Gandalf is a fictional character created by fantasy writer J. R. R. Tolkien and is one of the leading protagonists of his novels, “The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.” He is considered a Maiar, which is similar to angelic beings. Although he possesses an immortal spirit from Valinor, his physical body can still be killed. Gandalf is also a wizard of the Istari order and is the leader of the Fellowship of the Ring.
In the books, Gandalf is said to be one of the last wizards to appear in Middle Earth to battle the threat of Sauron. Tolkien describes him as “less tall than the others and in looks more aged, gray-haired and gray-clad, and leaning on a staff.” Gandalf has been portrayed numerous times in the media, including in an animated film by Ralph Bakshi in 1978. However, the character’s most famous portrayal is in Peter Jackson’s award-winning film trilogy “The Lord of the Rings” from 2001 to 2003.
In the films, Gandalf is played by Sir Ian McKellen, a widely-acclaimed English actor with six decades of theater and acting experience. While McKellen’s physical portrayal of Gandalf stayed true to the books, he actually based his performance on Tolkien himself. His portrayal of the wizard earned him many awards, including an Academy Award nomination.
As with many iconic works of literature, it’s not uncommon for fans to read into the novel’s subtext. “The Lord of the Rings”, both the books and the films, have sparked endless questions regarding the wizard’s sexuality. But is Gandalf gay? Discover the much-anticipated answer below.
VOTE: What is Gandalf’s Sexuality?
The Queer History of The Lord of The Rings
Based on the books alone, people can safely assume that Gandalf is not gay. In the entire duration of Tolkien’s novels, the wizard is not shown as having any romantic interest or carnal desire toward anyone. In fact, during the books’ early publication, Scottish poet Edwin Muir criticized Tolkien for the way he wrote his male characters, stating that “hardly one of them knows anything about women.”
According to fans, Gandalf doesn’t have any sexual interest because he is an angelic being similar to a deity. It was not uncommon for the wizard’s kind to not participate in partnerships or reproduction. However, it’s also possible that Tolkien simply left out any sexual implications since it was deemed inappropriate, especially homosexuality, which was still illegal in the U.K. during the 1950s.
But when it came to the trilogy, Sir Ian McKellen might offer a different view. The actor prefers to keep the question open-ended and even stated in an interview, “Who’s to say Gandalf isn’t gay?” It’s important to note that McKellen himself identifies as gay and has been out since 1988. While the actor has never confirmed the wizard’s sexuality, McKellen did suggest that Gandalf might be asexual.
Asexuality is described as the “lack of sexual attraction to others or low or absent interest in or desire for sexual activity.” While there is a lack of sexual orientation, it’s still considered under the umbrella term of LGBTQIA+ where it’s usually shortened as “Ace.” The definition coincides with many fans’ theories regarding Gandalf’s sexuality or lack thereof.
Is Gandalf Gay?
No, Gandalf is not gay, but he may be considered asexual. When referring to the books and the films, the wizard shows no interest in males or females. Whether this was deliberate writing on Tolkien’s part or not, the audience may never know. However, the actor, Sir Ian McKellen, offers a more optimistic view of the character. Although McKellen never considered Gandalf gay, he did state the possibility that the wizard may be asexual.