I was so glad that I had read Lord of the Rings before the movies all appeared to color my view of the main characters, especially Gandalf. His first appearance, of course, is in The Hobbit when he turns up, one morning, outside Bilbo’s door. It was after breakfast and Bilbo Baggins was smoking a long wooden pipe when he saw the old man. The stranger (who was Gandalf, of course) wore a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak and a silver scarf. Gandalf had long bushy eyebrows that protruded further than the brim of his hat and a white beard which hung down below his waist. So, here I was (only on page 5!) and I was thoroughly hooked for life on this great character.
I like the Hobbits Frodo and Bilbo Baggins but my favorite Lord of the Rings character is Gandalf. Not the white one either, just plain old Gandalf the Grey.
Tolkien’s characters have been compared to other characters in fantasy fiction such as Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Bella Swan and numerous others but I don’t think that any of them can match Gandalf the Grey. I was not too happy when Gandalf turned white but the essence of his character remained the same.
Gandalf challenge to George
The American fantasy writer George RR Martin has been compared to J RR Tolkien and it has to be admitted that the range of characters in Martin’s ‘A Game of Thrones’ is as comprehensive as those existing in the Tolkien’s Middle Earth (home of the Hobbits). Tolkien’ s ‘Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy is somewhat romantic, nice and has a feel good effect on readers whereas Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series is full on, with a medieval brutality feel to it with sex, politics and knights of ill repute in the mix. There is no doubt that both writers are masters of characterization and plot. Perhaps its a case of the minor players differentiating between the two authors and it might come down to the lesser lights such as the Brandybucks and Tooks against the Freys and Wildings.
George R.R. Martin's character’s are family based and are developed in great detail. I like reading about The Starks, Lannisters, Daenerys Targaryen's dragons and even the Direwolves. The proof of how popular these characters are (wolves and dragons too) will not be known until the middle of the 21st century, when they have aged somewhat. This is the yardstick by which Tolkien is measured because Gandalf was first seen in print when The Hobbit appeared in 1937. He has since appeared on mugs, Lego, clothing, costumes, jewelry and as the king in themed chess sets. If anything, with The Hobbit Movie scheduled for release in 2012, Gandalf is better known now than ever before and is still being introduced to new fans every year. Even his fictional sword has its own name!
Fantasy fiction characters that endure like Gandalf
In the future will we remember Eddard Stark, Jamie Lannister or the rather more quirky characters like the Onion Knight? The HBO Game of Thrones TV series is sure to garner more readers of Martin’s epic fiction work called ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’. Perhaps it will be JK Rowling’s Harry Potter trying to take on the mantle of Gandalf.
I do hope that the great female fantasy fiction characters like Katniss Everdeen, Hermoine Grainger, Arya Stark, Bella Swan and Sookie Stackhouse will be remembered 75 years after they first appeared in print. We shall wait and see, but in the meantime Gandalf the Grey rules, OK!