Mysterious magical figures are somewhat de rigeur in any J.R.R. Tolkien tale. Prime Video's newest series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is no exception.
So who was the mysterious stranger (Daniel Weyman) that appeared at the end of the first episode? We have a few theories.
The stranger appeared in the form of a fiery meteorite, crashing into a grassy field, only for Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh) to find him, still very much alive, in The Rings of Power Episode 2. Poppy (Megan Richards) pleads with Nori to leave the dead man alone, only for Nori to poke the stranger's face.
He awakens with a scream.
Who is the stranger in 'The Rings of Power'?
Let's start with the obvious candidate — could the stranger be Gandalf himself? The question is, was Gandalf even alive during the events of The Rings of Power?
For what it's worth, Gandalf didn't officially make his appearance in Middle Earth until the Third Age. The Rings of Power takes place during the Second Age. However, that doesn't mean that Gandalf wasn't alive until the Third Age. And let's face it, who else would be powerful enough to survive falling to Earth in a fiery conflagration?
Also, the stranger immediately befriending a kindly hobbit is a nice nod to the original Lord of the Rings trilogy (OK, if you want to be technical Nori is a harfoot, but that's technically the precursor of a hobbit.)
According to the Tolkien Gateway, Gandalf was always associated with light and fire from the moment he was created by Ilúvatar (who was essentially a God-like being in Tolkien's novels). Quite an interesting detail, given that the stranger fell to Earth in a blaze of fire.
OK, but what if the stranger isn't a wizard we all know?
Episode 2 doesn't make it clear who the stranger is, adding a further layer of mystery to his character. So if the stranger isn't Gandalf, who else might step up to the plate? It could be that he's simply a being that we haven't actually met yet in the Tolkien Cinematic Universe.
But there has to be a plot-based reason why The Rings of Power introduced the stranger in the first place. Could he be a descendant of Aragorn, son of Arathorn? (Based on the beard alone?)
The stranger doesn't look like an elf. However, his ears are covered by a mass of tangled, grey hair, which could be concealing his elven heritage.
However, there's no doubt that the stranger possesses magical abilities. At the end of The Rings of Power Episode 2, he speaks to fireflies, encouraging them in an unknown tongue to become stars in the sky. There have been various outlets that have speculated that the stranger could be Sauron, but what if, the stranger is a new wizard?
After all, Gandalf belonged to a group of powerful beings known as the Maiar. The Maiar were basically responsible for creating the Earth at the beginning of Tolkien's universe. Sauron was also a Maiar...until he pulled a Darth Vader.
When Sauron turned to the dark side, Gandalf and four other Maiar were assigned by their spiritual overlords to head to Earth disguised as wizards. And that's how Gandalf went to the Shire, and well, you know the rest.
So what if the stranger is one of Gandalf's magical Maiar co-workers that we haven't met yet? Was he sent on assignment from the spirits above and lost his memory of all things magic upon his rough landing?
We'll just have to wait and see when new episodes of The Rings of Power drop on Prime Video every Friday.