Feb. 6, 2003
Another name for Gandalf was "Lathspell", meaning
Reference: Two Towers: "Book" 3
In Valinor, Gandalf's name was Olorin.
Wisest of the Maiar, his home was in Irmo's Lorien. He also often
went to the house of Nienna and from her learned pity and
patience. He loved the elves and walked unseen among them or in
the same form. Thus they did not know that he was the source of
fair visions and wise promptings
that he put into their hearts.
Later, he was the friend of all the Children of Iluvatar, pitying their sorrows. If they listened to him, they lost their despair and the dark imaginations that come of it.
He was chosen to be one of the Istari sent to Arda as representatives of the Valar to counter Melkor's influence through Sauron. Instead of acting directly, they were to train the Children of Iluvatar to think and fight evil for themselves - to grow up. In order to do this, much power and many memories had to be removed from the Istari. Also, they took on the forms of old men as suited counselors and investigators, rather than active heroes.
In one story, Gandalf gave the Elessar jewel from Yavanna to Galadriel to give to Aragorn, as a token that the Children of Iluvatar had not been forgotten by the Valar, and would be given aid.
Gandalf watched for the doings of Sauron who would and did come again. He found the One Ring as it tried to make its way back to Sauron, but had been intercepted by hobbits with the aid of the Valar. He aided the forming of the Fellowship to have the One Ring destroyed rather than used, and was a prime mover seeing to that end as requested by the Valar of him and because he believed in the mission.
He did have to fight the balrog of Moria, as should not have happened to a Counselor. He defeated the balrog but his form of Gandalf the Grey died, returning to Valinor. The Valar returned him as Gandalf the White, with greater power for the escalated battle they knew would come, and he the only Istar left.
As were other wizards, he was quick to anger. But his anger was mild, gentled by understanding and humor. He had the pity and patience learned from Nienna. He was humble and therefore able to care about even the people considered lesser, such as the hobbit folk, which developed into his most important contact.
References: Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Silmarillion: "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age", Unfinished Tales