and depriving him of his treasure. He longed to reclaim his rightful title of "King under the Mountain". Thorin's plans were, in Gandalf's view, too rash and overambitious since they amounted to an all-out battle that would prove hopeless with his limited resources.

Nevertheless, the idea stuck with Gandalf and after turning it over in his mind he devised an alternative plan that would require an ally whose talents lay in stealth. For such assistance, he knew that his best option could be found among the Hobbits, a race with which he had become intimately acquainted over the years. He even had a particular hobbit in mind. He though of Bilbo Baggins:
"He had not quite come of age when I had last seen him. He had stayed in my mind ever since, with his eagerness and his bright eyes, and his love of tales, and his questions about the wide world outside the Shire."
These qualities, attributed to his mother's side - the Tooks - made Bilbo very much unlike other hobbits. As the spring of 2941 approached, Gandalf made an attempt to meet with Bilbo only to find upon his arrival at Bag End that he was not at home. His gardener, Holman Greenhand (to whom Sam's father was apprenticed at the time) informed the Wizard that Bilbo was off on one of his journeys, seeking out the Elves. This kind of "odd" activity was the source of much gossip in the Shire. The idea that Bilbo seemed to retain his curiosity over the years encouraged him but with an impending meeting of the White Council approaching he made haste back to Thorin. He persuaded the Dwarves that they should adopt his more secret approach to Erebor and that they should set out immediately, taking Bilbo Baggins as a party to the quest. The problem was that Bilbo was not yet aware of Gandalf's plan.

When he showed up at Bag End again on the fateful April morning, he was dismayed to find that Bilbo had changed. Gandalf estimated that Bilbo "was getting rather greedy and fat, and his old desires had dwindled down to a sort of private dream." But the Wizard was not deterred and before he left he scratched his "G" rune on Bilbo's door so that the Dwarves would find their appointed meeting place. The next day, Bilbo founded himself exasperated to be hosting such a large "unexpected party".

The Dwarves impression of Bilbo was less than favorable, however. Thorin himself would object to Bilbo's hesitant nature and was unconvinced that the hobbit could be anything to the company beyond a hindrance. But Gandalf had an ace up his sleeve. He was in possession of the map to the secret entrance to Erebor and the key that opened it.

Ninety-one years earlier, Gandalf had entered Dol Guldur in disguise to engage in a little reconnaissance. While there, he found a Dwarf who lay dying and ranting about a great ring - "the last of the Seven". It had been taken from him and was, in fact, one of the Seven Rings forged by Sauron to ensnare the Dwarves. But rather than make them Sauron's servants, their effect was merely to enhance their already strong desire for the accumulation of riches. Four of the Rings were eaten by Dragons (presumably while they were on the wearer's fingers at the time), two had already been reclaimed by Sauron and this was the last which had been handed down from father to son since the time of Durin III.

Gandalf did not know the Ring's significance at the time nor did he know that he was in the presence of Thrain II, Thorin's father. Just before he died, the Dwarf entrusted a map and a key to Gandalf, asking him to give them to his son. The Wizard did not know his son was Thorin, so he held onto these tokens until such a time when their importance became known to him. It was through his conversations with Thorin that he realized who the Dwarf in Dol Guldur had been and to whom the map and key was intended.

The morning after the party at Bag End, Thorin was angry with Gandalf and intent upon leaving without Bilbo. But Gandalf argued that Thorin essentially owed him this favor in return for returning the map and key to him and further promised to assist them in the quest and offered his friendship "to the end of your days". Thorin reluctantly agreed.

This journey "there and back again" not only led to the finding of the One Ring and the destruction of Smaug. It re-established both the Kingdom of the Dwarves under Dain Ironfoot and the Kingdom of the men of Dale, which served as important allies in the War of the Ring. Without them, Sauron could have done terrible harm in the North while Gondor was under siege. Gandalf explains:
"When you think of the battle of the Pelennor, do not forget the Battle of Dale. Think of what might have been. Dragon-fire and savage swords in Eriador! There might be no Queen in Gondor. We might now only hope to return from the victory here to ruin and ash. But that has been averted - because I met Thorin Oakenshield one evening on the edge of spring not far from Bree. A chance-meeting, as we say in Middle-Earth."
Christopher Tolkien notes that there was an earlier manuscript that gave a lengthy version of Gandalf's conversations with the Dwarves when he first persuaded them to set out for Erebor. Presented in bits and pieces with accompanying commentary, he includes these writings in an appendix to the essay. The material provides more insight into Gandalf's strategy and his vigorous defense of the race of Hobbits and the rationale for including Bilbo, who they had not yet met.

