When you think about the two most popular wizards in popular culture, it almost always comes down to Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series and Gandalf from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The debate about the superior wizard will never be settled, but if Dumbledore and Gandalf ever fought, who would win?
It would be a tough fight that depends on the circumstances, but Gandalf would win against Dumbledore more often than not. There’s a simple reason for it – Gandalf is a Maia, an immortal being with unfathomable powers, rather than a human wizard like Dumbledore.
Sure, both have exceptional magic skills. One might even say that Dumbledore is better at wielding magic and casting spells – at least with what we’ve seen in the movies. However, if you dig deeper into Rowling’s and Tolkien’s lore, you’ll learn there’s much more to Gandalf than meets the eye at first. Let’s compare the two to see who’d win the battle of two wizards.
Albus Dumbledore is a wizard, born in 1881, who lived for a good 115 years before being murdered at the Hogwarts Castle’s Astronomy Tower in 1997. The beloved headmaster was still vital, lucid, and nowhere near natural death, which speaks volumes, considering his age.
That goes to show that Dumbledore was not really just human. I mean, we know wizards and Muggles are both human – the former simply harness the magic within themselves, while the latter doesn’t. However, it seems that witches and wizards change, at least to an extent, in terms of physiology.
Now, that doesn’t mean Albus has supernatural durability, immortality, or anything similar. In fact, there’s nothing that would point to Dumbledore having higher durability than a regular human if he’s not using magic.
Make no mistakes; his physical attributes were far superior to a man of his age and stature, including his strength, speed, and ability. However, would Dumbledore survive if, let’s say, a lightning strike catches him off-guard? Maybe that’s a silly example, but you get my point – as powerful as he is, Albus, is still human.
That can’t be said for Gandalf, though. Gandalf is centuries old, and the fact is – he was never born. When he descended to Middle-earth, Gandalf was already an old man.
Yes, descended, because Gandalf isn’t human – he is one of the Maiar, powerful, angelic beings that the Valar sent into the world to balance the fight between good and evil, to guide and unite Men, Elves, and Dwarves in a fight against the Dark Lord and his forces.
You see, Gandalf’s true form is actually merely a spirit, a bodiless being with incredible magical powers. He, and other Maiar, appear as old, frail men not to reveal their true power and to have more credibility in the eyes of Men as a wise guide that points them in the right direction.
Gandalf is virtually immortal. The Valar, along with Iluvatar, the head creator of the world, can bring him back as many times as needed to accomplish his mission – to bring balance and peace to the world. We’ve seen that after the fight with Balrog, where Gandalf the Grey died but was brought back to life as Gandalf the White.
Long-story-short, immortality beats mortality, which is why Gandalf gets the first point over Dumbledore.
Point: Gandalf (1:0) Dumbledore
When I say displayed powers, I’m referring to the skillset and magical prowess the characters displayed in their respective film franchises. I think that the displayed powers between the characters are the reason why this is even a debate but bear with me.
Gandalf, as powerful of a wizard as he is, rarely displays his abilities to cast magic or spells throughout the films. We see some minor features, such as casting a beacon of light to repel the Nazgul or banishing Saruman from King Theoden’s mind. However, in most cases, we can see Gandalf fighting orcs with a sword or even his staff.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I was impressed with his combat skills. I mean, an old fellow like him slapping orcs across the head with a stick and surviving to see another day. When it comes to pure combat skills, I’m taking Gandalf. However, that’s not even a fraction of what he’s capable of.
On the other hand, we’ve seen Dumbledore do stuff that’s almost unimaginable to other wizards, let alone common folks. He’s the greatest sorcerer in the world, easily going against Lord Voldemort – a guy who literally divided his soul to achieve immortality.
Also, wandless magic is incredibly complex, and many wizards and witches can’t do it coherently, whereas Dumbledore does it seemingly without any trouble. He knows all the spells in to book, has all the wizarding skills, all the artifacts, creatures, and loyal subordinates. I wouldn’t take anybody over Dumbledore one-on-one.
In terms of the magical power and skill we’ve seen in the movies, Dumbledore trumps Gandalf – because the White wizard hadn’t displayed most of his powers in the films.
Point: Dumbledore (1:1) Gandalf
The debate about which of these two phenomenal magicians is the wiser would never end. They are both unfathomably intelligent wise, and without their guidance, the events transpiring in their respective universes would probably go down very differently.
One could argue that Gandalf is an angelic, almost god-like being, so his wisdom probably transcends that of a human being. However, when Gandalf was sent to Middle-earth, like the rest of the Maiar, he was instructed not to interfere in the conflict between good and evil further than needed to find the balance and serve as a guide.
