Shadowfax was the "lord of all horses". He was a descendant of Felaróf, of the race of long-lived Mearas, the greatest horses of Middle-earth. Shadowfax was capable of comprehending human speech and was said to run faster than the wind. Originally belonging to the House of Eorl, Lord of Rohan, Shadowfax was too wild to be tamed by the Rohirrim. Eventually, Théoden, the 17th king of Rohan, gave him to the wizard Gandalf the White.
Shadowfax's coat is described as silvery-grey in daylight, and hardly visible at night.
Gandalf the Grey first rode Shadowfax during the events preceding the Council of Elrond, after his escape from being imprisoned at Orthanc. When asked by a suspicious Théoden to take any horse and be gone, Gandalf chose Shadowfax (much to the King's displeasure), tamed him, and used the great steed's speed to cross the vast wilderness between Rohan and the Shire in only six days. He dismissed the horse shortly before arriving in Rivendell and Shadowfax returned to Rohan.
He is next seen when Gandalf (now the White) called him when he, Gimli, Aragorn and Legolas needed horses to travel through Rohan. Legolas instantly recognises the race of the horse, exclaiming that it is "of the Mearas". While for the most part, Gimli rode with Legolas upon a grey horse named Arod, provided by Éomer, on the way from Fangorn to Edoras, Shadowfax carried both Gandalf and him, due to his greater strength and stamina when compared to the lesser steeds and the urgency of their journey.
From then on, and especially after he is officially gifted to him by Théoden, Shadowfax became Gandalf's permanent steed, earning the wizard the epithet The White Rider. Gandalf often used Shadowfax's great speed to his advantage, for instance during the Battle for Helm's Deep, where he organized the scattered Rohirrim army under Erkenbrand and led the attack. It was said by Theoden that there will never be a finer horse in Middle-earth again.
Shadowfax was vital during the Siege of Gondor, where Gandalf supported the army of Gondor defending the Rammas Echor, while regularly escorting medical transport to the City. Because of the horse's speed he was also able to save Faramir, who had commanded the retreating army's rearguard, from an attack by the Nazgûl. During the later stages of the siege, when Gandalf rode Shadowfax as he faced the Lord of the Nazgûl at the Gate of Gondor, Shadowfax alone among the free horses of the earth endured the terror and stood unmoving, steadfast before the Nazgûl. And finally, Gandalf used Shadowfax's swiftness to help him save Faramir from his crazed father Denethor, who had intended to burn his wounded son and himself alive on a funeral pyre.
Shadowfax was also present at the Final Battle before the Black Gate, though it is unclear whether or not Gandalf fought on horseback.
He afterwards carried Gandalf on the return journey to the North. It is believed that Shadowfax accompanied Gandalf across the Sea and into the West.
Behind the scenes
Tolkien's inspiration to give the horse the name Shadowfax (Shadow Mane) was assumably the most extensive source for Norse mythology "The Prose Edda" (e.g. Hrimfaxi (Frost Mane) and Skinfaxi (Shining Mane)).
Portrayal in adaptations
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Chinese (Hong Kong)||影疾|
|Portuguese||Scadufax (Brazilian Portuguese)
Facho de Sombra (Portugal)
|Spanish (Spain and Latin America)||Sombragrís|