In the end, Tolkien would cut this tale by Gandalf from the final version of "The Return of the King". Some of it appeared in summary form in the Appendices. Here, in the fleshed out version, we get to see more of Gandalf's through process. Indeed, in "The Hobbit", the Wizard is presented as somewhat of a mystery and almost an incidental character. But with "The Quest for Erebor", we can appreciate that story as a more integral part of the bigger picture.

Next up is a more detailed account of the journey of the Nazgul to the Shire in "The Hunt for the Ring".


The Disaster of the Gladden Fields

After the death of Elendil at the end of the Second Age, the Numenorean Exiles (now known as the Dunedain) had a new King. While Isildur was technically the new ruler of Arnor, his sovereignty extended to both of the realms by virtue of his being the eldest son. Isildur remained in Gondor to settle its affairs and see to it that his nephew, Meneldil, was left in command at Minas Anor. The army of Arnor, however, returned to the northern lands via the route that went across the Fords of Isen and west of the Misty Mountains to the capital of Annuminas.

By the middle of the second year of the Third Age, Isildur was eager to return to Arnor. He also wanted to make haste to see his wife and youngest son who he had left to the safety of Imladris (Rivendell). The faster and more direct route to the Elven retreat was to follow the Anduin north from Osgiliath, cross the river at the Ford of the Carrock and take the high pass over the Misty Mountains down into the valley where Elrond and his people dwelled. Isildur's intent was also to take Elrond's counsel about his possession of the One Ring, which he hung on a gold chain around his neck. Elrond had implored Isildur to destroy it in the Fires of Doom, but the Dunedan King had refused. Now, he was in doubt about his actions and began to be wary of the Ring's hold on him.

A brief account of Isildur's journey and the tragedy that befell him is told in Appendix A of "The Lord of the Rings". However, Tolkien fleshed out the details of this story after the book was published and it is included in this volume.

Isildur set out just before autumn with an accompaniment of some two hundred soldiers. Among them were this three older sons; Elendur, Aratan and Ciryon. The march was expected to take about forty days from Osgiliath to Imladris. Journeying up the east bank of Anduin, they passed the land of Lothlorien on their left, across the river. To their right was the southern portion of the forest of Greenwood (later known as Mirkwood). Their mood was buoyant, even though it had rained straight for the last four days. The rain had the effect of swelling the rushing waters of the Anduin. With the Vales turning marshy - "a wilderness of islets" - and difficult to navigate, the Dundain moved in a more northeasterly direction to the higher ground.

As the sun began to sink on the thirtieth day of the journey, an army of Orcs some two thousand strong descended upon them from the forest. A mass of clouds had blocked the light of the sun, prompting the Orcs to reveal themselves from their cover to attack. Despite the fact that Mordor had been defeated, these Orcs were intent on destroying the Dunedain. Tolkien explains:
"The Orcs of the [Misty] Mountains were stiffened and commanded by grim servants of Barad-dur, sent out long before to watch the passes, and though it was unknown to them the Ring, cut from his black hand two years before, was still laden with Sauron's evil will and called to all his servants for their aid."
Though the Orcs were likely unaware that the war was over, they were drawn to the power of the Ring and were fueled by a desire to please their master who they assumed was still engaged in battle in Mordor.

Isildur knew that the odds were against them but he was determined to stand and fight. To his esquire, Ohtar, he entrusted the sheath and shards of Narsil, his father's sword. He ordered him to flee and deliver them to Elrond in Imladris. Ohtar and another of the men obeyed, heading quickly down into the valley and escaping the skirmish. At first the Dunedain were able to repulse the onslaught. The return of the sun from behind the clouds force the Orcs to retreat back into the forest. But Isildur knew that nightfall would soon be upon them. He ordered his men to swiftly march towards the flatter ground near the river. But they had gone scarcely a mile, when the Orcs attacked again, this time encircling the men and cutting off their escape.

