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After Gandalf fights Balrog, he is carried off by an eagle. There is a scene where he is lying down in a white room and only his head and shoulders are visible.

The next time he is seen is in Fangorn forest. He is now recognized as "Gandalf the White". When Aragorn addresses him as Gandalf, he responds with, "Gandalf ... yes, that's what they used to call me. Gandalf the Grey."

He also explains that he was sent back. But who sent him back? Did he die? Where did the eagle carry him?

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2 Answers

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After battling the Balrog for 8 days, Gandalf defeated it, but in so doing also died. Something to note, Gandalf is not a normal person, he is an Istari, a group of being sent by the Valar to assist the peoples of Middle-earth in their battle against Sauron. (The short version is they're supernatural beings sent by higher powers)

By dying when he did, Gandalf had not completed his task of helping to defeat Sauron. In addition, his comrade Saruman had betrayed his order. And so, he was sent back to Middle-earth as Gandalf the White by Eru, the highest power in the Middle-earth universe. He returned 19 days after his death, and then he lay in a trance.

3 days later, the eagle found Gandalf. Lady Galadriel had sent the eagles searching for Gandalf. Upon finding him, the eagle took him to Lorien. There, Gandalf's wounds were treated, and he received his shiny new white robes. He then traveled to Fangorn Forest, where he joined up with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli.

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Minor correction: Gandalf was always one of the Istari (there were five). Saruman was also an Istari, but since he joined Sauron he effectively fell from grace, and Gandalf was basically "promoted" to his position. –  Adele C Jan 10 '13 at 14:14
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@AdeleC Is your comment referring to my use of the word 'now' to start the second sentence? I meant it as a coloquial 'now', not a measure of time. I've edited to clarify. –  Keen Jan 11 '13 at 15:21
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This excerpt is from the LoTR wiki:
Gandalf and the Balrog fell for a long time, and Gandalf was burned by the Balrog's fire...Then darkness took Gandalf, and he passed away. His body lay on the peak. The entire battle, from the confrontation on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm to the mutual demise of the Balrog and Gandalf, had taken eight days...Nineteen days later Gandalf returned to life, and lay in a trance...Three days later he was found by the Winglord Gwaihir, Lord of the Eagles, who had been sent by Galadriel to find him. Gandalf was carried to Caras Galadhon in Lothlórien, where he was healed, and clothed in white, and thus became Gandalf the White.

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Please correct me if I'm wrong as my LotR knowledge is basic at best but aren't the wizards of this world technically supernatural beings in human form sent by some god to help oversee the world? If I'm right, that's what I always attributed his apparent immortality to as well. –  TylerShads Jan 9 '13 at 14:17
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@TylerShads More or less, yeah, if I remember correctly. In the end Gandalf and Saruman are more or less of the same race as Sauron. –  Napoleon Wilson Jan 9 '13 at 15:25
    
Their race was Istari. however I am not firmly sure about immortality. As Far as I remember, Gandalf remained white,that is why he remained immortal, but Sauron chose to be colorful and started hating white. So he could be killed! –  Mistu4u Jan 9 '13 at 17:01
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@Mistu4u But weren't the Istari even Maiar? –  Napoleon Wilson Jan 9 '13 at 17:06
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@Mistu4u Their group was Istari, but Istari are a sub-set of Maiar. Sauron was another Maiar. They are all naturally immortal (i.e. they won't die from old age), but Sauron altered his power by tying it to the One Ring. –  Keen Jan 9 '13 at 17:40
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