Beyond Middle-earth: the least of these Aug04

Beyond Middle-earth: the least of these...

“And last came 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.” “And being sent back from death for a brief while he was clothed then in white, and became a radiant flame.” ‒ Unfinished Tales Even the smallest can change the course of the world. This theme of “the last shall become first” is central to The Lord of the Rings. Usually it’s the Hobbits who come to mind—those humble creatures who took on the great evil of Sauron (and, in Frodo’s case, the literal burden of the Ring). But there is another, perhaps less obvious, character who embodies this theme: Gandalf the Grey. Gandalf was the last of the Order of the Istari, Maiar spirits who were sent from Valinor to aid in the fight against Sauron. There were five of them: Saruman the White, the head of the Order, Radagast the Brown, the two Blue wizards, and Gandalf. They appeared in Middle-earth around year 1000 of the Third Age. Though Sauron had been defeated at the end of the Second Age, the Valar realized that he would one day rise again. So, they sent emissaries with the sole purpose to “advise and persuade Men and Elves to good, and to seek to unite in love and understanding all those whom Sauron, should he come again, would endeavour to dominate and corrupt,” (UT, 503). Without Gandalf acting as the humble adviser, there would have been no victory. The Valar intended the Istari to take the form of old men so that they would be seen as equals among Elves and Men. Their bodies were mortal, and so they were capable of feeling pain and emotion, and of being...