Elendur, Isildur's oldest son, beseeched his father to use the power of the Ring against the Orcs. But Isildur confessed that not only was the touch of the Ring too painful to bear but he had not yet the strength to bend it to his will. He despaired at his own foolish pride for not destroying it when he had the chance. As the battle raged, his two younger sons Ciryon and Aratan lay dead or mortally wounded. Seeing that all was lost, Elendur at last begged his father to flee himself.
"'My King', said Elendur, 'Ciryon is dead and Aratan is dying. Your last counsellor must advise, nay command you, as you commanded Ohtar. Go! Take your burden, and at all costs bring it to the Keepers: even at the cost of abandoning your men and me!"

'King's son,' said Isildur, 'I knew that I must do so; but I feared the pain. Nor could I go without your leave. Forgive me, and my pride that has brought you to this doom.' Elendur kissed him. 'Go! Go now!' he said."
Isildur then pulled the Ring from its chain and put it on, disappearing from sight. The rest of the Dunedain were all killed save for one, Elendur's esquire who was named Estelmo. When he was discovered alive, he was able to bear witness to the events of the battle. Isildur made it down to the river, where he cast off his armor and weapons and jumped in. As hard as he swam, he was washed by the raging waters of the Anduin further south. He was barely able to get to the other side when he was caught in the tangled weeds of the Gladden Fields.

It was then that he realized that he had lost the Ring. It had escaped him, sinking to the murky bottom of the river. Desperately fighting his way through the mud and reeds of the shoulder high waters of the western bank, he emerged in plain sight of some Orcs who were patrolling the other side. They shot their poisoned arrows and Isildur fell backwards into the shallow waters, dead. No trace of his body was ever found by Elves or Men.

But this is not the end of the tale. Certainly Ohtor and his companion, as well as Estelmo, were able to offer their accounts of the incident. And word came quickly to Thranduil's people of the attack. They arrived shortly after the battle's end to investigate the scene. But it had to be surmised what exactly happened to Isildur when he fled based on his belongings found scattered along the eastern shore. Without any trace of the Ring or Isildur himself this remained a topic for speculation among the White Council as they debated what course of action they should take.

After the War of the Ring was over, however, more information would come to light that would help answer this mystery.

In "The Silmarillion", Tolken recounts is his essay entitled "Of The Rings Of Power And The Third Age" of how Saruman took a serious interest in the One Ring once the Shadow began to manifest itself again in Middle-Earth. When the White Council was formed in the year 2463, it began to focus its attention on the finding of the Ring. Saruman tried to assuage their concerns by asserting that it was not possible to find it and he theorized that it must have washed down the Anduin all the way to the Sea. Elrond, Galadriel and Gandalf were not wholly convinced and while they remained troubled they took no action at that time.

But, secretly, Saruman kept a watch on the Gladden Fields and through his spies was determined to find out any information as to its possible whereabouts. He had reason to believe that servants of Sauron were also engaged in their own search. Though the White Wizard was unable to locate the Ring, this essay in "Unfinished Tales" points out that his search was not completely fruitless.

Once Aragorn was crowned King Elessar, one of his first duties was to restore the tower of Orthanc in Isengard and return the Palantir that belonged there. When the tower was searched, it was discovered that Saruman had accumulated many valuable items from Rohan. And behind a hidden door (opened with the assistance of Gimli), a secret closet was found. In it were two remarkable items that had passed out of memory:
"One was a small case of gold, attached to a fine chain; it was empty, and bore no letter or token, but beyond all doubt it had once borne the Ring about Isildur's neck. Next to it lay a treasure without price, long mourned as lost for ever: the Elendilmir itself, the white star of Elvish crystal upon a fillet of mithril that had descended from Silmarien to Elendil, and had been taken by him as a token of royalty in the North Kingdom."
These objects could only have been found upon the body of Isildur. Therefore it was correctly determined that he had not washed down the river as previously thought. When killed, Isildur must have fallen into shallow waters, caught in the marshy reeds of the bank. This information ultimately helped to complete the story of what really happened at the Gladden Fields - an event that would determine the course of the Third Age, ending with the War of the Ring.

Next, we will learn the events that led Gandalf and Thorin's Dwarves to Bilbo Baggin's door on that fateful day in "The Quest For Erebor".


