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Gandalf's mortality or lack there of?

henzo33

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I have read LOTR and the Hobbit a good many times over. And it took a friend of mine who has never read the trilogy to get me thinking of Gandalf's mortality. I always believed that Gandalf was immortal, but when asked to prove my belief I had no literary evidence or logical explanation to support it. If anyone could please cite some passages where I could find the answers I am looking for or just give me a perfectly logical explanation I would greatly appreciate it.
 

DGoeij

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LOTR, Appendix B, look in the introduction text to the Third Age, concerning the Istari, or Wizards.
The next I have out of the Sil (part Valaquenta), no quote just the information:
Istari were originally Maiar, the lesser gods, and therefor immortal. But they were sent to ME in the shape of men and thus it was possibe to do them harm or even destroy their body. After the death of his body, Gandalf (Maiar name, Olorin) was sent back. To continue his efforts in the defeat of Sauron and to ban Saruman out of the White Council, thereby becoming Gandalf the White.

That's how I got it from the tales, but maybe another NPW can shove me aside for a better lesson in the lore.
 

Lantarion

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Welcome to the forum, Henzo! :)
Gandalf *was* mortal. All Maiar can be slain by other Maiar. Also Gandalf was given a mortal form in Middle-earth so he could mingle better with the people therein. The Balrog was also a Maia, remember, and perhaps more powerful than Gandalf, before he became the White Rider.
So, when the Balrog and Gandalf slew each other, the Balrog's spirit was taken (presumably) to the Halls of Mandos. But Gandalf's was not, because he being the wisest of the Istari sent from Valinor had not fulfilled his quest; and if he didn't, no-one would. So the Valar gave him another chance, and gave him renewed strength and magical powers (eg. just kickin Saruman's ass) and in my opinion he was made immortal, or unable to be harmed by physical weapons ["For no weapon that you wield can indeed harm me", he said, when he met Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli in Fangorn Forest.
 

henzo33

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Thanks guys for the info and for the welcome. That quote from Gandalf about "no weapon you yield" is perfect I totally forgot about that. I will definately check in the appedix for that other stuff. I need as much evidence as possible as my friend is extremely stubborn.
 

Evenstar

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I believe Gandalf is immortal after his struggle with the balrog as well. But what happens to him after he goes to the grey Havens and Valinor. Does he stay with the elves for all eternity? I thought that Valinor was mainy for elves and only few exceptions were made (i.e. the ring bearers). Could one of you clear this up for me? Thanks.
 

Greymantle

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Valinor was for the Elves, but the Maiar existed before the Elves were even conceived of by any but Iluvatar. Nearly all the Maiar reside in Valinor-- the peoples and servants of the Valar. There are a few exceptions... the Istari, the Balrogs, Sauron, Arien, Tilion... I don't remember exactly what happened to Melian, I'm only halfway through my Sil re-read.
As for Gandalf... how do we even know that weapons could affect him before his death? No one ever physically attacks him (that we hear) directly except the Balrog, and as a Maia the Balrog is an exception. Gandalf was an immortal spirit inhabiting a mortal body... I think that both of his incarnations could be killed, but certainly not easily.
Something I've been wondering... did the Maiar take place in the Music of Iluvatar? What I remember is that the first reference to the Maiar is that they came to Arda with the Valar, and (I think) were numbered with the Ainur. It's strange to think of Gandalf, Radagast, Saruman, the Balrogs and Sauron having a part in the creation of the world... does anyone know?
 
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Eonwe

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Ponitfex: where do you see the books say that Maiar when they are dead go to the Halls of Mandos?

Hi Greymantle!

The Ainur made the music with Illuvatar, and the Ainur included the Valar and Maiar. Although I can't find a passage (give me a few days:)) that says specifically the Maiar sang in the music, it says that the Ainur sang and were spirits of the offspring of Illuvatar's thought, and later it says the Ainur included Valar that came to the world, and Maiar.

"Some of these thoughts he [Melkor] now wove into his music, and straightway discord arose about him, and many that sang nigh him grew despondent, and their thought was disturbed and their music faltered; but some began to attune their music to his rather than to the thought which they had at first"

Since many nigh to him sang with him, I guess unless they were spirits equal to Valar also, they must have been spirits that later became Maiar or stayed with Illuvatar and never came to Ea.

A picture I get in my mind here is Sauron and the Maia that were to be Balrogs sitting nigh to Melkor, not knowing what evil is, and making their songs match Melkor's.

As far as Melian, after Thingol was killed by dwarves, "Thereafter Melian spoke to none save Mablung only, bidding him take heed to the Silmaril, and to send word speedily to Beren and Luthien in Ossiriand; and she vanished out of Millde-earth, and passed to the land of the Valar beyond the western sea, to muse upon her sorrows in the gardens of Lorien, whence she came, and this tale speaks of her no more".
 

Greymantle

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Cool... thanks! :)

I remember that hard-to-grasp, mysterious beauty that I found in M-e when I first encountered it... I remember being fascinated by the simple mystery of Gandalf. It's been years now, but the wonder hasn't faded, I see... so strange to think of that old man shaping the world before the beginning of time. It also makes the treason of Isengard all the more horrifying... sorry, I'm listening to Trevor Jones, always puts me in one of these strange moods. *Sigh* :rolleyes:
 

Eogthea

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So let me get this straight (I know i'm new to the thread so bear with me), Gandalf is mortal before the battle with the Balrog but then becomes immortal after he returns to ME as Gandalf the White? Cuz, if he returns wouldn't he need a mortal body to do so and thus become mortal again though proving his spirit just the opposite?
 

