As the first glimpses of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power came to light, there was one particular character who grabbed fan interest and kept them stuck: a white-robed figure with long shorn hair and paper-white skin. Fans were left with one single suspicion: This was the shows version of Sauron!
That mysterious white-robed character has finally appeared in The Rings of Power's fifth episode, leaving only further doubts in their wake. Tolkiens source material provides suggestions as to where the story might take me, and what connection the characters have with Sauron, The Stranger, and other show mysteries.
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 debut early in the episode as one of a trio of persons who seem 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 have pale skin and pale robes, and wear a variety of odd outfits. The Dweller has an elaborate staff, while the Ascetic wields a metal plate or dish emblazoned with circles and a crescent.
Lindsey Weber, the executive producer of Rings of Power, said that the characters have travelled from far to the east from Rhun's lands.
What is Rhun?
Rhun implies everything east of the map in The Lord of the Rings, as well as all of the land in the direction that did not play a part in the tale Tolkien intended to tell. It has since largely remained unrescribed.
Although the races of dwarves, men, and elves originated somewhere in Rhun and migrated west, that was so long ago, and the world has gone through multiple geographic upheavals since, giving us no sense of its current state. It's a blank canvas for Rings of Power to explore, perhaps even a chance to flesh out the broad term of east dwarves, humans, and elves that Tolkiens used to refer to men from the east.
What are the origins of these white-robed figures? In a very literal sense, Parts Unknown.
What does this mean for the Stranger?
Rhun has one quite significant feature that might come to bear here: It's also where the Blue Wizards supposedly sailed off to. And one of the Blue Wizards is a highly unlikely theory for the Stranger's true identity.
Tolkien spent the rest of his days deciding whether or not to include the two in The Silmarillion's tale, both geographically outside of Tolkiens' favorites.
He considered them under different names and origins: perhaps they were Alatar and Pallando, two wizards who eventually became slackers and gave up on their quest to chill in Rhun; or, perhaps, they were Morinehtar and Romestamo, two wizards who labored long to disseminate what they could of Saurons' influence in the east of Middle-earth, without whom the Dark Lord would have likely overrun Gondor and the rest of the Eregion.
Had Tolkien completed his masterpiece, we know very little about the Blue Wizards, except that they traveled far east than the others and stayed there. It's possible that Rhun's connection will eventually develop into a connection to the Blue Wizards.
Mais wait, there's still a thing to consider.
Its the moon
The other possible hint about the Stranger this episode is his celestial origin, his apparent focus on the stars, a compelling shot of him looking up 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 to replace them, as they were designed by a couple of Maiar, beings of the same order as Sauron and Gandalf.
The Moons vessel was led by the Maiar Tilion, known for his unrequited devotion to the Maiar guiding the sun. This is the reason why the moon often appears in the sky with the sun. And modern hobbits have written 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.
Middle-earths moon is a hybrid of Tolkiens' elves' myths and the ones he taught his pupils to entertain them, just like Tom Bombadil and hobbits themselves. Both were used in Roverandom, a tale the professor created for his son after he lost a favorite toy at the beach, and in his monthly letters written and illustrated for his children in the voice of Father Christmas.
These milky-white-clad strangers from Rhun know something about him, regardless of whether the Stranger is the Man in the Moon or a Blue Wizard. We'll have to wait and see when The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power decides to solve this particular mystery.