His plans were always phenomenally constructed. The wise words and leadership he provided for the Fellowship are undisputable. However, he could never exert himself completely because he wasn’t allowed to interfere in such a way. That’s why he had to take huge risks, such as sending Frodo into Mordor.
On the other hand, Dumbledore had the prophecies helping him construct the plans to defeat the Dark Lord. He knew what needed to happen for them to win, way before it ever happened. That being said, the guidance and leadership he provides for young Harry Potter are immeasurable.
Who knows what Harry would’ve become if there weren’t for Albus to lead him through the dark times?
Any way you turn these two, they both deserve points for their wisdom, as it’s one of the main characteristics of both Gandalf and Dumbledore.
Point(s): Gandalf (2:2) Dumbledore
When it comes to the power potential of the two wizards, we’ve basically seen everything Dumbledore can do to the full extent. That includes an incredible number of spells, charms, magic skills, and knowledge unlike any other wizard of his time and beyond.
Dumbledore can store memories from his and others’ minds so that he would never forget them, transform, and transfigure into any form or shape, and think with such wisdom, he could almost predict the outcome of a fight before it even happens. Pretty impressive, right? Well, compared to what Gandalf could do with complete power freedom, Dumbledore is nothing.
As I mentioned, Gandalf is a Maia, an angelic, god-like being with spectacular powers. However, those powers are limited by the Valar – the creators of the world who sent the Maiar to live among people and guide them towards the balance between good and evil.
Gandalf, as well as other Maiar, can interfere only as much as it’s required to guide Men, Elves, Dwarves, and other folks through the battle against evil. However, they must not be the deciding factor, only guides, which is why their powers are limited. To unleash the full power of the Maiar would be dangerous.
Just hear this – the Maiar, in their full power, can move and think at any speed they wish. They can live at any imaginable pace. That means, if Gandalf, at his full power, wanted to move or think at a trillion times the speed of light, he could.
I mean, the guy fought a Balrog. An ancient, unfathomably powerful demon. They went one-on-one, and Gandalf won! Yes, he died in the fight, too, but then came back to life – even more powerful than he was before!
There’s nothing that Dumbledore can do that compares with some of the feats Gandalf had achieved – and could go even beyond, provided that his true power wasn’t restricted. Gandalf gets the point here, and it’s not even close.
Point: Gandalf (3:2) Dumbledore
I shall keep this category short and try to focus on the enemies they fought one-on-one. Dumbledore fought Lord Voldemort one-on-one several times, most notably in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and they fought to a stand-still. The only person who could truly defeat the Dark Lord was Harry, not Dumbledore, despite all his might and power.
He also fought Gellert Grindelwald, another powerful dark wizard, but chose not to kill him – instead, Albus spared his life and imprisoned Grindelwald. As powerful as the two dark wizards were – especially Voldemort – they were, still, human wizards, just like Dumbledore. One could argue that Voldemort wasn’t human anymore, but hey, he was Tom Riddle before.
On the other hand, you got Gandalf, who fought the Balrog. For reference, a Balrog is like a dragon, possessed with an ancient, mystical, magical demon. That kind of power is unfathomable – the beast could’ve easily destroyed the entire Fellowship of the Ring with one swipe – had it not been for Gandalf, who destroyed the creature himself.
Yes, he never fought Sauron alone, but this Dark Lord is above and beyond what Voldemort or Grindelwald ever was. Sorry, Albus, I’m a huge fan, but Gandalf would mop the floor with the Hogwarts headmaster.
Point: Gandalf (4:2) Dumbledore
Dumbledore Vs. Gandalf: Who Wins?
In the end, the answer is quite simple – Gandalf beats Dumbledore in virtually any scenario you might come up with. Dumbledore is a human wizard, and when he died, that was it. Gandalf, an angelic Maia, got resurrected, even more, powerful than ever.
The fight would be much closer with Gandalf’s restricted powers. However, I think he’d still win. Dumbledore has to rely on his wand to cast the most powerful spells, whereas Gandalf can do it with or without his staff. Plus, he’s much tougher physically and a better combatant if you take away the magic from both characters.
But, if Gandalf’s full power were unleashed and unrestricted, Dumbledore would be gone, and Gandalf could make himself a cup of tea and smoke some beautiful, fresh, Shire-grown pipeweed before his opponent even hit the ground.
In the end, I don’t think the two would even fight, but in a scenario where these two legends wouldn’t get along for some reason, Gandalf trumps Dumbledore through the floor.