The Rings of Power began with a bang when the Meteor Man — a character officially credited as The Stranger — crash-landed in Middle-earth during a dramatic finale to the series' opening episode.
The mysterious character was later discovered by two warm-hearted Harfoots, Nori Brandyfoot and Poppy Proudfellow, and Nori was determined to help him, however she could. Fans were left wondering who the hairy fellow was and what his arrival could mean for the series.
"He has a really deep and primal purpose, who has a need to accomplish something. Once I began to tap into that and feel that deep in the core, then other things flowed out of that.
"As much as we don't know about him, I think what we're going to see that the way he impacts communities around him is going to be dramatic. We are going to learn and learn and learn, and finding out what exactly is going on might not be so quick."
While Daniel isn't giving much away, Tolkien fans have been discussing the character and sharing their thoughts on who he might be. Here are some of the best theories that have cropped up so far...
Is the Meteor Man in The Rings of Power Gandalf?
After spending nearly $500m on The Rings of Power, we could hardly blame Amazon for trying to squeeze one of Tolkien's most iconic characters into the prequel, yet scholars of Tolkien lore will be aware of a few issues with the wizard's inclusion in this Second Age story.
Gandalf is a Maia, one of the primordial spirits created to help the Valar (Elder spirits) first shape the world. Yet in Tolkein's text Gandalf and fellow Maiar — wizards such as Radagast and Saruman — didn't show up in Middle-earth until the Third Age and when they did come, they came by boat.
Is the show taking some added liberties with the timeline? When asked if this might be Gandalf or any of his wizarding colleagues, The Rings of Power's showrunner Patrick McKay was quick to downplay the theory.
“I would say those are not the only beings in that class. So maybe, but maybe not. And the mystery and the journey of it is all of the fun, I would say. There are tiny little nods to Tolkien that could send you this way or send you that way. And we are hoping people will like taking that and putting together a huge puzzle.”
That being said, some fans did spot a possible hint that The Stranger is indeed Gandalf after all. In episode 2, Nori finds him scratching out a bunch of runes; one of which (seen below) Tolkien fans might recognize as the reverse form of the rune that Gandalf left on Bilbo Baggins' door in Peter Jackson's movies. Is this a subtle clue that The Stranger is Gandalf?
One of The Stranger's carvings 👀 #TheRingsOfPower pic.twitter.com/ES9gnD4HL2September 2, 2022
Is the Stranger in The Rings of Power Sauron?
In Tolkien's writings, Sauron and his master Morgoth were defeated in the years preceding this series, something we saw in the stirring prologue to the first episode.
Sauron remained in Middle-earth, rebuilding his strength and establishing a base in Mordor, before re-emerging as a friend of the elves, named Annatar, in a wicked plot to create the rings of power and of course, the "One Ring To Rule Them All."
In the text, Sauron reestablishes himself in Middle-earth rather quietly; could Amazon have re-imagined his return from Valinor in a more dramatic way?
The ring of fire that surrounded Meteor Man after his crash-landing certainly reminds us of some of Sauron's previous work.
Is the Meteor Man one of the 'Blue wizards'?
Gandalf, Radagast, and Saruman are the most famous of the Maiar who arrived in Middle-earth to become wizards during the Third Age, but there are others.
Two little-known blue wizards named Alatar and Pallando (Gandalf's Maia name was Olórin) also came with them and are rarely heard of in Tolkien's works, though in The Peoples of Middle-earth, Tolkien does suggest that these blue wizards arrived during the Second Age to try and weaken Sauron's forces and slow his return.
Their relative anonymity could be very useful for the show's writers if they were looking to introduce an established character whom they could shape to their own ends. Giving a less famous member of the Maiar would definitely cause less controversy than re-imagining Gandalf or Saruman's arrival in Middle-earth.
Is the Stranger Tilion, aka 'The Man in the Moon'?
It wasn't just wizards such as Gandalf — and indeed Sauron himself — who started out as Maiar. Tolkien's legendarium describes a number of other beings who began life as angelic spirits.
One that many Middle-earth aficionados have been getting excited about is Tilion, who was known as the guardian of the moon and crops up in some of the songs the hobbits sang to each other during Lord of the Rings. "The Man In The Moon Came Down Too Soon" describes an event very similar to the one that brings The Stranger into the story and even mentions a meteor... Check out an excerpt:
“He twinkled his feet, as he thought of the meat,
of pepper, and punch galore;
And he tripped unaware on his slanting stair,
and like a meteor,
A star in flight, ere Yule one night
flickering down he fell
From his laddery path to a foaming bath
in the windy Bay of Bel.”
Was Tilion sent to Middle-earth to defend the world from Sauron? Could that be the mission that The Stranger actor Daniel Weyman was referring to? Hopefully we'll be getting more information about him soon!
More LOTR: The Rings of Power
- The Rings of Power episode 1 review: an intoxicating return to Middle-earth
- Meet the Rings of Power cast
- LOTR's Sophia Nomvete says the first female dwarf is a 'magical moment' for Tolkien fans
- Morfydd Clark — things you didn’t know about the actress playing Galadriel in The Rings of Power
- The Rings of Power to hit theaters for a one-night-only premiere event
- The best fantasy TV shows
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Sean has been writing about all things telly for over 10 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are I'm Alan Partridge, The Wire, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.