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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
Gandalf and Mithrandir

Old Pilgrim

Jul 20 2013, 12:39pm

Post #1 of 9 (1173 views)
Gandalf and Mithrandir Can't Post

This is the quote from the book;
Many are my names in many countries. Mithrandir among the Elves, Tharkûn to the Dwarves; Olórin I was in my youth in the West that is forgotten, in the South Incánus, in the North Gandalf; to the East I go not.

I haven't read books for some years now, so I am not very sure how it is there, but I have noticed that in movies Gandalf is always reffered as Gandalf while only Galadriel and in Minas Tirith he is called Mithrandir. Why is that so? All Elves, including Elrond, Legolas and Celeborn should called him Mithrandir while none of them except Galadriel do that. It is also a little strange to me that Saruman and Radagast called him Gandalf and not Mithrandir or even Olórin for example.

Grey Havens

Jul 20 2013, 1:21pm

Post #2 of 9 (656 views)
Gandalf [In reply to] Can't Post

Hmm, Gandalf is Old Norse [in the primary world] and thus only represents a real name used by the characters. That said, considering the translation conceit, in the books Galadriel does [at least once] speak the name Gandalf, and even Denethor once refers to Gandalf as 'Gandalf Mithrandir'.

In The Istari essay [Unfinished Tales] Tolkien first refers to Gandalf as representing a Northern name, and despite being an Old Norse form, he notes that it must be supposed to represent a Westron name. Here the 'North' is described: 'But his main province was "the North", and within it above all the North-west, Lindon, Eriador, and the Vales of Anduin.' Earlier in this text 'the North' in this context included the southern bounds of ancient Gondor.

In a note of 1967 however, Tolkien says that the South should thus mean Gondor, at its widest those lands under the suzerainty of Gondor at the height of its power. And...


'At the time of the Tale, however, we find Gandalf always called Mithrandir in Gondor (by men of rank or Numenorean origin, as Denethor, Faramir, etc.). This is Sindarin, and given as the name used by the Elves; but men of rank in Gondor knew and used this language. The 'popular' name in the Westron or Common Speech was evidently one meaning 'Greymantle', but having been devised long before was now in archaic form. This is maybe represented by the Greyhame used by Eomer in Rohan.'

JRRT, The Istari, Unfinished Tales

Anyway, since enough Elves spoke Westron, using a Westron name, as well as a Sindarin name, seems to be acceptable [not that you said it wasn't acceptable]. I would really have to do more excavation to see if there is more to say about the Elves seemingly using a Westron form when speaking Westron...

... again, this name being represented by 'Gandalf' in the modern text.

(This post was edited by Elthir on Jul 20 2013, 1:29pm)

Grey Havens

Jul 20 2013, 1:50pm

Post #3 of 9 (558 views)
Oh and for unclarity... [In reply to] Can't Post

... or clarity maybe: here 'representing' a Westron name does not mean Gandalf itself is a Westron name. We don't know the true form of the name in the real Red Book, that is, we don't know what 'Bilbo' [really 'Bilba'] actually called this person in Westron back in the days of these events...

... although we can assume the real Westron name had a meaning close to the Old Norse meaning, at least as intended for the tale by Tolkien: 'Elf with a magic staff' [and despite that Gandalf wasn't an Elf of course].

This all has to do with the theory of translation [Appendix F], even if it's not exactly the topic Smile

(This post was edited by Elthir on Jul 20 2013, 1:53pm)

Lieutenant of Dol Guldur

Jul 20 2013, 3:41pm

Post #4 of 9 (515 views)
Isn't Legolas calling him Mithrandir too at some point? [In reply to] Can't Post

All Elves, including Elrond, Legolas and Celeborn should called him Mithrandir

I'm not sure but I think that Legolas calls him Mithrandir too besides calling him Gandalf more often.. but I'm not sure when he does that. Perhaps he will call him that way when they meet in DOS/TABA. We know from the last vlog that Gandalf calls him Legolas Greenleaf while in LOTR they seem to be more familiar and he only calls him Legolas. Perhaps Mithrandir is the more formal name while Gandalf is the more... well the name among friends?

That might be also the reason why Elrond calls him Gandalf... they're friends while Galadriel is not. Their relationship is far more professional ;-)

In FOTR Celeborn is talking to the Fellowship when he asks "Where is Gandalf?". Perhaps he wanted to be sure that everyone understands him. Maybe he feared a "Who is Mithrandir?". Pippin would be a great guy for such a question ;-)

It is also a little strange to me that Saruman and Radagast called him Gandalf and not Mithrandir or even Olórin for example

Well Gandalf calls Saruman Saruman instead of Curumo or Curunir and Radagast Radagast instead of Aiwendil. How confusing would that be if he does? The same persons but everybody call them different. The poor unaware audience Tongue You can also ask why don't they speak the whole meeting Elvish? I think all of them is able to speak it. Why don't Elrond and Galadriel speak Elvish during their dialogues in LOTR?

I think that's the main reason. It is too confusing for the general audience. Mithrandir, Gandalf, Tharkûn, Olórin, Incánus... It's easier for them to know him as Gandalf and sometimes perhaps Mithrandir. I directed a stage version of The Hobbit once and I wanted the Elves calling him Mithrandir and when he meets Bilbo for the first time he mentiones that the Elves call him that way. But still most of the people from the audience and some of the actors don't understand it.

"There is only one Lord of the Ring, only one who can bend it to his will. And he does not share power."


Jul 20 2013, 5:47pm

Post #5 of 9 (449 views)
Faramir calls him Mithrandir in Minas Tirith [In reply to] Can't Post



Jul 20 2013, 6:33pm

Post #6 of 9 (446 views)
Elrond is strongly affiliated with the Rangers of the North [In reply to] Can't Post

That, and his long association with the Wizard, makes his use of Gandalf understandable.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring

Fredeghar Wayfarer

Jul 21 2013, 5:50am

Post #7 of 9 (349 views)
Regional conventions [In reply to] Can't Post

Many of the events in the books/films are in the north in the lands of Eriador and Rhovanion. He was primarily known as Gandalf in these regions. Elves such as Elrond would know the name Mithrandir but would use the name other peoples of that region called him, as a matter of convenience. As for Galadriel, she likely used Mithrandir as a sign of familiarity/affection (I can't recall what she refers to him as in the books).

In Gondor, Sindarin was a language of lore and nobility. The citizens, especially noblemen like Denethor and Faramir, would thus use the Sindarin name Mithrandir.

I see no problem with Saruman or Radagast calling him Gandalf. Again, it's a matter of convenience and a name that he's primarily known by. I doubt they would use Olorin. That was his name in Valinor. That identity would be mostly kept secret or only apply to him in his original Maia form.

Or short answer: It would confuse the audience. Tongue

Old Pilgrim

Jul 21 2013, 7:04am

Post #8 of 9 (338 views)
That really makes sense [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you for those answers. I was also thinking that the main reason for simply call him Gandalf was because of the general audience for most of them would be very confused by using different names for one character.

I would keep Mithrandir for the Elves and since Istari are hiding their origins, using their true names in conversations would be odd.


Jul 28 2013, 4:18am

Post #9 of 9 (203 views)
I wouldn't mind at all.... [In reply to] Can't Post

...if at least one of the Top Dwarves could refer to Gandalf as Tharkûn. Balin or perhaps Dain comes to mind.

I do not want what it is not mine.... I only want what comes from within....


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