Fan theories about Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit abound, but a particularly compelling one we’d never heard before was blowing minds on Reddit over the holiday weekend. Dungeons and Dragons enthusiast TheGlenx2 argued that Gandalf wasn’t a wizard at all; he was a fighter with very high intelligence and the “Use Magic Device” skill.
Gandalf was really just fighter with INT18. Gandalf lied, he was no wizard. He was clearly a high level fighter that had put points in the Use Magic Device skill allowing him to wield a staff of wizardry. All of his magic spells he cast were low level, easily explained by his ring of spell storing and his staff. For such an epic level wizard he spent more time fighting than he did casting spells. He presented himself as this angelic demigod, when all he was a fighter with carefully crafted PR.
He goes on to make a compelling argument for Gandalf being a fighter, not a wizard. He has an unusual number of weapon proficiency feats for a wizard (five out of the seven slots available). All of the spells we see him cast are second level or lower. Even the fight with the Balrog is handled like a highly-intelligent fighter, one who would, coincidentally, have so many hit points and bonuses to his constitution that he could easily survive the fall.
So, why would he pretend to be a wizard?
Everybody knows in a fight to rush the wizard before he can do too much damage. But if the wizard is actually an epic level fighter, the fools rush to their doom. […] If the wizard turns out to actually be a high level fighter wearing robes, then he’s already in melee when it’s his turn and can mop the floor with the morons that charged him.
Questioning Gandalf’s wizardry talent isn’t new — some have argued he was only a fifth-level wizard — but we don’t recall hearing a fan theory calling him no wizard at all. For what it’s worth, another Redditor (Tha_Daahkness) delved into details revealed in The Silmarillion to bring up an alternate Gandalf theory.
Sure, he’s level 5. If you acknowledge that he’s a demigod. He’s a Maiar in physical form. Like Sauron. The reason you don’t see massive magical feats from him is that magic is draining from the world during the third age. After the third age/composition, Eru Iluvatar brings all the spirits he created to play his symphonies back to him to show them what they have done, this signalling the end of influence of the Mair over Middle Earth and the beginning of the Age of Man. What you DO see from him are incredible feats akin to those accomplished by the elves of the first and second age, like killing a Balrog all by himself. With a fucking sword. Of course, like I said, he was a Maiar, like the Balrog itself, but Gandalf was an exceptionally more powerful one named Olorin. Saruman was one too, and Radagast. And all the other ‘wizards’ that took mortal form. So yeah. He was level 5 (he was no where near the most powerful of his kind), but his class was a demigod level class.
This is all predicated on Tolkien’s characters being beholden to D&D rules that didn’t exist until decades later, of course, but it’s fun to speculate about during a long, pipe-weed-filled weekend. Maybe it was a conspiracy, and Gandalf fooled everyone into thinking he was a wizard so he could get all the XP from battling the Balrog for himself.