Maia are said to sense each other’s presence. I know Gandalf was in disguise but it just seems that he got into Dol Guldur then the dungeons then escaped a bit too easy. It might be possible that Sauron knew Gandalf had entered Dol Guldur but wasn't powerful enough to confront him yet.

So how did Gandalf accomplish such a feat without getting noticed?

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    “Maia are said to sense each others presence” — source? Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 15:20
  • I have no source, when i say "maia are said to sense each other" i mean most book readers seem to adopt this rule.
    – user31546
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 15:24
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    “most book readers seem to adopt this rule” — presumably they’re not just making it up; I assume the idea is mentioned somewhere in the text? Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 15:25
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    Given that, in the book, Gandalf was the one who wanted to go through Moria and didn't seem to expect the Balrog before it appeared, I'd assume they do not. Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 15:51
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    @Paulster2 - the Balrog awoke again in the Mines and was Durin's Bane; this is well-established.
    – user8719
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 17:52

1 Answer 1


Whether or not Maiar can sense each other's presence is immaterial; even if they could, Sauron would not be able to sense Gandalf.

From the Istari material in Unfinished Tales we read:

...their emissaries were forbidden to reveal themselves in forms of majesty...


...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.


...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).

It should therefore be obvious that Gandalf's "angelic presence" (for want of a better term) was concealed, and it should likewise be obvious that this is as a result of the nature of the Istari.

The Istari, of course, are not Maiar as they would be in Valinor, but are instead incarnated in real Mannish bodies (hence the fact that they could be killed), and it's crucial to understand this difference.

And so hence the fact that Gandalf would not be detected (even if such detection were possible).

  • But they're not real Mannish bodies, in that they don't age. Gandalf had been in that incarnation for about 2000 years by the time of LotR. Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 21:11
  • @DanielRoseman - see scifi.stackexchange.com/a/55977/8719 please - they were real Mannish bodies. Also they do age, but slower, and the Istari essay explicitly says that's for a spiritual (not physical) reason. Saruman had black hair when he arrived in Middle-earth (Istari essay again).
    – user8719
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 21:41

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