JRR Tolkien Hated Gandalf in This British ‘The Hobbit’ Comic

The Gandalf actor Ian McKellen brought the wizard to life in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. However, several others preceded McKellen in animation, stage, and radio. Comics portrayed him, too, even though JRR Tolkien expressed his dissatisfaction with this version in a letter. As the original author, Tolkien, Gandalf, and Middle-Earth all link together closely.

JRR Tolkien, author of 'The Hobbit' and 'Lord of the Rings' studying at his desk
J. R. R. Tolkien | Haywood Magee/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

‘The Hobbit’ comics appeared in a British magazine called ‘Princess’

JRR Tolkien, Gandalf, and the Middle-Earth chronicles all see protection from the Tolkien estate. Long before a movie ever cast a Gandalf actor, he appeared in the only condensed version of ‘The Hobbit’ to date.

Information gathered by TolkienBooks.net reported that Princess, a British magazine aimed at pre-teenage girls, published this version. It marks one of the few projects with little input from Tolkien or his estate.

It was also the first time an artist other than Tolkien himself illustrated an English-language edition of The Hobbit.

“The text was accompanied by a series of 83 illustrations by Ferguson Dewar, commissioned specifically for the serial and exhibited in full for the first time at Tolkien 2019,” TolkienBooks.net said.

Joy Hill, Tolkien’s secretary, reported him agreeing to the serialization “in principle provided he could see the illustrations and that Gollum should not be made a monster.”

However, when Tolkien did see the illustrations, particularly of Gandalf, the author had some notes.

Tolkien did not like Gandalf’s portrayal in ‘The Hobbit’ comics

In a letter from August 1964 (transcribed by TolkienBooks.net), Tolkien penned a letter about Gandalf, commenting on the comic.

“Criticism of the drawings is probably not in this case useful, though I should myself wish at least that Gandalf were less fussy and over-clad and had some dignity. He should not be styled ‘magician’ but ‘wizard,’” he wrote.

The rest of the letter went on exactly how you would expect from an English professor. He wrote about the use of ‘dwarfs’ vs. ‘dwarves.’

Hilariously, Tolkien’s preference for ‘dwarves’ being the plural of ‘dwarfdid eventually became the standard.

“A case came to my notice of an unfortunate schoolmaster who corrected a child for using ‘dwarves’ but was confounded by the production of my book. I am all in favour of spelling being taught, & don’t wish a master’s authority to be damaged by the quirks of a professor!” The author said.

Tolkien, Gandalf and Ian McKellen

Despite fantasy tropes established by Tolkien often lead to action and violence, his children assert that the novels stood for far more than that.

“They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25,” IndieWire reported Christopher Tolkien saying about the Peter Jackson movies.


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Unfortunately, JRR Tolkien might not care for the Gandalf actor, Ian McKellen.

As with an adaptation, artists have varying ideas about characters, tones, and themes. The Hobbit comics and Lord of the Rings movies took Tolkien’s base and expanded.

Tolkien, Gandalf, and all Middle-Earth come from the same place. Whether they achieved an accurate depiction is up to the consumer.