After his fight with the Balrog of Moria, Gandalf changed:

Gandalf was sent back as a significantly more powerful figure; Gandalf the White.
- "Gandalf - Gandalf the White", Wikipedia

What are Gandalf's new powers as Gandalf the White? What feats could he accomplish that he was not able to perform as Gandalf the Grey?

  • 4
    Are you asking for a sort of "Gimme the powers' list" thing? :P
    – Alenanno
    Commented Mar 18, 2012 at 23:46
  • 8
    Short version - before, he was in an extra-limited human body, after, he regained SOME of the power of the Maiar that he was denied (on purpose) as G. the Gray. Commented Mar 19, 2012 at 4:25
  • 38
    I think of it as Gandalf "leveling up".
    – spong
    Commented Mar 19, 2012 at 6:26
  • 36
    for Gandalf, What does kill you makes you stronger
    – DavRob60
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 12:54
  • 8
    @b_jonas: Think in terms "death removes current debuffs; debuff 'mortal coil' removed."
    – SF.
    Commented Dec 25, 2012 at 22:01

6 Answers 6


Eru, the Authority, sent back Gandalf with additional power, knowledge and wisdom.

He 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. 'Naked I was sent back – for a brief time, until my task is done'. Sent back by whom, and whence? Not by the 'gods' whose business is only with this embodied world and its time; for he passed 'out of thought and time'.

Prior to Gandalf's return, he would not have been able to rescue Theoden by breaking Saruman's spell and inspiring and leading the Rohirrim. Nor would he have been able to face down Saruman, as originally Saruman had been the leader of the Istari and hence more powerful than Gandalf.

So Gandalf sacrificed himself, was accepted, and enhanced, and returned. 'Yes, that was the name. I was Gandalf.' Of course, he remains similar in personality and idiosyncrasy, but both his wisdom and power are much greater. When he speaks he commands attention; the old Gandalf could not have dealt so with Theoden, nor with Saruman. He is still under the obligation of concealing his power and of teaching rather than forcing or dominating wills, but where the physical powers of the Enemy are too great for the good will of the opposers to be effective he can act in emergency as an 'angel'

Gandalf's barring of the Witch-King from Minas Tirith is another example. Previously, he merely aided Elrond's flood in keeping the Nazgul from Rivendell. After his return he was able to single-handedly impede the Witch-King.

He alone is left to forbid the entrance of the Lord of Nazgûl to Minas Tirith, when the City has been overthrown and its Gates destroyed

Excerpts from Letter 156.

  • Do you have any source that states it is Eru and not the Valar that send Gandalf/Olorin back? As far as I was aware, Eru takes a very hands off approach to godhood and does not intervene at all within Arda. Commented May 11, 2012 at 7:34
  • 19
    It's also in Letter 156, stating that because Gandalf "passed out of thought and time", he had to have been sent back by "the Authority" (Eru) as this was beyond the abilities of the Valar.
    – dlanod
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 7:47
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    @acolyte: Eru is the only one that can create life. The Valars can (and did) restore several elves to life -- Golorfindel for example. Humans are move beyond Arda and thus cannot be returned -- that is Eru's gift to mankind. Maiar are bound to the world and thus under the control of the valars. Commented Feb 1, 2013 at 7:37
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    @Sardathrion I do not think the Valar can create life; the Elves are merely restored to life. Even Aulë couldn't give full life to his Dwarves; it was Eru who gave them sapience.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 7:10
  • 1
    Gandalf says Saruman is the leader of his order in the movies, and I believe this is right out of the books. The White Robes are for the leader, which is why Gandalf is contemptuous of "Saruman of Many Colors", and why he becomes the White Wizard himself on his return.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 18:20

Adding to @dlanod answer.

When I read the books the main feature that seemed to stand out the most as Gandalf The White, was his confidence on himself.

As The Grey he underestimated his powers, he never overdid it and he was VERY humble (this was one of the main reasons that the Valar sent him and the main reason he received Narya). As The White he still knows his limits but is far more daring and defying towards Saruman and Sauron (he frees Theoden and casts Saruman from the Order, he faces the Witch King, etc)


Gandalf the white is more powerful because the whole story is about the fall. The fall from grace, wisdon, loyalty...anything. Anything that sets the creator apart from the sub-creators, ie-Eru from Valar, Maiar, elves, men, etc. All the main characters experience a fall of some kind, some repent some don't, thus we observe the duality of good vs evil as polar expressions of divinity. This is a recurring theme. As Gandalf's "fall" is based on a sacrifice to the higher good (Eru), his re-embodiment is a divine blessing for the benefit of the sub-creators. He cannot conquer, only inspire. He cannot force anything to his will but he can use force to preserve the will of others. He is, in a sence, Eru! The Valar and Maiar are "the offspring of the thought of illuvitar". Which we can take to mean, aspects of the divine self. Gandalf the White is God, embodied and Sauron is mearly dancing to the divine tune. Gandalf's greatest power is his ability to know how Sauron will react. If you knew all the moves your opponent would make beforehand, could you really lose at chess? No. The overall message is the choice of the sub-creators to follow the wisdom of the creator. Frodo is the hero who trusted, had faith in, Gandalf. As is Sam, Aragorn, Theoden and even Butterbur. Who trusted Sauron?

  • Gandalf didn't know all Saurons moves beforehand,that's complete fantasy,he was constantly worried that Sauron would find Frodo.
    – turinsbane
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 17:13
  • -1 "Gandalf the White is God, embodied" - this is answer is an eccentric reading, placing a strange grid over the text of LOTR in my opinion. Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 14:43

Gandalf is overall more powerful as Gandalf the White. He is far more charismatic and has some limited foresight. He was able to defeat Saruman, breaking Saruman's power over Theoden and breaking his staff after the Ents took Isenguard. However, he was not all-powerful, seeing as the Witch-King of Angmar broke Gandalf's staff. Still, he is obviously more powerful, since, as Gandalf the Grey, he was defeated by Saruman, then he later broke his staff and cast him from the Istari and the White Council.

  • 1
    Gandalf staff is only broken in the movies. In the books Saruman's staff is broken by Gandalf but it is implied that does not happen by brute force but rather as a consequence of Saruman's betrayal.
    – Rad80
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 14:23

Gandalf was more powerful as white than grey. His wisdom as well as his magical powers and his physical powers were all increased. He basically was now Saruman (like he said). He was the new White Wizard and was as powerful as Saruman was. Saruman lost a great deal of his power and was cast from the order.


Gandalf was sent back by , I assume, the Valar, who sent him in the first place. This is because he had not yet finished his task, which was to oppose Sauron and save Middle-Earth from him. The fact that he was sent back as a white wizard, instead of a gray, would tell you something if you had done your research. The "wizards", or Istari, are ranked by color of their robes. Saruman has white robes because he is the most powerful. Gandalf has grey, because he is less powerful, but still one of the most powerful, possibly the second most powerful of the five. When he was sent back to Middle-Earth as a white Istari, he gained a significant amount of power that came with the rank, or the other way around, however you see it. So, it is expected that he would be more powerful after his return.

  • 2
    Hi @DMG007! You're probably getting downvotes because of the aggressiveness of your answer, and also because you don't cite any references for your assertions.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 2:33
  • @AndresF. he's also wrong. The Valar didn't send him back, only Eru has that power.
    – acolyte
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 18:08
  • Have you got any proof?
    – MadTux
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 8:18
  • @AndresF. - it's a work of fiction. What sort of references would you be looking for here? Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 5:41
  • 2
    @JonKiparsky Hi Jon! I suggest you read the FAQ and guidelines for this site. Works of fiction have references, of course (the actual work, author interviews, etc). In this site we discourage pure speculation and personal opinion, and encourage actual references.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 16:13

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