View Full Version : What spells did Gandalf actually cast?

01-06-2004, 02:54 AM
He was probably the most powerful 'wizard' to ever walk ME (it tuens out), yet what spells does he actually cast in the book?

Gives illumination in Moria
Protects himself from the Balrog
Probably casts a few in battle

Is that it? From perhaps the greatest wizard ever? Of course this is only over a period of about a year, but it's during the War of the Ring, which is probably the one time when his spells are needed most.

I suppose this is because he is 'forbidden from meddling too much' in ME? Why, if he can help people? I have never understood why the Istari were forbidden from using their powers.

01-06-2004, 03:33 AM
Because it was Middle-earth's battle - not Valinor's battle. Middle-earth had to come together and learn to stand on its own, just the way the hobbits were left on their own when it came to the Scouring of the Shire. That's what their whole journey was about - they had to learn to protect the good they knew without having to depend on others.

You must realize that Tolkien's terms for these peoples do not make them the same as those who share their names outside of his works. The wizards weren't great sorcerors that spent their time learning magic all of the time, just as his elves, orcs, etc. are unique. Gandalf did display a number of "magic spells" if you want to call it that, put it's not the traditional magic you've learned to associate with the word 'wizard' - he blocked the entry of the Witch-King at Minas Tirith, he turned away the Nazgul in Siege of Gondor, and did different things in aid of Bilbo and Thorin's party - saved them from from Bolg's goblins under the Misty Mountains, saved them from the wolves on the east side of the Misty Mountains, appeared in between Thranduil's elves, the Men of Dale, and the dwarves to stop them just before the orcs and wargs arrived, etc.

At that moment he caught a flash of white and silver coming from the North, like a small star down on the dusky fields. It moved with the speed of an arrow and grew as it came, converging swiftly with the flight of the four men towards the Gate. It seemed to Pippin that a pale light was spread about it and the heavy shadows gave way before it; and then as it drew near he thought that he heard, like an echo in the walls, a great voice calling.
‘Gandalf!’ he cried. ‘Gandalf! He always turns up when things are darkest. Go on! Go on, White Rider! Gandalf, Gandalf!’ he shouted wildly, like an onlooker at a great race urging on a runner who is far beyond encouragement.
But now the dark swooping shadows were aware of the newcomer. One wheeled towards him; but it seemed to Pippin that he raised his hand, and from it a shaft of white light stabbed upwards. The Nazgūl gave a long wailing cry and swerved away; and with that the four others wavered, and then rising in swift spirals they passed away eastward vanishing into the lowering cloud above; and down on the Pelennor it seemed for a while less dark.

Just at that moment all the lights in the cavern went out, and the great fire went off poof! into a tower of blue glowing smoke, right up to the roof, that scattered piercing white sparks all among the goblins. [...] The sparks were burning holes in the goblins, and the smoke that now fell from the roof made the air too thick for even their eyes to see through.
Suddenly a sword flashed in its own light. Bilbo saw it go right through the Great Goblin as he stood dumbfounded in the middle of his rage. He fell dead, and the goblin soldiers fled before the sword shrieking into the darkness.
He gathered the huge pinecones from the branches of his tree. Then he set one alight with bright blue fire, and threw it whizzing down among the circle of the wolves.
Then Gandalf climbed to the top of his tree. The sudden splendour flashed from his wand like lightning, as he got ready to spring down from on high right among the spears of the goblins. That would have been the end of him, though he would probably have killed many of them as he came hurtling down like a thunderbolt. But he never leaped.
Just at that moment the Lord of the Eagles swept down from above, seized him in his talons, and was gone.

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 2:44 PM January 06, 2004: Message edited by: Legolas ]

01-06-2004, 09:55 AM
Well, though not shown Gandalf gives indications of what powers he really posesses with lines like "I could take It from you by force,but that would break you." or "Open your door or I blow it right through your hole" and I'm sure there are similiar other moments of indication. And who knows,on his spying mission to Dol Guldur,he might have used spells for stealth as I can hardly imagine a WizArd just walking in and out of the Dark Lord's stronghold. Perhaps he even used shape-shifting, it's indicated of the less powerful Radagast that he 'is a master of shapes and hues." It would seem likely for powerful Gandalf to posess similiar powers I think. The blowing of many-shaped and coloured smokerings might be employing a sort of spell as well.

01-06-2004, 10:16 AM
Also, he made the bridge of Khazad-dūm crumble, he fought the Nazgūls at Weathertop (with lightning?), put fire to the tree behind them when the Fellowship was attacked by wolves, if I remember correctly he also dazzled the Nazgūl[s] when they hunted for Faramir.

Rider of Rohan
01-06-2004, 10:52 AM
In the Hobbit he also used lightning and fire for protection and voice tricks on the trolls. On another note I think that we are misunderstanding what a powerful wizard is. I think that he is the most powerful because he uses his power so little. Any idiot with a few tricks can throw his weight around and get what he wants. Gandalf inspires others and invests his life into others. That is why he is remembered as powerful.

