Rings of Power’s white-robe Dweller and her Stranger connection, explained

The first glimpses of summer are here The Lord of the Rings – The Rings of PowerWhen the story was first revealed, one particular character caught fans’ attention. It was a white-robed woman with tightly shorn hair, and paper-white complexion. In the absence of any other indications, the creepy appearance and overtly menacing stare led fans to a single hunch: This was the show’s version of Sauron!

The fifth episode is now available. The Rings of PowerThat mysterious character in white robes has made his appearance and still leaves many questions. Tolkien’s source material provides hints at where the story may be going, and what relation the characters do have to Sauron, The Stranger, and the show’s other mysteries.

[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for episode 5 of The Rings of Power, “Partings.”]

The white-robed Dweller: What do we know?

The Stranger, with bedraggled hair, wearing a rough blanket as a robe in The Lord of the Rings: the Rings of Power.

Image: Prime Video

The episode’s mysterious Sauron-potential is introduced as part of a group of characters who appear to be searching for the mysterious Stranger, the meteor man. The episode’s credits refer to her as “the Dweller,” and she’s played by Bridie Sisson; with her companions the Nomad (played by Edith Poor in the helmet with flowing red hair) and the Ascetic (played by Kali Kopae, hooded and carrying a round… thing).

The Dweller is pale in skin color and pale in robes. They also have a variety of strange accessories. The Dweller carries an elegant staff while the Ascetic possesses a metallic disk or dish with circles and crescents. The Nomad’s armor contains several motifs of eyes and circles — and fingers, interlaced over the top of her helm.

We know more key detail beyond what’s on screen in episode 5: Speaking to Time magazine, Rings of Power executive producer Lindsey Weber said that these characters have traveled here from “from far to the east — from the lands of Rhûn.”

What is Rhûn?

A map of the inland Sea of Rhûn and the region of Rhûn, to the east of Mirkwood.

Image from LOTR Project

In the most broad sense, Rhûn means everything east of the map in The Lord of the Rings, all the land in that direction that didn’t factor into the story Tolkien wanted to tell. And since it wasn’t important to the story he wanted to tell, it has largely remained undescribed.

Although the races of dwarves, men, and elves originated somewhere in Rhûn and migrated west, that was so fantastically long ago — and the world has gone through multiple geographic upheavals since — as to give us no sense of its current state. It’s a blank canvas for Rings of Power to explore, perhaps even a chance to flesh out the blanket term of “Easterlings” that Tolkien’s modern elves, humans, and dwarves had to refer to men from the east.

So where did the white-robed figure with the white hat come from? In a very literal way, “Parts Unknown.”

What does it mean for Strangers?

Rhûn has one pretty solid attribute that may come to bear here: It’s also where the Blue Wizards supposedly skittered off to. And “one of the Blue Wizards” is a not-unlikely theory for the true identity of the Stranger.

Tolkien’s long list of ideas included the duo of Gandalf- and Saruman-clad colleagues in azure, which is just one example. The Lord of the RingsWith little explanation, he then spent his time deciding whether to go into more detail. The Silmarillion. Like Rhûn itself, the two passed geographically out of the scope of Tolkien’s favorite stories, and so out of the necessity of exploring them.

He toyed with different names and different origins for them: Perhaps they were Alatar and Pallando, two wizards who eventually became real slackers and forsook their mission to chill in Rhûn. Or, maybe, they were Morinehtar and Rómestámo, two wizards who struggled long to dilute what they could of Sauron’s influence in the east of Middle-earth, without whose work the Dark Lord surely would have overrun Gondor and the rest of Eregion.

We know little of what Tolkien intended for the Blue Wizards if he had completed his opus. The only thing we do know is that they went much further east than other travelers and stayed there. It’s possible that this connection to Rhûn will eventually turn into a connection to the Blue Wizards.

But wait, there’s one more thing.

It’s the moon

A photo of the moon.

It’s the moon.
Jasper Jacobs, via Getty Images

It Others potential hint about the Stranger this episode is in his celestial origin, his seeming focus on the stars, a telling shot of him gazing up at the moon, and the very moon-reminiscent emblem on the Ascetic’s disk.

One possible Stranger is the Man in Moon.

This might sound like a joke, but in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, the sun and moon had their own very specific origin story. You may have heard about how Galadriel’s war against Morgoth began when he destroyed a couple of glowing trees. These trees, along with the stars in heaven, were all that was available at the time. To replace them, the sun and moon were made, glowing ships which were controlled through the skies and below the ground by two Maiar beings from the same order of Sauron, Gandalf, and the rest of Sauron.

The moon’s vessel was piloted by the Maiar Tilion, who was known for his unreliability — his unrequited crush on the Maiar piloting the sun is the reason for why the moon often appears in the sky with the sun. And the legend of the guy who pilots the moon even reached “modern” hobbits, who have stories and songs (one a parody of “Hey Diddle Diddle”) about the silly things that ensued during the bumbling Man in the Moon’s visits to Middle-earth.

Metatextually, Middle-earth’s moon is a combination of Tolkien’s lore of the elves, and the stories he told to entertain his children — just like Tom Bombadil and hobbits themselves. In both the in and out, The Man in the Moon was first seen. RoverandomThe story was created by the professor to console his son following the death of his favorite beach toy. He illustrated the letters each year in Father Christmas’ voice and wrote them in his annual letters.

But whether the Stranger is the Man in the Moon or a Blue Wizard, it seems these milky-white-clad strangers from Rhûn know something about him. We’ll have to wait and see when The Lord of the Rings – The Rings of PowerDecides to solve this mystery.

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