Gandalf remains not only a fan favorite when it comes to The Lord of the Rings, but is a beloved character among all literature and film. He's the wizard who isn't afraid to party with hobbits and launch some fireworks. Beyond the quirky fun, Gandalf is revered for not just his unparalleled power, but for his heart, wisdom, and moral compass.
Sir Ian McKellen perfectly brings the character to life in both The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, cementing Gandalf as a beloved on-screen presence. He's even expressed interest in reprising the role for Amazon's Lord of the Rings television show. However, this doesn't mean that Gandalf is a flawless character. There are certain head-scratching moments that don't quite add up with the core attributes and knowledge that Gandalf possesses.
There are inconsistencies that have come up since the release of the Hobbit films that clash with events in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Others have been there all along, still remaining unanswered. It's important to keep in mind that these matters don't degrade Gandalf as a character. It is because he is such a compelling individual that audiences constantly return to him and that we now examine the things about him that don't really add up.
Here are the 15 Things That Make No Sense About Gandalf.
15 Failing To Foresee Saruman's Betrayal
Gandalf is an excellent judge of character. He's the kind of person who believed in Bilbo Baggins and knew he'd be perfect for the quest to reclaim Erebor. Gandalf is the kind of person who saw that Frodo had what it takes to bear the One Ring.
Saruman's character has always been questionable. He continually scoffed at and dismissed the overwhelming evidence that Sauron was rising to power again in the Hobbit films. He's sneered at hobbits and even his fellow wizard, Gandalf.
When it was clear that Sauron was rising to power again after the events at Dol Guldur in The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, Saruman said "Leave Sauron to me." When 60 years then passed and Saruman clearly hadn't followed through on his promise, Gandalf should've at least been suspicious. However, he seeks out Saruman's wisdom and power and is completely blindsided by the ensuing betrayal.
14 It Took 60 Years To Realize Bilbo Had The One Ring
Throughout The Hobbit films, Gandalf never seems to buy into Bilbo's stories of just being lucky or his particularly miraculous feats -- times when Bilbo was actually aided by the powers of the One Ring. It stands to reason that Gandalf pretty much knew Bilbo had a magic ring, though not the One Ring.
Still, it seems like a matter of paramount importance for Gandalf to know which magic ring Bilbo possessed not just for curiosity's sake, but for the safety of all Middle-earth. However, it's not until 60 years later when Bilbo vanishes from his 111th birthday party that Gandalf finally realizes the truth.
Given all the reasonable suspicions the wizard had during The Hobbit films for the well-being of Middle-earth, it seems like something the normally wise Gandalf should've uncovered much sooner.
13 The Shock Of Sauron's Return
Once it was confirmed that Bilbo had possessed the One Ring for all those years, Gandalf really shouldn't have been so stunned by the return of Sauron. After all, Gandalf and the rest of the White Council realized Sauron was trying to return to power at Dol Guldur 60 years earlier.
There were even more signs of Sauron's return, such as Azog, the army of orcs and goblins, and the darkness and corruption that overtook Mirkwood. If Sauron hadn't been defeated after the White Council drove him out of Dol Guldur, why would it be such a shock that he had returned?
The evidence was all there. To make things worse, Gandalf had presented most of these examples himself and then he apparently forgot by the time of The Fellowship of the Ring rolled around.
12 Fighting With A Sword Instead Of Magic
Gandalf is an incredibly powerful wizard, holding his own against the Balrog and driving the Nazgûl away from Minas Tirith. However, Gandalf fights most battles with his sword rather than magic. It's admirable that Gandalf is also skilled with a blade and it may be more useful in close combat, but it still doesn't explain why he tends to fight more with the sword than the powers he possesses as a wizard.
The Battle of the Black Gate in particular seems like an opportunity where Gandalf's magic could've come in handy, but he fights the entire battle with only his sword. The objective of that battle was to distract Sauron and his army so Frodo and Sam could finally destroy the One Ring.
A display of magic thus would not only have been helpful in the actual battle, but would also have been quite distracting to Sauron and his forces as well.
