Who are the enigmatic white-robed people of The Rings of Power?

The Nomad, Ascetic, and Dweller appear to be looking for the Stranger

As the first glimpses of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power emerged last summer, one character in particular drew and kept public attention: a white-robed person with neatly shaved hair and paper-white skin. In the lack of additional clues, the frightening visage and obviously malevolent glare led viewers to a single conclusion: This was the show’s Sauron!

That enigmatic white-robed guy has finally appeared in the fifth episode of The Rings of Power, leaving only more mysteries in his wake. Tolkien’s source material indicates to where the plot may go and what the characters have in common with Sauron, The Stranger, and the show’s other secrets.

[Editor’s note: This essay includes spoilers for The Rings of Power episode 5, “Partings.”]



Our strange Sauron-prospect makes an early appearance in the episode, as one of a trio of people who appear to be on the hunt for the similarly mysterious meteor man known as the Stranger. Bridie Sisson plays the Dweller, who is referred to in the episode’s credits as “the Dweller,” along with her friends 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).

They have pale skin and light clothing, and they carry a strange assortment of equipment. The Ascetic wields a metal disk or dish engraved with circles and a crescent, whereas the Dweller wields an elegant staff. The Nomad’s armor has many eye and circle designs, as well as fingers interwoven over the top of her headpiece.

We know more important information than what is shown in episode 5: Rings of Power executive producer Lindsey Weber told Time magazine that these individuals came from “far to the east — from the realms of Rhûn.”



In the broadest sense, Rhûn refers to anything east of the map in The Lord of the Rings, all the area in that direction that didn’t fit into Tolkien’s plot. And because it was unimportant to the tale he sought to portray, it has largely gone undocumented.

Although the races of dwarves, men, and elves began in Rhûn and went west, it was so extraordinarily long ago — and the planet has gone through several geographic upheavals since — that we have no idea of its current status. It’s a clear slate for Rings of Power to investigate, and perhaps even an opportunity to fill out the phrase “Easterlings” that Tolkien’s modern elves, humans, and dwarves had to use to refer to men from the east.

So, where do these robed white creatures originate from? “Parts Unknown” in the most literal sense.


Rhûn has one strong suit that may come in handy here: it’s also where the Blue Wizards are said to have vanished. And “one of the Blue Wizards” is a plausible explanation about the Stranger’s actual identity.

One of the many notions that Tolkien wrote into The Lord of the Rings with minimal detail and then spent the rest of his days debating whether to develop on in The Silmarillion is Gandalf and Saruman’s azure-attired companions. The two, like Rhûn, moved geographically outside the purview of Tolkien’s favorite stories, and hence out of the need to explore them.

He considered several names and backgrounds for them: perhaps they were Alatar and Pallando, two wizards who finally became slackers and abandoned their duty to lounge in Rhûn. Perhaps they were Morinehtar and Rómestámo, two wizards who worked long and hard to diminish Sauron’s authority in the east of Middle-earth, and without whose efforts the Dark Lord would have undoubtedly conquered Gondor and the all of Eregion.

In the end, we know very little about what Tolkien would have intended for the Blue Wizards, other than that they moved considerably further east than the others and stayed there. It’s likely that this link to Rhûn will ultimately lead to a link to the Blue Wizards.

But wait, there’s something else.



The Stranger’s heavenly origin, seeming fixation on the stars, a revealing sight of him staring up at the moon, and the extremely moon-reminiscent insignia on the Ascetic’s disk are all potential hints about him in this episode.

The Man in the Moon may be the Stranger.

This may sound like a joke, but the sun and moon each have their own genesis narrative in Tolkien’s Middle-earth. You may have heard that Galadriel’s struggle against Morgoth started with the destruction of two shining trees. At the time, those trees (and the stars in the sky) were the world’s sole sources of natural light. To replace them, the sun and moon were constructed, luminous spacecraft flown around the sky and beneath the ground by a couple of Maiar, creatures of the same order as Sauron and Gandalf.

The Maiar Tilion flew the moon’s vessel, which was infamous for its unreliability – his unrequited infatuation for the Maiar piloting the sun is why the moon frequently appeared in the sky alongside the sun. And the tradition of the fumbling Man in the Moon’s travels to Middle-earth has even reached “contemporary” hobbits, who have stories and songs (one a parody of “Hey Diddle Diddle”) about the funny things that happened during the bumbling Man in the Moon’s visits.

Metatextually, Middle-moon earth’s is a hybrid of Tolkien’s elven mythology and the fables he told his children to keep them entertained — much like Tom Bombadil and the hobbits themselves. Roverandom, a narrative the professor created to console his kid after he lost a cherished toy at the beach, and the annual letters he wrote and painted for his children in the voice of Father Christmas both included The Man in the Moon.

However, whether the Stranger is the Man in the Moon or a Blue Wizard, it appears that these milky-white-clad Rhûn strangers know something about him. We’ll have to wait and see how The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power resolves this riddle.

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