When Gandalf comes back alive after dying in The Lord of the Rings, why does he come back as the white wizard not the grey wizard? Am I correct that it is because Saruman had become evil?

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    Do you perhaps mean that it is because Saruman had become evil?
    – Adamant
    Jun 28, 2016 at 19:54
  • @Valorum Similar, but I'm not comfortable closing it; "Who" is not the same as "why", and Andres' answer doesn't really explain why Eru chose to bring him back Jun 28, 2016 at 19:57
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    @JasonBaker Would scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/51949/… be a better dupe target?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jun 28, 2016 at 20:05
  • 1
    @Randal'Thor I like that one better, but not enough to hammer it. I'm leaving it to the community to decide Jun 28, 2016 at 20:18
  • 2
    Because the White Witch was already taken.
    – Adamant
    Jun 28, 2016 at 20:25

2 Answers 2


Tolkien addresses this in Letter 156:

[Gandalf] was the only person who could direct the resistance to Sauron successfully, and all his mission was vain.


The 'wizards', as such, had failed; or if you like: the crisis had become too grave and needed an enhancement of power. [...] [Gandalf] was sent by a mere prudent plan of the angelic Valar or governors; but Authority had taken up this plan and enlarged it, at the moment of its failure.

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 156: To Robert Murray, SJ (draft). November 1954

Gandalf's promotion was a decision made by God to offset the growing power of Sauron and the waning power of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth.

  • Is Eru/Illuvatar ever referred to as "God" with a capital G by Tolkein? Jun 28, 2016 at 22:14
  • 2
    @ToddWilcox Not often, but occasionally; letter 131, for instance: "The cycles begin with a cosmogonical myth: the Music of the Ainur. God and the Valar (or powers: Englished as gods) are revealed." This question is also instructive Jun 28, 2016 at 22:26

Gandalf came back as the white wizard because the current white wizard (Saruman) had turned his back on what the Istari were meant to be doing in Middle-earth and had joined Sauron in his goal of domination of Middle-earth.

Because Saruman had abandoned his purpose Eru appointed Gandalf to be the next white wizard. This allowed Gandalf to shatter Sarumans' staff and take the mantle of white wizard instead of grey. Becoming the white wizard meant that Gandalf was the head of the Istari sent to Middle-earth.

  • 1
    That's 'Saruman', not 'Sauruman'!
    – vascowhite
    Jun 28, 2016 at 20:09
  • 1
    @vascowhite Well, the OP said Sauron instead of Saruman, so ...
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jun 28, 2016 at 20:20
  • Source for the ranking? I've never heard that bit before, only that Saruman was the first one sent and Gandalf was the last
    – sharur
    Jun 28, 2016 at 22:35
  • @sharur not able to find anything conclusive at the moment except that Saruman the White was the most powerful lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Wizards will have a proper look when I get home... There is always the possibility that What I said is worng
    – Theyna
    Jun 28, 2016 at 22:53
  • @sharur I cannot seem to find any cannon source for power 'ranks' of the Istari (except that White was the head of the order) only general conjecture and usually some level of agreement. In fact Tolkien seems to be deliberately vague on how much power the Istari have in comparison with each other. So I will remove that part from the answer I had.
    – Theyna
    Jun 29, 2016 at 5:26

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