Gandalf and his beard

Lady Mondegreen

New Member
So I have just been watching Ep. 101, and the discussion of Gandalf’s beard and how he seems suddenly energized and aware that his time has come. But I find I can’t agree that this is a critical moment. Just the opposite, in fact.

Gandalf has just found that his explanation has led him right up to the War of the Ring. Let’s lay the beard aside for a moment. . .

He stands up and says, “Still, we must keep up our courage. You will soon be well, if I don’t talk you to death. You are in Rivendell and you need not worry about anything for the present.”

Without the distraction of the beard, it seems evident that Gandalf has realized that he’s been talking too long, and too seriously for an invalid. So he stands up and prepares to leave. “We must keep up our courage.” By shifting to the 2nd person, he creates distance. It is not solely Frodo’s responsibility, but also this feels like a very British way of disengaging with an intense subject, “Well, here we are, we’ll just have to do our best” sort of thing. Far from Gandalf shifting himself into the picture, he is trying to shift Frodo back from being in it alone, so he can rest He is resorting to comforting platitudes (“we must keep up our courage.”) The nurse who says “how are we feeling today?” is not really including herself.

The “if I don’t talk you to death” says to me that everything from the standing up on, has been an overture to Gandalf leaving to let Frodo rest.

In fact, Frodo understands this as well, since his reply is a plea for Gandalf to stay and finish the story.

So, what about the oh so misleading beard? Gandalf stands up and sticks out his chin. He could just be stretching. I feel certain at the very least that it is punctuation. He is changing the subject. This is not the time to go on in this vein. I think the only reason it seems pugnacious and active is that Tolkien could not resist a bit of comic imagery in having it stick out like wire. This seems more like Hobbit Gandalf than Gandalf the Grey Uncloaked.

Try acting it out. You are sitting and talking to your friend in a hospital bed and you realize they need rest. What’s the first thing you do? You stand up.