A Wizard's staff (pl. staves) was the primary tool, power conduit, and sometimes weapon of the Istari (or, the Order of Wizards), which might have also served as a symbol of their power or rank. Since there were a total of five Istari in the Order of Wizards, there were only five wizard staves.
Please note that most of the description about the wizard staffs are from the films and not from the books. This is due to their lack of description in Tolkien's works
Gandalf the Grey bore a wooden staff throughout The Fellowship of the Ring, which was lost when he fell into the abyss below the Bridge of Khazad-dum. At the bottom end of Gandalf's staff is a nail that is hammered through. It is unsure what the nail's intended purpose is, but Gandalf in the books is stated to use it as a tool for writing runes and inscriptions on objects like stones, and Bilbo's hobbit hole door.
After being revived at Lothlórien, Gandalf returned as the White Wizard (named anew "Gandalf the White") and claimed leadership of the Order of Wizards. Gandalf's power and wisdom were greatly increased following this rebirth, allowing him to more directly aid Middle-earth in its time of need. With the Flame of Anor at his command, he was able to assist his companions once more and to denounce and overthrow Saruman, who by now had refused the title of "The White". Gandalf the White possessed a rough staff of ash wood, presumably white in color.
Saruman the White
Saruman the White's Staff of Power had been held by The White Wizard ever since he became a member of the Wizards. His staff is described as being black. After the Battle of the Hornburg, Gandalf the White and his companions made their way to Isengard. Once there, Gandalf broke the staff of Saruman due to his treachery against Middle-earth, and the crown of it fell at Gandalf's feet.
Radagast the Brown
Radagast's staff is fashioned from an upturned sapling, reflecting his rustic personality. He uses his staff to battle The Witch-king and to help the forests of Middle-earth blossom. The blue crystal embedded in the crown possesses magical healing abilities that can cure illnesses and mend wounds. Radagast gives his staff to Gandalf the Grey to help him regain his strength and to enable him to fight in the Battle of the Five Armies.
Like the previous wizards, the Blue Wizards had staves on their own which aided them on their travels. Nothing is stated of the staves' description.
Portrayal in adaptations
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies
To date, Gandalf is seen with five different variations of his staff, three of those as Gandalf the Grey. Gandalf's staff in The Hobbit films has been described by the Weta Workshop team as an "opening flower," and is of elvish design; he is seen to ignite it to light pine cones and to illuminate the Fells of Rhudaur. This staff is destroyed by the Necromancer in Dol Guldur after Gandalf attempted to defend himself from Sauron's black magic. The crown of Gandalf's staff in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is very similar to the staff of Gandalf the White when one looks at the crown embedded in the staff. After his staff is destroyed by Sauron, he then acquires the staff of Radagast the Brown, which he uses in the Battle of the Five Armies. Whilst attempting to use the staff against a troll, Gandalf runs into complications when the crystal inserted in the top of the staff fails to respond to his magical incantation. Gandalf then dodges the troll's attacks and attempts a strike with the staff, which also fails to have any effect. Gandalf, eventually, harnesses the power of the staff without the crystal as he is seen to attack Saruman in the Wizard's Duel at Orthanc. Later on, the staff is damaged in the Battle of the Five Armies, and the root-like structure on the crown of the staff is completely withered away, leaving Gandalf with the staff seen in The Fellowship of the Ring. Though not easily seen in The Fellowship of the Ring, an interesting feature of Gandalf's staff was its special slot to hold his smoke pipe.
He uses this staff for much of The Fellowship of the Ring until Saruman confiscates it in their duel at Orthanc. Elrond then gives him another rough wooden staff in Rivendell, which could presumably held an illuminating crystal with the power to brighten or dim at Gandalf's will. This is shown to be removable. Unlike in the book, this staff does not break when Gandalf uses it to destroy the Bridge of Khazad-dûm during his battle against the Balrog in the film. However, Gandalf still loses it when the monster drags him into the abyss.
