In the first book of the LoTR, after his fight with the Balrog of Moria, Gandalf the Grey changed to Gandalf the White.

My question is, who made the decision to 'promote' him from grey to white? Was it Eru? Or was it the Ainu? Or was it the Valar?


1 Answer 1


After dying fighting the Balrog of Moria, Gandalf was "sent back" as Gandalf the White by Eru.

Here is an analysis of Gandalf's death and resurrection, but let me extract the relevant sentences from letter #156 (emphasis mine):

"For in his condition it was for him a sacrifice to perish on the Bridge in defence of his companions


He was handing over to the Authority that ordained the Rules, and giving up personal hope of success.


Gandalf really 'died', and was changed [...] He was sent by a mere prudent plan of the angelic Valar or govenors; 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'. Naked is alas! unclear. It was meant just literally, 'unclothed like a child' (not disincarnate), and so ready to receive the white robes of the highest.

Hopefully this shows that it wasn't the Valar who "sent Gandalf back", but a higher Authority "who ordained the Rules", and also that Gandalf was literally naked before this Authority, who gave him the "white robes of the highest".

This Authority above the Valar can be none other than Eru.

  • 19
    +1, also Gandalf's "I strayed out of thought and time" - especially "out of time" confirms that he had left Ea.
    – user8719
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 11:08
  • How did the elves of Lothlorien know to cloth him in white robes? Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 15:15
  • 1
    @Default_User Evidently a Maia's mortal body can die. Maiar like Gandalf are not of this world. As Tolkien explained, the decision to resurrect him as a mortal was made by Eru, and Eru also decided to promote him to Gandalf the White.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 18:52
  • 1
    @AndresF. No but a Maia spirit is supposed to outlast its body and remain in Arda. The gift of mortality was not given to any but Men. My question is why didn't Gandalf's spirit "escape" and stay in middle earth when his body was slain like what happened with Sauron and Saruman?
    – Valandil
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 19:01
  • 2
    @Default_User What evidence is there that Maiar are supposed to stay in Arda by default? I also don't see what role the gift of mortality is supposed to play here: after all, Hobbits, Dwarves, Orcs and Elves can be killed as well. Their spirits do not go "beyond" as Humans do, but that's besides the point. In any case, Tolkien himself told us what happened to Gandalf and who was responsible, thereby answering this particular question :)
    – Andres F.
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 19:58

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