The Return of the King

by: J. R. R. Tolkien

Gandalf the White

Gandalf is a formidable and intimidating Wizard who uses his powers sparingly and cares primarily for the individuals around him. He takes Pippin with him to Minas Tirith, as though both he and the hobbit might soften each other’s behavior. Gandalf spends each night answering Pippin’s unending questions and allaying the hobbit’s fears. The wizard is patient and stern with Pippin, but he always has time to listen to the hobbit, and he values Pippin’s perspective on the Steward of Gondor. Gandalf’s attention remains divided between the political and the private, between the cosmic future of Middle-earth and the immediate personal needs of those around him. Tolkien uses Gandalf to establish the importance of redemption in the novel, showing that present, personal dilemmas always supercede responsibility to the larger, mystical crises of the world. For instance, Gandalf turns from rebuking the Black Captain of Mordor at the city gates to deal with the crazed Denethor, who has locked himself in the Citadel to attempt suicide.

Like Frodo, Gandalf—whom we later learn is a bearer of one of the three lesser Rings—distinguishes himself from the evil Sauron in that he does not perceive his life or destiny to be fixed. Sauron has limited himself to evil, and evil has become for him a necessary logic. Gandalf rarely plays the role of the enchanting wizard, and he uses his power sparingly. Rather, Gandalf uses his wisdom to imagine new possibilities in his counsel to others, offering others redemption by imagining their potential for good. Gandalf believes that it is possible for even the Lieutenant of Mordor or the dejected Saruman to turn from their evil ways and follow a new, unexpected path.