The new staff of Gandalf the White is of Elvish design, with a pyramidal structure and elvish arches that create a hollow similar to Gandalf's original staff. This staff was given to him by Galadriel in Lothlórien and enhanced his powers upon his return. Gandalf's staff holds enormous power, of which is seen very little in the films. Gandalf's white staff was broken when he fought the Witch-king atop one of the Minas Tirith walls when he attempted to deflect a flaming attack from the Lord of the Nazgûl's sword. Gandalf is later seen holding another staff at the Grey Havens that resembles the color and shape of the one before, though considerably longer in length.
Saruman's staff is black and metallic in Jackson's films but appears white at times, depending on the angle of the light. The head of the staff, resembling the Tower of Orthanc, holds some sort of large, white jewel. Saruman uses his staff to battle with the shades of the Nazgûl in Dol Guldur, deflecting their attacks. The orb in his staff is seen to glow white whilst he attacks the Nazgûl, showing his power and magical skill. In The Return of the King Extended Edition, Saruman again uses his staff, this time to send a jet of fire down on Gandalf the White: however, Gandalf resists it and says, "Saruman, your staff is broken."
In The Lord of the Rings: Conquest, the Mouth of Sauron's primary weapon, rather than being a long, black sword, is Saruman's staff. It is unknown whether he received this staff from Sauron as a reward after Sauron assumes the role of Master of Isengard (as can be seen in the novel under 'Proposal of Sauron': "Isengard will be given to Sauron and there will be a new Master of Isengard"), or whether a copy bearing the same/similar powers was created for him. However, given that the Master of Isengard is Gandalf's position to assume by entitlement after becoming head of the Order of Wizards, it is less likely that Sauron gifted it to the Mouth of Sauron. It is also conceivable that the staff was given to the Mouth of Sauron to endow him with wizard-like abilities simply for the purpose of the game.
In The Hobbit, Gandalf the Grey is not a playable character but you are able to play along side him, his staff is shaped like a shepherds staff and allows him to defeat foes quickly and easily.
In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf the Grey is a playable character and has a crooked squared off staff which allows him to heal himself and sent jets of fire and lightning to damage enemy health. He also has the power of "staff strike" which creates a blast of energy in a circle around Gandalf to protect him from a variety of foes at once.
In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Gandalf the Grey and Gandalf the White are not playable characters. They have the same staves that Gandalf has in the movies and demonstrate various abilities. As the Grey Wizard, Gandalf is only able to use his staff for fierce attacks and demonstrates no magical abilities, as the White Wizard however Gandalf is shown using his abilities in cut scenes such as when he states that "we must save everyone that we can, or this village will fall" where he is seen to strike his staff upon the ground destroying many foes. The White wizard from then after assists the player with defeating enemies, and breaking through doors which the players cannot access without Gandalf's help. Both the shock waves and projectiles generated from the staff appear to be lightning based. Saruman the White is also present in the game in the bonus level "Tower of Orthanc", where he uses his staff to call enemies to defeat the player, he then uses his staff to blast back the player as they attempt to run towards him.
In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Gandalf the White is a playable character and is able to use his abilities to send bolts of energy towards enemies, bring his staff down knocking enemies off their feet, and create a magical shield to temporarily protect himself from enemy damage. Gandalf can build on these abilities, making them stronger and stronger until his abilities are strong enough to defeat his enemies in one swift attack.
In The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, Gandalf the Grey and White are both playable characters with slightly different abilities. Gandalf the Grey has the power to drain AP from the Balrog of Morgoth so he has the power to facilitate lightning bolt attacks. As the White Wizard he acquires another skill which attacks the Witch King more directly. It is worth noting that after Gandalf's battle with the Witch King his staff is still intact.
