Originally Posted by Andrew Gubb
I think for Tolkien the colour grey held a special meaning. He used it quite a lot - for instance "mithril" (from his mith- meaning grey), The Grey Havens, The Grey Mountains, The Grey Elves, The Grey Wood, The Grey Company, Lake Mithrim, etc. (Just searched The Lord Of The Rings Wiki for all these examples).
I think Tolkien's particular image of grey was formed by the idea of silver as being grey, hence it was a noble colour. I don't think I ever got the idea of grey meaning in between Good and Evil in his works.
Gandalf was "The Grey" because each wizard of his order had a distinct colour. He later became "The White" because that was Saruman's colour (the highest rank) and Saruman, having fallen from grace, was no longer part of the Council.
There could be symbolism here too I suppose. But I never got the image of Gandalf ever having been "in between". If he had been, I suppose that would have been in his youth, but that's not dealt with in "The Hobbit" or "The Lord Of The Rings".
Ha, I was actually thinking of posting something like this.
Something else of note in Tolkien's mythology is that Gandalf and his order were Maiar, which were essentially angels who chose to take on human form in order to guide and guard the creatures of the world. That doesn't mean there was no darkness in them (as Saruman proved) but it's heavily implied that it was against their nature-or at least their purpose-to focus intently on that.
The rest of the cosmology is fairly vague, at least in the films and the main books of the series. I know he got a lot more in-depth in works like the Silmarillion but I had a hard enough time getting through LotR that I can't bring myself to delve into that.
I want to note that Lord of the Rings is a lot like Star Wars in that it appears more deep and mystical than it is or was ever meant to be. In Tolkien's world, there is no gray-there's good and evil without any strong motivations on the evil side. There's also some troubling undercurrents of classism, racism, and sexism, but that doesn't particularly matter if it's taken as a new english myth or a fairy tale.
In his defense, the lack of nuance is common in mythology, as is the lack of well-defined motivations and three-dimensional characters. Myths were stories but not in the sense that we think of narrative today. Like any good myth he does hit on major archetypes and multiple characters clearly progress on the heroes' journey but as far as deeper truth goes there's none to be found there.
And I'm not saying you think there is, FelineNostalgia. You're drawing from multiple sources for inspiration, it's what humans do. I just have a major hard-on for historical knowledge and analytical thinking.