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Only Hardcore Lord Of The Rings Fans Know This About Gandalf's Names

In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, creatures of all shapes and sizes roam Middle-earth. From elves and dwarves to men and orcs, the fictional characters who inhabit the world of Arda are so beloved by fans that the mythology still thrives decades after the books were released, spawning massively successful films and a very expensive upcoming Amazon series. One of the most beloved inhabitants of Arda is Gandalf, the kindly wizard who acts as aid and protector to both Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit and Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings. 

But Gandalf's backstory is packed with details never mentioned in the films. One of those details is the meaning of his name. According to Unfinished Tales, the unfinished collection of stories by Tolkien, Gandalf's name in Norse means "Elf of the Wand" or "Wand-elf." Men called him Gandalf because they thought mistakenly thought he was an Elf.

Casual fans of the films remember Gandalf's transformation after his deadly battle with the Balrog in The Fellowship of The Ring, after which he is reincarnated from Gandalf the Grey into Gandalf the White. In the Two Towers film, after revealing his new form to Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, he says, "Gandalf? Yes ... that was what they used to call me."

Mere mortal humans call him Gandalf. But as you're about to find out, the powerful wizard has gone by many other names throughout his life.

Gandalf isn't always Gandalf

Though we most often hear the wizard called by the name Gandalf, another name we occasionally hear is Mithrandir. In the Two Towers book, Gandalf says, "Many are my names in many countries...Mithrandir among the Elves, Tharkûn to the Dwarves; Olórin I was in my youth in the West that is forgotten, in the South Incánus, in the North Gandalf; to the East I go not."

The Elves called Gandalf "Mithrandir," which translates in Sindarin (an elf language) to "Grey Pilgrim" or "Grey Wanderer."

Tharkûn is a name Gandalf was given by the dwarves. Tharkûn is from Khuzdul (the secret language of the Dwarves), and the name translates to "Grey-man" or "Staff-man."

One could argue Gandalf's true name is Olórin, which is what he was called by the Valar and Maia. Gandolf was born a Maia and was considered the wisest of the Maiar. According to Unfinished Tales, the name Olórin is associated with the words "dream" or "vision of mind."

Gandalf was called Incánus in the south. Incánus translates to "grey-haired" in Latin. According to a Tolkien forum, "Gandalf acquired the name Incánus during one of his adventures in Middle Earth somewhere around the Mid-Third Age."

Gandalf is also called Láthspell (evil news) by Gríma in The Two Towers and Stormcrow by King of Rohan, Théoden.

It should be clear that Gandalf certainly has gone by a lot of names. Perhaps when you're a wizard who's lived for thousands of years, however, you're going to be called more than one name here and there.