the inspiration behind the name of Gandalf’s horse

Gandalf would not have been able to travel the vast lands of Middle-earth in record time and support the free peoples without his faithful and powerful horse Shadowfax. But behind this name hides a very rich history and origin. Explanations.

Scandinavian legends and linguistics, the inspirations of JRR Tolkien

To imagine the flourishing universe of Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien drew his inspiration from various legends and from the horror he experienced during the First World War, the conflict in which he was involved. The fear experienced in the trenches inspired him in particular The Marsh of the Dead, a sinister land that Frodo, Sam and Gollum cross.

We also know that European tales and legends, and more particularly German-Scandinavian mythology, are one of the keystones to building one’s universe, and providing it with geography and languages, each more complex than the other. . Old English teacherof English language and literature at the University of Oxford, the British novelist is also a passionate about Scandinavian myths. Smaug, the One Ring, the sword of Aragorn Anduril, or even dwarf and elven writings, all make direct reference to it. Gandalf also, the white magician, is inspired by the god Odin, a multi-faceted shapeshifter, magician and traveler, whose resemblance is striking. The Scandinavian god also has, just like Gandalf, the fastest horse.


Shadowfax, Gandalf’s horse with complex etymology

Gandalf’s faithful steed, a magnificent and imposing white horse with a mane that “shines like silver has a whole history behind it, and a very precise linguistic etymology. Shadowfax, “the lord of horses comes from Old English. Researchers Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull were interested in its etymology in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion, a book released in 2005 that dissects, chapter by chapter, the notes, letters, and other sections covering the many maps of Middle-earth, the timelines of history, and Tolkien’s writing. Researchers propose a new translation of Shadowfax by “Sceadu-fæx” having a shadow gray mane (and coat). He is pointing out that word “fax” is an obsolete English word for hair, but still used in Iceland and Norway.

the story of shadowfax

Beyond its etymology, Shadowfax also has a very rich history and origin, unfortunately little explored in Peter Jackson’s films. The one whom Gandalf considers his friend who accompanies him “through many dangers” was a descendant of Felaróf and a leader of the Meara race, a breed of horses that are stronger, faster and more intelligent. Capable of understanding human language and endowed with extraordinary speed, he was entrusted to the white magician by Théoden after his escape from the tower of Orthanc. It is thanks to his speed that Gandalf was able to travel the endless lands of Middle-earth in record time. From Rohan, he managed to reach the County in just six days.

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Shadowfax then reappears to lead Gandalf, Gimli, Aragorn and Legolas to Rohan in The Two Towers, and allowed the wizard and Pippin to cross the country of the Rohirrim to get to Minas Tirith in an emergency. He was instrumental since Sauron believed that the Hobbit possessed the One Ring. During the siege of Minas Tirith, Gandalf commanded the dislocated army of Gondor on the back of his steed, allowing him to navigate with greater ease from the front line to the citadel, where he saved Faramir from death. certain.

Immensely courageous, Shadowfax stood against the Witch-King of Angmar and his winged steed on the city walls of Gondor. No other horse can do this. After the War of the Ring, Shadowfax accompanied Gandalf north on the return journey, and accompanied him west to the Undying Lands.



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