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This question already has an answer here:

Why did Cirdan choose Gandalf to wear Narya, of all the Istari?

The reasoning for why he gave the ring at all doesn't seem to uniquely qualify Gandalf as the best recipient, unless Cirdan was being prophetic?

"Take this ring, master," he said, "for your labours will be heavy; but it will support you in the weariness that you have taken upon yourself. For this is the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill." - Círdan the Shipwright

But that was originally the mission and the presumed fate of ALL of the Istari, not just Gandalf's.

marked as duplicate by Travis Christian, Valorum, Kreann, Donald.McLean, Monty129 Dec 18 '14 at 22:56

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    @calccrypto - as you can see from the current answers, that question - while similar, is both different from this one AND doesn't answer what I was seeking (while the answers here do). – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 16 '14 at 2:56
  • I guess its not technically the same question, though it received almost the same answer. I'll vote to reopen. – Mark Rogers Dec 16 '14 at 18:05
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    This question needs to substitute Istari - wizards - for Maiar. – Oldcat Dec 16 '14 at 22:25
  • @Oldcat - done. But you can edit yourself too :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 17 '14 at 15:15
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Unfinished Tales may shed some light. In the chapter on the Istari, we hear a slightly different telling of this story:

[A]nd one came last who seemed the least, less tall than the others, and in looks more aged, grey-haired and grey-clad, and leaning on a staff. But Círdan from their first meeting at the Grey Havens divined in him the greatest spirit and the wisest; and he welcomed him with reverence, and he gave to his keeping the Third Ring, Narya the Red.

'For,' said he, 'great labours and perils lie before you, and lest your task prove too great and wearisome, take this Ring for your aid and comfort. It was entrusted to me only to keep secret, and here upon the West-shores it is idle; but I deem that in days ere long to come it should be in nobler hands than mine, that may wield it for the kindling of all hearts to courage.'

Basically, Círdan knows that Narya isn't doing any good in the Grey Havens, and he decides that Gandalf is likely to do the most good with it.

How does he know this? It's unclear. We've seen evidence that some elves have a limited ability to see the future, especially elves with Rings of Power, so it may be that Círdan had a glimpse of things to come.

Another possibility is that Círdan, who has been around for a long time and presumably has gotten pretty good at reading people, saw Gandalf's spirit. The same chapter I quoted earlier goes on to describe him:

Warm and eager was his spirit (and it was enhanced by the ring Narya), for he was the Enemy of Sauron, opposing the fire that devours and wastes with the fire that kindles, and succours in wanhope and distress; but his joy, and his swift wrath, were veiled in garments grey as ash, so that only those that knew him well glimpsed the fire that was within.

It's a bit of an assumption, but not too much of a stretch to say that Círdan may have seen a glimpse of this spirit in Gandalf on their first meeting, and decided that Narya would enhance this natural fire better in him than in the others. We don't know much about the Blue Wizards, but not many are going to call either Saruman or Radagast "firey."

  • +1. And per your last sentence: this is a complete invention and indicative of nothing, but one could make an argument that Saruman is quite icy, Radagast is undeniably earthy, and the Blue Wizards are as invisible and untouchable as air. – Nerrolken Dec 16 '14 at 17:38
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I think this is best answered by Tolkien himself. This is from a wikipedia entry that contains parts from one of Tolkiens essays in Unfinished Tales:

Tolkien discusses Gandalf in his essay on the Istari, which appears in the work Unfinished Tales. He describes Gandalf as the last of the wizards to appear in Middle-earth, one who: "seemed the least, less tall than the others, and in looks more aged, grey-haired and grey-clad, and leaning on a staff". Yet the Elf Círdan who met him on arrival nevertheless considered him "the greatest spirit and the wisest" and gave him the elven Ring of power called Narya, the Ring of Fire, containing a "red" stone for his aid and comfort. Tolkien explicitly links Gandalf to the element Fire later in the same essay:

Warm and eager was his spirit (and it was enhanced by the ring Narya), for he was the Enemy of Sauron, opposing the fire that devours and wastes with the fire that kindles, and succours in wanhope and distress; but his joy, and his swift wrath, were veiled in garments grey as ash, so that only those that knew him well glimpsed the flame that was within. Merry he could be, and kindly to the young and simple, yet quick at times to sharp speech and the rebuking of folly; but he was not proud, and sought neither power nor praise... Mostly he journeyed unwearingly on foot, leaning on a staff, and so he was called among Men of the North Gandalf 'the Elf of the Wand'. For they deemed him (though in error) to be of Elven-kind, since he would at times work wonders among them, loving especially the beauty of fire; and yet such marvels he wrought mostly for mirth and delight, and desired not that any should hold him in awe or take his counsels out of fear. ... Yet it is said that in the ending of the task for which he came he suffered greatly, and was slain, and being sent back from death for a brief while was clothed then in white, and became a radiant flame (yet veiled still save in great need).[2]

emphasis added

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As you surmise, Círdan was indeed bring prophetic. The text in Lord of the Rings desribing the giving of Círdan's Ring to Gandalf (introduction paragraph to the Tale of Years for the Third Age) makes this clear:

For Círdan saw further and deeper than any other in Middle-earth, and he welcomed Mithrandir at the Grey Havens, knowing whence he came and whither he would return.

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