Gandalf is a fictional character with major roles in J. R. R. Tolkien's novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. In these stories, Gandalf appears as a wizard, member and later the head (after Saruman's betrayal and fall) of the order known as the Istari, as well as leader of the Fellowship of the Ring and the army of the West. In The Lord of the Rings, he is initially known as Gandalf the Grey, but after returning from death as Gandalf the White.
Carpenter said that Tolkien recalled buying the postcard during his holiday in Switzerland in 1911. Manfred Zimmerman, however, discovered that the painting was by German artist Josef Madlener and dates to the mid–1920s. Carpenter acknowledged that Tolkien was probably mistaken about the origin of the postcard.
The original painting was auctioned at Sotheby's in London on 12 July 2005 for ₤84,000. The previous owner had been given the painting by Madlener in the 1940s and recalled that Madlener said the mountains in the background were the Torri del Vaiolet, peaks of Dolomites.
When writing The Hobbit in the early 1930s Tolkien gave the name Gandalf to the leader of the dwarves, the character later called Thorin. The name is taken from the same source as all the other Dwarf names (save Balin) in The Hobbit: the "Catalogue of Dwarves" in the Völuspá. The Old Norse name incorporates the words meaning "wand", "staff" or (especially in compounds) "magic" and "elf".
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Official Site: John Tolkien & HarperCollins
Links: Wikipedia: Gandalf Encyclopedia of Arda The One Ring