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View Full Version : Gandalf the Gray and Gandalf the White. Explanations needed.


Sanscour
10-07-2003, 04:10 AM
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

Robert Lehnert
10-07-2003, 04:58 AM
Same person, just a fairly big upgrade--thinks lots more RAM and lots faster Motherboard-but the harddrive and files are just the same

astro
10-07-2003, 05:37 AM
For most Tolkien Geeks here are the important differences :p


Gandalf The Grey (http://devermore.net/surbrook/lotr/gand_grey.html)


Gandalf the White (http://devermore.net/surbrook/lotr/gand_white.html)

Wendell Wagner
10-07-2003, 06:02 AM
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.

Atrael
10-07-2003, 07:29 AM
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.

Epimetheus
10-07-2003, 07:32 AM
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.

KneadToKnow
10-07-2003, 07:43 AM
can follow the storyline of the movie without any troubleNever, 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 followsThe book was, like, hard. Hard is bad. The movie was easier! I like movies! I like easy things! Look! A butterfly!
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.

Erroneous
10-07-2003, 07:48 AM
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."

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?

C K Dexter Haven
10-07-2003, 08:44 AM
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.

Grey
10-07-2003, 09:58 AM
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.

Atrael
10-07-2003, 03:17 PM
Originally posted by Epimetheus
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.

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

WW said:

You're never going to really understand the story unless you read the book.

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.

jsc1953
10-07-2003, 03:42 PM
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.

toadspittle
10-07-2003, 03:42 PM
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.).

Sanscour
10-07-2003, 04:05 PM
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

Munch
10-07-2003, 04:15 PM
Originally posted by Sanscour
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?

Sanscour
10-07-2003, 04:20 PM
Don't worry about it Munch, I thought better of it and took the question out but forgot to take out the confusion bit.

C K Dexter Haven
10-07-2003, 06:27 PM
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.

Cerowyn
10-07-2003, 06:39 PM
Originally posted by C K Dexter Haven
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.

Bartman
10-07-2003, 10:04 PM
Originally posted by Grey
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.

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

Wendell Wagner
10-07-2003, 10:54 PM
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.

FilmGeek
10-07-2003, 11:13 PM
I've tried (and tried and tried) to read the books but, in my probably reviled opinion, Tolkien just wasn't a very good storyteller. His plot lines, linguistics and characters are fantastic and very memorable as well as borrowed, alluded to and blatently stolen by others, but 20 pages about Hobbits stopping to eat and wash their feet do not make for a good reading.... and definitely should not have been in the movies.

The portion that I have read was wonderfully condensed and realized by Peter Jackson and crew (and stunningly shot by Andrew Lesnie).

People who are huge fans of books NEVER like the movie because there are parts missing or out of order or whatever. I personally would HATE to see a movie made of the Dark Tower books because there is no way anyone could put everything in to two (or four or twenty) hours of film that King puts into those books. Very very few King books have had satisfactory films made of them, but that doesn't make me hate them, or make my opinion (of book or film) any less valid. I liked the Shining (book) and the movie (Nicholson version), but they aren't the same.

Gandalf (to put it in roleplaying terms) was 'killed', 'resurrected' and 'leveled up'. Try killing off a character in D&D and doing a ressurection and see how much you remember.

Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
10-08-2003, 08:34 AM
Try New Tide® with Bleach!

Look at this tired, Grey old Gandalf!

Now, adter washing out the Balrog stains in New Tide® with Bleach--- HE IS TRANSFORMED!

For a Whiter, Brighter Gandalf, use New Tide® with Bleach!

wolfman
10-08-2003, 08:51 AM
Try New Tide® with Bleach!

Look at this tired, Grey old Gandalf!

Now, adter washing out the Balrog stains in New Tide® with Bleach--- HE IS TRANSFORMED!

For a Whiter, Brighter Gandalf, use New Tide® with Bleach!

Thank you so much for associating Tolkien's God with the screaming OxyClean guy in my head.

smiling bandit
10-08-2003, 09:09 AM
One by one the other wizards succumbed to worldly attractions. Sauruman to power, Radagast to solitude and comfort of the wild.

It was never clear what the purpose or mission of the o0ther wizards was. Two of them immediately left to the far part of the world, so no one knows what they did. Radagast's whole mission may have been to take care of the natural world. Men and Elves aren't the only important things, you know.

NoCoolUserName
10-08-2003, 10:24 AM
Tastes great! Less filling! Wait, you're both right, it's a breath mint and a candy mint!!!

The movies stand alone well enough--there are some holes but probably fewer than many big-budget films (I've seen SWAT and The Italian Job and left the theatre with many "what the...?" thoughts buzzing in my head). Remember that New Line &c. put up big bucks to let PJ film 3 movies at once. They expect a return on that money and PJ has clearly made the right "artistic" decisions to be sure that return happens.

