We know that the Wizards were one of the most influential figures in Middle-earth during the time of the Third Age because they were responsible for helping the different races in their efforts against Sauron. Of course, Gandalf was the most heroic out of all of them because he was the one that had an active role during the War of the Ring. That’s because he was specifically sent to Middle-earth to help get rid of Sauron once and for all. But when did Gandalf come to Middle-earth?
Gandalf and the rest of the Wizards arrived on Middle-earth at around the 1,000th year of the Third Age. The mission of the Wizards was to help the people of Middle-earth against the dark malice of Sauron. Originally, Gandalf didn’t want to go because he feared Sauron but was ultimately chosen by Manwë himself.
We all know that Gandalf plays a huge role in the events of the Third Age because of how he was able to make friends all over Middle-earth and was able to guide the people in their efforts against Sauron. Nevertheless, it does seem like his origin story in The Rings of Power will be changed, depending on the identity of the Stranger. Now, let’s look at when Gandalf arrived in Middle-earth.
What Was Gandalf Before He Became A Wizard?
Throughout the entire course of The Lord of the Rings, one of the things that we saw was the fact that Gandalf was an incredibly important figure in Middle-earth because he was able to influence the course of history by helping the people in their efforts against Sauron. As a Wizard, he possessed great power, wisdom, and knowledge, which were all enough to make him an asset in the efforts of the Men, Elves, Dwarves, and even Hobbits in the War of the Ring.
But while we do know that he walks Middle-earth as an old man, we also know that he has been around for a very long time and has lived longer than any human being. That’s because he is not an ordinary man but simply looks like one. In fact, he was sent to Middle-earth as a wise old man dressed as a Wizard but was something more than that before he made his way to the mortal plane. So, what was Gandalf before he became a Wizard?
Before he became an old Wizard that traveled all over Middle-earth, Gandalf was one of the Maiar, which are spirits that are subordinate to the Valar in the Undying Lands. He lived as a Maia Olórin and was regarded as the wisest of all of the Maiar in Valinor. He was also created by Eru Ilúvatar together with the Valar during the Music of the Ainur, and that means that Gandalf is as old as time itself.
When Did Gandalf Come To Middle-earth?
While Gandalf lived most of his entire life in Valinor because he had existed as one of the Maiar during the dawn of time, he did eventually come to Middle-earth when Manwë, the King of the Valar, decided that he would send a few Maiar to Middle-earth because Sauron’s malice was still influential, despite the fact that the dark lord didn’t have the One Ring in his possession.
After Sauron’s defeat in the Second Age, his spirit still persisted, albeit weak. That was why the armies of Mordor were still running rampant throughout Middle-earth and were terrorizing people. On top of that, some of Sauron’s top agents, such as the Witch-King, were still spreading his dark influence throughout the lands.
That was when Manwë realized that the aid of the Valar was necessary to finally get rid of Sauron once and for all. He called for volunteers to be sent to Middle-earth as agents of the Valar. These came in the form of the Maiar that served the Valar in Valinor. Curumo, who would later become Saruman, was the first to volunteer and became the leader of the Wizards. However, Manwë summoned Olórin, who didn’t want to go to Middle-earth because he feared Sauron.
But it was the fact that Olórin feared Sauron that made Manwë believe that he had more reasons to go to Middle-earth than any of the other Maiar. As such, Olórin was sent to Middle-earth shortly after Curumo (Saruman the Wise) and Aiwendil (Radagast the Brown). Like all of the other Maia sent to Middle-earth, he was given the form of an old man.
Eventually, the Maiar that were sent to Middle-earth were called Wizards by the people and eventually adapted their own mortal names. That was when Olórin started referring to himself as Gandalf, the Grey Wizard. Ever since getting sent to Middle-earth at around TA 1000 or the 1,000th year of the Third Age, he began traveling the lands but restricted himself to the Westlands.
Unlike Saruman, Gandalf never took up permanent residence and was mostly traveling Middle-earth throughout his entire life to meet new people and make friends. That is why he was the most popular Wizard in The Lord of the Rings. He continued doing so for 2,000 years until he had to assist the Fellowship of the Ring in the efforts to destroy the One Ring during the War of the Ring near the end of the Third Age.
Of course, this is all based on JRR Tolkien’s writings, as we all know that The Lord of the Rings was based on the book of the same name by the legendary author. The thing is that there is a good chance that this will be changed in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, especially with the identity of the Stranger still up in the air.
The Stranger, who met the Harfoot named Nori, was obviously not from Middle-earth because he came to the lands as a ball of flame that landed near the settlement of the Harfoots. When he met Nori, he didn’t know how to speak the common language and was seemingly capable of magical things, especially when he used the fireflies to tell Nori where he wanted to go. And the first word he ever learned was “friend,” which is a word that Gandalf often uses.
In that regard, there is a good chance that the Stranger in The Rings of Power is Gandalf himself or, at the very least, is a Maia that was sent to Middle-earth to resist Sauron’s machinations. But the problem here is that The Rings of Power takes place during the middle of the Second Age. As we all know, Gandalf and the other Wizards were only sent to Middle-earth in TA 1000.
Does Gandalf Remember Coming To Middle-earth?
Regardless of whether or not the Stranger is Gandalf, one of the things that we know is that Gandalf was aware of his divine status as one of the Maiar. But the problem is that he didn’t fully remember his life when he was still in Valinor.
That’s because, before he became Gandalf, Olórin was a literal spirit that existed in the Undying Lands. Being made into being with flesh transformed his very nature, and as Tolkien said in his writings, Gandalf being made flesh clouded his memory. That was because he was made human (albeit immortal) and had most of the limitations that regular humans have. This includes a mind that’s capable of forgetting, as he did live on Middle-earth for over a thousand years.
On top of that, Gandalf himself said that he had forgotten some of the things that he knew when he was still a Maia. This happened when he returned after his death at the hands of the Balrog, as he himself said:
“I have passed through fire and deep water, since we parted. I have forgotten much that I thought I knew, and learned again much that I had forgotten. I can see many things far off, but many things that are close at hand I cannot see.”
This statement implies that he was only able to regain some of his memories as a Maia when he died in the battle against Durin’s Bane. But being recalled to Middle-earth as Gandalf the White allowed him to remember some of those details.
So, if the Stranger is indeed Gandalf, there is a good chance that this was the “first time” he was sent to Middle-earth to assist the people in their efforts against Sauron. But he simply forgot about this fact the second time he was sent to Middle-earth during the Second Age when Sauron was still very much a threat. Nevertheless, this can all be answered when The Rings of Power finally reveals who the Stranger is.