It is currently Tue Dec 12, 2017 6:28 am

All times are UTC




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 12 posts ] 
Author Message
PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2016 5:23 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2016 8:30 pm
Posts: 21
Location: Chicago, IL
What was Gandalf’s race? The usual answer is Maia. However, IIRC, Tolkien did not invent the term Maia/Maiar until the late 50s, a decade after completing the writing of The Lord of the Rings, and a quarter century after completing The Hobbit. So I guess I wonder what Tolkien would have said instead of Maia circa those writings.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2016 1:25 am 
Offline
Feeling grateful
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:41 am
Posts: 32717
I think at the time of the writing of The Hobbit, when Gandalf (or Bladorthin, as he was original named in the early drafts) first appeared, Tolkien would have simply called him a Wizard, in the Merlin tradition. Over the course of the drafting of LOTR, that conception began to change to something else. However, I have always felt that Pippin's musing in Minas Tirith as Gandalf faced off with Denethor:

Quote:
Yet by a sense other than sight Pippin perceived that Gandalf had the greater power and the deeper wisdom, and a majesty that was veiled. And he was older, far older. ‘How much older?’ he wondered, and then he thought how odd it was that he had never thought about it before. Treebeard had said something about wizards, but even then he had not thought of Gandalf as one of them. What was Gandalf? In what far time and place did he come into the world, and when would he leave it?


was a substitute for Tolkien himself wondering to himself those very questions, what was Gandalf, when did he come to Middle-earth. That chapter was first drafted some time in 1946, and Pippin's musings were present from the beginning, though originally they took a different form:

Quote:
Whence and what was Gandalf: when and in what time and place [was he born>] did he come into the world and he ever die


The part about Treebeard talking about wizards was not present, but there was a marginal note added afterward "For his wisdom did not considered Gandalf, whereas the counsels of Denethor concerned himself, or Gondor which in this thought was part of himself." Here I think is perhaps the germ of the idea of Gandalf as a being sent to Middle-earth to bolster the defenses of all the children of Eru.

The first reference to Gandalf as one of the Istari appeared in the drafting of "The Tale of the Years", which I think was first drafted in 1948, soon after the completion of the final chapter of the text. In the original draft, the discussion of the appearance of the Istari is not given in the brief introduction to the Third Age, as in the published version, but rather in the actual entry of the years of their appearance, but the language is essentially the same. However, there is still no indication of what the Istari really are.

Of course, the idea of the Valar as angelic spirits goes back to the early conceptions of the legendarium, and early on Tolkien noted that they were joined by lesser spirits of the same order (originally considered to consist partly of the Valar's children), the Valarindi. The first indication that I can think of that the Istari were among these lesser angelic spirits sent to Middle-earth appears in a footnote to Tolkien's famous letter to Milton Waldman in late 1951:

Quote:
Nowhere is the place or nature of 'the Wizards' made fully explicit. Their name, as related to Wise, is an Englishing of their Elvish name, and is used throughout as utterly distinct from Sorcerer or Magician. It appears finally that they were as one might say the near equivalent in the mode of these tales of Angels, guardian Angels. Their powers are directed primarily to the encouragement of the enemies of evil, to cause them to use their own wits and valour, to unite and endure. They appear always as old men and sages, and though (sent by the powers of the True West) in the world they suffer themselves, their age and grey hairs increase only slowly. Gandalf whose function is especially to watch human affairs (Men and Hobbits) goes on through all the tales


However, the invention of the term Maia dates to around this period, not the later fifties, as you suggest. The term first appears in both the Annals of Aman and in the first chapter of the later Quenta, both which can dated as having been drafted in 1951-1952. Since we see Tolkien specifically refer to Gandalf and the other Istari as angelic beings sent by the Powers of the West in the letter to Waldman in this same time period, it is clear that he would already consider them to be among the newly named Maiar. In fact, the discussion of Olórin that eventually ended up in the Valaquenta appears in almost the same form in the chapter one of the first phase of the later Quenta, "Of the Valar", written in that time period.

Of course, the conception of the Istari was more fully developed in the essays that are printed in Unfinished Tales, but the conception of Gandalf as Olórin the Maia was already firmly in place by the time LOTR was published.

_________________
Woods is most felt. Nice! it's gentle on your mind.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2016 2:35 am 
Offline
Happy as a clam at high tide (when reading)
User avatar

Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2006 4:03 pm
Posts: 10655
That was a great read, V. Thank you.

_________________
GNU Terry Pratchett

Trouble began, and not for the first time, with an apple. (Terry Pratchett)


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2016 6:00 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2016 8:30 pm
Posts: 21
Location: Chicago, IL
Yes, great post, thanks very much. I have a few follow-up questions and thoughts. First is, what did Tolkien imagine Gandalf to be in The Hobbit? One can assume that the concept of the Istari, the special Emissaries of the West, had not emerged. Would you nevertheless agree that he is not a Mannish magician? That a ‘wizard’ even from his earliest writings always meant an immortal Lesser Vala (spirit/fay/Vanimo/Maia) that for whatever reason lingered in Middle-earth?