01-06-2004, 04:02 PM
Very astute response, Rider of Rohan. Gandalf was definitely the type to teach a man how to fish, instead of just giving a fish to him. He only used magic when it was absolutely essential, unless you count his fireworks, which actually seem to be of the traditional gunpowdery type, though clearly imbued with Gandalf's special touch.
Is that it? Is that not enough?! smilies/eek.gif Legolas has skilfully pointed out that the role of magic in Tolkien's world is not as in Dungeons & Dragons, Diablo or other lesser imitations of LOTR. It is much less rigidly defined. In any case, I always felt that one of his greatest moments was thrusting his staff into a piece of wood that could not be ignited, and causing it to burst into flames. Naur an endraith ammen! I think that's pretty impressive, myself. But Gandalf's greatest power was his ability to stir and motivate others, seen most noticeably with Théoden. Even though he was aided by Narya, this was a totally human power (after all, he failed to use it on Denethor), one within the grasp of many of us, but still more effective than any firebolt. It enabled him to enlist the help of Rohan to destroy Saruman and save Gondor.

01-07-2004, 08:11 PM
Suddenly a sword flashed in its own light. Bilbo saw it go right through the Great Goblin as he stood dumbfounded in the middle of his rage. He fell dead, and the goblin soldiers fled before the sword shrieking into the darkness.

I agree with you that Gandalf did use 'magic' a number of times in his travels, but the above quote is not an example of this. The sword that flashed was Glamdring, which could produce light of its own accord, and not as a result of Gandalf's power. The goblins fled before the sword because it was a well known sword that had killed many orcs beforehand.

01-08-2004, 08:46 AM
One of the things I want to find more about (but cannot find anything on the matter) is Gandalf's words of Command.

He had to use one to stop the Balrog getting through the door in Moria. I also think he used one to illuminate / heat the way through the snow on caradhras.

I can't find anything more. But Gandalf himself says that he had never felt so spent after his stuggle with the balrog and the use of the word of Command.

Anyone know anything else about this power?

01-08-2004, 01:42 PM
Voralphion - that actual act wasn't magic, obviously. Gandalf made everything dark so he could do that. That was the magic. Just further demonstrating Gandalf's use of magic to protect the party.

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 2:53 PM January 08, 2004: Message edited by: Legolas ]

01-08-2004, 02:27 PM
Great post, Legolas! You said really all there is to say!
The magic of Gandalf (and that of the Elves) is not tricks and spells one can learn (like in Harry Potter) but an inherent power.
The word "Wizard" is used in the sense of "wise man" and is quite different from sorcerer or magician. The Istari were messengers from the Lords of the West (more like guardian angels really), sent to encourage the enemies of evil,and to unite them.

01-08-2004, 06:08 PM
The word Istari in Quenya means "Wise Ones" not wizard, in the sense of someone who could command "magic." The Istari were not magicians or sorcerers. They came to inspire the people of Middle-earth to fight back against the evil that was threatening to conquer them, therein lay their powers. All the strength that was given to them was for that ultimate purpose. They only used their powers in the defense of the Free Peoples, and that is why it seems like Gandalf "rarely" uses his powers in the Books. He only used them when he absolutely needed to.

01-09-2004, 01:01 AM
The magic of Gandalf (and that of the Elves) is not tricks and spells one can learn (like in Harry Potter) but an inherent power. Of course, there is also a subtlety that must be learned in the Harry Potter universe in order to properly use a spell. The spells are also thrown about much more freely in that realm. I don't notice Dumbledore using outright spells as much as the others, though... smilies/wink.gif

The thing I like about the magic of Middle Earth is that it is so subtle, not explained in terms of the will made instantly manifest, but of the working of an art with the backing of wisdom. The magic of the Elves especially, strikes me more as Art or Nature than what most think of as 'magic.' This brings the idea of a 'spell' out of the realm of the mechanical D & D sense into the sphere of the sublime. The very fact that you can't often catch Gandalf at his 'magic' is a testament to the fact that he is not out of place, not working against the natural flow (as a more obvious magic user would). He is a pure tool of the Good, a steward, as he calls himself.

I can't really add anything to the rather comprehensive list of Legolas above. Very nice! smilies/smile.gif


The Saucepan Man
01-09-2004, 08:21 PM
You must realize that Tolkien's terms for these peoples do not make them the same as those who share their names outside of his works.

Although I tend to think that Gandalf was conceived as a Wizard, in the traditional sense of the word, when Tolkien first wrote the Hobbit. Clearly, he "developed". smilies/wink.gif

01-09-2004, 09:45 PM
He used magic in the Hobbit to light the pine cones to throw at the Wargs smilies/biggrin.gif . Yeah, in the Hobbit he was more of a traditional wizard. However, in LotR, the circumstances were a bit more dire so he had to mature. Also, yeah about magic being "thrown around" what was it he said to Biblo about not being and "conjuror of cheap tricks" when he got all big and mean looking.