11 Shadowfax's Disappearance
Most fans will remember Gandalf riding his beloved horse Shadowfax during The Two Towers and The Return of the King. They may not recall that Gandalf is briefly seen riding Shadowfax in The Fellowship of the Ring, when he traveled across Middle-earth to confirm that Bilbo does indeed possess the One Ring.
However, what exactly happened to Shadowfax between then and his reappearance in The Two Towers remains a mystery. Similarly to Gandalf, Shadowfax seems to have a knack for appearing and disappearing, the timing of which can be both awfully convenient and inconvenient.
At least Gandalf and Shadowfax had a consistent relationship in The Two Towers and The Return of the King, the pair of them providing a stunning white image.
10 Agreeing To Go Through The Mines of Moria
When the Fellowship was torn between traveling through the Gap of Rohan or the Mines of Moria, Gandalf deferred to the Ring-bearer, Frodo. It was a nice gesture to let Frodo decide, considering the burden he carried. However, Frodo had no conception of the dangers within Moria.
Gandalf, on the other hand, knew of the ancient evil, such as the Balrog, that dwelled within Moria, yet he still agreed to follow Frodo's decision. Even though the Gap of Rohan would've taken the Fellowship dangerously close to Isengard and Saruman, it arguably would've been the better road.
Gandalf had already managed to extricate himself from the traitorous Saruman's clutches once before. Clearly the Balrog was a much more formidable foe, but Gandalf still let Frodo make the decision for the group.
9 Stumped By The Elvish Riddle To Enter Moria
Once the Fellowship reached the entrance to Moria at the Doors of Durin, Gandalf was stumped by the riddle on the doorway: "Speak, Friend, And Enter."
Perhaps just saying the Elvish word for "friend" was too simple and straightforward for Gandalf's sophisticated mind, but it seems like something the wise and intellectual wizard could've figured out long before Frodo.
It gave Frodo a nice moment to contribute beyond his emotional endurance of carrying the Ring, but it's the kind of moment in which Gandalf seems made to shine. It's possible that Saruman was right and all that time Gandalf spent with the hobbits was negatively affecting his mind. Probably not though, since it was a hobbit who ended up solving the problem.
8 Continuing To Live Merrily After His Task Is Completed
After returning as Gandalf the White, the wizard explained to Aragon, Legolas, and Gimli that after his sacrifice with the Balrog, he was sent back to Middle-earth "until my task is done." The conditions of Gandalf's return seemed to indicate that he needs to pay some kind of debt as payment for returning to life.
If the task is to help defeat Sauron and his forces, it is definitely completed when the Ring, Sauron, and his evil forces are destroyed in The Return of the King. Once the task is complete and the purpose of his return fulfilled, he should've had to pay some kind of debt.
Some may argue that the conditions are met, as Gandalf eventually leaves Middle-earth along with Frodo, Bilbo, Galadriel, and Elrond. However, he merrily hangs around Middle-earth for quite some time before leaving the shores forever and even then it's a pretty positive transition. There doesn't seem to be any kind of real cost that Gandalf has to pay for his return.
7 The Witch-King Doesn't Kill Gandalf When He Had The Chance
The Return of the King features a thrilling deleted scene where Gandalf faces the Witch-king of Angmar and his Fellbeast. The showdown between two powerful beings isn't as evenly matched as one might expect, as the Witch-king obliterates Gandalf's staff, throws him off of Shadowfax, and seems to be in his head all in a matter of seconds.
The Witch-king is about to finish off Gandalf when the Riders of Rohan show up. Given Gandalf's vulnerable state in that moment, the Witch-king could've easily killed Gandalf before flying off to confront the Riders of Rohan.
He could've easily killed Pippin as well, allowing the Nazgul to finally succeed at slaying a hobbit. Even if Eowyn still defeated the Witch-king, it seems more productive to kill Gandalf when he had the chance.
6 Sending Frodo And Sam To Bree
Getting Frodo and Sam out of the Shire with the Ring was a good idea on Gandalf's part. The same cannot be said for sending them alone to Bree. Gandalf sent them away from the Shire because of forces like the Nazgul, which he knew Sauron would've deployed to find the Ring.
