W, after much pondering, is for wizard. Please note that I used the singular case for the noun, because I only intend to warble about one wizard. And if you’ve known me for longer than five minutes, you’ll know which wizard. Yessir, I’m a self confessed Gandalf groupie. I wish he wasn’t fictional.
“Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.”
Gandalf (please read that in the voice of Frodo welcoming him back to the Shire) has been a comforting presence for me for a very long time. It’s also what nextofkin and I called our grandfather when we were little. I’m going to thumbsuck and mine my mind for this one and factcheck afterwards.
If names have power (and I firmly believe that they do), then Gandalf has pretty much all bases covered. Olórin is the first of his names and it means dream. In Gondor he is called Mithrandir, the grey wanderer. Incánus has numerous meanings (in the South, North-spy, mind ruler), even Tolkien himself was unclear on the matter. The dwarves called him Tharkûn, which might reference ‘grey’ or ‘staff’. Despicable Grima Wormtongue called him Láthspell, which means ill news. And then there were his titles; off the top of my head, Gandalf the Grey, Gandalf the White, Gandalf Greyhame and Stormcrow. By the power of Google, we have The White Rider; his horse Shadowfax earned him that name. (I only missed three of those names before googling; my nerdy heart swelled with nerdy pride.)
His presence in the stories is a good, but not always a reassuring one, neither is it a simple or one dimensional one. He can inspire terror, admit to flaws, get angry and express doubt. His overall presence is positive and comforting though; “Look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day,” he declaimed and you know he will and of course he does, and the fact that he gets there at the last minute only serves to increase his awesomeness. Then there’s one of his best known quotes, “Fly, you fools!” while he keeps the balrog occupied. The flipside, obvious, is that his coming so often spells danger, but it’s not like he causes the danger dammit. In a fight, you’d want him on your side.
Fanboi much? I get grouchy about inspirational and motivational stuff, but whatever Gandalf says renders me solemnly attentive.
“Courage will now be your best defence against the storm that is at hand-—that and such hope as I bring.”
I can quote a lot of his dialogue, although books and films are muddled in my mind these days. There are some Gandalf references that my mother and I made often, there’s just a lot of important stuff. We never saw a moth without muttering at it to go and fetch Gwaihir. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us,” is something I said to my mother daily for weeks, and then her sudden turn for the worse raced to a death that none of us had foreseen, and the quote became even more heartbreakingly poignant. Thank you, Prof. Tolkien …
“I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.”
“Alas! there are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured.”
I think Sir Ian McKellen was perfect in the role and the fact that he’s queer (irl, not films) makes me happy too. It’s difficult to accept other representations of him as valid since he played the role – he really owned it as far as I’m concerned and I think Tolkien would’ve approved.
The image to your left is the version I grew up with. That and Bilbo’s Last Song were hanging up on most of the walls of my childhood. I stared hard at them and decided that if I lived in Middle Earth, I’d be one of the Rohirrim.
And if my poxy autocorrect tries to change Gandalf to Gaddafi one more time …