Gandalf, transformed now into Gandalf the white is the central figure. Surrounded by the army of the Lord of the Mark Gandalf is a galvanising figure. Gandalf is a burning white Phoenix. This image tells us much about the new Gandalf.
The staff is like a shepherds crook. All of the staffs and pikes of the army are drawn towards the central point of the crook, making this the focal point of the image. This ’shepherd’s crook’ recalls the biblical ‘good shepherd’ whose characteristics are care for his flock and discrimination. The shepherd here knows how to direct this crowd. The shepherd Gandalf also knows how to spot a black sheep:
The shepherd is going to be an intercessor on behalf of the light. Gandalf is not going to determine the outcome with a mighty power but will be the prompter of action by men. Light can only be victorious if it is carried into battle, not as a weapon but as an inspiration.
All light seems attracted to the figure of Gandalf. Light falls down onto the wizard yet at the same time rises like a column above him.
The light flowing from Gandalf seems to transform the dark surrounds, giving them an edge of blue and violet. The horse and rider on the edge of the picture are picked out in a bluish light, it’s source is the reflection of Gandalf. Above all it is the new Gandalf’s confidence and mastery that catches us. Surrounded by the dark confines of Helm Deep and the dark figures of the Riders this is quite a different Gandalf than we saw in the darkness of Moria. The difference is in the light. In Moria Gandalf evoked light. Light was conjoured and held in the wizard’s staff. Light though was external to the wizard. Here, at Helms deep, Gandalf the White has embodied light. The ordeal with the Balrog has brought about a transformation in Gandalf and now he himself is the luminous centre.