Gandalf versus Gandalf


OK I have had these two figurines sat atop my desk now for a long time. Here they are:

Gandalf the Grey - Tolkien - Lord of the RingsGandalf the White - Tolkien - Lord of the Rings - Ian McKellen - Peter Jackson

What struck me is how the general public’s visualization of the character Gandalf, from J.R.R.Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ has been greatly impacted since the release of Peter Jackson’s staggering movie adaptation of the book trilogy starring Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf.

Prior to this movie, and Ian McKellen’s portrayal as Gandalf, the typical mental picture painted by the Gandalf character, both from reading the books and seeing past artists renditions of their interpretation, led us to see him much more in the traditional ‘wizard’ style.

Note the first picture which is a figurine produced many years ago, long before Peter Jackson’s adaptation. The figurine depicts Gandalf the Grey with his staff and sword and the traditional wizard’s hat. Note the basic design of his flowing robes. Nothing fancy there. If my memory serves me correctly, these robes changed little (other than colour) after Gandalf ascended to become Gandalf the White.

Now look at the second picture and we see what is clearly a replica of Ian McKellen from his movie portrayal as Gandalf the white. However, the fundamental changes here are a) the absence of the hat, b) a more youthful interpretation of the Istari and c) a noticeably shorter beard.

This all means absolutely nothing, of course, except for the fact that it suddenly dawned on me that even in my own mind, my mental interpretation of the Gandalf character has gone from the old to the new. Which is remarkable considering I had read the trilogy 3 times before I was 20 years old and my mental picture remained the former interpretation until the release of Peter Jackson’s movie.

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