Little-known sci-fi fact: Gandalf wasn't going to be named Gandalf

Contributed by
Dec 17, 2012, 3:27 PM EST

He's one of the most iconic characters in all of fantasy literature, the archetype for hundreds of magical mentor figures that followed him: Gandalf the Grey, J.R.R. Tolkien's legendary wizard of Middle-earth. But according to Tolkien's original notes, the character originally had a different (and much less catchy) name.

We all know that Tolkien spent years working out his Middle-earth mythology, and that means some things evolved along the way. In early drafts of The Hobbit, for example, the name Gandalf existed, but not as the name of the wizard who drafts Bilbo Baggins into an adventure.

So who was Gandalf? Apparently that name belonged to a high-ranking dwarf, while the wizard's name was Bladorthin. That's right, we almost read a fantasy adventure co-starring a wizard named Bladorthin. Eventually the names were shuffled. Gandalf became the wizard, and Bladorthin became a dead king with only one mention in the whole of Tolkien's Middle-earth writings.

There's no way of knowing now whether keeping the names the way they originally were would have adversely affected the sales or the classic status of The Hobbit (or The Lord of the Rings, for that matter), but we're gonna go out on a limb and say the name change was probably for the best.

And check out these other little-known sci-fi facts:

The incredibly filthy joke hidden in Willy Wonka

Kirk wasn't Wrath of Khan's only father

The accident that gave us the lightsaber

Scully stood on a box to film X-Files

Kirk's Trek hot rod was Catwoman's, too

James Cameron played the Alien Queen

Why HAL 9000 sang 'Daisy' in 2001

What inspired Alien chestburster scene

3 ways George Lucas' wife saved Star Wars

The brawl that got Mel Gibson the Mad Max gig

James Doohan was shot six times on D-Day

Tolkien killed a Beatles LOTR movie

The lyrics to Star Trek's opening theme

The famous "Wilhelm scream"

(Via Mental Floss)