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The Two Towers

by: J. R. R. Tolkien

Gandalf the White

Gandalf is the supreme force of good in the novel, a worthy opponent of the evil Saruman and Sauron. Gandalf’s goodness and power are such as to make him seem a near-religious figure at times; indeed, there is Christian symbolism attached to the wizard, even though the mythology of The Lord of the Rings is primarily pagan. Wearing a white cloak and riding a white steed, Gandalf is associated with the Christian color of spiritual purity. In a distinctly Christ-like resurrection, the wizard has died and returned from the grave, having fallen to his death in the preceding volume of the novel. Gandalf has passed through the greatest trial of existence—that of death—and has survived with his powers enormously enhanced. Furthermore, the wizard’s timely arrival with military backup during the siege of Hornburg makes him seem almost a miracle worker.

However Christlike Gandalf may seem, though, he is no transcendent figure floating over the action. He maintains firm personal connections with all the characters, regardless of race or rank; he addresses even the lowliest members of the Fellowship by their full names and with great respect. Tolkien reminds us that even the immensely powerful Gandalf occasionally needs human help, as when the wizard asks Théoden to give him the horse Shadowfax. This human connection brings Gandalf down to earth, enabling us to identify with him more than we might have expected.