The Palantiri

"Seven stars and seven stones and one white tree."

The biggest irony about the Palantiri is that, at the time that Tolkien wrote the scene at Isengard in "The Two Towers" that featured a black object being hurled down towards Gandalf, the idea of using this as a plot device had not yet come to fruition. As described on pages 64-65 of "The History of Middle-Earth: Vol. VIII: The War of the Ring", the glass ball was originally supposed to shatter on the stairs leading up to Orthanc. But Tolkien thought better of it and saw this as an opportunity to explain the link between the tower of Isengard and the tower of Barad-dur (a/k/a the "Two Towers").

As he rode Shadowfax towards Minas Tirith, Gandalf gave some brief history of the stones to Pippin but most of the lore of the Palantiri came later when it was written for inclusion into the Second Edition. Most of that information, however, never made it into the final revised text. And Christopher Tolkien assembled the writings on this topic in the form of this essay featured in "Unfinished Tales".

Far from being breakable, these stones were in fact impervious to any damage that could be inflicted by men. There were seven stones in the possession of the Numenoreans (an eighth remained in Valinor) with two being considerably larger than the rest. These two "master" stones were too large and heavy to be lifted by only one man. The remaining five were about a foot in diameter. All were perfectly smooth spheres and appeared to be made of some sort of black crystal. Though they had no external markings, there was a specific orientation required to see images properly. They had poles and in order for them to be placed upright, "the permanent nether pole must then be at the bottom". And to see in a certain direction, the user had to be standing opposite that direction while looking into it. For example, to see eastward one had to be on the westward side of the stone and facing east, as if looking through a telescope. Tolkien notes that it was pure chance that Pippin was able to orient it correctly to see Sauron when he looked into it at Dol Baran.

Though a Palantir was not able to transmit sound, Christopher Tolkien explains in end note 5 that:
"Thought could be 'transferred' (received as 'speech'), and visions of the things in the mind of the surveyor of one Stone could be seen by the other surveyor."
The stones could see through solid things such as mountains but could only see an image if it was illuminated somehow. And the user could focus on something specific using great concentration, which over time could cause fatigue and exhaustion.

The Palantiri, according to "The Tolkien Companion", were made by Feanor during the Elder Days and seven of them were given to the Men of Numenor in the Second Age. Prior to Numenor's destruction, the Palantiri were taken by Elendil and his people on the ships bound for Middle-Earth and upon their arrival were distributed throughout Arnor and Gondor. In these days, their use held no danger as they were all in the hands of the Numenorean exiles and served as a means of communication between their locations.

In the North, one larger Stone was placed at the watchtower of Amon Sul (Weathertop), another was located at Arnor's capital city of Annuminas, and a third was kept in the tallest tower of the Emyn Beraid (the Tower Hills), near the Grey Havens. The Palantiri of Amon Sul was the primary stone of the North. The Kingdom of Arnor split three ways over a succession dispute between the sons of Earendur, the tenth King, in 861 of the Third Age. Amon Sul stood at the confluence of the borders of the surviving realms - Arthedain, Cardolan and Rhudaur - all three of which tried to claim it as theirs. By the year 1974, however, the Witch-King of Angmar had so overrun the northern lands that Arvedui, the last King of Arthedain (the longest surviving successor state of Arnor), was forced to flee and took the stones of Amon Sul and Annuminas with him, lest they fall into the hands of the Witch-King. Both Arvedui and the two Palantiri were lost at sea in 1975 during a mission to seek aid from men who dwelt along the Ice Bay of Forocel. Thus the line of Kings in the North was broken.

The third stone located in the Tower Hills was of little use to Men as it only looked westwards towards the Undying Lands and could not communicate with the other stones. After the fall of Arnor, it was entrusted to the care of Cirdan and the Elves of the Ered Lindon for safekeeping.

The other four Palantiri were kept in Isengard, Minas Anor, Minas Ithil and Osgiliath. The stone of Osgiliath was the chief Palantir of all the other stones and the primary one in the South. In 1437 of the Third Age, during what was known as the kin-strife, that stone was lost presumably in the River Anduin when the Dome of Stars, where it was kept, was destroyed. This conflict was a kind of "civil war" between the Numenoreans in Gondor proper and those of the coastal fiefdoms such as Umbar and Pelargir.