However, once those forces quickly realized the Ring wasn't in the Shire, they would scour the roads. Frodo and Sam had never left the Shire before and were untrained in combat. They were lucky to evade the Nazgul for as long as they did. Gandalf should've placed someone like Aragorn at their side from the start to protect them.
The wizard also should've had some kind of backup plan in place, in case he couldn't make it to Bree in time -- which is exactly what happened due to Saruman's betrayal.
5 Knowing To Search For Gollum
Once Gandalf realized that Bilbo's magic ring was likely the One Ring, one of his steps was to track down Gollum. Gollum told Gandalf how he'd been taken to Mordor, was tortured, and uttered the words "Shire" and "Baggins."
These words would point the Nazgul toward the Frodo and the other hobbits. It is unclear how exactly Gandalf would know how to track down Gollum, as he'd never met the creature before.
Bilbo was the one to meet him and it's murky how much Bilbo told Gandalf about Gollum in the first place. Gandalf is a clever fellow with magic at his disposal, but it doesn't seem like he had much to go on when it came to tracking down Gollum.
4 Letting Wormtongue Live
After realizing the deceit and suffering that Grima Wormtongue had caused for not only King Theoden but all of Rohan, Theoden tried to slay Wormtongue. Aragorn intervened, arguing that enough blood had been spilled on Wormtongue's account.
Gandalf and the others chose to stay still, while Wormtongue used the moment to escape. Gandalf likely wanted to take the moral high ground and felt that after all of Theoden's suffering, it should be his decision to make. However, letting Wormtongue live still seems rather foolish.
Gandalf must've known that a weasel like Wormtongue would immediately run back to Saruman. This turned out to be devastating, as Wormtongue used his knowledge to tell Saruman that Theoden would take his people to Helm's Deep. Without this knowledge, the Battle of Helm's Deep might've been avoided.
3 The Riders Of Rohan
There's no question that without Eomer and the Riders of Rohan, the Battle of Helm's Deep would've been lost. What doesn't make sense is why Gandalf had to be the one to track down the Rohirrim and bring them to Helm's Deep in the first place.
Plenty of other individuals could've completed this task, perhaps someone who Eomer and the Rohirrim knew better and trusted. Meanwhile, the road to Helm's Deep and the majority of the battle featured a lot of death and suffering that could've been mitigated by Gandalf's presence.
Gandalf could have rained chaos down on the Uruk-hai, and what an asset he would've been throughout the fight. Theoden could have sent any of his loyal followers to find the Riders of Rohan.
2 Failing To Safeguard The Palantir
Gandalf knew the dangers of the Palantir and that the curious Pippin might foolishly take a look into it. After all, he'd already caught Pippin's interest in the Palantir at Isengard. Instead of safeguarding it with magic or just a good hiding spot, Gandalf wraps the Palantir in a blanket and sleeps with it.
This made it quite easy for Pippin to snag the powerful artifact while Gandalf and everyone else slept, setting off a dire chain of events in The Return of the King.
Pippin is pretty much a child and Gandalf his like his parent. All good parents know that they need to carefully safeguard the dangerous items sought by their children and a blanket just isn't going to cut it. At least both Gandalf and Pippin work together moving forward to grow from their mistakes.
1 Gandalf's Relationship With The Eagles
The books explain a lot about the Eagles and their relationship with Gandalf. They're a proud race that don't just respond to the beck and call of Gandalf. The books explain that the Eagles are indebted to Gandalf and they help him out in a few particularly sticky situations as a favor.
However, this relationship is never explained in the movies, making it seem like the Eagles could show up any time that Gandalf wants them to. They are presented as the obvious solution to all the problems of Middle-earth.
Why didn't they just fly the Fellowship to Mordor? Well, besides their pride and the nature of their deal with Gandalf, they also care about survival. Constantly flying over hostile areas could lead to getting shot out of the sky or attacked by the Nazgûl. Regardless, the actual relationship between Gandalf and the Eagles is implemented as a deus ex machina.
Are there any other things that don't make sense about Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings? Let us know in the comments !
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