As the first glimpses of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power emerged this summer, one character, in particular, drew and held fan attention: a white-robed figure with closely shorn hair and paper-white skin. In the absence of other clues, the creepy appearance and overtly menacing stare led fans to a single conclusion: This was the show’s Sauron!
That mysterious white-robed character has finally appeared in the fifth episode of The Rings of Power, leaving only more questions in his wake. Tolkien’s source material hints at where the story might go and what the characters have in common with Sauron, The Stranger, and the show’s other mysteries.
Who Was The Stranger In Rings Of Power?
One of the most popular early theories was that he was Sauron. The series begins in the Second Age, after Morgoth, Sauron’s master has been defeated and fled into hiding. The Dark Lord appears as Annatar, a shapeshifter, during this time, so the villain could appear in any form.
Showrunner JD Payne teased the possibility of Sauron’s return to Total Film earlier this year, telling us, “We can say that when he appears, it might be in a way people aren’t expecting.” Many people thought the character’s poster – see above – might hold a clue because he’s holding an apple. Those who are familiar with the Christian Bible will recognize this as a clear symbol of betrayal, so could he be hiding something?
Given that Bridie Sisson, who previously appeared in Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop series, is hunting down whoever fell from the sky, it appears The Stranger is of interest to the forces of Sauron. That would imply he’s not Sauron – unless they’re all looking for their leader, who has no memory and is being taught goodness by the Harfoots – but someone who could be a threat (or ally) to the Dark Lord. It’s not completely ruled out as a possibility, but The Stranger being Sauron seems less and less likely.
The Stranger is more likely to be a wizard, possibly a younger version of Gandalf, given that the show has already introduced younger versions of well-known characters Galadriel and Elrond. The Stranger has some distinctly Gandalfian characteristics, such as his ability to wield fire and communicate with creatures, as well as his fondness for Hobbits/Harfoots, but his inclusion in the story doesn’t quite make sense in Tolkien’s lore, as he doesn’t appear in Middle-earth until the Third Age, after Sauron is defeated by Isildur.
A few words about the wizards: they are technically Maiar spirits created by the god-like Valar. With the rise of Sauron, the Valar decided to send the Maiar to Middle-earth to aid in the fight against the evil that was brewing, and Gandalf – then known as Olórin – was eventually chosen as one of the Maiar to be sent from the Undying Lands to Middle-earth. He was, however, not the first.
Saruman, later known as the White Wizard and the leader of their Order, is the recipient of this honor. Again, Saruman was only sent to Middle-earth after Sauron was defeated by Isildur, which means that if we follow Tolkien’s strict Lord of the Rings timeline, he shouldn’t be here just yet.
One way around this is if The Stranger does not play a role in the upcoming major battles, as it could be argued that Saruman and Gandalf’s presence in Middle-earth was simply not previously documented around this time, just as we were previously told the Hobbits did nothing of note in the Second Age – which is arguably true, as Harfoots are not Hobbits just yet, but they still have a story to tell.
According to this rule, or simply if the showrunners are loosely following Tolkien’s timeline (which they most certainly are), The Stranger could be any of the five famous wizards (also known as Istari), with Radagast the Brown being the third most popular. Our best bet is that he won’t be a household name, but rather one of the two Blue Wizards.
Is The Stranger Using Dark Magic In The Rings Of Power?
The Stranger has unknowingly been using dark magic since he first made landfall, according to Rings of Power episode 5. Many have wondered whether the magic Meteor Man carries is of the dark variety after his frantic stick-waving broke Largo Brandyfoot’s ankle and the fireflies he whispered to all perished. J.R.R. Tolkien never clearly defines good and bad magic, but he leaves no doubt that the sorcery practiced by villains such as Morgoth, Sauron, and the Witch-king of Angmar is a more sinister brand than that of Gandalf. Tolkien also never states that casting dark magic causes the user’s hand to blacken, but this supposed telltale sign of evil spell users can be found throughout occult folklore and may have been adopted by The Rings of Power.
The Stranger using dark magic would almost certainly prove he’s a villain of some sort, putting to rest any theories linking him to Gandalf, the Valar, other wizards, or any force of good from Tolkien’s legendarium.
How The Stranger’s Black Arm Connects To The White-Robed Group
The three mysterious white-robed characters seen in trailer footage are finally introduced in Rings of Power episode 5, and their names are confirmed as the Dweller, the Nomad, and the Ascetic. The trio makes their debut while lurking around the crash site of Meteor Man, and a close-up of Bridie Sisson’s Dweller reveals ashen-black fingers – markings that are nearly identical to those on the Stranger’s arm. This minor visual detail appears to confirm the white-robed trio’s allegiance to whoever fell from the sky – most likely devout followers who practice dark arts in his name (whatever that may be).
When the Stranger gets a blackened arm, his first reaction is panic, followed by slapping some ice on the injury to heal himself. The Dweller appears to have made no attempt to cure her black fingers, implying that she is content to let the hallmarks of evil spread freely. These contradictory attitudes reflect how Meteor Man’s life among the Harfoots has brought out his softer side, to the point where he expresses regret for the dead fireflies. The Rings of Power raises an important question: when the Stranger realizes his true identity, will he immediately reject Nori’s kindness, or will he be forever changed by her friendship?