Monday, January 14, 2019

The Name of Gandalf's Staff

So, last week I got asked a Tolkien question I don't know the answer to.  My physical therapist, while showing me an exercise with two walking sticks, one in each hand, described the motion intended as "you know, like Gandalf with his staffs".  Turns out he had no idea I'm a Tolkien scholar who constantly refers things back to Tolkien.*  Don't know whether he'd gotten the mental image from the book or movie, but in chatting with him briefly before getting back to our exercises he asked me, as a Tolkien expert, what the name of Gandalf's staff was. After all, Gandalf's sword has a name, and his horse: why not his staff?  All I cd say is that I'd never seen it. I may have just overlooked it, but I suspect this is one of those things where, had Tolkien been asked, he cd have produced a name on the spot (probably after a dozen or so trials as he felt his way to it. But in this one case, I think, no one ever asked.  Too bad.

By the way, he was definite about the plural, one in each hand, that being the point he wanted to make re. the movements he wanted me to reproduce. I wondered if somehow he'd seen or heard of the Boorman script, in which Strider carries around The Sword That Was Broken half in each hand (in one hand by the hilt and the other by wrapping cloths around the broken end). But that seems unlikely. Mulling it over, I think his mental image came from various dramatic shots in the film(s) whether Gandalf is using his staff in one hand and his sword (Glamdring) in the other.

Still, interesting to see just how widely Tolkien has spread in our culture. These are good times to be a Tolkien fan.

--John R.
current reading: a shortish biography of Herbert Hoover

*my wife once bet herself how long it'd take one day before I mentioned Tolkien. The answer was about an hour and a half



Garkbit said...

If the name "Gandalf" comes from "Gandr-alf" = "elf of the staff" then perhaps
his staff's name was "Alfrgand", the Staff of the Elf!

galadhorn said...

Wow! It would be possibly Alfgandr ;)

k8neville said...

I expect he used the plural because there were two in the films: one for Grey and one for White. Which would make sense. Galadriel clothed him again, so I expect she helped him get or make another staff. And I love the ‘staff of the elf’ name, at least for the original. I’d love an elvish version of “I’m back!” for the second.

Marcel R. Aubron-Bülles said...

What Garkbit offered as explanation sounds a lot like Tolkienian humour ;)

I like it!