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2016 6:08 am 
Offline
Living in hope
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:43 am
Posts: 38650
Location: Sailing the luminiferous aether
That's a great question. I can no longer remember what I thought about Gandalf when I first read The Hobbit. But it was after I read The Lord of the Rings, even though I was very young. So whatever I thought then was overlaid with the information from LoTR.

_________________
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2016 10:21 am 
Offline
of Vinyamar
User avatar

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:39 pm
Posts: 7913
Location: Ireland
In the Hobbit? Well I for one just thought of him as a man. A crotchety old man who could do magic.

_________________
Image
The Vinyamars on Stage! This time at Bag End


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2016 1:06 pm 
Offline
not something I would recommend
User avatar

Joined: Wed Dec 07, 2005 11:13 pm
Posts: 12881
Location: Florida
I'd say that regardless of what the "legendarium" says, I still prefer to think of him as just a crotchety old man who could do magic. :)

_________________
everything happens so much

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2016 11:13 pm 
Offline
Feeling grateful
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:41 am
Posts: 32717
I don't see any good reason NOT to think of Gandalf as a crotchety old man who could do magic in The Hobbit. After all, his only really plot function is that he disappears "and so leaves the Hobbit without help or advice in the midst of his 'adventure', forcing him to stand on his own legs, and become in his mode heroic" (as Tolkien puts it). The only indication in the text of the book that he is anything other than a crotchety old man who could do magic is the fact that he tells Thorin that the Necromancer was an "enemy quite beyond the powers of all the dwarves put together, if they could all be collected again from the four corners of the world" and then goes to deal with that enemy himself (or with the "council of White Wizards").

Moreover, Tolkien does several times refer to Blandorthin/Gandalf as "a little old man." Nonetheless, whether his intention at the time was that Gandalf/Blandorthin was firmly human, or something more, is unclear. As John Rateliff writes in The History of The Hobbit, "The Hobbit does not stand alone, and once viewed in the context of the early Silmarillion material, Tolkien's other tales for his children, and its own sequel, the case for Blandorthin's being more than human grows somewhat stronger." But I'll leave that case to John, and just add that if you don't own The History of The Hobbit, you should. :)

_________________
Woods is most felt. Nice! it's gentle on your mind.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2016 4:05 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2016 8:30 pm
Posts: 21
Location: Chicago, IL
Yep! I have The History of The Hobbit (the original two-volume edition) and love it. I was looking forward to it for a long time, and was still pleasantly surprised. He found many more connections to the legendarium than I had ever imagined possible.

I will have to read The Hobbit again soon and look for more clues about Gandalf. I got the First Edition Facsimile from Book Depository, so, I’ve been meaning to sit down with it anyway. Right off the bat I’d say also that his initial appearance heavily suggests Odin, and it also seems he had not been seen “for ages and ages” (he was friends of Bilbo’s grandfather, although he possibly could have been young at the time); and his answer to Bilbo’s “no idea you were still in business” — “Where else should I be?” — hints at immortality.

The mention of his “cousin Radagast” could be a point against him being a fay, but on the other hand, maybe not. If wizard is just a Mannish profession, what are the odds the only two wizards we know are apparently unattached to any known Mannish culture, yet related to each other?

Alright, here is the next question, back now to the LR. In your quote above, “Treebeard had said something about wizards, but even then [Pippin] had not thought of Gandalf as one of them.” What is the “them,” the general, lowercase-w wizards about whom it is apparently not the case that they came into the world from some far time and place to which they would return?

It seems everyone casually throws around the term wizard, as if what they are is are common knowledge and unimpressive.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2016 4:57 pm 
Offline
Feeling grateful
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:41 am
Posts: 32717
Sorry for not responding before, but honestly, I'm not sure what you are asking for, beyond what I already wrote above!

_________________
Woods is most felt. Nice! it's gentle on your mind.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2016 4:57 am 
Offline
Living in hope
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:43 am
Posts: 38650
Location: Sailing the luminiferous aether
My thought on this is that the understanding of what "wizard" actually meant had eroded over the quick generations of Men and Hobbits. Tolkien tells us that the Hobbits of the Shire thought of Gandalf as a traveling showman with wonderful "magic" tricks that entertained people. Pippin would not think of "wizard" as meaning one of the Maiar; he probably had no idea who they even were. "Wizard" had probably become a common and unimpressive label. Presented with what Gandalf was actually capable of, Pippin's first thought would probably have been that he was certainly not a "wizard"—not a traveling sideshow artist. He was something else—something real.

_________________
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sat Jun 03, 2017 1:56 am 
Offline
Cuddly Studmuffin

Joined: Sun Dec 04, 2005 8:28 pm
Posts: 43
His race? Well, the 400 meter hurdles of course.


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 12 posts ] 

All times are UTC


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group