By the time the Witch-King returned to Mordor and made open war on Gondor, the remaining Palantiri had been neglected. When Minas Ithil was captured in 2002 and turned into Minas Morgul, the Ithil stone disappeared and Gondor did not know of its fate but suspected that it had fallen into the possession of Sauron. And for the next thousand years, the remaining stones at Isengard and Minas Anor (now Minas Tirith) were locked away and mostly forgotten about. In 2050, the last in the line of the Kings of Gondor, Earnur, disappeared in a confrontation with the Witch-King. And, with Earnur having no children, the Stewards would rule in the King's place until a rightful heir presented himself. Though the Stewards had the right to use the stones, it was felt to be pointless since so many of the others were lost.

The concern of the rising Dark Shadow in Mordor consumed all of Gondor's attention. In 2463, the White Council was formed to keep watch on what they feared was Sauron's waxing power in Middle-Earth. In 2759, Saruman requested of the Steward of Gondor that he be allowed to occupy the abandoned tower of Orthanc, as its custodian and on Gondor's behalf. This request was granted to the White Wizard who spent many years studying the lore of Gondor, the One Ring and, of course, the Palantiri. At some point, he discovered the stone of Orthanc. Though it is not clear when he first used it, by 2953 Saruman ceased to cooperate with the White Council altogether and formally claimed Isengard for himself. Only two years earlier, in 2951, Sauron openly made his presence in Mordor known.

The other members of the White Council - Gandalf, Elrond and Galadriel - were aware of the existence of the stones but they were each more focused on finding the One Ring. That Sauron would use the Ithil stone to ensnare Saruman and manipulate Denethor was something they hadn't considered since they did not know what had become of the Orthanc stone and the Anor stone. It wasn't until July 3018 that Gandalf learned of Saruman's betrayal and he reported this later that year at the Council of Elrond. But, again, the use of the Palantir as a means of communication with Sauron was not yet known (or suspected).

When Pippin looked into the stone at the end of "The Two Towers", Gandalf realized its significance and the role it had played in the War of the Ring. Immediately, he thought of the Anor stone in Minas Tirith and feared that Denethor had found it. One of the wizard's goals in making haste to the capital of Gondor was to determine if this was the case and to judge its effect on Denethor if it was. This is the frame of mind he was in during his conversations with the Steward.

There were no records of the Anor stone's fate after the disappearance of Earnur and it was assumed that it had been long hidden away in some secret place for hundreds of years. But this was not the case. Tolkien notes that Denethor seemed to have been aware of the Palantir even during the reign of his father, Ecthelion II. And though he must have greatly desired to use it, he dared not until he himself assumed the Stewardship. The author explains:
"At least one of [Denethor's] motives must have been jealousy of Thorongil, and hostility to Gandalf, to whom, during the ascendancy of Thorongil, his father paid much attention; Denethor desired to surpass these 'usurpers' in knowledge and information, and also if possible to keep an eye on them when they were elsewhere."
Thorongil was actually Aragorn using this other name during the period when he came to the aid of Ecthelion II and Gondor as a captain of war. It may have been at this time that Denethor began to suspect Thorongil's true identity.

Denethor undoubtedly began using the Palantir as soon as he became Steward. There were lots of opportunities to use the stone when Sauron was not using the Ithil stone. Sauron was occupied with preparations for war and he never let subordinates use it. At some point, however, Sauron and Denethor came into contact with each other. Denethor was strong-willed and was able to maintain control of the Anor stone. But Sauron used his Palantir to show him images of his growing might and drove the Steward to despair by making him believe that Mordor's victory was inevitable.

Though Denethor had the right to use the Palantir, he was not as pure in Numenorean blood as Aragorn, who possessed the strength to turn the tables on Sauron by causing the Dark Lord to vacillate in fear and doubt. In the end, Aragorn was able to force Sauron's hand and this gave an advantage to the Armies of the West. While the stones became a tool for perpetrating war on the peoples of Middle-Earth, they ultimately played a major part in the final defeat of Sauron.

Next we will take a look at what really happened to Isildur at "The Disaster of the Gladdin Fields".


The Istari (Part Two)

In Part One, I outlined a more general history of the Istari and introduced each of them except one: Gandalf. A detailed account of the Grey Wizard follows.

