Speculation has surrounded a new character in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: the “stranger”, otherwise known as the Meteor Man, and whether he’s Gandalf.
The Rings of Power, Prime Video’s epic new series, has just dropped on the streaming platform. The show has opened to a rave reception for its first two episodes, with our own review stating that it’s “almost like we never left Middle-earth.”
It’s chronicling “for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history… set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings,” as per the official synopsis.
Among its many, many characters – from Galadriel to Celebrimbor, and Elrond to Durin IV – there’s a mysterious “stranger” at the heart of the show’s mystery – and some fans believe he’s actually a familiar wizard.
Rings of Power: Who is the Meteor Man?
Towards the end of Episode 1, a meteor falls from the sky after Sadoc Burrows (Lenny Henry) warned the “skies were strange.”
It crash-lands in the woods near the Harfoots’ home Rhovanion, creating a rather large, fiery crater with a large naked man (Daniel Weyman) at its center. After being awakened by Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh), he lets out a howl which appears to levitate the debris around him.
While unable to properly communicate, the young Harfoot carts him away to somewhere safe, and tries to establish a friendly relationship with him. All seems well, especially when he uses his powers to make a constellation of stars with fireflies… before he sucks the life out of them all.
His true identity is clearly being kept secret for a reason, but who might he be? Let’s dig into a few of the theories, starting with the biggest one: is he Gandalf?
Rings of Power: Is the Meteor Man actually Gandalf?
Look at him: he’s very tall; he has a great big, bushy beard; he’s armed with some sort of magical powers; and he’s found by the Hobbits’ ancestors. You don’t need to be a Tolkien disciple to echo the immediate suspicion: he might be Gandalf.
Gandalf, played by Ian McKellen in Peter Jackson’s movies, is originally introduced in the Third Age, arriving in Middle-earth on a boat to assist in the fight against Sauron.
Amazon acquired the rights to Middle-earth’s Second Age on the strict condition the show doesn’t touch the Third Age, as explored by the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This would seem to kibosh any notion of the stranger being Gandalf… but not necessarily.
Firstly, Amazon has a lot of money. The Rings of Power is said to be the most expensive show of all time, so if Jeff Bezos and co. want Gandalf in their show to pluck our nostalgia strings, one can see how the Tolkien estate would fold.
Secondly, there’s precedent for his earlier arrival when you consider his actual origin: Gandalf wasn’t always Gandalf. He was once known as Olórin while part of the Maiar, a group of primordial spirits created to help the Valar first shape the World. He’s also one of the Maiar who joins the Istari, taking on the aesthetic of an old wizard.
If the Meteor Man is a Maiar spirit, there’s a possibility of him being Gandalf, considering Gandalf is the Istar with the ability to produce fire. It would mean The Rings of Power taking some creative license with the source material, but the door is certainly open.
Rings of Power: If he’s not Gandalf, who is the Meteor Man?
There’s plenty of candidates: some fans believe it could actually be Sauron, the big bad of the Lord of the Rings world. In Tolkien’s original writing, Sauron once adopted the disguise of a being known as Annatar, who befriended the elves while plotting his rise to power. There’s also the poster of him holding the apple, imagery symbolizing betrayal in the Bible.
The more likely option is another Maiar that isn’t Gandalf, specifically. In an interview with Vanity Fair, showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay were asked if there’d be any wizards in The Rings of Power, such as Gandalf, Radagast, or Saruman.
“Well, I would say those are not the only beings, those names, in that class. So maybe, but maybe not. And the mystery and the journey of it is all of the fun, I would say,” McKay said.
“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,” Payne added.
Instead of the Istari wizards we know, he could be either Alatar or Pallando, two Blue Wizards who arrived in Middle-earth during the Second Age. Albeit, that was closer to the forging of the One Ring, but their earlier introduction seems more realistic and tolerable than having Gandalf kicking about.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Episode 3 will be available to stream on Prime Video next Friday, September 9.