Gandalf (as with all the Istari) did not have a corporeal form before coming to Middle-earth and was essentially ageless. We also know that Gandalf did age, albeit very slowly, while on Middle Earth. By the end of the Third Age (before battling Durin's Bane), he had the appearance of an old human male (non-Númenórean, etc) in his 70's or 80's. This leads me to wonder:

Is there any indication in Tolkien's writings that describes Gandalf's appearance (in human-looking years) when he arrived in Middle Earth? In other words, was Gandalf the Grey originally "Gandalf the Tall Dark & Handsome in his 20's"?

I'm not talking about his actual age, but rather his appearance in human years.

  • Istari did have a corporeal form in Valinor, like all the Maia and the Valar had. Olórin (as Gandalf was called in Valinor) lived in the gardens of Lórien.
    – Maksim
    Commented Jun 19, 2016 at 8:48
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of How old did the Istari look when they arrived? Commented Apr 16, 2017 at 15:49
  • @Gallifreyan - Since this question was asked almost a year ago and the dupe you cited was written a few days ago. I say the other question is a dupe of mine rather than mine is a dupe of the question asked a few days ago. Your comment makes it appear that I didn't search for dupes before asking. Yet I did check and there wasn't any when I checked last June, hence me asking the question. (I always check SFF first before asking anyway).
    – iMerchant
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 19:44
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    I didn't mean to imply you didn't search for duplicates (that's not what duplication is for anyway); I voted to close this question because the other one had a more encompassing answer (it seems to me). Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 19:47

1 Answer 1


He appeared elderly

When the Istari (including Gandalf), first came to Middle-Earth, they were in the guise of old Men:

Even as the first shadows were felt in Mirkwood there appeared in the west of Middle-earth the Istari, whom Men called the Wizards. None knew at that time whence they were, save Círdan of the Havens, and only to Elrond and to Galadriel did he reveal that they came over the Sea. But afterwards it was said among the Elves that they were messengers sent by the Lords of the West to contest the power of Sauron, if he should arise again, and to move Elves and Men and all living things of good will to valiant deeds. In the likeness of Men they appeared, old but vigorous, and they changed little with the years, and aged but slowly, though great cares lay on them; great wisdom they had, and many powers of mind and hand. Long they journeyed far and wide among Elves and Men, and held converse also with beasts and with birds....

The Silmarillion

Given the context, this seems to indicate that they appeared old from their first arrival. This would make sense, since the non-immortal races associated apparent age with wisdom, and would be more likely to heed an aged man than a fresh-faced youth.

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