NEW YORK — Hobbit author J.R.R. Tolkien served up a bombshell Friday evening during a reading at Carnegie Hall, telling a crowd of fans from throughout the United States that Gandalf, the wise Wizard who is Bilbo's mentor and sometimes companion, is Jewish.
"I always saw Gandalf as Jewish," Tolkien said in answer to a fan's question about whether the wizard had ever found Christ.
The crowd of about 2,000 hardcore Hobbit fans, who had won tickets through a nationwide drawing, exploded in screams and applause at the news. Tolkien, moments later joked, "Oh my God, the fan fiction now!"Reaction to the announcement has been mixed. Jewish advocacy groups have celebrated the announcement.
"Oh course he's Jewish," exclaimed Seth Rabinowitz, head of the Jewish fan club Middle-Israel, "Just think about it. He's a wise old man who is extremely learned and who is both spiritual and deeply moral. Clearly, Gandalf is intended to be a rabbi."
Others have expressed the opinion that this revelation seems to be arbitrary and that it detracts from the book.
"I don't care that Tolkien wants him to be a Jew, but is it necessary to make this public? What does it add to the book," asked Marie Donovan, a mother of four. "Now whenever I read the book to my kids the whole story is going to be tainted by this unnecessary detail. Was it really necessary for Tolkien to use Gandalf to make some sort of social statement?"
Conservative groups, who have been leery of the fantastic elements of the book from the start, stated that this was proof that the books had a subversive political agenda. When asked about the controversy, Adolf Rummer, head of the Family for Families Council, exclaimed, "[Gandalf] spends his time with physical degenerates while looking for gold: what a surprise that he's Jewish! I think that Christian parents have a right to shield their children from this sort of propaganda and that it's immensely irresponsible for Tolkien to use his work to advance a Jewish agenda."
Tolkien has expressed surprise and dismay at the reaction to the revelation. "It has certainly never been news to me that a brave and brilliant man could be Jewish," he was quoted as saying. He insists that, since Gandalf is his creation, he is the one who will have the final word on all matters concerning the grey wizard, including his religious orientation.