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So as most of us know Gandalf is a Maia and Maiar cannot actually die, what I mean is, once the ring is destroyed Gandalf has served his prime purpose in Arda, so once he gets to the undying lands does he discard his body and go to the halls of Mandos?

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    Even if he "discards his body" he probably won't go to the hall of Mandos. At best as a Maiar, he would fade in time like Sauron, or perhaps he lives on until the head god decides its time to end reality. Either way, Tolkien doesn't say much, if anything, about Gandalf's end of days. – Mark Rogers Mar 16 '15 at 5:22
  • I don't think mortals can truly comprehend what happens in the Undying Lands although I believe he would leave his corporeal form of an old man. – TheMathemagician Mar 16 '15 at 16:16
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Tolkien does not explicitly say what Gandalf did after his return to Valinor.

The best parallel case I can think of is Melian, another Maiar who took on a body and lived for many years in Middle Earth. Following the death of her husband Thingol, the Silmarillion says she simply withdrew her power and disappeared from Middle Earth, returning to Valinor. She did not go to the Halls of Mandos; as far as I am aware, none of the Ainur ever entered the Halls of Mandos as residents. I would guess that since Melian took on a body of her own free will without going through any sort of "birth" process, she could discard that body without needing to "die." If her body appeared out of nothing, it could also disappear into nothing, leaving her in her original immaterial form.

Gandalf, like Melian, took on a body without being "born." After his death, he was given a new, superior body, again without the birthing process that an Elf or a Man would go through. The second body was specifically intended to help him complete his mission in Middle Earth. Following Sauron's defeat, Gandalf's task in Middle Earth was finished, and he would no longer have needed a body. Presumably, if he decides to discard his body when he reaches Valinor, he simply returns to the state he was in before he took it on--enhanced, of course, by his experiences. (I think it is at least possible that Gandalf might have retained his body until Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam all died. He was their friend, and it would have been hard for them to relate to him in his immaterial form.)

Gandalf, Melian, and the other Valar chose to be tied to the world at its creation. It is their home. Like the Elves, that means that even if a body they take on has been destroyed, they will return to the world. Unlike the Elves, unless they are being punished for some crime, they will return directly to Valinor without a detour through the Halls of Mandos.

  • The only thing I can think of to add to this is that Gandalf had, not an "ordinary" human body, but a "resurrected" human body - cf. his statement when he first meets the Company as Gandalf the White "none of you have any weapon that can harm me." That seems to indicate that this body isn't exactly the same as a human body, but it does seem to be a "real" human body, not the sort of "body-clothing" the Valar put on to interact with humans. – Matt Gutting Mar 16 '15 at 16:28
  • This is excellent stuff. I'd add that defeating Sauron actually wasn't Gandalf's prime purpose in Arda (it was his prime purpose in Middle-earth and as an Istar, but he had originally entered Arda long before Sauron even was a problem) and the end of that prime purpose was marked by his returning "home" to the Undying Lands. There's no reason to suppose that he wouldn't have taken up his duties as a Maia once more and subsequent to that return. – user8719 Mar 16 '15 at 17:07
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    " a new, superior body by the higher Valar" - wasn't the consenus that that had to have been done by Eru, not Valar? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 16 '15 at 18:32
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    scifi.stackexchange.com/q/80317/8719 - the evidence is that it's the same body as before, i.e his original one. – user8719 Mar 17 '15 at 0:13
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No. The Maiar are immortal, and it is unlikely that a Maia who remained so faithful to Eru and the Valar would be denied his blessing of immortality. Even Sauron (the most evil of the fallen Maiar) isn't dead yet, merely banished from Arda into the Void - he will return at the end of the world for the last battle. Saruman, who was also a Maia and an Istar and who also fell from grace, may or may not have been stripped of his immortality (we don't know), but Gandalf fulfilled his purpose and achieved everything he was sent to accomplish. He did the job he was sent to do, and we can be relatively certain that he received his just reward for his loyalty, to say nothing of his absolute and unqualified success in defeating Sauron.

Tolkien thought of the Maiar as Angels, and angels don't die, especially if they do what God told them to do.

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