How Old is Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings?

One of the oldest, most mysterious characters in Tolkien's universe.

by J.R. Waugh


Gandalf is one of the most iconic characters of the genre-defining Lord of the Rings series. He is a wise, powerful wizard who most notably was an ally to both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins during their respective journeys, and despite these journeys being 60 years apart, he appears not to have aged between both times. But unlike the Elves, Gandalf has assumed an aged form, as opposed to retaining his youthful appearance for all this time. But How Old is Gandalf in The Lord of the RingsRead on to find out!

How Old is Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings?

Gandalf, originally named Olórin, being an immortal Maia who was created by Eru Ilúvatar, is at least 12,032 years old by the beginning of The Lord of the Rings, and could even be as old as 24,000. Having existed before the Music of the Ainur as rendered in Arda’s creation story, he served  Manwë, Varda, Irmo, and Nienna, Valar who helped shape who he was as a character in Tolkien’s mythology. He only appeared in Middle-earth during the Third Age, around TA1000. He has consistently maintained the image of an elderly, grey-haired, and bearded man, initially with grey robes and a pointy hat with a staff, which would later change to white robes, a cleaner appearance, and an ornate white staff from his resurrection after fighting Durin’s Bane.

Despite Gandalf’s aged appearance, he is a powerful, gifted wizard, and has walked along with the various free peoples of Middle-earth, earning different names from many of them. When he was among the Elves, they dubbed him ‘Mithrandir,’ which meant “The Grey Pilgrim,” ‘Tharkûn’ being his given name by the Dwarves, and along with ‘Incánus,’ he was called Gandalf by the Men of Middle-earth, which eventually stuck more than any other name.

Why Does Gandalf Appear Old?


Gandalf was given the appearance of an old man when he went to Middle-earth as Olórin from the Undying Lands. This was by Ainur design as a way to prevent as much attention from being drawn by them, as well as a wise appearance and to not present a threat to the peoples of Middle-earth. His time with Manwë gave him the courage to stand up to Sauron, the power of light and fire with Varda, hope with Irmo, and mercy from Nienna, which he would impart upon fellow travelers during his time in Middle-earth.

Gandalf has cleverly taken advantage of his old appearance to gain the upper hand, such as disguising himself as a simple elder in the films to appear before a possessed Theoden and cast out Saruman’s influence.  Gandalf is a man of many hats in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and although he doesn’t appear in the Second Age, the sudden appearance of the Meteor Man in The Rings of Power certainly has viewers speculating as to whether or not it is him. This is unlikely unless it’s a high-profile retcon, but viewers are excited to see where this goes next.

This concludes our answer to the question, How Old is Gandalf in The Lord of the RingsBe sure to check out more stories like this in our entertainment column!

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power premiered exclusively on Amazon Prime Video on September 1, 2022, with a 2-episode premiere. The first season will have 8 episodes total, so check every Friday for new content!

- This article was updated on September 7th, 2022

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