One Major 'Rings of Power' Character Is an Istar, but What Does That Mean?
The 'Rings of Power' finale revealed that one major character is actually an Istar, but what is an Istar and how does it connect to Tolkien lore?
Spoiler alert: The following post contains spoilers for the entire first season of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
The season finale of The Rings of Power brought plenty of revelations with it. We discovered that Halbrand is Sauron and learned how the Elves wind up forging their rings of power. Additionally, we got some resolution around The Stranger that has been traveling with the harfoots all season long.
Who is The Stranger on 'The Rings of Power?'
In the opening moments of this week's episode, we see the cultists who have been trailing The Stranger finally catch up to him and kneel before him. It's clear that they believe he is Sauron, although we in the audience may be less sure about that. The Stranger still doesn't have full control over his own powers, so the cultists decide to knock him out.
After the harfoots arrive to rescue him, though, we see that the cultists were wrong about The Stranger. He may be powerful, but he is not their dark lord. Instead, they describe him as an Istar. After he gets ahold of one of their staffs, he banishes them all to the darkness from which they came, and they become butterflies. It's pretty neat.
What is an Istar in 'The Rings of Power?'
Knowing that The Stranger is an Istar is great, but it would be even better to understand what an Istar actually is. As The Stranger later explains to Nori, Istar means something like wizard, but he's also a little bit more than that. The Istar were actually sent to Middle Earth by the Valar, the gods that rule over the entire universe of Lord of the Rings.
Five wizards were sent in all, and each was sent because the Valar could sense that Sauron's power was rising again. The goal of the Istar was to protect the free peoples of Middle Earth, and assure them that the Valar had not forgotten them. The Stranger, then, is something close to an angel, and he may even be a character that we already recognize from the Lord of the Rings films.
Is The Stranger actually Gandalf?
As we see at the end of the Rings of Power finale, Nori and The Stranger are headed off to Rhûn in the far east to learn more about his origins. Now that we know for sure that he's a wizard, though, there are really only a couple of options for who he might be. He could be Saruman, the wizard who eventually joins forces with Sauron, or Radagast, the weirdo from The Hobbit who is really into forests.
By far the most likely candidate, though, is Gandalf, a wizard who we already know has a great affinity for hobbits. It's possible that we're seeing where that affinity comes from, and that Gandalf will have some role to play in beating back the forces of darkness as they surge throughout the remainder of The Rings of Power. Only time and more episodes will tell.