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Tolkien’s Legendarium is one of the biggest, most popular and most interesting fictional universes we have. It is – in a way – the epitome of a fantasy-based universe and served as a prototype for all later similar universes that are part of the fantasy genre. Tolkien’s universe has a lot of mysteries and while some of them are unclear, there are some that are solved but need further clarification. In today’s article, we are going to tell you the story of Gandal’s many names that are simultaneously used around Middle-earth, focusing specifically on one of them – Mithrandir. If you’re interested in how and why Gandalf got this name, keep reading our article!
Mithrandir is a Sindarin name used by the Elves to refer to Gandalf and since Gandalf can speak Sindarin, he also often uses that name. “Mithrandir” means “Grey Pilgrim” or “Wanderer” in Sindarin, which is a reference to Gandalf’s character.
In today’s article, you are going to find out why Gandalf is called Mithrandir and by who. Also, you’re going to find out what his other names used in Middle-earth are. Enjoy!
Why is Gandalf called Mithrandir?
Gandalf is certainly one of the best-known (if not the best-known) characters from Tolkien’s Legendarium. The wise wizard has been around, helping the protagonists of Tolkien’s major stories and has, because of that, become one of the most beloved characters in the whole franchise. Gandalf’s history is quite long and since this is not an article about his adventures, we’re not going to take up your time talking about that.
What interests us today, in particular, is one of Gandalf’s many names – Mithrandir. On several occasions throughout the books (and the movies), Gandalf is not called Gandalf, but rather Mithrandir. Mithrandir is obviously used as his name, but since it’s in an unknown language, people often wonder why he is called like that and what that name actually means.
This video shows us one such situation, where Galadriel addresses Gandalf as Mithrandir. Now, Mithrandir is most certainly an Elven word or, to be more precise, a Sindarin phrase used by the Elves to address Gandalf. Sindarin is one of many Elven languages in Tolkien’s stories and is also called “Grey-Elvish” or “Grey-Elven” in English; it was the language of the Grey Elves of Beleriand. These were Elves of the Third Clan who remained behind in Beleriand after the Great Journey. Their language became estranged from that of their kin who sailed over sea.
Now, Gandalf, as someone who can speak many languages, understood the meaning of the phrase and since it described him well, it is only natural for him to accept it, even use it from time to time. Namely, in Sindarin, the phrase “Mithrandir” means “Grey Pilgrim” or “Wanderer”, which is actually a brilliant and very accurate description of Gandalf and one of his roles in the stories.
The name is pronounced as [miˈθrandir], and it comes from the words mith (“grey”) and randir (“pilgrim, wandering man”). Since Gandalf is known as Gandalf the Grey and he often wanders around Middle-earth, it is only natural for the Elves to call him a “Grey Pilgrim”, since he is exactly that.
Who calls Gandalf Mithrandir?
As we have said, Gandalf has many names, with the latter being his most famous one, used by the Men and Hobbits; it is also used in modern-day English, so there’s that. Still, a lot of people in Middle-earth refer to Gandalf as Mithrandir and we have managed to find all those that used this name in the books and their adaptations.
If you remember the video from above, you’ll know that Galadriel referred to Gandalf as Mithrandir, but some other Elves also used this name, like Lindir and Thranduil, as was witnessed in the cinematic adaptations of The Hobbit. As far as other peoples are concerned, the men of Gondor also referred to Gandalf as Mithrandir in the cinematic adaptation of The Return of the King.
What are Gandalf’s other names?
We have already said that Gandalf has many names, depending on the region or the people who refer to the powerful wizard. We have already explained the usage of the names Gandalf and Mithrandir, but we have also decided to bring you a list of all the other names that Tolkien’s characters have used to refer to the wise wizard. Here we go:
- Olórin, Gandalf’s actual name used in Valinor, where he comes from. It was originally spelled “Olórion“, but Tolkien later changed it to its current form. It is Quenya, and its meaning is associated with the Quenya word olos or olor, meaning “dream” or “vision / of mind”.
- Incánus, the name by which Gandalf is known in the south, assuming that “south” means no further south than Gondor or the Near Harad. The etimology of this name is still unclear and there are several possible interpretations as to its true meaning. Thain’s book simply states that it is a Quenya form simply adapted from a word in the tongue of the Haradrim: Inkā-nūsh (or possibly Inkā-nūs), meaning “North-spy”. It could also be an archaic Quenya word meaning “Mind-ruler”, from in(id)– (“mind”) and cáno (“ruler, governor, chieftain”), or a simple adaptation from Quenya incānus(se), meaning “mind mastership”. In real-world Latin, the term means “grey-haired”, which might have been an inspiration for the name, although Christopher Tolkien has stated that it might have been a mere accident.
- Tharkûn, the name that the Dwarves use to address Gandalf; it’s original spelling was “Sharkûn“, but Tolkien later changed it. Tharkûn is Khuzdul, meaning either “Grey-man” or “Staff-man”. The word possibly derives from the unattested word thark “staff” + a nominal ending -ûn.
- Láthspell, a name given to Gandalf by Gríma Wormtongue when the former arrived at Meduseld. The word actually translates to “ill news” in Old English, which comes from láð meaning “causing hate, evil, injury” and spell meaning “story, message”.
Alongside these names, Gandalf also has many nicknames such as The White Rider, Gandalf the Grey, Greyhame and Stormcrow.
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we gave you all the information you were looking for! See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!