As the first glimpses of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power came to light, there was one character in particular that grabbed fan interest and held it strong: a white-robed figure with closely shorn hair and paper-white skin. Fans remained undeterred by the creepy appearance and overtly menacing stare, which led to a single hunch: This was the show version of Sauron!
The mysterious white-robed character has finally appeared in The Rings of Power's fifth episode, leaving only more questions in their wake. Source material provided clues as to where the story may take us, and what connection the characters have to Sauron, The Stranger, and other shows' mysteries.
[Ed. note: This article contains spoilers for episode 5 of The Rings of Power, Partings.]
What we know about the white-robed Dweller
Our mysterious Sauron-potential makes her appearance early in the episode as one of a trio of characters who appear to be seeking the equally mysterious meteor man known as the Stranger. She is played by Bridie Sisson, along with her companions the Nomad (played by Edith Poor in the helmet with flowing red hair) and the Ascetic (played by Kali Kopae, hooded and carrying a round... thing).
The Nomads armor consists of several motifs of eyes, circles, and fingers, all interlaced over the top of her helm.
Lindsey Weber, the executive producer of Rings of Power, said she was aware of a significant additional detail beyond what's shown in episode 5.
What is Rhun?
Rhun is a broad term used in The Lord of the Rings, including all of the land east of the map that was not a factor in Tolkien's narrative. It has been largely ignored because it was not essential to the story he wanted to tell.
Although dwarves, men, and elves originated near Rhun and migrated west, this was so incrediblely long ago, and the world has gone through numerous geographic upheavals since, giving us no sense of its current state. Perhaps it's even a chance to clarify Tolkiens modern elves, humans, and elves as men from the east.
So, where do these white-robed figures come from? In a very literal way, Parts Unknown.
What does this mean for the Stranger?
Rhun has one pretty solid attribute that may come to bear here: It's also where the Blue Wizards were supposedly stumbling off to. And one of the Blue Wizards is a fairly unlikely clue for the Stranger's true identity.
Tolkien wrote a long list of ideas into The Lord of the Rings with little effort, then spent the rest of his days deciding whether or not to elaborate on them in The Silmarillion. Like Rhun, the two separated geographically from the scope of Tolkien's favorite stories and so from the necessity of investigating them.
Perhaps they were Alatar and Pallando, two wizards who eventually became slackers and abandoned their quest to chill in Rhun. Or, maybe, they were Morinehtar and Romestamo, two wizards who struggled long to dilute what they could of Saurons' influence in the east of Middle-earth, without whom the Dark Lord would have surely overrun Gondor and the rest of the Eregion.
If Tolkien had finished his novel, we would have very little knowledge about the Blue Wizards, except that they traveled farther east than the others and stayed there. It's possible that Rhun's connection will eventually lead to a connection to the Blue Wizards.
Mais wait, there's one more thing.
Its the moon
The other hint that the Stranger will be shown in this episode is his celestial origin, his apparent focus on the stars, a striking shot of him looking upward at the moon, and the very moon-like emblem on the Ascetics disk.
The Stranger may be the Man in the Moon.
The sun and moon were created as lanterns in Tolkiens Middle-earth, having their own very special origin story. You may have heard about Galadriels' invasion of Morgoth when he destroyed a couple of glowing trees. They were operated by a couple of Maiar, beings of the same order as Sauron and Gandalf.
The Maiar Tilion, famous for his unrequited obsession with the Maiar piloting the moon, is the reason for why the moon often appears in the sky with the sun. And today's hobbits, who have stories and songs (one a parody of Hey Diddle Diddle) about the silly things that occurred during the bumbling Man in the Moons visits to Middle-earth.
The Man in the Moon is a combination of Tolkiens' elves' legend and the tales he told his children to entertain them, like Tom Bombadil and hobbits themselves, in both Roverandom and the annual letters he wrote and illustrated for his children as Father Christmas.
Regardless of whether the Stranger is the Man in the Moon or a Blue Wizard, these milky-white-clad strangers from Rhun know something about him. We'll see when The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power resolves this particular mystery.