In the Lord of The Rings trilogy, does anyone know how old Gandalf is? I remember reading that Gandalf was much older than he looked. Do the books ever say how old he is?

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    Can you be more specific? Gandalf is a maia so he has existed since before the world, he aided in the creation of the world, actually, so are you asking how old is he or how long has he been in middle earth? Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 4:27
  • google.com.au/…
    – Möoz
    Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 21:41
  • Older than the world, or even the universe.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 6:43
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    @IamVeryCuriousIndeed - but if you hadn't read the books (is it in the books? Or do you need to read The Silmarillion etc?) you wouldn't know that Gandalf was a maia. You would just think of him as a wizard. Nor would the fact that he could default a balrog be especially significant, as one would just think that's a big, flaming-whip wielding orc-like thing.
    – Steve Ives
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 13:25

9 Answers 9


Gandalf is a Maia (Spirit), created by Eru among the other Ainur before the Years of the Lamps roughly 9,000+ years before arriving in Middle-earth. In Valinor he was known as Olórin. He was sent to Middle-earth in human form around the year 1000 in the Third Age. That's more than 2000 years before the setting of The Lord of the Rings, to help the free peoples fight the evil of Sauron.

Gandalf walked in Middle-earth for approximately 2,019 years, un-aging and appearing as a grey bearded human of about 60 years old or so. He was around long before Middle-earth was created and before the Years of the Lamps. He, Saruman and Sauron are approximately the same age - give or take. It's difficult to pin down his true age because time had little relevance before the Lamps were set in place. 11,000 years old is a minimum figure. He's likely much older.

Timeline - Tolkien Gateway - Years of the Lamps

  • But isn't he referred to as "YOUNG Master Gandalf" by Treebeard in the Two Towers film? The ent must be older than Gandalf or at least Gandalf's human form.
    – TK-421
    Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 20:37
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    @TK-421 -He's referring to Gandalf's meager 2,000 years walking Middle Earth in 'human' form. Treebeard, also known as Fangorn, is much older than those 2,000 years but much younger than Olórin (Gandalf).
    – Morgan
    Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 20:54
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    @TK-421 - Letter 153: "Treebeard is a character in my story, not me; and though he has a great memory and some earthy wisdom, he is not one of the Wise, and there is quite a lot he does not know or understand".
    – user8719
    Commented Jul 2, 2014 at 21:17
  • Gandalf does age during his days in middle earth
    – user46509
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 20:57
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    There is NO way to tell how much time (if you can even think of it as time) passed between the time Eru created the Ainur and the music, the creation of Eä, and the Valar/Maiar's entry into it.
    – Spencer
    Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 23:04

The question is essentially unanswerable. Gandalf predates the creation of the world (Arda) and even the creation of the universe (Ëa). He existed before time did, and for the first few ages of his existence (probably most of his "life"), there was no way of keeping track of time.

This question makes as little sense to a Tolkien fan as the question "How old is god?" would to a devout Christian, Jew, or Muslim. In both cases, the age is literally so great that it cannot be quantified or measured in any meaningful sense.

The best we can do is to say 'He's so old that it is impossible to say say how old he is. He's so old that years weren't invented until he was already an "old man".' The only LotR characters who are about the same age as Gandalf are Sauron, Morgoth, and Eru Ilúvatar. In The Silmarillion, all the Ainur are roughly the same age as Gandalf. In a very real way, Gandalf is older than time itself. This is impressive, but not really unique in Tolkien's world. As I said, all the Ainur (we don't know how many of them there are, but it is probably in the dozens) are as old as Gandalf.

If you're asking how long he was in Middle-earth, the answer is "roughly 2,000 years".

  • The question is entirely answerable. The Maia Olorin predates earthly time, so can be called 'as old as the world'; Gandalf is very specifically the name for Olorin's embodied form which walked Middle Earth to oppose Sauron. Gandalf and Olorin are not interchangeable; one is a very distinct portion of the other's existence.
    – Werrf
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 14:43
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    You've missed the point; Gandalf is faaaar older than the world. Unanswerably older. I don't think your Olórin/Gandalf distinction can be supported.
    – Spencer
    Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 23:15

Like Morgan said, Gandlaf is a Maia (spirit). That means he doesn't age like normal humans do. He existed before the creation of the world. Gandalf came to middle Earth in T.A. 1000 and left at T.A 3021, so you could say that he was 2000 years on Arda.

He also can't die. This is why when he died fighting the Balrog he came back to life (to fulfill his mission -- defeating Sauron). When his mission is complete, he won't die. He will continue to exist as an ethereal Maia.

