I recently acquired a couple of LEGO Lord of the Rings sets, to get a feel for the future of LEGO “castle”, even as I still mainly explore its past. One of the two sets was 9469 Gandalf Arrives, which I got around to building tonight. I am no expert in reviewing LEGO models, but consider this from the point of view of an AFOL novice – this is only the third or so set I have built by myself since the dark ages. For box photos and some initial impressions, see the previous post.

As I did with the CUUSOO Hayabusa, I started by organizing the bricks by color. Considering the small size of this model it was by no means necessary, but it did allow me to get a feel for the pieces involved. As an adult the playtime with the completed model seems less important, but in return I find myself wanting to savor the building process more, than I do when building with a child sets the pace. The bricks came in two bags, including one small white box for Gandalf’s cape and the separate new horse.

The first thing that struck me about the pieces were the new(ish) colors. Having built mostly new City and Kingdoms models with my son, the color schemes have not been that different compared to my childhood. In City, many colors remain the same. But here, in 9469 Gandalf Arrives, there is an abundance of strange-looking colors ranging from the flesh-colored minifigure heads to the three shades simulating wooden parts: brick yellow, sand yellow and reddish brown. I do like the use of many shades.

Also some of the bricks are new to me, the book and the carrot for example (although not new to LEGO in general). Frodo’s hair looks very movie-realistic, as does Gandalf’s beard. Overall, the Gandalf minifigure looks suitably formidable. Frodo is okay too. The latter has a two-sided face, one side with a little smile and the other with a worried look. The shorter stature of hobbits is accomplished using children minifigure pants, which are adequate. Considering the importance of the theme and that of hobbits within it, I do wish LEGO had designed movable hobbit-pants, though.

The set replicates the opening scene of the first Lord of the Rings movie, where Gandalf the Grey arrives in the Shire and is welcomed by Frodo Baggins. It includes the two minifigures, a horse and Gandalf’s wagon. The wagon was a fun build, it uses six hinges to achieve the slightly angled shape of its three sides. It rides quite high, meaning that the hitching attaches to the top of the horse, instead of within the saddle area like in, for example, the classic 6010 Supply Wagon.

By the way, the 6010 Supply Wagon was also my first 1984 LEGO Castle set – a little parallel there. Gandalf’s wagon carries many trinkets, including a book, a carrot, a barrel with three pieces of fireworks (ingeniously a red Ninjago viper posing as Gandalf’s dragon firework), a backpack and a letter. The generous detail makes this small set much livelier than its diminutive size (83 pieces) would suggest. Overall, judging by the covers, this may very well be my favorite set in the first LEGO LotR batch.

Final notes: There is room for Frodo to stand in the wagon, if you remove the backpack. The new horse can not rear while attached to the wagon. There is no One Ring in this set, as it was still with Bilbo during this scene. It was interesting to see also French and Spanish Lord of the Rings logos printed on the set, a North American detail?