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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes
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Gandalf the Grey is one of three wizards who appear in The
Lord of the Rings. The other two are Saruman the White
and Radagast the Brown. Gandalf seems to be a more
dignified character in The Lord of the Rings than he was in
The Hobbit. In Rivendell he is revealed as an imposing
figure of great power that he uses for unselfish purposes.
He says that he's a steward over all living things, and he
works to protect them from evil.

Whereas Saruman is tempted to use his power to further his
own ends, Gandalf is content to help others in their
struggles against evil, placing himself in the service of all
who need him. This is viewed by some readers as a
Christian image and they interpret Gandalf as being
saintlike. (It should be pointed out that such selflessness is
considered a virtue by many religions, and also by many
nonreligious people. It need not be interpreted as a
Christian idea.) Like Frodo, Gandalf sacrifices himself for
the sake of others, apparently dying in his fight with the
Balrog, and later being resurrected. Tolkien once said that
Gandalf is an angel. But it is not clear if he meant it
literally, or meant only that Gandalf was similar to an
angel, someone with great power who is sent as a guardian.

Some people argue that Gandalf is the true hero of the
book. He has been opposing Sauron for ages, whereas
others such as Frodo and Aragorn appear only near the end
of the long battle against evil. Throughout the story,
Gandalf works behind the scenes, guiding the others and
making it possible for them to fulfill their roles in the
struggle. When the ring is destroyed, Gandalf's long
guardianship of Middle-earth is at last over. With Frodo, he
passes over the sea to the Blessed Realm.

Gandalf can be compared to Merlin the magician, who
appears in Arthurian legend. Like Gandalf, Merlin doesn't
use his powers to further his own ends, but instead acts for
the good of England, which is threatened with internal
conflict and with conquest by foreigners. He acts as a
councilor, sometimes using his magic to help things along,
but never using it in any outright attempt to force events to
follow his will. Gandalf's relationship with Aragorn is
comparable to Merlin's relationship with Arthur, whom
Merlin helps to win the throne of England and establish a
lasting peace.


Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor, is the personification of
evil in The Lord of the Rings. He is also referred to as the
Necromancer in The Hobbit. Tolkien's only physical
description of him is as a lidless red eye. This serves to
heighten the sense of dread surrounding him, more than any
other description could. Through Sauron, Tolkien offers his
own ideas about evil: that nothing started out evil, that evil
cannot create but can only pervert, that evil cannot
comprehend good and so cannot predict the actions of
good, and that evil destroys free will. Through the power of
the Ring, Sauron intends to enslave the inhabitants of

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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - Barron's Booknotes

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