Why does Lord Elrond call and refer to Mithrandir as Gandalf? Suggesting that it is because he is (only) half-elven would seem illogical, IMHO.

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    Because that’s his name? As far as I can recall, he does call him Mithrandir when talking to him in Sindarin; presumably he just prefers using Westron names when speaking in Westron. He also calls the place where he lives Rivendell when speaking in Westron, rather than Imladris. Commented Jul 29, 2018 at 8:54
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    Why does my daughter call me "daddy" and not "Steve"? Because I asked her to.
    – Steve-O
    Commented Jul 29, 2018 at 12:31
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    Supporting @Janus' observation is the fact that the elves always sought phonetic harmony in live speech; so that, for example, when elves with Quenya names came to Middle-Earth's Sindarin-speaking areas, they devised Sindarin-type names for themselves, either by translation or by adapting the sounds to the general Sindar feel. It stands to reason that when speaking Adûnaic an elf would prefer Adûnaic names, rather than injecting the foreign Sindarin phonemes. Even in their own tweaks of the Elvish languages, global harmony was always important (source: The History of the Middle-Earth v. 12). Commented Jul 29, 2018 at 14:55
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    Janus good observation on Rivendell; we might also wonder why the swarves are also calling him Gandolf when it might well be Tharkûn....I don;t want to seem like I am "picking" on JRR, I am just curious. Of course this would make more sense if we were just talking about film and continuity, yet the book obviously first. That continuity might explain it, however I'm a bit surprised the conversation did not even warrant a footnote Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 12:17

2 Answers 2


Not only Elrond uses 'Gandalf' rather than 'Mithrandir'. Galadriel too calls him 'Gandalf':

"Gandalf the Grey set out with the Company, but he did not pass the borders of this land." (LotR II 7 - The Mirror of Galadriel)

And Celeborn follows suit in the same scene:

"If it were possible, one would say that at the last Gandalf fell from wisdom into folly" (ibid)

Lothlórien's elves use 'Mithrandir' when singing in Sindarin:

Often they heard nearby Elvish voices singing, and knew that they were making songs of lamentation for his fall, for they caught his name among the sweet sad words that they could not understand. Mithrandir, Mithrandir sang the elves (ibid)

This evidence would support the idea that, like @Janus says in the comment, the Elves used 'Mithrandir' when speaking in Sindarin, and 'Gandalf' when using Westron.

Legolas addresses Gandalf as 'Mithrandir' twice, seemingly when he should have used 'Gandalf' (if the above hypothesis is correct), but both are exclamations of surprise, when one might slip into one's most accustomed mode rather than what might be considered "most appropriate". First, when they believe Gandalf dead and themselves followed by Saruman:

The old man was too quick for him. He sprang to his feet and leaped to the top of a large rock. There he stood, grown suddenly tall, towering above them. His hood and his grey rags were flung away. His white garments shone. He lifted his staff, and Gimli's axe leaped from his grasp and fell ringing on the ground. The sword of Aragorn, stiff in his motionless hand, blazed with a sudden fire. Legolas gave a great shout and shot an arrow high into the air: it vanished in a flash of flame.

'Mithrandir!' he cried. 'Mithrandir!'

'Well met, I say to you again, Legolas!' said the old man.

(LotR III 5 - The White Rider)

In the same conversation a bit later, when he is calmer, he uses 'Gandalf':

"It would ease my heart, Gandalf, to hear what befell you in Moria."


And again, when Gandalf comes to break the siege on Helm's Deep:

'Behold the White Rider!' cried Aragorn. 'Gandalf is come again!'

'Mithrandir, Mithrandir!' said Legolas. 'This is wizardry indeed!'

(LotR III 7 - Helm's Deep)

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    And that first one from RotK ch 5 is a mere exclamation with no other words in either language, so Legolas was arguably merely speaking in Sindarin, falling back on his original language in the excitement. Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 7:38
  • None of the sections referenced in this answer are from RotK though
    – IG_42
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 20:36
  • @IG_42 The Two Towers is what the above comment refers to. Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 21:19
  • I know but the first comment mentions RotK when referring to book 3 chapter 5 which is of course part of Two Towers
    – IG_42
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 22:49
  • Galastel, well reasoned @janus sorry I forgot to link you above in my response. Galastel there is not really anything but logical seculative answers to this question (as you know) I just thought it was worth a footnote...:-) Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 12:26

Gandalf himself says:

"Many are my names in many countries. Mithrandir among the Elves, Tharkûn to the Dwarves, Olórin I was in my youth in the West that is forgotten, in the South Incánus, in the North Gandalf; to the East I go not."

So, the Elves use the name that they know those around will know him by. If I have a friend called James who amongst my friends is known as Sheamus but I am talking to someone who I know knows him as James then I will say how is James or where is James. In the same way the Elves call him Mithrandir in their own language or when talking to people who know him as such, but will use Gandalf when talking to those who don't know him.

In relation to the second part of your question Gandalf is not Elvish at all, so being a half-elf is certainly not the reason. In fact Gandalf is a Maia, which is the equivalent of an Angel, served the Middle-earth version of Gods, the Valar, and was sent/came to Middle-earth to combat the power of darkness. Only the Elves know his true form.

  • You have some errors/dubious claims in your answer, firstly the Valar aren’t really gods, as they’re not omniscient, they’re more like archangels. Secondly, not all Elves were aware of Gandalf’s true form, only the Wise knew from whence he came.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 9:44
  • A discussion about the Valar is better served for anouther post, the OP seems to indicate he thinks Gandalf might be a half elf from the question so I was trying to clarify that he is anything but a half elf. I have updated my answer regarding that not all elves knew, I did mean that but maybe wasnt explicit enough.
    – Richard C
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 10:40
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    The OP actually indicates Elrond is half-elven, which is absolutely true. Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 12:18
  • ahh I mis understood, I thought they where refering to Gandalf being half elven, apologies
    – Richard C
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 13:25
  • 1) Lord Elrond is the half elven NOT GANDOLF a) Lord Elrod calls him Gandolf b) the dwarves call him Gandolf MY POINT IS that as a leader of elves Lord Elrond should be calling him ; just as the dwarves should be calling him, Tharkûn , yet they also call him Gandolf. I respectfully do not agree with your "So the elves" paragraph, because there are plenty of references throughout where he is being called Gandolf when he is one on one.@Edlothaid, cheers Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 12:35

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