Walter

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Dear Ponti,

Gandalf *was* mortal.
that, my friend, would very much depend on how You define mortal or mortality and I would beg to differ in any way...

According to "Webster's":
mortal: 1) inevitably subject to death..., and 2) a human being...

Gandalf, being an Ainu, was - originally and basically - a spiritual being and as such mortality would not apply, IMO...

All Maiar can be slain by other Maiar Also Gandalf was given a mortal form in Middle-earth so he could mingle better with the people therein. The Balrog was also a Maia, remember, and perhaps more powerful than Gandalf, before he became the White Rider
as we know from various examples the Maiar (e.g. Gandalf, Sauron, etc.) can take physical forms, even those of mortal men, but does that make them mortal? I should like to think "No" for they themself - the spiritual beings - don't die. Even when their mortal form is destroyed the spirit remains existent (I purposely don't say alive) and can even take physical shape again (e.g. Gandalf) and again and again (e.g. Sauron)...

P.S: "e.g." stands for exempli gratia ;)
 
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Walter

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Eogthea,
So let me get this straight... Gandalf is mortal before the battle with the Balrog but then becomes immortal after he returns to ME as Gandalf the White?
He was not mortal before the battle - he was a Maia (a spiritual being) who had assumed the physical form of a mortal man during the time he spent on Middle-Earth - and hence did not "become immortal" after the battle with the Balrog...
 
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Nazgul_Lord

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gandalfs mortality or lack there of

Gandalf's extended life time is due to the elven ring he wears, which just so happens to be one of the three elven rings of power. Since he is in a "physical form" he can be killed and that body can die of old age, but he would live on, but the elven ring extends that bodies life span. So he is mortal, but only in that body.
 
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Mula

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Originally posted by Walter
as we know from various examples the Maiar (e.g. Gandalf, Sauron, etc.) can take physical forms, even those of mortal men, but does that make them mortal? I should like to think "No" for they themself - the spiritual beings - don't die. Even when their mortal form is destroyed the spirit remains existent (I purposely don't say alive) and can even take physical shape again (e.g. Gandalf) and again and again (e.g. Sauron)...
But that would make humans immortal, too, because their spirits don't die but only go to Ilúvatar or somewhere.
 

Ciryaher

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Actually, Nazgul_Lord, Gandalf's elven ring was not mentioned as having any effect on his mortal form's lifespan. He was granted a mortal body for far longer a period of time then normal men had, so that he would have time to fulfill his Mission. His immortal spirit was only granted another mortal body because he was near to succeeding in his quest and he was the only Istar that was capable of doing so. Remeber that he said that his body was only temporary, until he finished his task.
 

Walter

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Originally posted by Mula
But that would make humans immortal, too, because their spirits don't die but only go to Ilúvatar or somewhere.
Good point, mula - and welcome to this forum, btw :)

I am not really sure whether there exists a final statement about that issue from Tolkien himself, but from the context in the LotR and the Silmarillion men are defined as mortal whereas elves and ainur are not.

It is one with this gift of freedom that the children of Men dwell only a short space in the world alive, and are not bound to it, and depart soon whither the Elves know not. Whereas the Elves remain until the end of days, and their love of the Earth and all the world is more single and more poignant therefore, and as the years lengthen ever more sorrowful. For the Elves die not till the world dies, unless they are slain or waste in grief (and to both these seeming deaths they are subject); neither does age subdue their strength, unless one grow weary of ten thousand centuries; and dying they are gathered to the halls ofMandos in Valinor, whence they may in time return. But the sons of Men die indeed, and leave the world; wherefore they are called the Guests, or the Strangers. Death is their fate, the gift of Iluvatar, which as Time wears even the Powers shall envy. But Melkor has cast his shadow upon it, and confounded it with darkness, and brought forth evil out of good, and fear out of hope. Yet of old the Valar declared to the Elves in Valinor that Men shall join in the Second Music of the Ainur; whereas Duvatar has not revealed what he purposes for the Elves after the World's end, and Melkor has not discovered it. --- Silmarillion Ch.1 Of the Beginning of Days
 

graen

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Gandalf mortal?

Excluding all the fine points of the specific definition of mortality, we do have 3 other examples of Maia and their "deaths" for lack of a better term.

The Balrog - we don't really get a good description of the Balrog's fate after his battle with Gandalf, but Gandalf doesn't seem to expect to see him again (even after his experiences with Sauron)

Sauron - Turns to dust, utterly destroyed

Saruman - Stabbed in the back by WormTongue with a normal blade. His soul seeks to return west, but is denied.

I think Saruman's is the best example of the mortality of Maia, having started of as an Istari as Gandalf did. Death was a possiblity.

As to the longevity of Gandalf, it had to come from some source other than his ring. There were 6 (?) other Istari who arrived with Gandalf, and none of them had problems with aging either.
 

Walter

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graen,

Your speculations about the "death" of some maiar are sure interesting, but being still a newbie in Tolkien's lore, I wonder if the Professor has actually written something that could suit as a proof for Your hypothesis that maiar are considered mortal...
 

lilhobo

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mortality to JRR is just having "living flesh"; elves can still die even if they can live for ever IF nothing else prevents it

PS. didnt saruman get his throat cut??
 

graen

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Written proof?

Walter,

Granted the description of the death of the Balrog is not clear. However, Tolkien's narration of Saruman's death at the end of LoTR was fairly clear.

I don't have the book in front of me, but I do recall that upon the death of his body, the soul attemped to return to the west, was rejected, and then disappated. How would you interpret that differently than as his ultimate demise?
 

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