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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Lord of the Rings:
Gandalf The Grey Versus The White

JWPlatt
Grey Havens


Oct 8 2012, 2:28am

Post #1 of 17 (1139 views)
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Gandalf The Grey Versus The White Can't Post

I've seen a number of references about how different Gandalf the Grey is compared to Gandalf The White in The Lord of the Rings films. Really?

I didn't see much difference between the movies and it's been about two years since I read the books for only the second time. Gimli says in the movie, "This new Gandalf is more grumpy than the old one." But that's the only overt observation in words or behavior that I remember from the movies.

Would anyone care to cite examples from the books and movies about how the two Gandalfs are different? I trust Tolkien may have pointed it out better than in the movies, making the book comparison easier, so maybe it would be good to compare how the movies might have failed or succeeded in translating the differences between the two Gandalfs from the book.


(This post was edited by JWPlatt on Oct 8 2012, 2:30am)


Ring-Bearer
Rivendell


Oct 8 2012, 2:57am

Post #2 of 17 (746 views)
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About Gandy- [In reply to] Can't Post

I have heard this too, and often wondered if Gandalf really is much different. In the books, as well as the films, Gandlaf the Grey has more of an elderly feel to him, more frail but wise and willing to help Frodo at all costs. As Gandalf the White, he seems to have come back rejuvenated, and more intent on serving his purpose as a leader figure. A bit gruff, I suppose, but he sees what must be done and does so for the good of all. However, Gandy is still the same at heart, with a deep respect for those he knows and a special connection with and care for the hobbits.

'What are we holding on to, Sam?'
'There's good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for!'


'I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you!'


Spaldron
Rivendell


Oct 8 2012, 2:48pm

Post #3 of 17 (738 views)
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The difference is pretty obvious imo. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I didn't see much difference between the movies and it's been about two years since I read the books for only the second time. Gimli says in the movie, "This new Gandalf is more grumpy than the old one." But that's the only overt observation in words or behavior that I remember from the movies.



Physically White Gandalf is taller, more imposing with a more noble image than the Pilgrim of Grey. His face is softer and the hook nose looks smaller. Ian McKellen speaks with a lighter, more benevolent tone for White instead of the deeper, more gravelly voice of Grey. Personality wise he appears wiser and more resolute but this makes him come across as more serious and less fun than Grey which is probably why most people including McKellen prefer the former incarnation.

"A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities."


JWPlatt
Grey Havens


Oct 8 2012, 5:40pm

Post #4 of 17 (735 views)
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Specifics [In reply to] Can't Post

You speak in generalities I've heard before and it's why I asked the question.


Quote
Would anyone care to cite examples from the books and movies about how the two Gandalfs are different?



Lausus
Bree


Oct 8 2012, 10:18pm

Post #5 of 17 (630 views)
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More hasty [In reply to] Can't Post

Gandalf the White is in a bit more of a hurry. Now he's running out of time. It's not like he's been doing nothing the rest of the third age, but he's got to win this war against Sauron now, whereas Gandalf the Grey was able to spend time putting on fireworks shows for Hobbits and similar less urgent matters.


Túrin_Turambar
The Shire


Oct 9 2012, 2:47am

Post #6 of 17 (651 views)
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In Merry's own words (fro the books): [In reply to] Can't Post

"He has grown, or something. He can be both kinder and more alarming, merrier and more solemn than before..."


weaver
Half-elven


Oct 9 2012, 4:10am

Post #7 of 17 (619 views)
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Not all knowing versus enlightened... [In reply to] Can't Post

Gandalf the Grey does not know it all, so he questions and ponders and hesitates about the right course of action to take, and worries a lot.

Because the Gandalf the White is "enlightened" he knows exactly can/should be done and is a lot more decisive -- but he gets frustrated when everyone else can't see and follow that path as clearly as he can, or when he has to clean up the mess when everyone else complicates things for him. Some specific examples:

