Ah my dear faithful reader, Ziggy! So glad that you found this first before any others. Your comments are truly truly awesome to me. Thank you so very much.
I set out to try to capture a Gandalf who was sort of innocent of loss and who had to go through this crucible to be able to really understand what he would ask of others--especially Frodo--in the future. He had to experience it all: friendship, betrayal, anger, love, supreme joy, devastating loss, and feel it like a real mortal would, because he was living like one. And I particularly wished to present a character who was riven with doubts but kept on going --- like all of us, like me. I am glad I seemed to capture some of what I set out to do, and despite the sadness I think it couldn't have ended any other way, or the Gandalf of the future, some 2000 years later, couldn't have become the apparently detached, irascible, impatient old man whose heart of compassion was always just beneath the surface. Thank you again!