Age (as we perceive it) doesn't exist for Gandalf.

  • 7
    Didn't Illuvatar intervene directly to return Gandalf to Middle Earth after his mortal form perished with the Balrog?
    – TylerH
    Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 14:20
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    Die as we know it? Probably not, but his body in Middle Earth can be destroyed. As above it took an outside force to send him back to finish the job.
    – kleineg
    Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 15:29
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    @kleineg - actually yes; Letter 156: "Gandalf really 'died', and was changed..."
    – user8719
    Commented Jul 2, 2014 at 21:20

It is debatable whether any kind of age can be placed on Olórin, the ainu who became Gandalf. It seems that time of some sort existed in the Void where he was first created, since events progressed and changed; but at the same time, the void is also called the "Timeless Halls", and the ainur who entered the world did so "at the beginning of Time". So, from an earthly perspective, Olórin is as old as the world/universe.

Exactly how old that is in terms we would understand is unclear. The Silmarillion tells that the Valar and the Maiar laboured to build the world

in wastes unmeasured and unexplored, and in ages uncounted and forgotten, until in the Deeps of Time and in the midst of the vast halls of Eä there came to be that hour and that place where was made the habitation of the Children of Ilúvatar

So really, we can't put an age on Olórin, or any of the Valar or Maiar.

Gandalf, on the other hand, the embodied form of Olórin who walked Middle Earth to oppose Sauron...him we can date with reasonable precision.

From Appendix B of Return of the King, The Tale of Years, regarding the Third Age:

When maybe a thousand years had passed, and the first shadow had fallen on Greenwood the Great, the Istari or wizards appeared in Middle Earth. It was afterwards said that they came out of the Far West and were messengers sent to contest the power of Sauron, and to unite all those who had the will to resist him; but they were forbidden to match his power with power, or to seek to dominate Elves or Men by force and fear.

Exactly when Gandalf arrived is, as far as I have been able to find, nowhere directly stated; we know that he was the last of the Istari to arrive, and seemed the least impressive; we can assume something like the years 1000-1025 TA. He finally left Middle Earth with Bilbo and Frodo in 3021 TA, so I choose to believe he arrived in 1021 and stayed for exactly 2,000 years.

It's also worth noting that he never appeared young; none of the Istari did.

They came therefore in the shape of Men, though they were never young and aged only slowly

This 'aging' appears to have been related to the trials and difficulties they had to endure, rather than to time.


Listen closely in TFotR - Bilbo gives us a rough time frame of around the 1390s:

"1296 - very good year. Almost as old as I am!"

I'm not exactly sure of the life expectancy then, but it wasn't anywhere near 100 (due to war or illness, take your pick) - I went with 45 in my calculations and got Gandalf's age at 13'500. That isn't too far off the mark of another user's 'at least 11'000' all things considered.

  • This is just before Bilbo's 111th birthday, but Bilbo is a hobbit and an exceptionally long lived one. Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 10:32

If I'm thinking correctly, I don't remember if Gandalf says this in the books but in The Two Towers he mentions living 300 lives of men and still has no time when he heads to find Rohan's cavalry. So 30,000 years old? If you say the life of a man is 100 years each.


it says in the third movie, the return of the king, "I have walked the earth for 300 lives of men" so estimating 60 years for the lives of men it is about 18,000. So Gandalf is about 18,000 years old

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    This seems fairly similar to this answer, but with a different number for how old a man usually lives.
    – Mithical
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 16:53
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    This doesn't contribute abything new to exiting answers. Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 17:17

Gandalf states that he has walked the earth for 300 ages of men..taking the average age is about 70 years. Then Gandalf must have walked the earth foe close 25k years.

  • 3
    This lacks referencing and doesn't contribute anything new to existing answers. Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 21:26

He is 21000 years old. He says himself he has walked this earth "300 lives of men," according to Tolkien, the average life span of a man is 70 years. So, 300 times 70 is 21000 years.

  • Can you pin down this quote a little more specifically?  E.g., book and chapter, and/or a complete sentence? Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 6:19
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    Yes, some background would be helpful.
    – Adamant
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 7:17
  • Also, I’m having trouble finding that quote in the book.
    – Adamant
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 7:25
  • 1
    @PeregrineRook The line does not appear in the books; it's only in the film of Two Towers, when Gandalf mutters "300 lives of men I have walked this earth, and now I have no time!" It's not a helpful line for this question's purposes.
    – Werrf
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 14:51

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