Gandalf the Grey

1. Gruff on the outside, soft on the inside (hugging Frodo after the "a wizard is never late" comment, shooting off fireworks for the little kids after acting like he's not going to, having fun at the party when he can let his hair down/being tough on Merry and Pippin when he has to be an authority figure; is worried about the Black Riders attacking Bag End, then gets angry at Sam...
2. Shows worry/concern about the Ring in Bag End (with Frodo especially)
3. Trusts more to Saruman than himself (I must see the head of my order -- he'll know what to do)
4. Visibly frustrated at the Council of Elrond and then visibly moved by Frodo's choice to take the Ring
5. Unwilling to enter the mines of Moria, so turns that decision over to fate/Frodo (because he knows what the dwarves found there, according to Saruman...)
6. Unsure of himself in Moria -- needing time to figure out the way to go when he gets to that place he "has no memory of" (I always read that as he knew the he was headed for death, and needed time to deal with that -- by helping Frodo deal with his fate, he found a way to accept his own)
7. Hesitating to make the leap over the breaking bridge
8. Pushing Aragorn into leadership (do as I say!, swords of no more use here!)
9. Hanging on the edge before finally letting go and accepting his fate...

Gandalf the White

1. Goes from deferring from Saruman to overpowering him (when he expels him from Theoden)
2. Knows what Theoden should do to save his people, frustrated when Theoden won't do it
3. Frustrated with having to leave to go get Eomer and how little time he has to do it
4. Upset with Pippin for messing things up by looking in the Palantir
5. Tries to shut Pippin down before seeing Denethor, and then being frustrated with both Pippin and Denethor for not taking his counsel
6. Knows that the beacons must be lit, and takes clear action to make that happen, even if Denethor doesn't like it and it puts Pippin at risk
7. Takes Denethor out of commission, physically, when his lack of leadership becomes a problem
8. Takes command of the battle
9. Moves from pushing Aragorn to deferring to him and clearly acknowledging his leadership privately and publicly
10. I now able to comfort Pippin about death, whereas he feared his own death in Moria

The only time Gandalf the White doubts himself is in the throne room, and during the Rohan party -- both times, it's due to feeling some guilt over his role in Frodo's fate. But Frodo's situation was caused by actions taken by Gandalf the Grey, which he has inherited, rather than anything he did as Gandalf the White.

Hope this helps and makes senses -- if not, let me know and I'll try to explain it better/in more detail...

Weaver



Ring-Bearer
Rivendell


Oct 9 2012, 4:17am

Post #8 of 17 (619 views)
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Well said, Weaver! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you on your thoughtful and detailed account of both Gandalfs. It is interesting how Tolkien could make even the wisest character grow throughout the story.

'What are we holding on to, Sam?'
'There's good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for!'


'I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you!'


FarFromHome
Valinor


Oct 9 2012, 10:07am

Post #9 of 17 (565 views)
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Seconded! [In reply to] Can't Post

Weaver's detailed understanding of both Gandalfs is masterful! But I think it would be fair to say that she's talking about Jackson's Gandalf(s), not Tolkien's as such. Maybe somebody could do a similar comparison of the two Gandalfs in the book (not me, it's quite an undertaking!), but some of weaver's examples are definitely about movie-Gandalf, and are not things that Tolkien put there. That doesn't mean Jackson wasn't following Tolkien's lead, of course. I think he often is even when he goes about things a different way. But most of the specifics in weaver's examples are only in the films.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



Mr. Arkenstone (isaac)
Grey Havens


Oct 9 2012, 2:04pm

Post #10 of 17 (578 views)
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I din´t see that either [In reply to] Can't Post

White Gandalf seems to have gone under rehab of halfling´s weed( if you follow me), nothing more, he is doing what Gandlf the Grey should have been doing bout faster and with a clearer mind

I can not guarantee his safety - understood...
Nor will I be responsible for his fate - Doh!


weaver
Half-elven


Oct 10 2012, 3:04am

Post #11 of 17 (588 views)
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yep, I was only focusing on the films in my analysis... [In reply to] Can't Post

Where's Darkstone when we need him? He would have much to say about Book Gandalf being pointier than the round and huggy guy we got in the films!

Bookwise, I'd say that Gandalf the Grey reminds me of guy put in charge of a project who is rather obsessive about it -- he's continually monitoring everything, checking on people, correcting things, reminding people that they haven't achieved the goal yet, upset when he lets the team down by falling for Saruman's trap, always looking for how he needs to remake the puzzle as new things fall into place, etc. He's like a new manager of a department in someways, who takes his job very seriously.

