After Gandalf fights the Balrog in The Lord of the Rings, 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?

  • 2
    So as per the "who sent him back?" thing. Basically members of Gandalf's race can't die they are simply permanently removed from their home dimension and into the void. In the first two chapters of "The Silmarillion" (a very insightful read) it explains that Gandalf and his kind were created by the God in the Lord of The Rings universe known as "Iluvatar" to help build and govern the Earth. The white room we see Gandalf in, might be the void. Since Gandalf did such a great job in keeping balance in the world and his quest (destroying the ring) was not yet complete, Iluvatar sent him back. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 2:48
  • Wouldn't hobbits be unaware of Gandalf's immortality? Word spreads and Gandalf's race would have developed a known reputation. How could hobbits not know?
    – a5af
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 23:57

4 Answers 4


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. Commented Jan 10, 2013 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.
    – user209
    Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 15:21
  • Being super late to this question, can someone perhaps expand on things like "why would Eru intervene in this specific case" (sounds a bit like micro-managing) and "why it took 19 days" (sounds rather arbitrary)? If this should be a new question I'll gladly ask it separately.
    – vektor
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 5:52

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.
    – Tablemaker
    Commented Jan 9, 2013 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
    Commented Jan 9, 2013 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
    Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 17:01
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    @Mistu4u But weren't the Istari even Maiar?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jan 9, 2013 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.
    – user209
    Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 17:40

Your question pertains to the movie but the answers are coming from the book. The Two Towers Script doesn't say Gandalf died in so many words. He reports,

GANDALF Darkness took me. And I strayed out of thought and time. [Camera zooms in Gandalf’s eye and enters an amorphous realm of stars and galaxies, ending in a blinding white light] Stars wheeled overhead and everyday was as long as a life-age of the earth. But it was not the end. I felt life in me again.
[Camera zooms out from Gandalf’s eye, lying naked and very still. His hair has turned white and wounds are completely healed. He suddenly shudders with a deep gasp and pants as life returns to him] GANDALF I've been sent back until my task is done.

  • I'm not sure though in which way recapitulating the scene from the script helps to answer the actual question at all.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 8:29
  • 1
    The question pertains to the movie. Quoting the script reveals that in the movie, Gandalf is not carried off by an eagle or resurrected by "Eru". The other answers are equivalent to answering a question about a Game of Thrones character death with information from the books, when that character died in an entirely different fashion on the show. As can be shown by quoting the script.
    – Noumenon
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 21:37
  • 2
    @Noumenon I see your point. But (as you will know if you have in fact read the books) Gandalf dying was a pivotal point in the series because it allowed Iluvatar (God) to give him new powers and clothe him in White (metaphorically of course, the elves gave him his robes) it also tells us so much about Gandalf's race, for example we learn that they were created for a purpose and each have a quest to fulfil. And since your answer is a technical one I will tell you that technically in Lord of the Rings dying is the act of ones soul, leaving this dimension. So he does die. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 3:03

"and everyday was a life's age on earth" as stated by Gandalf the white upon his return which explains his somewhat foggy memory of his old self. He was 19 days away earth time so using an average lifespan of 70-75 years, Gandalf himself was gone for approximently 1330 to 1475 years (give or take). Given he was Gandalf the Grey for just over 2000 years, it was a considerable time for him personally between his previous incarnation that fought Balrog.

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    Just out of curiosity. How do you know that he was Gandalf the Grey for 2000 years? Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 2:56
  • The Istari showed up in Middle Earth around year 1000 in the Third Age; the War of the Ring was year 3018 in the Third Age. Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 14:50

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