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106 votes
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When did Bilbo and Frodo learn that Gandalf was a Maia?

It is unclear whether anyone even knew Gandalf was a Maia ...save Elrond, Círdan, and Galadriel themselves. Word of God Tolkien says this in the Unfinished Tales: Wizard is a translation of ...
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103 votes
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Why does Gandalf show such reverence for Galadriel and Elrond?

Canon One of the opening paragraphs of "The Istari", an essay printed in Unfinished Tales, largely answers this (emphasis mine): [The Wizards] came from over the Sea out of the Uttermost ...
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34 votes

Why is Sauron always portrayed as being stronger than Gandalf?

Firstly, not all Maiar are equal in power, much as not all men (or elves or dwarves for that matter) are equal in their attributes. Presumably, the differences can be rather significant. For ...
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34 votes
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Why is Sauron always portrayed as being stronger than Gandalf?

As I understand it, the Maiar existed before men, and even before there was a land, but when land was created, they were to leave the beings that lived there alone. Sauron refused and he became a god-...
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33 votes

When did Bilbo and Frodo learn that Gandalf was a Maia?

SHORT ANSWER: I don't know if Bilbo and Frodo ever learned that Gandalf was a Maia. LONG ANSWER: In The Return of the King. Book Six, Chapter 8, "The Scouring of the Shire", Frodo says of Saruman: ...
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25 votes
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Are the Maiar more powerful than the Istari?

The Istari are Maiar Olorin I was in my youth in the West that is forgotten. We must assume that they [the Istari] were all Maiar... For with the consent of Eru they [the Valar] sent members of their ...
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20 votes

Did Sauron literally anticipate the arrival of the Istari?

The quote you mention is taken from the chapter "Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn" appearing in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth. In this chapter, Christopher Tolkien presents (...
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20 votes

Why is Sauron always portrayed as being stronger than Gandalf?

Gandalf never actually comments directly on whether he is more powerful than Sauron or not; the closest he ever comes to it is to say (in discussing the potential dangers of Fangorn Forest): ...
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19 votes
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If Gandalf was a Maia, why couldn't he change form?

The Istari were ordered to remain in, and also stuck in, forms of Men A description of the Istari is given in the Unfinished Tales. They were given their "Men-forms" before departing Valinor, and ...
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16 votes

Is Shelob a Maia?

No: the offspring of a Maia is not necessarily another Maia. For example, Luthien was the child of a Maia (Melian), but was not a Maia herself, nor was her child Dior (whose father was Beren), nor ...
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13 votes
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Do Ainur (generally) need to return to the halls of Mandos to reincarnate?

In general, only elves were reincarnated in Mandos Reincarnation occurring from the halls of Mandos seems to be a thing only for elves, and the single exceptional case of Beren (exceptions like this ...
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13 votes
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Was Melian embodied like the Istari during her time in Doriath?

Yes. A note in History of Middle-earth 12, The Peoples of Middle-earth, reads: Melian alone of all those spirits assumed a bodily form, not only as a raiment but as a permanent habitation in form ...
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13 votes
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Doesn't Radagast care about trees?

One answer is that Tolkien was a philologist/linguist, not an ecologist, and the importance of habitat preservation—say, of the specific habitats of arboreal birds—may not have landed strongly with ...
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12 votes
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Where do Maiar dwell in Valinor?

It depends on the Maia in question. There are surprisingly few references to the Maiar in The Silmarillion. While it seems likely that many dwelt in Valmar, we have explicit knowledge that at least ...
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10 votes
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How strong were the Maiar, physically speaking?

Not too much is written on this matter, because the Maiar, being divine spirits, are not necessarily bound to a single body, and thus could, theoretically, be clothed in bodies that are powerful ...
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10 votes
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How many of the Ainur were unable to change their physical form?

In principle, we can assume that any Maiar that can be "killed" is stuck in their particular form; otherwise, what would be the point in destroying their bodies? This makes things somewhat ...
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9 votes
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What's the difference between a Maia and a member of the Istari?

I think you've made a category error. The Istari are Maiar, as discussed in Part Four, chapter I, "The Istari" in Unfinished Tales. They are five individual members of that group who were ...
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8 votes
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Balrogs: Valar, Maiar or Spirits?

It's a matter of wording. Every Balrog is a Maia. The Maiar are all Ainur, who are also described thusly in Valaquenta: The Great among these spirits the Elves name the Valar, the Powers of Arda ...
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8 votes

Why didn't Durin's Bane kill the Orcs?

The Balrogs were fire-themed Maiar servants of Morgoth Bauglir. The Orcs, problematic though their origins are, were likewise servants of Morgoth. For of the Maiar, many were drawn to his splendour ...
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7 votes
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Are there any more Valar?

Ainur were the "angelic" beings who existed with Iluvatar before the making of the world. The Valar were those of the Ainur who, being enamoured with the vision of Arda, descended into the World to be ...
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7 votes

Is Sauron a lesser type of god?

To borrow from another answer, the TL;DR answer is (emphasis mine) No Sauron wasn't always evil. He began his life as a Maia, essentially an angel, and of the same class as Gandalf and the other ...
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6 votes

Balrogs: Valar, Maiar or Spirits?

The Balrogs are most definitely Maiar, but at the same spirits. But not Valar. Tolkien described the Balrogs as Úmaiar, where "ú" is the negative prefix for words in Quenya. They now become ...
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6 votes

Are the Maiar more powerful than the Istari?

If you include The Silmarillion in your perception of Tolkien's "canon" (as I have heard some do not), then yes, the Istari (Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, and the other unnamed two) are Maiar, ...
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5 votes

Do Ainur (generally) need to return to the halls of Mandos to reincarnate?

There's a lot to be said for @sumelic's answer, but I believe that it generalizes too much from too little data. First, Men and Elves (and maybe the Dwarves) go to Mandos when they die. Men's spirits ...
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5 votes
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How did the Girdle of Melian work?

Melian's power and control over the substance of Arda: Firstly, a bit of background on Melian and her powers as a Maia, as well as her development in Arda. From below, we see that she served Vána and ...
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5 votes
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Are the Istari *still* Maiar?

Yes, undoubtedly. You're misinterpreting the word "were." When Christopher Tolkien wrote "they [the Istari] were all Maiar" the use of past tense refers to the time during which the story occurs; it ...
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4 votes

Where do Maiar dwell in Valinor?

They mostly lived in Val(i)mar together with the Valar. From Tolkien Gateway: Valmar or Valimar was the city of many bells in the heart of Valinor where many of the Valar and Maiar dwelt. And ...
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4 votes

Why does Gandalf show such reverence for Galadriel and Elrond?

In addition to their wisdom, leadership and historical roles, both Galadriel and Elrond have deep historical significance. Galadriel was born in Valinor, and remembers all the Ages of the world since ...
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