In LEGO The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game, Lego incarnations of Gandalf the Grey, Gandalf the White, Saruman, and Radagast are all shown wielding staves. These allow them to magically assemble Lego structures when in use, as opposed to the hand-building techniques of other characters. The staves also serve to light up dark areas in similar fashion to the Phial of Galadriel. Unlike in the films, Gandalf is shown to have regained his staff after falling from the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, and uses it to ascend to his final confrontation with the Balrog. In the version of the Lego game made for iPad, iPhone and iPod technology Gandalf the White and Saruman have the same staves they have in the film rather than being equipped with their Lego counterparts. Radagast's staff is also markedly different from his Lego staff as is Gandalf the Grey's however they look nothing like the staves used in the movies. Galadriel is also equipped with a white staff adorned with flowers giving her the same abilities as the wizard characters.
In Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, a broken staff can be found as a historical artifact, and is implied to have been one of the Blue Wizards' staves.
Behind the scenes
- Gandalf's staff is often referred to as a "walking stick".
- Also, many of the names Gandalf is given also refer to him having a "wand", "cane", or "staff".
- There are a few times in The Hobbit that Gandalf the Grey is referred to as having a wand; this is probably his staff.
The staff of Gandalf the White was made by United Cutlery and originally had a metal helm, constructed of three pieces. Due to problems with the paint cracking around the triangular structure the versions of the staff with the metal crown were discontinued. As well as that, there were consistency errors with the staff used in the film as the triangular structure did not meet in one final tip as it does with the Weta prop. These problems were rectified with the more commonly available poly resin crown version which is now available. Weta never made their version of the prop available for purchase as it would have been hugely expensive to make as Gandalf the White's "Hero" staff was made out of marble.
Saruman the White's staff was also firstly constructed by United Cutlery but also had some errors. The orb like crystal that rests in the crown would very often come loose as it didn't fit correctly and the shaft of the staff did not include the tapered spike like finish and round notch towards the bottom. These problems were rectified by the Weta team who recreated the prop from metal, in one piece, with all the design elements in place. The Weta prop was a numbered stock of 1000.
Gandalf the Grey's staff by noble collection (the staff used in Moria and Rivendell) was also brought out and featured a crystal in the top, these props were a numbered stock (900) and also incredibly fragile leading to them being quickly discontinued. The crystal on the top of the staff also did not match the spike like shape it has in the movie and was more squared off. The staff has been recreated by United Cutlery as an illuminating staff with a removable crystal and is a numbered stock of 1000.
Gandalf the Grey's light up staff by noble collection (the staff used in The Hobbit, an Unexpected Journey) came in three pieces and had a plastic like finish. Due to the technical elements some design elements were markedly different to the United Cutlery and Weta versions of the staff. in particular the hollow of the staff is more of a blueish, greyish, plastic like colour, whilst the Weta and United Cutlery prop versions are a stark creamy/white.
Gandalf the Grey's staff (the prop version used in The Hobbit, an Unexpected Journey) was recreated by both Weta and United Cutlery. Both props have marked differences, such as size, colour and weight. The Weta version is heavier, painted more closely to the film version and is slightly smaller than the United Cutlery version of the staff. The United Cutlery version of the staff is very delicate and easily breakable due to it being made of poly resin. It is also known to crack easily if misused. The Weta prop was a numbered stock of 1000.
Radagast the Brown's staff was beautifully recreated by Weta, using the same materials as the film prop. The design elements were all exactly the same making it one of the more impressive staves. The Weta prop was a numbered stock of 1000.
Gandalf the Grey's Pipe staff (the prop used in The Battle of the Five Armies, and the Fellowship of the Ring) is a broken down version of Radagast's staff made by United Cutlery. It has more of a golden yellow/mousy brown colour in stark contrast to the Weta prop of Radagast's staff and obviously has a broken down crown structure to show its wear in battle. It also does not feature Radagast's crystal, but does include Gandalf's pipe and pipe tamper (nail spike). This particular United Cutlery product was a numbered stock of 1000. This prop has also been recreated by Weta productions and includes a pipe weed satchel and Gandalf’s leather horse tack with runs through the centre of the staff. This was also a numbered stock of 1000.