Gandalf the White seems more relaxed on some levels -- laughing more, spending time talking to Merry and Pippin, and certainly there are plenty of references to him being "lighter" (!). Things are still touch and go, but since he's "passed his test" by trusting that his death would not mean the end of the quest, he's less worried about his own role and more able to support and help everyone else.

I think the films do a pretty good job of showing us the things the book tells us about Gandalf, I guess. We can't get inside his head, or inside the heads of the other characters as they observe/think about him, so they had to give us something to see instead. Book Gandalf would probably never have danced at a Hobbit party, or hugged Book Frodo, of course, but that was one way of showing how he felt, on the inside, about the Shire in general and Frodo in particular.

Weaver



weaver
Half-elven


Oct 10 2012, 3:06am

Post #12 of 17 (581 views)
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glad you got past all my typos! [In reply to] Can't Post

I need a good proofreader!Smile

Weaver



FarFromHome
Valinor


Oct 10 2012, 11:22am

Post #13 of 17 (603 views)
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I miss him too... [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Where's Darkstone when we need him? He would have much to say about Book Gandalf being pointier than the round and huggy guy we got in the films!

I never quite agreed with Darkstone about this (I think that "pointy" book-Gandalf is just engaging in the kind of banter that Brits use to express the "round and huggy" feelings they don't feel allowed to express any other way...), but it's a good point nevertheless.

As for Gandalf the Grey, despite the obsessiveness you mention, he does somehow manage not to check up on that magic ring of Bilbo's for rather a long time...

I'm not sure Gandalf sees himself as a manager at this point, though, but more as a front-line worker. He's like those grumpy old detectives who refuse a desk job (he turned down the nomination to be leader of the White Council, according to the Sil) and seem to spend a lot of time sorting out the messes that management make, and putting their own life on the line to protect the innocent. Or perhaps he's a front-line WWI officer, serving in the trenches. I guess once he returns as the White he's been "promoted", for better or worse. He still insists on putting himself on the line but he now has to make and stand by a lot of far-reaching decisions. I guess he's gone from front-line soldier to general - but he's the ideal general who does know what it's like at the sharp end and isn't afraid to come out and lead from the front.

I agree with you that the movies take what's in the book as the basis for the way Gandalf is portrayed, and make a pretty good job of it. It's true that book-Gandalf would never had hugged book-Frodo, but then book-Frodo was a straight-laced Brit who wouldn't have gone in for hugging anyway. I suppose that makes the breakdown of inhibitions he undergoes on his journey all the more moving, as he learns to accept and be comforted by physical gestures of affection from Sam. Films have a narrower range of conventions available to them, I think, in terms of portraying emotions, unless they have time to focus on them to the exclusion of everything else (which, let's face it, isn't going to happen in an epic adventure!). I think it's a credit to Peter Jackson that the emotional life of the characters was portrayed as faithfully as it was.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



(This post was edited by FarFromHome on Oct 10 2012, 11:27am)


stoutfiles
Rohan

Oct 10 2012, 12:45pm

Post #14 of 17 (552 views)
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Both Grey and White insult Pippin [In reply to] Can't Post

As in, all the time. In the movie they gave some of his insults to Merry so that Gandalf wouldn't come off as a jerk to the causal audience.


Elenorflower
Gondor


Oct 10 2012, 3:31pm

Post #15 of 17 (587 views)
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I always find the most striking difference between the two [In reply to] Can't Post

in Fangorn, when they all meet up thinking he is Saruman the White bathed in light. you see his face is changed, he looks kingly and Elven, almost like Galadriels father may have looked, he is otherworldly and more remote. He seems stronger, younger, more confident and urgent. He seems more like a kindly lord than a bent and worried wizard. he seems more fae and powerful.


weaver
Half-elven


Oct 11 2012, 3:18am

Post #16 of 17 (527 views)
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agreed... [In reply to] Can't Post

But I think the White cuts Pippin more slack than the Gray does...both consider Pippin to be a fool, but the Gray sees that as a bad thing, and the White can see that it has some value.

Weaver



weaver
Half-elven


Oct 11 2012, 3:22am

Post #17 of 17 (822 views)
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I like your "promotion" analogy... [In reply to] Can't Post

In that way, he's kind of Kirk-like, who found that being a Captain was far more fun than being an Admiral. Gandalf is a good "company man", but he does seem to prefer being able to mingle with the minions over having a key to the executive washroom...Smile

Weaver


 
 

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