Cinema Slap Fight: Gandalf Vs. Dumbledore

Our combatants this week hail from wildly divergent backgrounds. One was created by an Oxford professor from a combination of Norse and Christian myth, the other is the product of a single mother living on the dole in Edinburgh, Scotland. But thanks to the magic of Hollywood, both Gandalf the Grey and Professor Albus Dumbledore have become iconic characters in two of the most successful film franchises in history.

So let's get to it: Which elderly white man with sorcerous talent and ambivalent sexuality will win the day? And no, Rip Taylor isn't an option.

In This Corner: Gandalf "the Grey" was one of the immortal Maiar, who served the mighty Valar in the realm of Valinor (don't ask me any more than that, the beginning of The Silmarillion bored the shit out of me). He was sent to Middle Earth, along with Saruman, Radagast and the "Blue Wizards," to oppose the rise of Sauron. Slain by a Balrog, though not for long.

And In This Corner: Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Apple Banger Horowitz Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Considered the most powerful wizard in the Potter-verse, Dumbledore has defeated many a dark wizard and Death Eater. Slain by Severus Snape. Still dead.

I've Got The Power: While Dumbledore was widely regarded as the baddest magic cat in the world, Gandalf came in second to his eventual enemy Saruman the White. And while we have plenty of evidence from J.K. Rowling's books about the feats Dumbeldore was capable of, the only real examples of the 2000+-year-old Gandalf's power come from the Lord of the Rings trilogy and some bits in The Silmarillion.

We know Dumbledore went toe to toe with Grindenwald and You Know Who (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), and is capable of apparating silently, and conjure Gubraithian fire. Gandalf, on the other hand, defeated a freaking Balrog. He was also chosen by Cirdan the Shipwright to wear Narya, one of the three Elven rings.

Both failed miserably by modern magic standards. For example, neither has ever performed incredible feats like making the Statue of Liberty disappear or...sitting in a box for 44 days.

Perception is key, though. As seen through the eyes of Frodo and the other hobbits, Gandalf never has the impression of great power (until the Mines of Moria, that is). Dumbledore, on the other hand, was firmly established in reputation from book one.

Administrative...Administering: As his school's top administrator, Dumbledore was a lot like his Muggle counterparts: He took long sabbaticals and rarely bothered with the day-to-day details of running the institution. Yes, yes...there were Dark Lords to fight and horcruxes to find, but those kids were counting on an education, dammit. That Malfoy kid's parents had a point about lack of safety standards and teacher qualifications, especially after their sweet young son Draco was bitten by a hippogriff.

For all Gandalf's earlier weaknesses, his skill at getting the assorted races of Middle Earth off their collective asses to fight Sauron was quite impressive. First he freed King Theoden from his sorcerous fugue, then turned the tide at Helm's Deep with Eomer and the Rohirrim, and finally organized the defenses of Minas Tirith against the forces of the Lord of the Nazgul. Dolores Umbridge never would have tried to run a school after that guy.

Let's Talk About Sex: Romantic matters really should be at the bottom of your priority list if you're a wizard (unless you're a "Sexy Wizard," like Criss Angel or Doug Henning), and because both Gandalf and Dumbledore are all business, we never see them gettin' any.

This is not a big surprise with Gandalf. The Maiar were basically angels, until they were sent to Middle Earth and given human form. They were then apparently subject to human faults like lust for power (Saruman) or a weakness for "pipeweed" (Gandalf). There's still no indication the big G ever discovered another use for his staff, if you know what I'm saying.

You know what I'm saying.

The same could have been said of Dumbledore, at least until Rowling outed him in 2007. Having read the books, I can't really recall any of his supposed "affection for Grindenwald," but it doesn't really matter. Sexuality isn't a thing, in wizardry or out of it, unless your job is actually to be gay, like those Queer Eye guys. Or Snagglepuss. As with just about anyone else, it shouldn't matter what side of the fence they decide to rub up against -- or if they avoid fences entirely -- so long as foes are smited and fireballs are cast.

The Verdict: I can't really make a choice here. Gandalf is a) immortal, b) carries a sword (which we were told you couldn't do in Dungeons & Dragons, dammit) and c) killed a freaking Balrog. Dumbledore, well, he put up with a thousand freaking kids every day. Sounds pretty even to me.

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