All that said, the books have a lot of detail and depth that is left out of the movies. If you want to know what Tolkien really wanted to say, you'll have to read.

Minor nitpick:Originally posted by C K Dexter Haven
he is now the White wizard, and describes himself as "Saruman as he might have been." The actual quote is:'Yes, I am white now,' said Gandalf. 'Indeed I am Saruman, one might almost say, Saruman as he should have been.'

Now to the question from the OP:Originally posted by Sanscour
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?Gandalf says:Get up, my good Gimli! No blame to you and no harm done to me. Indeed my friends, none of you have any weapon that could hurt me....and...I have passed through fire and deep water since we parted. I have forgotten much that I thought I knew, and learned again much that I had forgotten. I can see many things far off, but many things that are close at hand I cannot see....and finally...Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.

Naked I was sent back--for a brief time, until my task is done.Make of that what you will.

NoCoolUserName
10-08-2003, 10:34 AM
Originally posted by Erroneous
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? Gandalf had not met the hobbits. He says:...they met someone that they did not expect. Does that comfort you?They met Treebeard, not Gandalf. Gandalf & Treebeard had only seen each other. Gandalf says:I saw him four days ago striding among the trees, and I think he saw me, for he paused; but I did not speak, for I was heavy with thought, and weary after my struggle with the Eye of Mordor; and he did not speak either, nor call my name.

Erroneous
10-08-2003, 10:42 AM
In the movie, they meet Gandalf. I'm almost sure of it. Treebeard takes them to see "the White Wizard", and then Bum-BA-BUM (dramatic music) as Treebeard tosses Merry and Pippin at the feet of Gandalf, who we only see from the back for a second.

smoke
10-08-2003, 11:57 AM
I agree with Erroneous' recollection of the movie. We are led to believe that Treebeard is taking them to Saruman, because we have not yet been introduced the Gandalf the White, and the rest happens as already explained.

A question:
quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.

Naked I was sent back--for a brief time, until my task is done.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I know that this is left open to interpretation, but what's the dominant interpretation, if there is one at all? Is Gandalf referring to his current incarnation when he drops the "Naked..." line, with the naked being the lack of "disguise", so to speak, that allows him to show his true power?

Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
10-08-2003, 12:06 PM
Originally posted by wolfman
Thank you so much for associating Tolkien's God with the screaming OxyClean guy in my head.

You're very welcome! :)

Next time a childhood hero of yours appears on the Board, point it iout to me, and I'll dash it to atoms, too. :)

Grey
10-08-2003, 12:14 PM
Originally posted by smoke
A question:
quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.

Naked I was sent back--for a brief time, until my task is done.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I know that this is left open to interpretation, but what's the dominant interpretation, if there is one at all? Is Gandalf referring to his current incarnation when he drops the "Naked..." line, with the naked being the lack of "disguise", so to speak, that allows him to show his true power? In the book Gandalf is rescued from the mountain top by Gwaihir Lord of the Eagles (same eagle from the escape from Isengard escape) and is taken to Lorien where he is clothed in White by Galadriel. Gwaihir notes that Gandalf is light as a feather compared to the last time he carried him. Gandalf, however, replies that he can feel the weight of his body return so the answer is ...Yes. :

Bartman
10-08-2003, 09:10 PM
Originally posted by smoke
I know that this is left open to interpretation, but what's the dominant interpretation, if there is one at all? Is Gandalf referring to his current incarnation when he drops the "Naked..." line, with the naked being the lack of "disguise", so to speak, that allows him to show his true power?
Per the author:
"Naked is alas! unclear. It was meant just literally, 'Unclothed like a child' (not disincarnate), and so ready to receive the white robes of the highest."
Letter #156

Naked in this case simply means naked or nude.

Qadgop the Mercotan
10-08-2003, 09:41 PM
Oh boy. Ian McKellan naked.

Just for the record, I'm a real JRRT lit geek to the max who also loves the movies. It's fun to nitpick over stuff, but silly to take it seriously. Even if I do rail occasionally about elves in Helm's Deep!

Ilu ná vanya, fanya, ëari, i cemen, ar ilya i ëa tessen.

NoCoolUserName
10-08-2003, 11:58 PM
Originally posted by Erroneous
In the movie, they meet Gandalf. I'm almost sure of it. Treebeard takes them to see "the White Wizard", and then Bum-BA-BUM (dramatic music) as Treebeard tosses Merry and Pippin at the feet of Gandalf, who we only see from the back for a second. You are correct. Apparently my memory of the true story edited out the events of the movie.

You folk really make a person do some homework. Since my copy of TTT is a VCD (with Chinese subtitles) that I got on my recent trip, there are no chapters, and I had to FF until I found the proper spot.

NCUN (who could have been TheLovelyCynthia but isn't)

Qadgop, in the scene where Gandalf returns Ian McKellan IS naked, but they only show his shoulders.

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