Of the five Maiar spirits chosen to go to Middle-Earth as one of the Istari, only Olorin stayed true to his mission. The Valar Manwe - who is considered to be the greatest of the Valar and their unofficial leader - chose him despite the Maiar's reservations that he was not up to the task. Olorin was very close to the Eldar who had remained in Valinor and Manwe believed him to be an ideal candidate for being tasked with the protection and assistance of Iluvatar's children. Though Olorin was higher in stature than the other Maiar, except for Curumo, he was the last to arrive at the Grey Havens.

His name was "High Elven" in nature. Although a literal translation of Olorin's name means "dream", to the Eldar it included the idea of "clear vision". One of the passages in Tolkien's notes states that Olorin was "clad in grey" in Valinor. His raiment remained so as his Istari incarnation. His name in the Common Tongue (or Westron) was Gandalf, meaning "Elf of the Wand". He was incorrectly deemed by Men to be of Elven-kind.

When he met Cirdan the Shipwright upon his arrival, the Elf recognized in Gandalf his great wisdom and humble nature. Welcoming him with reverence, Cirdan bestowed upon the wizard the Third Elven Ring, Narya, also known as the Ring of Fire. He told Gandalf:

"Great labours and perils lie before you, and lest your task prove too great and wearisome, take this Ring for your aid and comfort. It was entrusted to me only to keep secret, and here upon the West-shores it is idle; but I deem that in days ere long to come it should be in nobler hands than mine, that may wield it for the kindling of all hearts to courage."
Though Gandalf would keep the Ring secret until the end, Saruman somehow became aware of Cirdan's gift and it sparked a jealousy and resentment that the White Wizard would always harbor against him. Narya likely assisted Gandalf in his talent for creating the delightful marvel of his fireworks displays. The wizard's warm and eager spirit was also enhanced by the Ring of Fire and, as an enemy of Sauron, he contrasted "the fire that devours and wastes with the fire that kindles, and succours in wanhope and distress".

Among the Elves, he was known as Mithrandir (the "grey pilgrim"). Although this name was also used by the Men who were of Numenorean descent in Gondor, which Gandalf had visited as early as the year 1800 of the Third Age. He himself states in "The Lord of the Rings" that in the South he was called Icanus, but we are to assume this refers to lands farther south than Gondor's borders as of the end of the Third Age to which he may have journeyed in his early days. It may be a word or an adaptation of a word used by the Haradrim. The Dwarves referred to him as Tharkun, meaning "staff man". But the Dwarves of Thorin's company and Gimli used his Westron name, Gandalf.

The Eastern part of Middle-Earth was a land to which he did not, or would not, go. This adds to speculation about the fate of the Blue Wizards who never returned from the East. Did Gandalf have some knowledge of what had become of them? Tolkien makes no comments about this.

For two thousand years, he traveled throughout Middle-Earth. He lived in no specific place and befriended all who were in need. Other than the visual trickery of his fireworks, he displayed no special power. For he "desired not that any should hold him in awe or take his counsels out of fear". And it was his patience and kindness that allowed him to embrace the small race of hobbits, a simple folk who were largely overlooked by the rest of he peoples of Middle-Earth.

When Gandalf battled the Balrog in Moria, he was fighting a creature who was also Maiar in nature. It may only be the aid of Narya that gave him the advantage to destroy it. But in doing so, his physical form was broken. Through his sacrifice for the sake of the Fellowship, he was able to pass through time and space back to the realm of the Valar. This act of selflessness had the effect of increasing his Valinorean stature and, combined with the circumstances that diminished Saruman's, he was able to assume a role as the new head of the order. The Valar sent him back to complete his task as the new White Wizard or, as Gandalf said, "Saruman as he should have been". But, even in this greater form, he kept the "radiant flame" of his power vieled except when in great need.

When Sauron was destroyed, Gandalf was allowed to accompany the other Ring Bearers across the Sea. For his task was complete and a new Age of Men had dawned. Gandalf succeeded because he stayed true to his nature, to his mission and to those whose fate he had been entrusted. Highlighting a major theme of "The Lord of the Rings", he held on to hope even in the face of great danger and uncertainty. And he was rewarded accordingly.

Next, we shall look into the mystery behind the Palantiri.