Rings of Power: What is an Istar? The Istari explained

The Stranger in Rings of PowerAmazon Studios

Rings of Power Episode 8 recognizes The Stranger as an “Istar” – this makes him one of the Istari, but who are they, and why are they important in Lord of the Rings? Let’s dive in.

Second only to the mystery of Sauron, Rings of Power viewers have been trying to deduce The Stranger’s (Daniel Weyman) identity ever since he fell from the sky and crashed into Middle-earth.

It quickly became clear he wasn’t an ordinary man, displaying mysterious powers of telekinesis and healing, and there’s that scene where he seems to drain the life from fireflies, if only accidentally.

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Episode 8 begins to unravel the true nature of The Stranger with an important word: Istar – but what does it mean, and who are the Istari? We’re here to answer those questions.

Spoilers for Rings of Power Episode 8 to follow…

Rings of Power: What does Istar mean?

Istar means “wise one” or “wizard”, as The Stranger explains in Episode 8. It is the name given to the members of the Istari.

In Rings of Power Episode 8, The Dweller mistakenly believes The Stranger is Sauron. When he fights back, at the same time regaining some of his memories, she says: “He is not Sauron, he is the other. He is the Istar.”

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Rings of Power: Who are the Istari?

The Istari are a group of wizards and Maiar spirits who were sent to Middle-earth to help the Free Peoples in their fight against Sauron.

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Of those sent by Valar, also known as the Heren Istarion, there were five: Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, and Alatar and Pallando, better known as the Blue Wizards. The fate of the latter Istari was never detailed, while Saruman was killed after being corrupted by Sauron, Gandalf left for Valinor, and Radagast pottered around in Middle-earth.

Each of the Istari resembled old men and carried a staff in accordance with their rank.

Rings of Power: Which Istar is The Stranger?

Strictly speaking, Rings of Power hasn’t given The Stranger a name – but there’s good reason to believe he’s Gandalf, despite the canonical headache it will give Tolkien readers, as he’s not supposed to arrive until the Third Age.

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Firstly, there’s The Stranger’s relationship with the Harfoots, which seems to be a natural precursor to Gandalf’s love of the Hobbits. Secondly, his powers line up with Gandalf’s in Tolkien’s writing.

Thirdly, and most importantly, this line from The Stranger: “When in doubt, always follow your nose.” If it sounds familiar, it’s because Gandalf says it to Meriadoc in The Fellowship of the Ring.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Season 1 is available to stream in its entirety now. You can sign up for Amazon Prime here.