Posted by Etaion Shrdlu on March 01, 2005
I have not seen anywhere else the following explanation:
In the Norse Eddas, there is an character who uses a wand or stick as a magic tool. The Norse word GANDR is tranlated as "wand" or "staff" and is a word still used in several websites on modern Norse/Viking/pagan rituals.
The Edda refers to this character as GANDR-Alf (although he is a dwarf, not an elf!) Prof. J.R.R.Tolkien used most of the Edda dwarf-names in the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but this one was reserved for the archtypical wizard with his long staff. The name... GANDALF!
The connection with the long-handled (Irish) railway shovels and any such tool is obvious.
Indeed I remember (vaguely, unfortunately) a science-fiction short story by one of the "classic" authors - Van Vogt perhaps - where a character earns a small income by sweeping ,i.e. being a broom operative, or "GANDY DANCER"