The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien


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  • Updated 17 June 2007
  • Updates planned: 2

Elf of the Wand

The origin of the name ‘Gandalf

The name given by the Men of the North to the Wizard who would visit them and offer council from time to time during the Third Age. He travelled mainly on foot, with the aid of a wooden staff, and due to his magical powers they presumed (incorrectly) that he was an Elf, so they knew him as the 'Elf of the Wand': Gandalf in their tongue.

Gandalf's name actually comes from Old Norse, used by Tolkien to represent the tongue of the Northmen. The etymology is from gandr, a magical staff (or spirit), and álfr, an elf. Tolkien's ultimate source for the name was the character Gandálfr, mentioned fleetingly in the Old Norse poem Völuspá, though in that poem 'Gandalf' was a Dwarf, not a Wizard.

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