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Gandalf's Promotion

Did Gandalf need to die?

  • Yes

  • No

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Feb 15, 2016
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I've been wondering this for a while now, and haven't found any sort of answer or explanation, that being the nature of Gandalf the Grey becoming Gandalf the White (or Saruman)

As we know, Saruman has turned evil, is working in league with Sauron and hence probably is no longer (at least considered) the head of the Wizard order, resulting in Gandalf eventually replacing him. My first question: At what point does Saruman lose his status as the white wizard and head of the order? If this were to happen as soon as Saruman joined with Sauron, we would have to assume that there was no white wizard for a rather long period of time, in fact, until after Gandalf the Grey dies. Why was he not replaced sooner?

My next question: What would've happened if Gandalf didn't fall on the Bridge of Khazad Dum?
Saruman, being the most powerful wizard of the order establishes his power over Gandalf in FOTR while he is still the grey wizard. This serves to prove that Gandalf was more powerful after dying and coming back as Gandalf the White. So if he hadn't fallen on the bridge, he would not be powerful enough to overthrow Saruman's hold over Theodin, a pivotal moment in the trilogy. Why did Gandalf have to die in order to do this?

Finally: Who becomes the grey wizard? If Saruman is no longer in the order, and Gandalf becomes the white wizard, there is no longer a grey wizard. We know of the two blue wizards and the brown wizard, Radagast. Does the position of the grey wizard need to be filled as the white wizard was? If so, does this mean each wizard is promoted to fill these empty positions? If this was the case though, there would be a space at the bottom of the order. Who fills that?

Any theories or explanations for any of these questions are much appreciated



Mar 3, 2017
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The Undying Lands
It's my impression that Gandalf wouldn't necessarily HAVE TO die in order to become the White Wizard. However, presumably, he would have had to pass through a trial of some kind, after which he would be able to be "re-born" and thus become the White Wizard.

I think that because the work of the Istari was finished at the end of the Third Age, there wouldn't be any "new" grey wizard.

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