In the first corner we have have Gandalf, an incredibly powerful wizard in the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Gandalf defeated the Balrog and is basically immortal.
In the second corner we have Albus too-many-middle-names Dumbledore, also known as the “greatest wizard who ever lived,” according to J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter aficionados. Dumbledore defeated the dark wizard Grindelwald and is known for discovering the 12 uses of dragon’s blood.
Let’s evaluate the contenders in this battle:
Dumbledore was undeniably a great and powerful wizard. But Gandalf was on another level. He was part of an order known as the Maiar, essentially a lesser class of celestial beings, created by Eru before anything else. This means in regard to magnitude, he is more powerful than Dumbledore.
Magic in Tolkien’s universe is much much less tangible and defined than it is in Harry Potter, which often leads people to think that Gandalf was nothing but a wise old man. But we never see him in his most powerful state. His job on Middle-Earth was to take the form of a man and guide the people of Middle-Earth. He was never supposed to coerce anyone, and the closest we ever get to seeing him at his most powerful is when he fights the Balrog (most of which is not described). Gandalf is an immortal celestial being, meaning that even the darkest magic of the HP universe would likely not affect him.
In a true fight, in which Gandalf didn’t hold back, Dumbledore wouldn’t stand a chance. The stronger Maiar have the strength to help reshape the earth itself, and magic and power enough to do almost anything. The scope of Gandalf’s abilities remains largely undefined, but he’s just so much more powerful than Dumbledore could ever hope to be.
Diversity of Skills
Dumbledore’s additional abilities are unrivalled. He is also a master alchemist and was the person who discovered twelve ways that dragon’s blood can be used. Rather than needing the invisibility cloak, he is able to become invisible using his own magic spell. Additionally, he can conjure Gubraithian Fire and do a number of other spells that not only serve to protect himself and others, but also that can inflict injury during a duel.
Aside from his magical prowess, Gandalf only adds melee attacks to his repertoire and employs two main implements with which he fights: his staff, and the sword.
When Gandalf told Shadowfax to “show us the meaning of haste”, it really took him ages to get anywhere throughout LOTR and The Hobbit. This medium of travel really doesn’t come close to Dumbledore’s ability to apparate at will. One point to Gryffindor!
A lot of Dumbledore’s decisions were sketchy at best. Where was that morality when he left a 15-month old BABY on a doorstep, in England, IN NOVEMBER at NIGHT?! He demonstrates ruthlessness in his willingness to sacrifice and lie to people the moment it seems necessary, while Gandalf tried his hardest to keep Frodo away from anything. He never lied to Frodo or Bilbo about their potential fates, readily telling them that their chances of survival were not very hopeful.
Dumbledore is mortal, Gandalf is immortal. Enough said.
While Dumbledore took down Grindelwald back in the day, Dumbledore doesn’t spend a much time getting his hands dirty in the Harry Potter series, rather entrusting the fate of the wizarding world to a bunch of teenagers (?). On the other hand, Gandalf held his own, alone, in the upper chamber. Gandalf the Grey, who took on the Nazgul at Weathertop. Gandalf fought the Balrog, a fallen Maia, and a follower — not of Sauron, but of Morgoth himself. Yes, Gandalf perished, but he was sent back, as his work was not yet done.
Gandalf – 4
Dumbledore – 2
There you have it. While Dumbledore is ultimately a human of exceptional power, Gandalf is the GOAT.