Tag Archives: Gandalf

G is for Gandalf versus Dumbledore


This is a continuation of the A-Z blog challenge.  Click here to see the list of all 1935 participants!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series as well as watched all the movies, and each time I’m drawn to the parallels between the two. As a writer, it has been drilled into me how important it is to make my characters and my story unique, to not let them be like something that has already been done. Yet here I am, looking at these two stories, both unique in their settings and story, and I can’t help but compare two of the prominent characters: Gandalf and Dumbledore.

Similarities:

- They both have long white hair and beards
- They are both the greatest, wisest and kindest wizards of their time.
- They rally around the underdogs and help them to defeat the “Dark Lord”
- They care about those less fortunate than them
- They are both guides, counselors
- They are both very well respected
- They both like to interfere
- They are both courageous
- They both fight fearsome enemies
- They are both unmarried

Differences:

- Gandalf’s and Dumbledore’s magic are not the same, nor are the reasons they use it.
- Gandalf has one wizard to face: Sauron. Dumbledore has many running around who want to see him dead.
- Dumbledore is more passive than Gandalf. He’s more of a ‘let me teach you the skills, but you’re going to have to do the rest’ kind of guy. Gandalf doesn’t have time nor the inclination to teach magic. His focus is defeating the bad guy and he’ll get in the middle of the action and put his life on the line to do it.
- Gandalf rides horses and wields a wicked sword. Dumbledore can vaporize you with a thought?  Why does he need a sword?
- Gandalf comes back from the dead. Dumbledore…yeah, not so much.
- Gandalf and Dumbledore are both fatherly types, but Gandalf is more stern. He’s more of the sort who’ll bop you over the head for doing something foolish. Dumbledore will talk to you, make you see the errors of your ways.
- Dumbledore’s knowledge is limited. Gandalf’s is vast.
- Dumbledore had a brother. Gandalf didn’t
- Dumbledore was mortal. He could rid himself of this world. Mortality, however, was not a gift Gandalf had. He HAD to make sure the underdog succeeded. If he failed in his task, Sauron would have taken over Middle Earth, and without the Valar’s intervening, life would have been much worse. The whole world was a risk. If Sauron lived, Gandalf would have to live with his own failure forevermore. Gandalf had much more at stake should he lose the battle for Middle Earth. Dumbledore got off easy because he could die.

There is a whole other list of character similarities between Harrry Potter and Lord of the Rings:

Harry = Frodo
Ron = Sam
Voldemort = Sauron = Dark Lords (please)
Dementors = Ringwraiths
Horcruxes = The Ring
Fred and George = Merry and Pippin
Sirius = Aragorn/Faramir
Hagrid = Gimli
Regulus = Boromir

But I won’t go into that today. What I do want to say is that it’s okay to recycle characters when you write, so long as you make the characters and stories ‘yours’. Make them unique to you, to your world. Give the reader something they don’t expect. Study the past characters. What can you do to make yours different from what’s been done? Give your characters vulnerabilities. Strip away the clichés and define your characters, your story. If you’re lucky, someday someone may compare your best-seller novel to a classic. I could think of worse things to happen.

And now for your entertainment needs: